Tweeting to Understand and Action Plan Update

This is my third post for EDTC 6104, Digital Learning Environments, and is essentially part two of the my post from yesterday. In this post, I reflect on the use of Twitter to collaborate with educational technology peers from around the world as part of the #ed1to1 event. In addition, as promised, I share an update on my digital learning environment action plan!

Online Conversations About #ed1to1 on Twitter

Over the past few days a number of students from different programs gathered together to embark in conversation spurred by Audrey Watters’ article, (25 Years Ago) The First One-to-One Laptop Program. Practically speaking, we gathered together across three days using Twitter’s hashtag capabilities. We used the #ed1to1 tag as a way to follow the conversation. There were no requirements or guidelines, but I everyone was required to use public Twitter accounts as the idea was to have conversations with people you weren’t necessarily following. The light turned green and everyone tweeted away. Many posing questions and inviting others, naturally through the use of the tag, to respond and give feedback. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate when most people were active so the synchronous environment was much more asynchronous for me.

I appreciated the conversations and the pieces of insight present by different people. It was helpful to see what people were struggling with and also know there are many who wrestle with similar issues in their own context. However, I quickly resonated with Kop (2010) who discussed research that revealed student use of discussion boards caused students to become “overwhelmed by the number of messages” (p. 271). Simply put, I was quickly out of my depths by the deluge of conversations and I found it difficult to follow the conversations. There are a couple reasons why. First, Twitter limits posts to 140 characters and even less when replies (n.b., Twitter’s handles are preceded by @), links, and images are embedded in the tweet. Second, conversations are not threaded like discussion boards. These two main reasons made it very difficult to follow conversations, especially when multiple people were involved in the conversation. Additionally, to mitigate the character limit, participants would truncate their message by using abbreviations for certain words without–based on my knowledge–a pre-defined lexicon. For example, instead of staying students participants tweeted Ss instead. When participants would share links it was often with limited context because of the character limit. While these negatives made my experience less than desirable, I still found the collaboration with experts, students, and educators to be exciting and quite simply amazing. When else do you get all those type of people in the same room and have unlimited access to them? I wonder if there could be a better way to use another tool to enrich the experience and remove the Twitter language and platform barrier.

Action Plan Update

Last week I shared about my general thoughts for an action plan idea. After I received feedback from one of my professors, Rolin Moe, I decided to go in a different direction.

Last year my colleague, Robbin Riedy, and I facilitated three communities of practice supporting 22 faculty to implement active learning strategies into their classroom, One goal was to support an untethered model of teaching equipped with iPads to stream content wirelessly to Apple TVs or Splashtop. To understand more about the project and learn how the communities developed and  what they did, I invite you to view our videos and slides from our NW/MET presentation we delivered this past April. Alternatively, you can watch us on YouTube below. Based on high demand and energy around untethered teaching, we decided to offer the opportunity to faculty again. Robbin and I are in the midst of redesigning to operate much more like a year long course. Based on feedback from faculty, a year long course structure–opposed to a community of practice–will meet the needs much better. At present, the course will meet once per week during the first quarter and twice per month during the second and third quarter. The first section, weekly meetings, will be focused on iPad elegance. That is, learning what the iPad is, how it works, and how to elegantly use it well. Essentially, an bootcamp introduction covering all things iPad. Furthermore, during this time we will discuss active learning strategies and general classroom management support. The final two quarters–the twice per month meetings–will be more focused on individual teaching needs. Essentially, we will provide time and support for faculty to rethink how they might be able to change a class by implementing more active learning strategies and the use of a wireless-projecting iPad to promote flexibility enabling the professor to move around the classroom without being confined behind the podium in a static mode.

So how does this fit into my new action plan idea? Yesterday’s post introduced the work of Tanya Joosten and the DETA Research Center. This fall DETA will be posting a RFP for institutions to apply for a grant to fund an online/blended learning initiative. As Robbin and I have discussed the untethered course, we see opportunities to implement blended components that allow faculty members to work through content and exercises on their own and to increase flexibility with scheduling face-to-face meetings. We think it would be very interesting to apply for a DETA grant to research what blended learning strategies work best with our special people group (n.b., our “students” are faculty members rather than traditional undergraduate students and may fit the “special people group” category). There is exciting potential to connect with a larger body looking at what instructional strategies in blended and online environments impact student learning the most.

