Revisiting the Solstice – A Year of Educational Blogging

Today marks the anniversary of my first two posts, Merry Eve of Winter Solstice in Stefras’ Bridge and Anthems & Apathy in Digital Substitute.

It is a good week to reflect on the blogging I did this year, the comments I made on other blogs and the impact I think these made on me as a person and a teacher. So for the next few posts, I plan to explore my blogging and my relationships with other bloggers.

And because what I blog often spills over into what I tweet, and vice versa, I will mention some tweets, chats and conversations I participated in over the past year that influenced or were influenced by my blogging.

I also worked on my Teaching Resources, Flickr, YouTube, Prezi (and) and Wiki sites this year. Much of the material on these sites cross into and out from my posts and tweets as well.

And, of course, I will explore the impact of these on my students’ learning, on my learning and on my teaching. I think I gained a lot.

This recognition of my first anniversary of blogging is cross-posted in my writing blog, Stefras’ Bridge.


Revisiting Four Themes

UPDATE: Due to Twitter’s buying and shutting down of Posterous, Malyn’s 10minutes sketchbook blog has been moved to WordPress, The Sketchbook Project 2012 – 10 minutes. Please visit the new site, enjoy Malyn’s sketchbook and sign her guestbook.

Deep passions never die

Last night I had an incredible Twitter conversation with Malyn Mawby about her Playing in Public sketch featured in my last post.

I asked her, since she is part of a sketch tour, whether she was just newly learning how to sketch or if she had started when she was younger. She proudly confessed the latter, and you can tell from the quality of her sketching.

Malyn also mentioned that she had stopped sketching for several years a little while back. For her, the Art House Co-op Sketchbook Project was an opportunity to revisit her sketching and renew her passion for artistic play.

This led to discussion of my passion for creative writing, which I also have enjoyed since childhood and also took a hiatus of several years from.

Hiatuses lead to inspiration

Of course, Malyn asked why I stopped. And I explained my heart transplant to her.

This led Malyn to draw a new sketch … about me.

And here it is. Wow!



For the colourful story behind this sketch, please read Malyn’s post about this sketch.

Camaraderie expands horizons

I developed many friendships using Twitter. I use the term PLN often, because most of my friends are teachers and most of our communication is professional. But it would undervalue my activity on Twitter and other social media, like this blog, to dismiss the camaraderie developed in my learning journey. My social and professional circles have definitely expanded since I started developing professionally online.

Resparking passion

In addition, I have another blog, maintained much less often than this one, which I dedicate to writing and my writing in particular. This is where I occasionally write about writing.

Last month, I became the new leader of the Write Group. This role is rather daunting, since I am replacing the quill of a great leader who served for 29 years. I expect that as my new duty takes hold, I will post more to my writing blog, particularly since I am designing a resource wiki for the Write Group.

I will also do more writing with the encouragement of my duties, much like Malyn is sketching more with the encouragement of her participation in the Art House Co-op Sketchbook Project.

So from a conversation last night, I have expanded my horizons some more and so has Malyn. Now that is social networking in action.

How about you? What is your passion? And how do you encourage yourself to expand and never lose it?

This post is cross-posted in my writing blog.

One Year of Tweets

There are conversations that are so inciting that you are impelled by every muscle in your body to jump in and join. You join to learn more. You join to connect. You join to share and to contribute to the shape of the conversations.



Twitter can be absolutely anemic, devoid of any purpose or reason or even care for the presence of others.



But it can also be a maelstrom of issues and opinions, of arguments and discussions, of thoughts, of questions and suggestions, and of links and videos and images.

It can transform the very way you think and teach and learn. It can network you with colleagues and people of similar interest around the world. It can organize meetings both virtual and actual. It can rally movements and ideas. And it can make us better people.



How I began

One year ago last Friday I joined Twitter and tweeted my first tweet.

I don’t remember the content of that tweet. I lurked for about only ten minutes, then I leapt, eager to wet my feet, when a conversation that peaked my interest came along. My induction into Twitter began with conversation.

