TOK, Hawaii, and Twitter (Week 8: Social networks for learning)

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 goethe-quotesaid, “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.



11 thoughts on “TOK, Hawaii, and Twitter (Week 8: Social networks for learning)

  1. Pingback: TOK, Hawaii, and Twitter (Week 8: Social networ...

  2. Pingback: Week 8 Highlights

  3. @Sam, ehhh, yes and no. Storify works as a “collect-all” I guess you could say. I had to log in or connect my facebook account, twitter account, and instagram account. And then from each platform, I manually pulled in the hashtag and Storify assembles a “story” with all the content from all 3 platforms. It doesn’t necessarily connect everyone but more so collects certain media. Understand? It’s kind of weird to explain.


  4. @Zach, So it connects everyone regardless of which account they may have/prefer/actually post the media on? That’s awesome! Usually a #hashtag would just live on the type of account being used and be separate from other accounts? In other words, you would have to have a Twitter account to participate if that’s where he created the #hashtag/posted the content (if it weren’t for Storify)?


  5. @Joe, thanks for the feedback. I absolutely believe backchanneling is more accepted now than in the past. Every conference I’ve been at in the past three years has had a custom hashtag to “live tweet”. Being a digital native and strong social media supporter, I have always participated in these backchannels at conferences. It has been a super neat experience to be able to meet new people via twitter and see their perspective on the same keynote speaker. This can be especially useful for a large conference with hundreds or thousands of people. I also feel it is almost expected now in society to “backchannel” on twitter. The Super Bowl has a custom hashtag. The Walking Dead (TV show) has a custom hash tag. Concerts, The Grammy Awards, talk shows, #WorldCup, groups, professional sports, club sports, and even cities have their own hash tags. They are everywhere, on billboards, on commercials, in fast food restaurants. I think the last entity to pick up on this trend are schools. Universities are slowly learning. Private schools are getting it. It will take some time and some radical policy changes for public schools to accept this trend, a trend that I believe is here to stay.

    @Sam, before reading this article, I have never heard of Storify. But it got me curious. I signed up for an account to explore. I found it to be quite interesting, although I didn’t have anything to really “collect” at the moment. I did experiment on my best friend’s wedding, who was just married on June 28th. They created a custom hashtag for their wedding, #WalterWedding2014, and gave it out to all of the guests. It’s a new fad in the wedding world, surprise! What is neat about Storify is that I was able to link facebook, twitter, and Instagram (along with options to link several other social media apps). I then pulled all the #WalterWedding2014 hashtags from all three social media sites and what I got was a sort-of digital timeline story of the wedding from the guests eyes. It was pretty neat. I definitely see mega-potential in Storify–especially for large classes or conferences, or even school-wide events.


  6. Zach,
    I like how you highlighted Austin Kleon and his work through sharing specific quotes. Although I did appreciate the “Show your Work” philosophy (and therefore linked to it), I honestly didn’t take a lot of time to read about him.
    “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.” This also stood out to me in that she also mentions “or not”. I agree that this is important and I also like how you transitioned into the Collaboration Guide that begins with “Tools aren’t teachers, they aren’t students, and they aren’t magic.”
    I imagine it’s very exciting to actually hear back from a credentialed author/having them join in (even if just one comment) would be so motivating and I’m sure it makes the learners efforts feel very important and real!!! 🙂
    Have you ever used Storify before? It seems as though you utilize Twitter frequently is why I ask. If so, what are your thoughts on it?


  7. Zach,

    Backchanneling with Twitter is very interesting to me. It takes a focused speaker to not be distracted by people in the audience communicating on their tablet or phone during a presentation. A sort of focus that amounts to putting the old blinders on. In a huge conference setting, like a TED talk, it is probably a bit easier. Burvall’s use of Storify to collect the backchannel tweets is probably a great resource for the people who are intently active in the primary presentation or dialog. It must be like getting real-time feedback you can go back and revisit. Do you believe backchanneling is more accepted now rather than a few years back?


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