Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘chat

After standing on the sidelines for a bit, I decided to replace my old iPhone with a new iPhone 7.

I made the order via online chat because that was one way to get on the 0%-interest installment plan. The other option was to call a service line.

I chose the lesser of two evils. I was also at a public library at the time, so I could not talk.

I summed up the experience in these two tweets.

I bought every major piece of Apple hardware I own (and have owned) online. The online chat process was very inefficient by comparison.

With my user information already in Apple’s databases, ordering a new phone online without an installment plan would have taken about a minute or two. To get on the special scheme, I had to wait for a representative to attend to me and type information that Apple already had into the chat boxes. The chat log told me this took almost 17 minutes.

Screenshot of partial chat log.

A voice-based call would probably have taken longer with wait time and the need to verbally deliver and verify information.

I also had to wait for a follow-up call from a bank representative and I was informed that it would take up to two business days for this to happen. Thankfully that call happened within the hour.

I know that Apple is more than capable of providing an efficient online shopping experience. The inefficiency and dissatisfaction stem from the bank’s need to do things old school.

For whatever reason, the bank decided that it was better to include humans in the purchasing chain and forced unnecessary social interaction. Anyone who has experienced online shopping and e-commerce knows that what the bank required could have been automated. It felt like a step backwards in time.

As most things go, I thought about how this was like the state of most teaching.

Teaching has not gone as far as letting the learner choose the way Apple online lets customers choose: They decide what they want, and when or how they get it.

Like the banking link, there is forced social interaction that is unnecessary and inefficient. This is like focusing on social interaction for the purpose of delivering and verifying information. This goes at the pace of the teacher and in the way that makes sense to the teacher. What the learner feels or needs is almost irrelevant.

If there is any social interaction in teaching — be it in person or online — it should be to facilitate important processes like feedback, mentoring, or coaching. That is, anything that contributes to the personal learning by the learner. An empowered learner who decides what, when, and how.

Apple wants to push its iPads, Macbooks, and apps into classrooms. But it offers those of us in schooling and education an accidental but more important lesson in edtech: Let the technology do what it is good at, let people do what they are good at. Do not get in the way of either unless one enables the other to do and be better.

In what might have come across as a rant about the level of learning among teachers participating in hashtagged Twitter chats, I hinted at the pedagogy of such chats.

After mentioning what I considered a good example of a chat, I highlighted a few pedagogical principles:

There was a hook, clear conversations between people, and a resolution at the end. As an informed educator, you should be able to link each phase to one or more educational psychology principles or instructional strategies.

For example, the three phases above might be linked to activation of schema, social negotiation of meaning, and resolution of cognitive dissonance. In plain speak, they are so wow, so what/why/how, and so what is this to me.

Such chats are forms of informal professional development or informal education. That does not make them exempt from good pedagogy.

Furthermore, as tweets tend to fly by faster than most participants can process, it is important to promote learning by reflection or some form of post-processing.

Participants could summarize what they learnt or contributed in a closing tweet, write a longer form reflection in a blog, or Storify the tweets.

I am not impressed with most Storified tweets because most chat facilitators only archive the tweets as is. That is, an entire collection of hashtagged tweets is copied to Storify in reverse chronological order.

There is no consideration for how difficult such an archive is to read, there is no sense-making, and there is no curation of content.

I have tried to model one approach to Storifying tweets in the link below. (BTW, the embedded Twitter card in WordPress makes Storify appear as a nifty slide show!)

To promote deeper, more meaningful learning, participants of chats should realize that chats are not just grab-and-gos.

The best chats happen when you give, connect, and reflect. The best lessons tend to be about that too. So why should we do anything less?

My short answer is neither is better if nothing meaningful results.

Warning: If you read beyond this point, you might get angry. But if you know me, you know where I am coming from and where I am going with this.

I reflect, perhaps more deeply than some, after every Twitter chat I have. I ask myself what I learnt, how I contributed, and if the chat went well. Most of the time I walk away disappointed.

The chats I have participated in are either scheduled weekly ones or dispersed over a period of time.

Scheduled chats tend to happen among people living in similar time zones. These chats are like IMs of old in that they are synchronous and can sometimes be so fast that text scrolls off the screen faster than you can read it.

The distributed or dispersed chats are sometimes called slow chats because they cater to people living over multiple time zones. Typically a moderator asks questions and people respond over a period of time ranging from several hours to a few days.

What both types of chats can fall prey to are a lack of meaningful connections (with people or ideas), superficial conversations, and a lack of some sort of closure.

If mismanaged, preplanned chats can sometimes feel contrived. Better planned and executed, they might have the feel of a productive town hall meeting.

But like a town hall meeting, people can shout, speak without actually having conversations, or be lost in a crowd. You leave such a meeting asking yourself what just happened or if anything useful took place.