I joined Twitter because as a substitute teacher more than anything else I felt that I needed to relate more to my students. Since most of them spent much of their lives texting and instant messaging, I felt that social media was a good way to close at least some of the technological gap between my students and me.



Previously, I had been an ecologist. I spent most of my time outdoors, in a lab, in an office or in front of a university lab or classroom. Social media had not taken off yet. Internet Relay Chat, e-mails and websites existed, but Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Flickr, RSS and all the many many cloud and Web 2.0 applications were not yet developed or popular. Then came a twelve-year gap during which I dealt with severe health issues and I lost all connection with technology.

You can imagine my shock when I returned!

Building a PLN and developing professionally

Fortunately for me, George and Alec Couros offered a Using Social Media for Transformative Teaching & Learning webinar series at just the right time.

I was able to jump into social media with some support and guidance, so avoiding the shock many teachers who don’t get that support experience.



This is where Twitter surprised me. I joined expecting that anemic activity that most people not having sampled Twitter imagine. What I found could not be more opposite.

Twitter is professionally and personally empowering when used purposefully. It can help you:

  • connect, engage and network with like-minded people,
  • share what you know,
  • learn about professional and collaborative opportunities and resources,
  • learn from others, and
  • enhance your teaching, learning and thinking toolkits.

Its greatest benefit is building a personal learning network or community (PLN or PLC) and developing professionally (PD) with these colleagues. It is all about the networking and collaboration.

Teachers interconnect around the world to discuss issues, ask questions and help each other become better teachers.

When used correctly, it is an exemplar of professional development.



What I accomplished

But it doesn’t stop at tweets.

Along my journey this past year, I discovered uses of Twitter that further professional development and networking.

  • One of the first things I discovered were links in tweets to resources, courses, tools, and people who are experts in teaching and content areas.
  • I also discovered colleagues and experts who use Twitter through mentions, retweets, replies, and discussions.
  • From these I built a community of people I follow, most of whom are teachers, but many of whom are scientists, writers, artists, technology experts and other people of interest.
  • And in turn, as my tweets became more helpful to others, I gained followers.
  • I collaborated with many people on mutual or individual projects.
  • I accessed the perspectives and knowledge of colleagues through tweets, blogs, posts, comments, paper.lis, mashups, RSS feeds, Diigo or Delicious indices, images, videos, and media, all accessed through Twitter.
  • I built an identity, a brand or reputation, confidence in my relationships and opinions, and a staff — yes, it is a bit pompous to consider my PLC as a personal staff, but as a sub I lack one otherwise.
  • I welcomed those who are new to Twitter, paying forward what my PLN gives to me and looking forward to networking with new people.
  • I even connected with people who are just entertaining, such a Samuel Clemons, a ferret of all creatures who tweets just to entertain others. Such connections are important just to take a break.
  • And I developed a Twitter sense of humour that lightens some of my tweets.
  • I linked to formal professional development opportunities advertised in Twitter.
  • And I tweeted about myself and about beautiful things in the world to stretch beyond the professional and into a larger sphere.
  • But what I most value about Twitter are the impromptu and informal conversations and the formal and planned chats that I have participated in. Conversations and chats are where Twitter shines and professional development really happens. They are also what my students gain from texting and instant messaging. I regularly participate in #mathchat and, though I would like to do the same with #engchat, #scichat, #globio and #edchat, only occasionally participate in these.
  • I even informally hosted some sessions of #mathchat, suggested a few topics and just recently selected a popular one for discussion.



Small regrets

I encountered a few problems along my journey with Twitter.

  • I inadvertently insulted a few people for a short while, only later learning I had done so. This I suppose is a trap common to all social endeavours.
  • I stated things that were interpreted completely differently than I intended, only having to clarify my meaning with more than 140 characters.
  • I have even recently run into Twitter’s 2000 or 1.1% follower threshold, which I calculated I can never make up as more people I want to follow follow me. To this end, I have weeded out people I follow who no longer tweet, who do not fit into my matured PLN or who tweet only occasionally or in irritating chains or spurts. Such pruning is a hard lesson to learn.

