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Posts Tagged ‘teacher

Day 60 - Fear by juanpg, on Flickr
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Yesterday I reflected on why Twitter was an ideal component of an educator’s PLN. Today I ponder on why some teachers do not want or even like Twitter.

There are several reasons why teachers stay away from Twitter and lose out on valuable unPD as a result. I focus on three.

One, there is a shallow but twisted learning curve. Twitter is not difficult because it is based on texting. However, like learning how to operate a CB radio, there are procedures and standards of practice that only emerge from tweeting.

If newbies do not learn how to select a frequency (use a Twitter hashtag like #edsg), then they might find themselves shouting into the great big ether. Newbies must quickly learn how to follow and create a following or they will be talking to themselves. They need to learn what a retweet, favourite, and @ are. Heck, it can be difficult to understand the difference between replying to @someone and .@someone.

Two, if a newbie overcomes the initial tweeting learning curve, s/he will need to learn how to follow hashtagged conversations. A new user might not know that Twitter’s default web interface and mobile app are not good for such conversations.

Once they learn to use a proper tool like TweetDeck, they might find popular and synchronous chats scrolling by faster than they can read, much less respond to.

Three, a few persistent folks push through the barriers and these tend to be the ones that are already driven to learn and change. These intrepid folks tend to form a peripheral and possibly vocal group. And as long as they are part of the minority, the majority are likely to view them with suspicion.

The first two barriers are technical and relatively easy to overcome, say, by attending a workshop conducted by more experienced peers. Some handholding during and after the workshop also works wonders.

The third barrier is social. This might result in teachers being lurkers in Twitter conversations. While lurking for a while is advisable (to learn if the conversations suit them), quite a few never find their voice. I have followers who have zero tweets but follow several or many people. These teachers consume and do not give back.

Why do some folks choose to lurk even after an extended period of time?

They might be intimidated by the conversations or think they have nothing to offer. They might only want to monitor conversations. They might be asked or told to monitor conversations.

There is hope for teachers who are initially afraid or prefer to listen. Once they summon up the courage to participate, they are likely to find out how fun and motivating it is to be part of local or global conversations about topics they care deeply about.

I cannot say anything positive about the spying group. In some contexts, they patrol just in case they need to police. They create fear. They add to the perception that social media in education is a dark place and not to be trusted. They add to an exaggerated problem instead of being part of the solution. The solution is to be open and social and to break the cycle of fear.

That there is a plethora of educational hashtagged chats on Twitter is evidence that openness and trust beget more openness and trust. These chats are a joy to observe and an even greater joy to be part of. Why don’t teachers use Twitter and jump right in?

Video source

Here is even more teacher appreciation and from a BuzzFeed video of all places.

At the end of the video you learn what the retail giant, Target, is planning on doing to help teachers help others.

If you are a mollycoddled teacher in Singapore, you might wonder why a corporate entity needs to help. That might give you an appreciation for the system that you are in.

You might also wonder why our local “be thankful to your teacher” videos might come across as flat or humourless compared to efforts like BuzzFeed’s. If you do, you might begin to appreciate the things that other systems encourage that ours does not.

If not for RSS and Twitter, I would not have realized this was Teacher Appreciation Week in the USA. Here in Singapore, we discount the week to a day and celebrate it in September.

So I tweeted this yesterday to share the news and the hashtag #TeachingIs:

Real teaching is mostly a thankless task done by educators who do not expect thanks. These educators tend to have two important attributes.

I think that the second most important trait to have as an educator is the ability to think like a learner. It is only when you understand what and why they do not understand that can you accompany them on the journey to bridge that gap.

The most important trait is being reflective. If you are reflective, you will constantly analyze yourself and seek improvement. If you realize that you do not connect with learners, you will find ways to do so.

So I share a YouTube video I found a while ago.

Video source

It helps to remember what it was like to be a beginning teacher. That is probably when a teacher learns the most because s/he is most like a student and more ready to reflect.

Last Thursday I made my way to the Civil Service College to attend the 10th C J Koh Professorial Lecture. The lecture was by Prof Dennis Shirley.

I tweeted my notes, but as these tweets stream rapidly away, I am consolidating some of them in this Storify.

BTW, I also tweeted as @cel_nie as I was the Twitter ambassador of the week. My theme that week was group selfies.

My favourite part of the presentation was a quote from the work of Meredith Hong (not sure of the spelling):

I pursued this with Shirley over refreshments. I asked him if he could share any examples of what he had observed during his travels of change that were truly bottom-up, mindful, and sustainable.

Shirley explained how the Finns (yes, those guys again) have central curricular groups that share their ideas with teachers in schools. But it is teachers that decide what actually gets taught.

They take ownership of what they do from a grassroots level. It seems to be less about policy and agenda and more about focusing on learners and learning.

Bottom-up? You could call it that.

Mindful? Certainly!