While the the DETA Research Center is the catalyst for switching my action plan, it isn’t the whole story. My action plan will focus on how we convert a year-long face-to-face community of practice into a course format with face-to-face sessions and online sessions. Furthermore, I plan to integrate thoughts around potential involvement of an information technology department. Therefore, my action plan has a real world application for a project I am working on currently and will include components that might not be incorporated, but will set the stage for future iterations. One example is how we meet scalability requirements. My colleague and I aren’t equipped to train every faculty member on how to implement iPads in a technologically elegant and pedagogically sound way. Therefore, as we look to the future, my action plan will address issues of scalability and, in particular, revisit my first post for EDTC 6104, where I discuss on TPACK (technological, pedagogical and content knowledge), and develop a practical and strategic plan for how we invite experts together to learn and grow in a collaborative way that ultimately impacts student learning. We remember the sage words of Seymour Papert (1987), that solid, un-warped, wood doesn’t make a strong, long-lasting picnic table (p. 24). It requires effort, intelligence, and proper strategies to make a quality picnic table. In the same way, professors given the “best” mobile teaching device, the iPad, don’t automatically become amazing teachers.

Doc Building a Picnic Table

Doc Building a Picnic Table

References

Kop, R. (2010). Using Social Media to Create a Place that Supports Communication. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (pp. 269–283). AU Press. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120177

Papert, S. (1987). Information Technology and Education: Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking. Educational Researcher, 16(1), 22–30. http://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X016001022

  10 comments for “Tweeting to Understand and Action Plan Update

  1. Marsha Scott
    July 20, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Embedding your projects together is fantastic. I am excited to see that you and your colleague, R. Riedy are implementing the untethered model as a year long course. I can visualize several benefits to this such as it provides support to the faculty when learning something new. Also any issues or concerns can be addressed at each session. In addition, meeting twice a month provides participants an opportunity to share with their colleagues. I tend to learn more in break out sessions or in small groups rather than a large group. I look forward to reading about your specific plans. I appreciate your thoughts on this, looks great!

    • Ryan Ingersoll
      July 23, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks, Marsha! I agree: we want professors to build community and develop partnerships with their peers by meeting twice a month!

  2. July 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Ryan,
    I agree with you about Twitter and tweet-ups. There is such an amazing community and possibility for conversation and collaboration, but I find it challenging to follow a conversation. I appreciate you being transparent about your experience with that. Even in a synchronous situation, it can be tough to follow all of the conversation.

    I also really like this idea that you’re creating communities of practices that will be sustainable through creating some blended components. What parts of your trainings can live independently and be access without facilitation? What kinds of scaffolds can you create so that more of your training can be accessed in that way? Where are the leverage points in your model that can help increase the value of each component of the learning?

    I’m glad you’re pushing on that idea of a digital learning environment by really focusing on your work and how to do it more elegantly.

    • Ryan Ingersoll
      July 23, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Ellen, fantastic questions (I might steal them verbatim for my action plan!). Those are exactly what we need to determine.

  3. July 20, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    You wrote that “participants would truncate their message by using abbreviations for certain words without–based on my knowledge–a pre-defined lexicon. For example, instead of staying students participants tweeted Ss instead” and this was an issue for me too. It was interesting to think about this type of communication with regard to language. I did find myself more regularly following only the conversations that I was in since the ability to see threaded communication between others was sometimes difficult. I’m not sure what the takeaway is, but the Wild West feeling of it did kind of excite as well.

    I am excited by your exploration of untethered teaching. I would like to be untethered more myself. I tried to get splashtop this year but it wasn’t approved by my district. I’m curious to know of other avenues to implement this. What are you thinking will be the biggest challenges with buy-in from faculty? How can your idea for collaboration between educators address concerns? Love the pic of doc!

    • Ryan Ingersoll
      July 23, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Annie, we should talk…I have a solution you could easily implement in your school (or anywhere) without the need for infrastructure changes.