Ending the year

I may not remember the content of my first tweet, but my final tweet of my first year on Twitter was short and sweet. I tweeted one simple word.


I did so in response to an unrelated context, but I think it encapsulates my experience this year with Twitter.

How I feel about this past year

Tweeting and lurking can be time-consuming. Let’s be honest. It takes time to build relationships, time to converse and chat, time to read or view or listen to others’ tweets and the resources they link to. Tweeting takes time. But any worthy professional development takes time. Any worthy professional development builds and grows. It gets richer, broader, deeper and more vital. But it takes time.

And it is time worth consuming.

In the end, it is our students who matter. In the end, all this tweeting and blogging and casting and photographing has to work with other things we do, including planning lessons and units, creating assignments, managing classes, assessing, coaching, caring, fretting and hoping, to help our students learn.

I have learned so much from my PLN that I am a better and more responsive teacher.

Would I recommend Twitter to other teachers?

You bet. Twitter rocks!



History of My Past: My Twitter Avatar

In a previous post I described the significance of my blogging avatar. It essentially represents the teaching and naturalist/ecologist sides of me.

Some of you have noticed that my blogging avatar and tweeting avatar are not the same.

You are right.

A month ago, on the Ides of May, @royanlee inquired about my Twitter avatar. His exact query was:

@stefras your profile pic is intriguing.

@Mstew15 noted (just recently as part of a conversation):

DM stefras A ton of history, it looks like! Where was it taken? This can’t be a current-day classroom…can it?

My response is this post.

In the days of settlers and homesteaders

My Twitter avatar is a cropped view of the inside of an early 20th Century, one-room Canadian Prairie school. Actually, this one:



This school is special because it represents the history of:

  1. my family, and
  2. the Canadian and Saskatchewan school systems.

Connections: My family and Jedburgh School

One of my paternal great uncles and one of my paternal great aunts were two of the first students to attend this school in the 1920s. Also, for the wage of 75¢ to $4.50 (1934 CAN) a day, their father, my great grandfather, was the caretaker of the school from 1933 to 1935.

Preservation: The state of Jedburgh School

Jedburgh School actually contains three rooms — the coat or boot room, the teacher’s office (of the same size) and the classroom — plus a basement, where likely the teacher lived (the basement is flooded with water and diesel, so I never saw it).



My Twitter avatar comes from the classroom.




The school operated for over 60 years until the mid-1980s. When it was closed, it was converted into a library which lasted until 1991. After that, as the village waned (it is now a hamlet), the school was abandoned and left to its fate. In it were left desks, school books, school ledgers and other material. Even the chalkboards were left unerased.



Mice now occupy the desks students once learned in and scuttle across the floor they once walked across, somewhat an ironic fate for the school, Jedburgh and their history, which once were the proud center of Garry County 245. Today the Seat of Garry County, the post office, a quarter dozen occupied homes, the same number of abandoned buildings, the Church and the abandoned school are all that remain of the once bustling village.

The school is poised to soon collapse or be rescued. The Theodore Historical Society and the Saskatchewan Archives Board are in the process of salvaging as much of the contents of the school as they can.

Like the grain elevators that once dotted the Canadian Prairies, the one-room school houses are abandoned and disappearing.

Part of the reason I chose the inside of Jedburgh School for my avatar, after symbolizing my family’s history and that of pioneer Canadian education, was to record the existence of this school and its contents as a way of saving or preserving these.

For more photos of the school and detailed captions for all the photos, refer to my Jedburgh School, Saskatchewan, photo set. In addition, take a look around Jedburgh (also), read stories about it and view it on a Google Earth map.

On the map, zoom in to the fifth rung from the top. The white smudge East of 1stE between the stamped 0 and 2 is the school. The dark box South of Jedburgh across Highway 651 is the windrow around the yard of the Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is still occasionally active. And the dark (treed) trail continuing South West of the Church was the driveway into my great uncle’s farm where I used to explore. Some German man currently uses this driveway as a private shooting range.



Avatar’s meaning: Into the school

Progress: Keep asking questions

George Couros in his post, Keep Asking Questions, lists “Would we be doing this if we started schools from scratch?” as a key question to ask when considering a tool for or method of teaching.

