Monday, January 25, 2010

Twitter: A Professional Learning Network

Everett M. Rogers known for the “Diffusion of Innovation” model classifies individuals as they pass through various stages of adopting innovation. The following stages are described by Rogers (2005):
1. Innovators – the first 2.5% of adopters, risk-takers, change-agents, willing to pursue initial challenges, bugs, etc.
2. Early Adopters – the next 13.5% of adopters, opinion leaders, visionaries, like to try new ideas
3. Early Majority – the next 34% of adopters, careful and accepting of change, motivated by evolutionary changes, want things to move quickly
4. Late Majority – the next 34% of adopters, skeptical, traditional, will use once the majority is already using it
5. Laggards – the last 16% of adopters, like status quo, critical, will use once it becomes mainstream

My Stages of Twitter Adoption
A colleague introduced me to Twitter (a micro blogging service) and persuaded me to create an account. I believe my colleague could be identified as an “Innovator” in Roger’s stages of adoption. There were very few people using Twitter at the time. It was difficult at that time to really understand what one could do in Twitter or the value as there were not many users (that is, from my perspective). During one of my summer classes in July 2009 as I was building a pathfinder wiki to determine my research interests, I came across a number of scholars in the educational technology field that were using Twitter. I decided it was time to login to my account that had been abandoned for quite some time. Would I be considered an early adopter or in the early majority according to Roger's stages of adoption? The turning point for me was when I made the decision to use Twitter to build a professional learning network. After implementing Twitter on a regular basis for six months into my daily routine, I would like to share the benefits in building a professional learning network.

When I first heard about Twitter, I too did not see the value in reading 140 character updates about “What’s happening.” However, once I started using Twitter and following people also interested in educational technology, I immediately saw the benefits, such as:
1) Connecting - I connect to others with a similar interest in the field of educational technology. When I check Twitter (generally once per day from my iphone), I receive numerous links, tips, articles, thought-provoking questions, etc. that I can choose to ignore or pursue. The majority of tweets are ones that I click on and pursue further.

2) Sharing- I generally tweet once per day to share resources related to educational technology with others (i.e. links to blogs, wikis, books, podcasts, video clips, conferences, articles)

3) Organizing - By tweeting I also have an accumulated list of all my tweets now sorted by date and stored in my profile. Anyone can access or search this list.

4) Collaborating – there are people I know that do not work/live in close proximity. We can now collaborate in finding and sharing resources and ideas through Twitter.

5) Providing Feedback – the idea of having a backchannel and using this in professional development settings is one that I will be exploring further this week. Participants find it intriguing to see how Twitter can be used as a means of asking a presenter questions or providing immediate feedback.

6) Communicating – most of the communication is happening asynchronously in Twitter. I’m also noticing that Twitter is being used to organize synchronous chat/video events.

7) Corroborating – I often retweet posts that I find useful. When I read messages that begin with RT (for retweets), I consider it a validation that now more than one individual found the message valuable to read.

All of the benefits I have found in using Twitter are based on a reciprocal relationship between producer-consumer. Sometimes I’m a producer and sometimes I’m a consumer in Twitter. Similarly, Clay Shirky’s video, “How Social Media can Make History” emphasizes the idea of the reciprocal relationship between producer-consumer. Shirky also indicates that media is "less about crafting a single message" and more about inviting discussion and provoking thought about the message. Marshall McLuhan had a good point and was so ahead of his time- the medium is the, global, ubiquitous, cheap!

Eric Marvin posted a great question on his "Teaching Teachers" blog at

What leading twitter questions should guide the tweets of a PLN?
I reflected on Mark’s question as well as my own adoption of Twitter which led to some questions to guide the tweets of educational technology PLN's:
· How are you contributing to the field of educational technology?
· What resources would you recommend to those interested in educational technology?
· What are others contributing to the field of educational technology that you would like to share with your PLN?
· What questions do you have that may stimulate professional dialogue regarding educational technology?