Sustainable? They have been at it all this while and will continue to do so as long as they ignore the slight dip in PISA scores.

Long may their efforts last. Short may our own longing be for greater grassroots efforts, mindfulness, and sustainability in the face of rapid change.


Yesterday I reflected on what I might do if I could change the way teachers are prepared. This is Part 2 of a few more scattered thoughts.

I think that every modern teacher needs some experience on Managing Expectations. These expectations are their own and those of their learners, the learners’ parents, and the teachers’ superiors. I think that teachers are sometimes blind-sided by unrealistic expectations from many quarters, so much so that some leave or remain unhappy because of them.

I also think that teachers need a strong dose of Valuing Values. I think most teachers join the profession for the right reasons, but they lose sight of what is important (the learners and learning) when grades and exams become the focus of schooling.

Valuing Values would be like the Group Endeavours in Service Learning (GESL) in NIE. It is an active reminder of who, why, and how we serve.

GESL is also a wonderful example of what I mean by an experience instead of a course. It actually straddles more than one university semester and causes disruptions in administrative thinking about what counts and how to count it.

Another critical experience is knowing the difference between Assessment and Evaluation. This would essentially be another name for assessment literacy. Teachers would not just learn about different ways of assessing and evaluating, but also when to use which strategy or tool.

For example, this experience would not just be about designing good multiple choice questions (MCQs). It would also be about deciding if MCQs are the right choice for assessment or if learners need to be assessed (given a number or letter grade) or also evaluated (given value or worth).

I think that preservice teachers also be taught How to Reflect. Here teachers learn how to create space to think, set aside time to reflect individually and collectively, and use different strategies to reflect.

I am not sure if this should be a core requirement or something like writing support. But I am leaning on the former because not everyone is naturally reflective.

While I might have described these elements of teacher preparation in the context of preservice teachers, it might be necessary to extend experiences like Managing Expectations into inservice learning. After all, it is only then that teachers learn to temper idealism with healthy dose of reality.

So these are just a few ideas that have floated in my mind over the last few years. I thought I should capture them in a net regardless of whether they were fully formed or not.

This is Part 1 of a list of experiences that I think preservice teachers (PSTs) should have.

The first core experience is Understanding Today’s Learner. This is not an excuse to rehash educational psychology, but to embed it and update it in today’s context.

For example, there is no point just rehashing social constructivism as a descriptive model of how people learn if there are no authentic examples to try out in class both as learners and as teachers. This theory should also be linked to and updated with social connectivism which takes into account how technology like social media enables nodes of learners to connect.

Another experience would be Preparing Learners for Their Future (Not Your Present or Past). This might be a combination of TPCK and learner management.

PSTs would learn how to integrate (not just use) ICT in academic subjects. They would also learn to facilitate more than they actually deliver content.

The ultimate aim of this experience would be to focus on the learner and learning, not the teacher and teaching. PSTs might face the hard fact that learners can learn without teachers. Teachers then learn how to reinvent themselves so that they are important to learners.

Yet another experience would be Teaching Our Learners to Be. This is discipline specific, but does not focus solely on academic content. The goal is to nurture learners who think creatively, critically, and independently in any field.

To get there a Science teacher might focus less on delivering content but on presenting problems and issues that a scientist would face. Doing this would require the learning of content, but it is not the content that comes first. The content is a means to a more meaningful end: Scientific thinking.

In that example, teachers learn how to get students to be scientists instead of learning about science.

Still another course would be Homework is Not a Given. This would be a flipped experience so that PSTs question the logic, purpose, and nature of homework. They would discover how irrelevant homework can be and how to leverage on it as a pin-point strategy instead of a blanket one.

What I have suggested so far might seem like courses, but they are not. A PST keeps an e-portfolio like a travel journal to document his or her experience. There is no right or wrong way to maintain the diary as long as the teacher can provide evidence of the attitude (values), aptitude (knowledge) and “act-itude” (skills).

More thoughts on reshaping teacher education tomorrow.


Apparently you can relight a candle by igniting the smoke of a recently extinguished candle.

If you were a science teacher and you learnt this “trick”, would you leverage on the wonderment this generates and make it a teachable moment? Or would you ask your learners to find out why? What else might you do?

What you do depends on many things, of course. If you are pressured by a packed curriculum and tests that dictate what to cover, then you might do neither.

What you might want to do reflects your teaching philosophy.

Leveraging on the teachable moment could be the mark of a creative and responsive teacher. But I think that an educator who gets his/her students to investigate why the candle smoke lights up a candle helps his/her students learn to think and act like scientists.

The first person focuses on teaching that hopefully leads to learning. The second focuses on the learner and learning. The first person might want students to learn ABOUT science. The other wants students to BE scientists.

It might have been William Butler Yeats who declared:

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Which would you rather do? Which would you rather be? Which do our kids need more?

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