To answer this question, we need to define what we mean by schools and scratch. And we need to agree upon a definition of success, because, with no idea of what success looks like, we can never answer the question. In fact, we could not even ask it.

What Kind of World Do You Want?
by NASA 2011

Defining schools: Is a school where we learn? Or is a more formal definition needed? Is a schoolhouse necessary? Or are alternatives better?

Defining scratch: If we were to start from scratch by completely abandoning the education systems we have now, including the infrastructure:

  1. What kind of schools would we build in place of today’s schools?
  2. What kind of teaching would we devise?
  3. What tools — resources both natural and man-made — would we use?
  4. What role, purpose or function would our schools serve? (In this stomps the elephant of hidden curriculum.)
  5. Who would we teach?
  6. And would we use lessons from our past and present to optimize future and present school effectiveness? (Would we plan with past and present triumphs and mistakes in mind?)

At this moment, completely abandoning the education systems we have now is impractical and idealistic. Teachers are left to modify the above questions or create new ones on their own. New questions arise, such as:

  1. Why am I teaching this given topic or concept?
  2. Why am I teaching it the way I do?
  3. What do I want my students to walk with for the rest of their lives?
  4. How do I most effectively help them do so?
  5. What exactly is the meaning of this piece of education?

I always consider these questions as I teach. I am a big fan of why? both on my students and on me. It seems we are so stuck on how? and the shortcut mnemonics (formulaic teaching) that how? develops, that we forget to explore why?. I believe many students struggle because of this very bias and deficiency. I know, when I was as kid, I did.

Defining success: One final set of questions can also be explored. What are the educational needs and wants (priorities) of our:

  1. community and culture (local, regional, national, global, present and future)?
  2. students (in light of their potential futures or adulthoods)?
  3. students (in light of their dynamic presents or childhoods/adolescences)?
  4. students’ parents (in light of their dreams for their kids’ successes)?
  5. selves (in light of our desire to be successful caring professionals who seek to aid our students toward their successes)?

Success is a measure of the degree to which priorities are met. It is optimally met at best, due to the conflict of the priorities of interested parties. It also dynamic, for as a person lives, what he or she requires and uses changes. Community, culture and parents change their priorities as well.

Reflection: What is success?


Jedburgh WordleJedburgh Wordle Shawn Urban(via: Wordle)


Our past informs our future. Without it we can not measure how we are doing today nor plan how we can change tomorrow. It also informs the struggle of our ancestors, the ones who cut the trail we now follow, and it informs the trail our descendents will follow that we cut in our turn.

It is interesting to contrast and compare the schools of yesterday with those of today, like Tom Grant did; to imagine how schools in the days of the Prairie pioneers and homesteaders would be different if they had today’s technology (in the preferable sociological and anthropological senses) at their disposal; and to imagine how today’s schools would be different if we truly wiped the slates clean and designed them again from scratch.

In the days of settlers and homesteaders, the Canadian Ukrainian country pioneer occupied himself with clearing and farming her land or with supporting the farmer in this endeavor. Farming therefore was the homesteader’s priority.

The meaning of education and school was coloured by this pioneer agrarian culture. Priorities, things valued, things stressed, things ignored and things taken for granted were different from today. The population was less established and much more sparse. So, it is not surprising that education reflected these opportunities, challenges and circumstances. It was important but only so long as it did not interfere with farming. (For many Prairie farmers this still holds true.)

The pioneer school of the Prairies was a one-room building, often with a live-in teacher. In it several grades, age-levels and subjects were taught at once. And often these levels of interaction played off of each other in a holistic, sometimes even interdisciplinary, manner. Students often had the same teacher their whole school careers (which ended for most around Grade Eight) and the teacher had the same students throughout these careers. Interaction and relationships often ran deeper. Over time, more personal attention and engagement was afforded each student. The questions of accountability — who was accountable and why — rested more on the community and teacher. Standardization was less stringent than today and often came after the teaching.



Today, Canadians live in a settled if not established society. Education holds deeper significance and opportunity, and curriculum is standardized.

