Arguments In 140

Update 8:00 AM Jan 7, 2013 - The @StopSBG account is now active again. Change is reflected below.


Over the past 10 days, Twitter saw one of the most epic, twisting, and riveting arguments ever. It started with someone called @StopSBG (account is now suspended, so no link) and Frank Noschese. Presumably, the account was run by a concerned parent opposed to their district's decision to move to Standards Based Grading. When I first saw the exchange, this individual was writing about how much extra work teachers would have to do to report under SBG rather than a traditional grading scheme. Frank hopped in, being one of my favorite go-to persons for SBG matters, offering to help. Well, then, the Twitters exploded.

I'm not going to recount the entire debate. I did manage to grab an archive which is so convoluted and branched, that it's practically unreadable right now. Maybe I'll get to it and try to sort through it all someday. Over the course of 10 days or so, over 50 teachers, education researchers, and assessment professionals joined in the conversation.

As I watched, it really stood out to me that Twitter is probably the worst place to hold a rational debate. The character limit is hard to work around. Only being able to write in snippets dilutes points and counterpoints and also drives some really inventive shorthand which requires even more explanation. Because of the nature of the timeline, it's hard to finish a point before someone jumps in and changes the direction.

I'm convinced that if this discussion had happened at a coffee shop, a public forum, Branch, or even a Google Hangout, it would have ended much more amicably. So what ended up happening? Supporters are still supporting SBG, opponents are still opposed. I don't think any minds were changed, and again, the StopSBG account is mysteriously suspended. We looped and circled, ultimately, going nowhere with the original group.

There was some collateral damage, though.

The debate was engaging, and maybe that's what we should take away from this experience. People who wouldn't normally get pulled into philosophical discussions about grading practiced jumped in. Articles were shared. Experts weighed in. It seems like the people least involved in the debate were the ones who learnt the most. I think that's the biggest shift for me: I started wanting StopSBG to realize that we were "right." Having 18 hours or so to think about it since the "end" of the conversation has changed my mind. Sure, debates are fun, and this one definitely had its moments. The real power in this whole thing is the fact that it happened in an open space where anyone could watch and chime in.

So, what do we want to fight over next?


Major, major props to Frank, Jen Borgioli, David Knuffke, Rick Wormeli, and many, many others who remained rational, polite, and to the point with this discussion. I'm glad you are all willing to lead when reason flies out the window.

4 thoughts on “Arguments In 140

  1. Trevor Register says:

    This debate was definitely the tipping point for me on implementing standards-based grading. I’d read a bit about it and thought “oh, hey, that sounds like the right kind of idea”, but I’d not moved past that. Reading through the debate and all the articles and literature posted convinced me.

    I greatly appreciate all those involved in the debate. Motivation and inspiration galore!

  2. kfh7 says:

    Interesting and useful analysis. Thanks Brian.

  3. […] I began my first semester teaching. I likely would not have revisited the topic were it not for an epic twitter debate. After watching experts swat away arguments for traditional grading systems one-after-another, I […]

  4. scrapiron5 says:

    As a participant in this conversation, it became clear to me during the debate that the 140 character limit is a feature, if you want to just throw out zingers and assert your opinion. But it’s a major bug if you are trying to convince someone based on facts and reason. That’s why I think I get the best use out of Twitter when I’m having a conversation with someone who already has something of a shared interest and language and we don’t have to constantly explain ourselves to each other.

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