      I think one big hurdle is reliability of the technology. Last year there were issues with the Apple TV always working. Professors will quickly give up, rightfully, because they lack the time and expertise to troubleshoot or call for help. I think we need to increase reliability, but notify the IT department of issues much more quickly (so they can see the problem in action). Glad you noticed it was Doc!

  4. July 22, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Ryan, thank you for your criticism on the #ed1to1 discussion. Twitter conversations are fascinating, but in a formal context when it goes so fast there is a *you miss school, you miss out* feel to it where overwhelm quickly sets in. With practice it becomes easier to weed out what feels like white noise to you, but that’s a tough approach. Where I saw problems with #ed1to1 was a lack of cohesion in a space beyond Twitter; the six of us have 6104 and the blog hub and so forth where we can post long-form and get conversations, but interactions beyond were entirely on Twitter. I saw few other participants posting anything other than references, and none other than you all link to blogs or longer prose. To be more successful in social media courses, having a centralized location for correspondence and storage and artifacts is vital; otherwise there is nothing to link to. Thank you for sharing!

    You and I have talked about your untethered course, and I am excited to see how this turns out. For an action plan, what is going to be important is establishing an inherency (why is this important), a significance (what is currently wrong), and an approach that you see here that promotes sustainability where last year’s program could not do so.

    I think the grant via DETA is a byproduct and not your focus. Getting the grant would be great, but I think an action plan built around developing and implementing this course could be used as part of a grant application, rather than developing a plan that includes writing a grant. Does that make sense?

    Measurement will be the key indicator. I am privy to information on this topic so I won’t go too far, but you and Robbin have both noted that expectations you had for the 2014-2015 CoPs were not necessarily met in the manner you envisioned; you spent lots of time in early spaces and then at the end there was a lot of conversation at best tangential to the aims of untethering. Clearly defining what you see as success and how you will measure that will be valuable. And I think it’s a mixed methods approach — I think there is a lot of value in the quantitative you can get from some of the device analytics, but the qual stats and the conversations and the built artifacts will be just as valuable. How will you aggregate, collate and measure?

    • Ryan Ingersoll
      July 23, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Rolin, yes! In a course, Twitter must serve as an arm to the body (i.e., course site) of a class.

      One point of clarification: you are correct, the grant is not the focus, but it is the catlyst to us focusing on blended. Not that we didn’t think about it before, but hearing about it made it important to focus on blended (plus some scheduling issues and the goal to scale this in the future).

      I have yet to figure that out. A mix of both… TBD!

  5. July 22, 2015 at 11:55 am

    First, yaaay on the microphone cube, I’ve been curious about it since you first mentioned it. So cool. You do a really great job at presenting!!!

    I was really drawn to your comment regarding the #ed1to1 conversations: “I quickly resonated with Kop (2010) who discussed research that revealed student use of discussion boards caused students to become “overwhelmed by the number of messages” (p. 271). Simply put, I was quickly out of my depths by the deluge of conversations and I found it difficult to follow the conversations.” One aspect of that experience that I found really hard was to follow discussions that were numbers (1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4) because of the limited 140 characters. This often happens on Twitter chats (EdTech [Educational Technology) chat, ElemLib [Elementary Librarian] chat, ect) and for that reason, the idea of being so overwhelmed, I generally don’t participate. And it makes me feel disconnected from that network of like-minded people. But, it’s just too much. I really like TweetDeck as a way to follow those types of conversations, but it is still really too much to take it.

    That being said, I was also VERY overwhelmed in my last online Master’s program that revolved around asynchronous online discussions. Even the organized threads of conversation were too much. Also, students were required to post and respond a certain number of times and so many of the comments were driven by fulfilling that requirement and not actually having or furthering meaningful conversation.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this topic. When I get disheartened by an experience, it’s nice to hear other peoples’ perspective, even if it is a very different response. It helps me to reflect on my own thoughts.

    • Ryan Ingersoll
      July 23, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Becky, haha! Did you watch it! Oh my. Another example of me being okay with being “public” haha!

      YES! The 1/4 and so was so confusing at time, and like you TweetDeck didn’t help…

      Thanks for your feedback on discussion boards. That is an important voice, because I have yet to experience that for myself. Good to reflect on–so thanks!

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