If we did truly wipe the educational slates clean and designed them again from scratch, in the context of today’s exploding technology, modern culture and yesterday’s pioneer past, how would these schools look? I think George Couros’s question is rather deep. Further, do we start to make these changes from the grass roots or from the top? Perhaps a collaboration would work? Who decides which reform is best? And in all of this what do the students think? And when do we ask them, for when are they informed enough to inform us about their priorities, both present and future?

Back to my avatar

Even though I am a substitute teacher, I try my best to encourage my students to ask why? alongside how?. I try to engage their curiosities and fascinate them with twists and disruptions of their universes. I see my role as the complement of their regular teachers that challenges them to imagine rather than accept.

My Twitter avatar calls me to action and reminds me to serve the children and future under my care for their betterment. When I look at my avatar, the principles, purposes and bases of modern education and how I teach reflect on me in the lights of past, present and future pedagogy.

Hopefully I also reflect on them. For just teaching is not enough. Making a lasting beneficial difference is.



Using Twitter and Other Social Media for Professional Development

A week ago, I attended the Central East Alberta Teachers’ Convention. As usual, I enjoyed the networking and the convention sessions. It is nice to connect and share with colleagues.


CEATCA LogoCEATCA Logo © 2009 CEATCA | more info (via: ATA)
Reproduced without permission


This year, however, was additionally satisfying as I discovered I had learned a skill that I could share with other teachers. I noticed a push, or a pulse, toward online social networking at the Convention. Teachers were talking about it. And sessions were providing resources for it.

During the Convention, I had a great conversation with a vice principal of one of the schools where I substitute about social networking and how a few months ago I ventured into the land of tweets and blogs. I offered her a summary of resources that I used to learn how to digitally network. And she was interested. This was great; I was thrilled to be useful. But it got better. Since the Convention, another teacher asked me for more information; we had agreed to exchange session information beforehand, but this information was bonus. I combined the two requests and shared the resources with these two teachers.

I realized that others might also be interested, so I decided to post publicly about how I started social networking. This then is my first response to the 2011 Central East Alberta Teachers’ Convention. It is also a summary of much of my professional development this school year.

If you are just delving into social networking and want to know how to do so, the following information might help you. Even if you are a veteran, you might find these resources a strong way to enhance your portfolio.

Why social network?



Social technology is about mutual, and public, sharing. There are two general reasons it is used in education. In both cases, it is a tool only; it should never be an end onto itself.

  1. Broadly, technology is used to share, to network, to create Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and to develop professionally. Social media activities, such as tweeting, blogging, commenting, social bookmarking and RSS feed reading, serve this purpose. Several secondary activities, such as video creation, slide sharing, imaging and audio creation, enhance these activities.
  2. Specifically, technology is used to create learning opportunities using specialized relevant tools. Any of thousands (and growing) of Web 2.0 and 3.0 tools serve this purpose. The tool should enrich and enhance learning, not distract from it. Best practices should be in effect.

To learn how to use Twitter and other social media



Study the webinar series, Using Social Media for Transformative Teaching & Learning, presented by George and Alec Couros. Each webinar is 1.5 hours long, plus there are several activities that you are asked to do on your own time. But it is worth it! (I have encountered many baffled teachers who just jumped into social media without any immersion.)

To learn how to blog and set up a blog



Participate in the Teacher Challenge Kick Start Your Blogging (KSYB). This Challenge consists of eight activities and is designed to take 30 heavy days to complete. There are several Challenges running throughout this year, but the “old” ones are still active. A new wave of teachers is just starting KSYB.

In addition, the Twitter hashtag #ksyb is used to network with others in the Challenge and to advertise your Challenge posts. Several of us who already took the KSYB Challenge still use that hashtag to keep in touch and advertise current posts we publish. In essence, we created a KSYB PLN. Anyone is welcome to join.

To learn how to create a professional education portfolio



A professional education portfolio is an extension of a blog. It is found in the pages part of the blog and illustrates throughout a student’s, teacher’s or administrator’s career how she or he meets the outcomes or quality standards for his or her position. In essence, it is a specialized illustrative resume that goes beyond standard or outcome descriptions, grades and bullet statements.