Sometimes the best conversations are the ones that are neither fast or slow. They are spontaneous and come from a place of honesty or concern.

For example, take the reflective quality of the discussions following an initial tweet about nurturing critical thinkers by @tjoosten.

If the full conversation does not appear above, click here.

There was a hook, clear conversations between people, and a resolution at the end. As an informed educator, you should be able to link each phase to one or more educational psychology principles or instructional strategies.

For example, the three phases above might be linked to activation of schema, social negotiation of meaning, and resolution of cognitive dissonance. In plain speak, they are so wow, so what/why/how, and so what is this to me.

To be fair, fast and slow chats can exhibit similar properties, but the sheer numbers of participants creates noise that often obscures these conversations. Twitter also does not make these conversations clearer by threading them because tweets are presented chronologically.

That is why tools like Storify are important for reorganizing the tweets so that they make conversational and logical sense. But very few facilitators of tweet chats have the bandwidth to post-process like this. Most opt to import all tweets as is and do not even reorganize them in forward chronology.

Doing this is like brainstorming an essay and submitting every idea without sequence or evaluation. Doing this is like taking a lot of photos or video clips during a trip and not leaving some of them out, not editing them, and not arranging them to tell a meaningful story.

Some might say that is the nature of tweeting and that I should get with the programme. I accept that tweeting means reading in reverse chronological order, summarizing very quickly, and writing out of sequence. But it is lazy and uncritical thinking to accept things as they are or to not process what happened.

What is worse is if teachers who tweet regularly and think this way then model such behaviour with students. If we expect precision, logical sequencing, or evidence of analysis in writing artefacts like essays, reports, or stories, then we should expect no less in how we process and post-process tweets.

I am probably going to lose some Twitter followers and/or receive some judgement for saying this. So be it.

What I care about is professional development and learning. Professional, not lackadaisical or devil-may-care. And meaningful learning which is often painful, difficult, and a result of cognitive dissonance.

Ask instructional designers what a SME is and they will tell you it stands for Subject Matter Expert.

Today there is another SME, social media educators, that we need more desperately than content experts.

I came to this simple conclusion after yesterday’s #edsg chat on Twitter. While anyone is free to contribute to #edsg [live tweets], we have focused chats every Tuesday, 8-9pm, Singapore time [example: archived chat on unprofessional development].

Based on the profiles of the participants, we have a nice mix of teachers, teacher-parents, parents, and a few non-Singaporean educators, I do not know how many lurkers there are.

Yesterday we discussed how we might manage underaged access to social media. Why? The legal age for a Facebook account is 13, but Primary School teachers on #edsg, mainstream Twitter, their blogs, or Facebook have shared anecdotally that many of their underaged students have FB accounts.

The parents or parent-teachers in #edsg seemed to agree with the age limit and preferred that kids developed face-to-face social skills first. My argument with that is 1) socialization is socialization (no matter what the medium), 2) it should start as soon as you start teaching and modelling values, and 3) we need to prepare kids for today and tomorrow, not yesterday.

As a parent myself, I have discussed with my soon to be 8-year-old if he would like to be on Facebook. He has decided that he does not need it now. I did not make that decision for him.

However, he is on several online gaming social networks designed for kids. Networks like Woogi World offer parent accounts for monitoring. It is wonderful to see him make connections so quickly and to see him apply what he has learnt about cyberwellness from an online programme initiated by his school (credit to @tucksoon for this!).

I suggested at #edsg that there should be a social media education programme for parents and policymakers. I even went so far as to say these could be parent service components and parent engagement courses.

@emmalinesports had a great suggestion:

But she also cautioned that reality bites:

But this should not stop any educator who has his or her radar up. If you know a tsunami is coming, you take preparatory steps. You do not just twiddle your thumbs, pretend it is not coming, or barricade yourself.

Every semester, I set aside time to meet my teacher trainees online during e-learning week. Reason? It is just good teaching sense to be available!

So I make myself contactable by Skype early in the semester, and sometimes after they have experienced Second Life later in the semester, I also offer to meet in the MUVE.

I rarely have any takers as it is an optional activity. Those that do take the trouble to meet me have real reasons to do it and they are thankful for that lifeline in cyberspace.

This semester I experienced something I did not expect. I did not plan on chatting via Facebook, but I did so simply because those folks were online and had questions.

I thought this was a bit curious considering my initial survey of them informed me that practically ALL of them were comfortable with instant messaging. About 70-80% of them had Facebook accounts but I wasn’t about to suggest that those who didn’t get one for the sake of the course.

I reasoned that Skype was something extra to sign up for and install. However, chat was not only built into Facebook, it was Web-based and my trainees already had a Facebook window open! I guess the only obstacle is the fact that they would have to “friend” me and that would make me privy to whatever else they shared on that platform.

I’ll have to think about whether to offer Facebook chats as an option next semester.

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: