You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see. You are, in fact, a mash-up of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” -Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
“You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers.” This is one of my favorite quotes from a book by Austin Kleon that I read over a year ago, Steal Like an Artist. At the time, I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me and how much it would relate to educational technology. It’s funny that the article I’m about to discuss mentions this same author, Austin Kleon.
In the article Theory of Knowledge, Social Media and Connected Learning in High School, Howard Rheingold interviews Amy Burvall, a teacher at Le Jardin Academy in Hawaii, about how she uses Web 2.0 tools to support a course she teaches about the Theory of Knowledge. It is rather amazing and I found the interview quite compelling. In the video interview, Burvall mentions that the class watches a lot of TED talks and the whole course is based on a blog with each student having their own blog, which sounds very familiar to our current class! Burvall also heavily relies on backchanneling to involve the more introverted students who are less likely to participate orally. She says she often finds that these students “blossom” on twitter or vlogs, a video blog.
Blogging and vlogging are not only about the projects the students create, but about their creative process: “The author Austin Kleon has a book coming out called Show Your Work and a hashtag on Twitter, #showyourwork, which has become a mantra in our classroom,” says Burvall.
It’s not about the projects, but more about how they became to be, the journey. This is awesome and has so many other applications in life. This stuck out to me the most because I am familiar with Austin Kleon. As mentioned above, I read his first book. I haven’t had a chance to pick up Show Your Work yet, but I definitely plan on it. I did, however, check out the hashtag #showyourwork on twitter, and was very impressed and intrigued by how many people are conversing through that backchannel and using Kleon’s hashtag and book to put themselves out their. I think twitter is a highly underrated educational tool that is not used nearly enough in the classroom, or out of the classroom!
I found Burvall’s use of twitter, the G+ community, and blogging to be super engaging and fun. Burvall has her students blog, then tweet their blog posts AND then post them on their class G+ community. This opens up doors to invite others outside of their class and community to join the conversation on twitter and G+. This is true power – having the ability to talk to anyone about anything on any subject. It is great that Burvall is teaching such an important skill at a young age.
TOK students don’t just use social media tools — they use them for specific purposes. They reflect on their purposes and how the tools support them, or not. They learn how to study knowledge, not just as an academic pursuit, but as an essential life skill in a digital milieu.
This is so important to understand that we shouldn’t “just use social media tools” but we should be teaching our students to “reflect on their purposes and how the tools support them”. In another DMLcentral article, A Collaborative Guide to Best Digital Learning Practices for K-12, a document was created on Google Docs in “Bangkok, Thailand, at the March 28-31 teacher’s meeting of EARCOS, the East Asia Regional Council of Schools”. Collaboratively, they came up with a great preamble in my opinion. “Tools aren’t teachers, they aren’t students, and they aren’t magic.” They started off their document with this and I feel that it’s super important that teachers understand this. Tools are nothing more than tools.
Another one of my favorite aspects of Burvall’s course was how she used twitter for the “twitter question of the week”. I think this is a great way to really get the students engaged and also introduce them to the power of twitter. Having a class hashtag and attaching that to all of their conversations, including the twitter question of the week, allows others to follow their conversations on twitter and participate. Burvall described the twitter question of the week as sometimes being deep, like what makes us human, or other times being more specific, like what is your strongest memory. I think this would be a great way to engage students even further with class discussions. Burvall said that she finds it interesting to see who jumps in on these questions and how they will sometimes challenge what the students say. I always find this extremely fun when other people jump in to a backchannel twitter conversation and add value to what is happening. I once tweeted how cool and interesting I thought a certain book was. What happened next? The author private messaged me on twitter asking for my address. He sent me a free copy of the book!! Twitter has power.
The last thing I would like to touch on is Burvall’s use of circles. I found this fascinating and would love to be a part of a class that does this. She forms an inner and outer circle of students. The inner circle discusses questions and ideas out loud while the outer circle is backchanneling on twitter. The tweets are then archived via Storify and those act as the “class notes”. This allows students to participate in both verbal and digital discussions. I think this would be really neat to try out in a classroom setting to see what would flourish.
Overall, this was a great read and a very interesting interview to watch. It appears that Burvall is right on track to adapting a diverse array of Web 2.0 tools into her TOK class. I was able to check out a few of the students blogs that Rheingold linked to, and they were very neat to browse through and watch some of the class vlogs.