Participate in the short North Central Teachers’ Convention tutorial, Creating A WordPress Portfolio, again by George Couros. Pay particular attention to his answer to “What does the portfolio portion of our blog look like?” under Other Links. In his answer, he shows examples of student, teacher and administrator portfolios and explains how the portfolio can follow the individual rather than the institution. This portfolio can be used on an individual, class or school-wide basis.

A selection of (ever-growing) resources to jump start your social networking



Twitter: How to Navigate – Hash Tags, Chats, People and Lists




Tech in the Classroom

Twitter: @stefras, Blog: Digital Substitute, Web: Teaching Resources, Node: I Am Here

I further discuss Twitter and the building of a PLN in a previous post.

Why are you social networking? The power of a PLN

The power of a PLN

Whether a teacher, a student or some other person, two key things every person wants (socially), a personal learning network (PLN) can provide. At our most fundamental, we all want to be noticed or recognized and we all want to make a difference, leave a mark or share what we can offer. (Some of us do this negatively; most of us contribute positively.)

These needs are not entirely associated. We don’t necessarily want to be recognized or noticed for what we share, though perhaps we would like to know that out contribution was worth our effort. We do however want to be noticed.


Personal Learning NetworkPersonal Learning Network © 2011 Shawn Urban (via: Wordle)


A PLN can provide camaraderie, a medium to voice and debate opinions, a community to which we can offer help, or ask for help, including resources, and a forum with which we can develop professionally.

It is within the PLN’s active interaction that we draw personal and professional growth and we build sometimes lifelong friendships and learning.

The following conversation is a good example of a PLN being built and in action using Twitter.

The players:



First, here are some statistics to help you spatially and temporally place Lisa, Heidi and me. We have never met each other. I have been following both for some time and Heidi has followed me for a while. Lisa followed me on February 5, after this conversation. I do not know if they knew about each other prior to this conversation. Ralph followed Lisa and Heidi, I think, because of the conversation as well. So this one conversation built several relations.

Here is who we are and where we come from.

@InnovativeEdu: Lisa Nielsen, New York City, New York, USA, (+2hr, UTC-5)
@stefras: Shawn Urban, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, (0hr, UTC-7, tracked)
@HHG: Heidi Hass Gable, Coquitlam, BC, Canada, (-1hr, UTC-8)
@Langevin: Ralph Langevin, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, (+2hr, UTC-5)
@ExplodingBeaker: Sean Marchetto, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, (0hr, UTC-7)
@wfryer: Wesley Fryer, Location 3rd rock from the sun, (which is well beyond my ability to place in time and space; I used to be located Jumpin’ btw Janus and Epimetheus, which is even harder to place, though it only happens every four years)
hptrainingworks: Hugh Phillips, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, (0hr, UTC-7, who I have met in person, but who as far as I know does not have a Twitter account; good thing, given that I reversed his name in this conversation. Oy!)

The conversation:



Feb 3

10:31 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@wfryer – Is that new? Maybe the distractions just changed. Maybe we got worse at prioritizing. Maybe students don’t get to own learning.

10:46 pm @stefras:
Maybe just ask questions and let them learn on their own. RT @InnovativeEdu maybe students don’t get to own learning.

Feb 4

5:38 am @InnovativeEdu:
@stefras – maybe the students don’t need us to ask questions. maybe they need us to back off so they can learn how/what they want.

12:57 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu Letting them learn what they want: But they might not learn beyond what they want or what they don’t know exists.

12:58 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu Teachers open doors and windows, knock down walls and disturb universes.

1:00 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu They show students what is out there, teach them convention and dare them to leave their comfort zones. Teachers ask.

1:01 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu In short, teaching does not exist until a question is asked. Learning does not exist until a question is considered.

1:01 pm @HHG:
@InnovativeEdu @stefras Maybe students need both. Does it have to be either/or?

1:02 pm @stefras:
@HHG I think variety is the best way to teach. Send them out to find their own learning and ask them questions to introduce them to others.

1:05 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu Variety best. Send them out to find their own learning and ask them questions to introduce them to others. @HHG

1:06 pm @HHG:
@stefras @InnovativeEdu Yes – sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know. Other times, we need to step back & let them lead.

1:09 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu @HHG RT @Langevin: Design all activites, exercises, reviews, etc., so learners will be successful but also challenged.

1:09 pm @stefras:
@HHG Teach the arbitrary; allow kids to figure out the necessary (Hewitt @InnovativeEdu otherwise u enable dependancy

1:21 pm @stefras:
@HHG @InnovativeEdu It doesn’t matter who asks the question, even the student. re: teaching (and learning) starts with a question.

1:26 pm @HHG:
@stefras @InnovativeEdu What about the foundational stuff in elem? Alphabet. Numbers. Writing. Reading.

1:54 pm @stefras:
Having a great discussion with @HHG and @InnovativeEdu about what teachers should teach and what should let discover

1:54 pm @Langevin:
@stefras thanks for the RT and the intro to @InnovativeEdu @HHG. glad you found my tip helpful…there’s more to come…have a great wkend!

2:03 pm @HHG:
@stefras Like that! Reminds me of talk by director of NotSchool in UK. Engage kids thru their passion – let that lead to the need for basics

2:15 pm @stefras:
@Langevin you are welcome.

2:18 pm @stefras:
@HHG Hewitt is from UK as well. His idea: some info can be worked out; no teacher needed. Others: can’t learn unless taught: e.g.terminology

2:25 pm @stefras::
@HHG Phillip Hughs: one set of kids: taught paddling, let in canoes, bored; second set: let in canoes first, begged to learn paddling.

2:26 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu @HHG Let them drown. Then teach them how to swim.

3:19 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@stefras – Agree. Show students what is out there, but I don’t think we need to force students to learn things they’re not interested in?

3:20 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@HHG @stefras – My issue is not giving students choice & authentic learning opps. Teachers can open doors, but shouldn’t force em through

3:21 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@stefras @HHG – Socratic method is fine, but often students don’t need to depend on teacher for learning. They can find their own questions

3:22 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@stefras @HHG @Langevin – It’s more powerful if we let students design /own the learning with our support. Independent learners is key

3:22 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@stefras @HHG – learning can start with a question. doesn’t have to start with a question.

3:23 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@HHG @stefras – re: foundational stuff…I recently wrote about that on my blog & they didn’t need teachers…just support / exposure

3:25 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@stefras @HHG – I don’t think they need to drown b4 learning to swim. They need to want to learn to swim then get support in doing so

7:29 pm @InnovativeEdu:
@Langevin @stefras @HHG -My latest post addresses our convo -have faith. Kids will learn w/support

10:31 pm @ExplodingBeaker:
RT @stefras: @InnovativeEdu In short, teaching does not exist until a question is asked. Learning does not exist until a question is considered.

Feb 5

5:24 pm @stefras:
I am doing the same. Great conversation. RT @InnovativeEdu: @Langevin @stefras @HHG -My latest post addresses our convo

5:28 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu I actually believe learning begins with noticing. It is the teachers job to set up the opportunity for them to notice.

5:31 pm @stefras:
RT @InnovativeEdu: @stefras @HHG – They need to want to learn to swim then get support in doing so < this was Phillip's point, and mine!

5:35 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu @HHG I just wrote a post,, on @InnovativeEdu point re student need/want should precede teacher support.

5:36 pm @stefras:
@HHG You missed: I actually believe learning begins with noticing. It is the teachers job to set up the opportunity for them to notice.

5:39 pm @stefras:
@InnovativeEdu @HHG working on post re our conversation; @InnovativeEdu’s post

5:52 pm @HHG:
@stefras Did u see my earlier twts re 12yo’s cigarette questions? Exemplified that – we walked past a group smoking outside the mall…

Feb 6

9:29 pm @stefras:
@HHG Sorry Heidi. I missed your tweets about the 12yo’s cigaratte questions. What was the gist?

9:35 pm @HHG:
@stefras On way into mall, walked past smokers – she started asking about why cigarettes aren’t illegal, if they’re bad for your health?

