Education hashtag chats

What’s not to like about hashtag chats?

You probably aren’t surrounded by people at your school who share your enthusiasm for discussing educational issues and so the hashtag chat allows you to link up with people from all over the world who are just as geeky as you. The topics are also chosen by people like you and they range over hot-button issues.

Yet I’ve never found it easy to get into them. I certainly don’t want to be critical of the folk who run these chats because they are doing a valuable service to education. However, I’ve realised today why it is that I find it so hard to engage. I offer this view in case a chat moderator wants ideas on how to draw-in people like me.

My revelation came during this morning’s #satchatoc when I saw this tweet.


I immediately thought ‘there’s a few assumptions in there’. Why do we want to give students power? What is to be gained by doing this and how do we know?

I reckon there would be a large segment of the teaching community that would have at least some degree of scepticism about this topic, not because they believe that students should have no voice but because there are lots of kinds of power in school and they might question the desirability of generally giving more of it over to students.

Indeed, despite the framing of the discussion, one teacher made the point that teachers are subject area experts. Would we therefore want to give students power over curriculum content and teaching methods? This is a matter of genuine debate.

However, the way that the question was phrased did not really provide an entry point for such scepticism. The rightness of giving students power was assumed and the chat was framed around listing the ways of doing this.

Now I reflect upon it, I think that many education chats pan-out like this. How can we build more inquiry learning into the curriculum? How can we integrate more tech into lessons? And so on.

These might be highly valued by those who participate and are seeking such tips. Indeed, books of teaching tips seem quite popular.

However, educators like me are far more interested in discussing the assumptions that sit behind these initiatives. If you want a wider debate then consider how you might encourage us to join.

NEWSFLASH: Rather than just point this out, I thought I’d do something about it. So I’ve created a Twitter account, @CriticalThinkEd. It’s not a chat as such. My intention is to post questions that challenge common assumptions. People can then reply in a tweet or by linking to a blogpost that they’ve written on the subject. The account will then act as a resource to curate these opinions. It won’t be taking positions itself, other than through the selection of questions. Please follow and we’ll all see what happens. I’m happy to let in other admins if it gets off the ground.

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10 Comments on “Education hashtag chats”

  1. I think you’re point is an interesting (and valid) one. When there is only 140 characters available, you generally are required to make unvoiced implications and assign implicit meanings and baggage to some tweets and terms within tweets. I personally feel this is an issue within Twitter, especially within education-driven chats, however I’m not sure how to address it, as expounding on your own assumptions around a topic, or even a word, invariably takes more than 140 characters.

    Someone recently commented to me that they feel that Twitter is often an echo chamber. Those participating in various chats are already converts to the cause of that chat. This has its own inherent dangers, particularly when combined with your particular concern.

    How to resolve this? I’m not sure. Though I do agree with your implication that there needs to be more discussion of our underlying assumptions.

    • mikeollerton says:

      Yes, engaging with underlying assumptions is a valuable way to debate key issues in education. There are all kind of assumptions which need to be challenged but need to be done so through healthy debate. A good example is a phrase used before regarding “the teaching community” and this caused me to ponder on what different people might understand by the notion of “community”, I.e. are all teachers in a community by dint of being a teacher or is it necessary for someone to wish to make a more active choice to belong to a community? I was also interested in the example of whether or not ‘we’ want to give power to learners. I am not sure about that but I am, personally, sure about the value of ceding ownership to learners. I would be keen to debate the value or otherwise of the vast amount of worksheet type resources which appear on Twitter and weighing these against inquiry based approaches (such as @inquirymaths) which I believe to be far more valuablevaluable approaches to T&L

  2. […] Greg Ashman notes in his post today, Twitter chats can connect us with fellow geeks, even when we’re feeling isolated in our own […]

  3. largerama says:

    Hi Greg
    As has already been said in a tweet, I am pleased that the #satchatoc discussion prompted a blog post. Let me just give you my view on things before I address your comments: I participate in few Twitter chats. Some are just too fast and involve too many people for my liking. I find that they do not enable me to keep up with a fluent discussion in any way I feel comfortable with. In reality, I am not what I would call a ‘heavy’ Twitter user and I have, at times, a large amount of scepticism for the personal benefits I get from it as PD. Yet, despite the negative feelings I get of the echo chamber effect and a certain amount of being stuck in a loop, there are other times when Twitter provides so much more than anything my staff room, my school, my colleagues, education journals, conferences, etc, etc can offer. So given my stance, here are my comments on your post.

    You talk about my question having ‘assumptions’. If the assumption is that we are giving students’ power then I would say that is plenty of evidence to suggest that is the case in schools. If power comes from choice then are you suggesting there are the same or less choices for students in schools now than there were in previous years? If power comes from student voice, student representation, student council then would you not agree that these are an important feature of contemporary education and variants of these are common? I could go on here but I think these two examples are enough.

    Perhaps, I was intending the assumptions though. Perhaps the question was leading. I note you are studying for a PhD. I am also attempting to do the same related to empowering students. Yet, this is not PhD research. It is a Twitter chat, a discussion that may have had some under currents of controversy. Indeed, personally I was interested in interpretations of power hence your question: “Would we therefore want to give students power over curriculum content and teaching methods?” would have made a great contribution to the chat. As the chat instigator in this case, I was quite prepared for the variety of tangents that the chat could and did go into.

