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Posts Tagged ‘#edsg

Twitter is sometimes described as a stream of consciousness. I wondered if streams of unconsciousness might exist.

They do and I was upset when I saw one. It was like watching an unconscious loved one slip further into a coma.

Stream of unconsciousness -- Twitter ads in #edsg.

One stream of unconsciousness looked like this. It was an unbroken string of tweeted ads. Some might argue that the tweets were calls for proposals. So are unsolicited calls to your home or messages to your phone asking you to sell your flat. They are ads by another name. 

All that said, the organisers have every right to advertise an education conference. So I wondered why this bugged me.

On reflection, I realised that this was like what one other hashtagged channel did before it became a cesspool of vendor ads and shameless self-promotion. This is not edu-tweeting.

#edsg used to be a good example of edu-tweeting. Even after the regular chats went away, individuals would share useful or thought-provoking articles or they would ‘live’ tweet at education events. Doing these required careful thought and effort, unlike the bot-generated and auto “curated” tweets.

Imagine subscribing to an exciting and informative YouTube channel only for that channel to feature only shoutouts and ads. That is what #edsg threatens to become (some might say it is already there).

The good thing about both YouTube and Twitter is that I can unsubscribe or block what I do not wish to see. But that is not enough for me.

As a lifelong educator, I do not wish to see a learning space filled with white elephant boards displaying their company names. I do not like seeing an online space used without care.

I realise that my perspective is not shared by all. I choose to treat an online space like a physical and public one. It is shared and I choose to respect that space.

I can only hope that once the deadline in the ad is past, the ad tweets trickle to a mere drip or stop entirely. But the damage might already be done if the regulars do not return with recruits to share openly, wisely, and generously.

It is with mixed feelings that I say “Happy 4th birthday, #edsg!”

The Twitter hashtag officially turned four two weeks ago. I was around before its inception and helped give it birth.

#edsg is a regular online chat on Twitter, initially weekly and then later fortnightly. Now it lies almost comatose. Only a few of us take the trouble to show up every two Sunday nights.

That is not to say that there is no activity in #edsg. There was the unsolicited spam, the accidental spam, and the porn bots that we fought against.

But there is also wonderful and emergent conversations that take place in between planned chats. Recently I took note of what #edsg discussed over one particular week:

  • Worksheets during “learning” journeys
  • Grades vs feedback
  • The issue of screen time
  • Planning vs designing lessons
  • Whether introverted teachers were disadvantaged

These were not tweet-shouted into the ether. They were proper conversations between individuals about issues that mattered to them.

So why do I mention the death knell?

My records remind me that some of us started tweeting up (meeting in person) once a month in 2014 when we saw the weekly chats wane.

That year our chats evolved to be less led by weekly topics and questions, and more by emergent issues. In other words, the synchronous chats were not main measure of how lively #edsg was; the asynchronous ones were.

We made changes despite knowing the odds were against us. Little did I realise this then, but the slow down was part of a larger global problem that Twitter was having.

This excellent analysis written in January 2016 makes the case for the golden age of Twitter being over in 2014.

The spam, the analytics, and the lack of human interaction all suggest the same thing – Twitter’s golden age is behind it

Like the company mentioned in the article, “it wasn’t until 2014 that Twitter declined for us in actual numbers”. This would have been prophetic if I was able to travel to the future to read the article and then go back.

The article also hinted at the saviour of hashtagged conversations. Hashtags might be tied more tightly to more TV programmes. I think that they may also be more common at conferences.

While the weekly TV shows might bring in weekly chats, the conferences could create what I call Twitter zombies (the undead are already among us, infecting others, and creating more). All this will lead to the loss of the ground-up, self-help origins of edu-tweeting.

It is too late to say “if that happens” because we saw the signs in 2014 and tried swimming against the tide.

So I ring the death knell and am very sad. I hold out against hope by contributing daily and participating in fortnightly chats. It is a labour of love akin to a candlelight vigil by a loved one’s death bed.

How long will the candle burn?

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This announcement is about a week late, but better late than never!

#edsg is not just a Twitter hashtag shared by an assortment of stakeholders. #edsg is an online community whose official birthday is 15 Feb 2012.

We were formed the year before, but we did not document it or tie it to a particular event. I guess you could say that we got our birth certificate a bit late. That might explain why we look a bit older than we claim!

Here is some of its motley crew in a more recent photo.

#edsg broke the sequence of forming, storming, and norming. It was formed online and was normed offline with tweetups. But we are still storming like any modern community. Membership is loose and not worn like a badge. It is utilitarian.

Not many of such online communities can say they have a staying power of three years. But like practically all communities that persist, we do so thanks to a core group.

We do not yet know what we will become when we grow up, but that does not matter. We have a lot more exploring and learning to do.

As we look forward, it is important to look back so that we do not walk into the mistakes of the past. Here is a selection of my musings on #edsg:

If you are not a member of #edsg, join us!

If you are, pour yourself a drink, pat yourself on your back, and toast to the good health of #edsg. Yam seng! Now get off your butt and share something with #edsg!