9:36 pm @stefras:
@HHG That would turn into a sticky conversation. I wonder if she was sassing or actually confused? re smoker

9:36 pm @HHG:
@stefras Led to “well why are drugs illegal then?” Which led to disc. of political system, making laws, human nature, power, money, etc…

9:37 pm @stefras:
@HHG That is what I thought. re drugs and politics. Nice that learning can occur outside of the classroom.

9:38 pm @HHG:
@stefras Next came discussion of social norms, expectations, west coast vs east coast culture…

9:38 pm @stefras:
Wow! RT @HHG: @stefras Next came discussion of social norms, expectations, west coast vs east coast culture…

9:38 pm @HHG:
@stefras All starting from her curiosity – then letting her lead… 🙂

9:39 pm @stefras:
@HHG Nice example of our previous conversation in action.

9:47 pm @stefras:
@HHG So how can we consistently extend such an encounter to the classroom? I would do it via teachable moments, but those are reactive.

The conversation still continues.

The analysis (of the conversation):



  1. Notice that this conversation is asynchronous.
    • There are bouts of intense conversation and at other times of rapid monologues.
    • This asynchronicity leads to some threads of the topic bumping into and weaving around each other.
    • It also leads to long periods when nothing is said.
  2. Also notice that Heidi and I both jump into the conversation.
    • This is a gamble.
    • Sometimes it backfires; usually when this happens you are just ignored.
    • But often it can lead to a richer, deeper conversation as each person brings in his own point of view.
    • Everyone wins and exits feeling enriched.
  3. Ralph on the other hand is implicitly invited into the conversation.
    • His comment on another thread bears some weight in what Lisa, Heidi and I are talking about.
    • I RT (retweet) him while mentioning Heidi and Lisa to bring in his point of view.
  4. Sean also touches the conversation when he RTs my comment.
    • This illustrates that others other than the participants are also interested in the conversation.
    • Lurking is another way (though passive) to develop professionally.
    • Retweeting is a great means to recognize a well written comment – that is, a comment that makes a good point.
    • By retweeting my comment, Sean exposed my comment to people who follow him and not me.
    • Any of his followers could also retweet the comment and so on; the best comments might go viral.
    • He could also have favorited my comment, saving the tweet in his profile.
    • Both these actions compliment your tweet and give you exposure.
    • Thanking retweeters and favoriters is good etiquette and builds relationships.
  5. The conversation is still active.
    • I stopped mirroring it here at 9:47 tonight (Feb 6), even though more has already been said.
    • I did thank Sean for his retweet, just as Ralph thanked me.
    • I think I stopped on a great prompt that you can reflect and perhaps even comment on (both here and on Twitter).
  6. Some conversations, such as the #edchat and #ksyb conversations, are planned.
    • Lisa, Heidi and I could have planned this conversation.
    • We could have created and used a searchable hashtag, such as #studentslead.
    • The hashtag allows any tweets that use that hashtag to be isolated from all other tweets.
    • This allows conversations, such as the one above to be isolated and specifically followed and contributed to.
    • We could do that now.
    • It certainly would have made collecting the tweets, the times and the sender usernames for this conversation much easier.
    • To record the conversation above in this post, I had to open the Twitter profiles of each of the involved people to get all the information I needed.
    • With a hashtag I would have opened only one window.
    • In fact I could have cut and pasted with minimal formatting.
  7. Conversations are probably the strongest power of Twitter and PLNs.
    • PLNs allow you to develop professionally,
    • sometimes such as here without needing to plan for it,
    • other times through formal PD opportunities.
    • You often don’t know what you might stumble on or be invited into.
    • And you don’t know what you can contribute.
    • Simply, if you can type or talk you can contribute.
    • And you (do) have something unique to contribute.
    • So jump in. Say something. Let others respond.
    • You don’t exist if no one knows you are there.
  8. Jump to Lisa’s post on the conversation.

In this last Teacher Challenge of 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blog, we are asked to reflect on the importance of networking and creating personal learning networks (PLNs).