    To suggest that the chat was meant to be a list of ways to do this is bizarre, in my opinion. That was in existence and no doubt there were some people involved who used it for that purpose, however if you consider my follow up questions (see below), can you really say that?

    Is the rate of education modernisation slowed by an unwillingness to give up power to students?
    Do school leaders and/or Govts really understand the significance of student power?
    Are we patting students on the head and smiling sweetly in our approaches to student voice?

    In addition to these questions, I had sideline tweets with you where I discussed issues around defining power and the ulterior motives of why schools would want to give students power. Somehow, you seem to be dismissing that in your follow up. Again, to me, such discussions are just as important as the chat itself.

    So, to summarise, we are all different and we like different approaches to sharing, to learning, to discussing but a Twitter chat is just one of the ways we can do all of those things. Peer reviewed education research journal articles are another way. They are not necessarily a better way. Your approach to challenging assumptions by posting questions in the way you have started to do with @CriticalThinkEd is interesting. It should add to the rich tapestry that being part of a phenomenal network of educators Twitter has facilitated. Surely, what is vital is that the tapestry is rich and diverse. Just because you struggle with the Twitter chat approach does not mean that it does not have merits and worth for others. As a teacher and a researcher, I got a hell of a lot from one hour of chat and I will gladly support such chats in the future where I think similar will happen.

    Cheers

    Nick

    • teachwell says:

      I don’t think your follow up questions challenge any assumptions but add to the fact that you have taken a particular stance and therefore are promoting a particular agenda. Is giving students power at all a good thing? Has it impacted positively or negatively on their experience of the education system. What are the effects of greater student participation on the education system? You are implying those effects are positive and that in order for this to be enhanced pupils should have more say not less or a different type of say. You also assume that power is being exercised wisely.

      The worst school I ever worked in had the most student ’empowerment’. It was basically children bullying teachers with the support of the head teacher.

      • largerama says:

        Greg

        I am not here to get into a playground tit-for-tat argument. I am not Gary Stager or Crispin Weston. As I said in my comments, I think some of your ideas have a lot of value.Yet, you have either not read what I have said or have misinterpreted it and I am not prepared to let that go unchallenged.

        Firstly, my follow up questions were not intended to challenge assumptions. It is not what I said. Perhaps I should repeat what they did show: “To suggest that the chat was meant to be a list of ways to do this is bizarre, in my opinion. That was in existence and no doubt there were some people involved who used it for that purpose, however if you consider my follow up questions (see below), can you really say that?”

        Secondly, I have a stance, I do support giving students more power but as already explained, the Twitter chat was intended and in some ways, orchestrated to challenge thinking, to encourage discussion around this topic. As with other comments, your questions such as you have provided here, would have been most welcome.

        Also, again, I feel I must remind you: This was not research. It was a Twitter chat, a discussion and as such, assumptions are surely allowed aren’t they? Your comments, “The worst school I ever worked in had the most student ’empowerment’. It was basically children bullying teachers with the support of the head teacher.” has a lot of assumptions. After all, you are suggesting that the empowerment of the students led to it being the worst school when perhaps it was the mismanagement of the students or an understanding of power, relationships etc that was really at fault. I can only make ASSUMPTIONS from what you have said 🙂

        Furthermore, I feel I should add a rather simple analogy: If I changed my question to, ‘How are we giving students WATER in our schools?’ would this have led to criticisms of making assumptions? After all, according to your analysis, I am assuming giving students water is a good thing, right? Yet, too much water can be bad for you. (Surely, I dont have to provide research here to prove that). Is this example that much different to the power debate and the experiences you talk about in providing too much power? I think not.

        Feel free to comment Greg but I will leave it there. Trolling and flaming are not me. Discussions, with assumptions, comfortable or uncomfortable are. I will happily engage in those with you.

        Nick

      • gregashman says:

        Just to be clear – teachwell and me are different people.

    • teachwell says:

      Indeed Greg and I are indeed separate people. I don’t think my reply to your comment deserved ad homs on three separate people!! I was challenging the assumptions behind your argument, yes, but it was not personal.

      I gave an example of my personal experience simply to illustrate the reason why I think those assumptions are not true. I am making no assumptions, I lived and experienced it. It is patronising to be told that I somehow was standing on the outside of it, basing my views on assumptions made about what was happening. I didn’t say that experience was typical or necessary outcome of greater student empowerment but it is one example of what can happen that is not positive.

      It is obvious that you have a stance, that is kind of what Greg’s point was in this blog. That we are not genuinely discussing questions but framing them in a way that already assumes a positive or a negative impact to start off with.

      In the end if you really believe that there are only positive consequences to student empowerment then fine. In the real world there are always positive and negative consequences for any action. It’s about assessing whether the positive outweighs the negative, not sticking ones head in the sand and pretending the negative is not there.

      For example. the student council in my last school met each Friday afternoon, this enabled those children to take part in many experiences that were invaluable, yet they missed out on a lesson each week. Overall the former outweighed the latter as we ensured they caught up or adjusted lessons. But to pretend they weren’t missing lessons and content is pointless.

    • Chester Draws says:

      Is the rate of education modernisation slowed by an unwillingness to give up power to students?

      There are THREE laden assumptions in that sentence alone.

      1) that we should modernise.

      2) that teachers are unwilling agents in the process in some way

      3) that we should give up power.

      Surely, what is vital is that the tapestry is rich and diverse.

      Well, it is to some people.

      I would settle for sensible and well-reasoned over rich and diverse, every day. Hence I’m not a big fan of Twitter.


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