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Group photo courtesy of @rachelhtan

Photo courtesy of @rachelhtan

A small group of #edsg regulars got together over the last quarter of 2014 to devise an online experiment for 2015. We call it our Thematic Tweets project.

This is my contribution:

We are doing this to market #edsg, to draw lurkers out into participating, and to create greater ownership of topics we might discuss.

I am doing this as a founding member of #edsg because I predict its demise. I have written about why some teachers do not tweet, and there is widespread documentation online about how Twitter is failing to recruit and then retain users.

That said, there are very passionate educators who participate in regional or international hashtagged tweet chats, often on a weekly basis. However, even a cursory content analysis might reveal limited social interaction. Audrey Watters wondered out loud if Twitter was the best option for online professional development. I have critiqued the processes and the pedagogy of Twitter chats.

What should be chats become proclamations. Where there should be interactions there are rhetorical projections. We want to avoid that in #edsg.

I still worry that #edsg as a community is on its last legs. Regulars leave, lurkers refuse to contribute, and trolls or spambots disrupt. Without the injection of fresh DNA and ideas, and the commitment of players to keep going, we might be the last of the Mohicans or the remaining white rhinos in a zoo.

I do not know if we will be successful with our project. I predict we will know by mid-2015 at the earliest or the end of the year at the most logical.

We will not know until we try, so try we will.

As a Twitter resident, I have seen some new folk move in and change the environment but not for the better. These are the spammers.

The first group of spammers is often transient. In the case of #edsg, the spammers have human drivers who tout their conferences, products, and services. They are easy to report, block, or ignore. But they do damage by sucking in the naive with their wares.

The second group of spammers are bot-driven. These are accounts that post “listening to an intense conversation” posts that are tagged #edsg. There are also porn spam bots that invite you to “come see me”.

The first type of spam bots seem to have legitimate profiles. But a cursory examination of their postings will reveal a consistently inconsistent pattern. The posts are about everything and nothing in particular.

The second type of spam bot lead to dubious websites. The profiles are of “clothing-challenged” women and might be written with Cyrillic characters.

The third group of spammers that might hit #edsg are bot or zombie accounts. They look like the intense conversation bots but ask a legitimate question instead. For example, several tweets inquiring about the origin of “digital tattoos” have surfaced at #asiaED.

Spam in extreme moderation in meals might be acceptable. But Twitter spam irritates the regulars and dissuades the newbies.

With Twitter facing lower recruitment and replacement numbers, it is time they take this social problem seriously.

The reporting mechanism seems to be better tuned in Twitter clients and Twitter creates anti-spam bot code on the fly. If all that fails, we have crowdsourced spam and bot blocking.

I experienced a series of unusual evenings last week. These were not something I could do if I was not my own boss.


Last Thursday night, the TEDxSingapore Brain Trust met to discuss an ambitious project. We had met before and this was the first time we remembered to capture a moment.

Not all the folks in the photo are board (bored) members. A few were guests. But all wore their passions on their sleeves and had wonderful ideas. It is uplifting to meet people with positive and practical ideas for the future.

The next evening, I met a core group of #edsg members for a tweetup at a public space in Fusionopolis. We met to plan an informal online project we hope to implement soon.

Many thanks to @rachelhtan, first-time visitor and impromptu photographer, for the snapshot.

On Sunday evening, I attended the inaugural Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) as keynote speaker and judge.

I have not received any photos yet.

I also did not get to deliver my keynote as we were short of time and it was late. We had to make a decision for the good of the audience. But I might outline some ideas I had for the keynote in an entry tomorrow.

It was lovely to meet such passionate people at the event. I was very encouraged by the ideas and enthusiasm of the participants. It gave me hope for the future of education in Singapore.

It was a shame that there had to be winners and losers at the event. But this practice was still more authentic than a test.

In fact, I look forward to a day when tests become unusual and irrelevant fossils studied by future educators as something that plagued us and stunted possibilities.

IMG_1973 by Kaj17, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Kaj17 

I am so thankful that the month of incense paper burning is almost over.

Come August in Singapore, folks who believe in Hungry Ghosts provide food offerings and burn incense paper in metal drums scattered across the heartlands and elsewhere. Despite the efforts to manage the burning, there will always be people who do not burn the paper in the designated space, and even if they do, the ash and smell goes everywhere.

But this reflection is not about the behaviour or the ill will that might result. What we do in #edsg on a daily basis is sometimes like the burning of Hungry Ghost incense paper.

If #edsg is a communal bin or drum, I wonder how many of us just throw thoughts, ideas, and URLs in only to see them burn and disappear into the night.

#edsg should be more about having deeper and meaningful conversations about those thoughts, ideas, and URLs. It is about being able to apply critical thinking to weak, untested ideas, or to ideas that seem steadfast but must be broken down.

It is about being wrong or vulnerable, but bouncing back from that and becoming a more educated person.

Being a participant in #edsg is not about tossing ideas mindlessly or carelessly into the mix. It is about wanting to share with and develop a community of critical thinkers and active change agents.


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