What are the questions that quide your PLN?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Intention - Action Gap

Policy statements, curriculum mandates, ministerial orders and standards all serve to provide intention, that is, to improve student achievement for 21st century learning. However, I believe that closing the implementation gap between intention and action is the critical issue. In addition to acquiring and using new technologies, the challenge for educational technology leaders is “how” to cultivate the adoption of instructional improvements for 21st century learning. I would appreciate any feedback on the following research questions.

How do principals cultivate technology-rich instructional improvements?

Sub Questions:
1) To what extent do principals perceive their role in creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources for instructional improvements?

2) What supports do principals require (through various stages of adoption) in order to cultivate technology-rich instructional improvements?

3) How are principals managing the challenges of planning, implementing and sustaining technology-rich instructional improvements?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change, an Article Summary

The body of evidence shows that the existence of scalable and sustainable effects from educational changes, innovations, and reforms – technological or otherwise- although frequently assumed remain an unrealized goal within education. – Weston & Bain, 2010, p.9
In the article, “The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change,” the authors present key themes that have emerged from criticism regarding 1:1 laptop initiatives over the last decade based on arguments presented by Larry Cuban (Weston & Bain, 2010). One of the “naked truth” arguments in the article refers to the results from 1:1 initiatives and how these results fall short of the expectations for increased student achievement and better teaching and learning. Another naked truth is that “innovative teaching is the best source for sustainable and scalable achievement gains” (p.7).

Weston and Bain (2010) remind us that other efforts to improve education in the past have also failed to impact teaching and learning and have not resulted in significant effects on student achievement. Similarly, initiatives where students and teachers are provided with laptops and the “access” barrier is removed do not automatically promote innovative teaching. Consequently, there is little evidence of increased student achievement from 1:1 initiatives. Particularly in times of budgetary constraints it seems much easier to blame the innovation for the lack of increased achievement results and then revert to past practices even though the status quo has not proven any impact on student achievement either. What are we missing in all of these efforts? How do we plan and implement scalable and sustainable change?

“When technology enables, empowers, and accelerates a profession’s core transactions, the distinctions between computers and professional practice evaporate” (Weston & Bain, 2010, p.10). What are we doing differently in teaching and learning today with technology that impacts education? Several examples are provided showing how teachers use technology to replace or automate traditional educational practices but struggle to demonstrate uses of technology which enable, empower, and accelerate teaching and learning and assessment. Do educators need to go through a phase of replacement or automation before moving towards more innovative practices? What other interventions are required to support innovative practices that enable, empower and accelerate educational practices?

The authors suggest considering technological tools as cognitive tools, in other words, cognitive tools are seamlessly integrated and necessary for core educational transactions. In using cognitive tools in conjunction with proven research-based practices in teaching and learning and assessment, it is speculated that classrooms will be “differentiated in genuine ways for all students” and that “students, parents and teachers [would] use cognitive tools every day to collaborate about what to do next in their collective pursuit for learning” (Weston & Bain, 2010, p.11). What are the prerequisites for schools contemplating scalable and sustainable initiatives with cognitive tools? What are the components necessary to become a self-organizing school?

Six Components
1. Develop an explicit set of rules defining beliefs about teaching and learning for the school community (i.e. cooperation, curriculum, feedback, time, etc.).
2. Embed the rules into day-to-day actions and processes of the school (i.e. space, classroom organization, equipment, job descriptions, career paths, salary scales, curriculum documents, classroom practice, performance evaluation, technology, professional development).
3. Clearly articulate roles and responsibilities to ensure all members of the school community are actively engaged in creating, adapting and sustaining the embedded design of the school.
4. Generate real-time, all the time feedback from all members of the school community regarding the embedded design in order to promote ownership and accountability.
5. Develop a dynamic and explicit schema (i.e. a shared conceptual framework for practice) of the interplay of rules, design, collaboration and feedback.
6. Community members demand systemic and ubiquitous use of technology guided by their schema.

Technology alone is not the solution in driving the change that must occur in schools today. However, if we begin to use technology as cognitive tools and combine this with practices necessary for scalable and sustainable change, then we may have a chance in realizing the goal of meeting the educational needs of all students.

Weston, M.E. & Bain, A. (2010). The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about
1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change. Journal of Technology, Learning, and
Assessment, 9(6).