Tin Can Phones, Windows, and Horizons

Published: 2014-04-10 11:30 |

Category: Grad |

Tin Cans

Twitter chats are often the first point of entry for developing a PLN. It was where I began. I randomly followed some people who had “Education” in their profile, which led me to #edchat which led me to more people with “education” in their profiles. I built a large group of people I could connect with on various issues.

The problem with this approach is that you tend to only talk with people you agree with. We give the other end of our tin can phone to friends.

One-way following on Twitter is dangerous because you can choose which voices you want to hear and which you can virtually ignore. This leads to echo-chambers, reinforcement of confirmation biases, and growth stagnates. I was able to get ideas about what to teach, but I struggled to find reasons for why I should teach the what.

This topic is timely because I just connected with Tobey Steeves, a Canadian educator who caught my attention with this tweet:

Hi @Math_Johnson, will you be discussing #flipclass as a technocratic diminution of teachers' work? I certainly hope so… [ #bcdl2014 ]

—Tobey Steeves (@symphily) April 8, 2014

I have spent a great deal of my professional life working within and writing on Flipped Learning. When someone wants to talk about the “technocratic diminution” of teaching, I pay attention. Tobey and I have sent a few tweets back and forth and he’s already sent me some literature from Pablo Friere on the “pedagogy of banking.” Tobey is now a part of my network so I can continue to learn from him.

Another influencer on my mind lately is Dr. Sugata Mitra. From what I know, I’m not a big fan. An article in Wired magazine outlined his “hole in the wall” project, which hints at the idea that teachers are obsolete. I’m struggling with that idea.. Two things I’ve realized: 1) How presumptuous am I to think that I know better than an education researcher? 2) Before I can really disagree, I need to know more about his research. I’ve followed his Twitter account and bookmarked his blog.


Blogs: the windows to deeper thought, conflict, and (sometimes) civilized debate. 140 characters is difficult to leverage into an effective medium for debate. Tone is impossible in snippets; implied tone can be mistaken and defenses are raised before you can get to the heart of the conflict. Blogs, on the other hand, allow for exploration of thought as well as more time for the reader to digest those ideas. I can engage with a blog without feeling like I need to engage immediate with the author. I can take time to formulate an opinion and respond with a well thought out comment.

I’m not a fan of exposition on the web. I also struggle when writing is exceptionally heavy-handed in tone. The biggest addition to my RSS reader is Ira Socol. To be completely honest, he pushes my buttons sometimes, especially when it comes to the role of technology in the classroom…which is exactly why I need to be reading his blog more.

Ira has been writing and tweeting about grit lately, so I decided to jump in. His post on Angela Duckworth, Galton, Nazis, and eugenics is not only long (3,800 words), but a deep dive into why I need to pay more attention to education rhetoric. I don’t agree with everything he says about grit, but I’ve been prompted to learn more.

Driving home last night.


What’s next? I’m not sure. The horizon is always there…even though we can chase that dividing line, we’ll never catch up to its secrets. The great thing is through opening our lines of communication through blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever, we’ll have people who can look over the edge and whisper those secrets back to us. We’re only as good as our connections: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Comments are always open. You can get in touch by sending me an email at brian@ohheybrian.com