Tag Archives: Twitter

Tweeting During Class? No Way!

I recently received a question in a comment from Jesse Scott (@twowaystairs) about a topic I have been meaning to write about for some time. He is wondering how I Tweet while in the classroom.

I find it amazing that you, Jabiz, can tweet and teach at the same time because, while I love the Twittersphere and understand and appreciate what it has to offer, I find a huge disconnect when I try to tweet in the middle of things happening. I feel like I disengage from the moment, for a moment, while I post a tweet and things lose momentum. More so when I’m part of the conversation but even when I’m not, I feel like I’m missing part of the conversation and not giving people their due respect. How, in your opinion, do you keep that balance?

Great question! Before I get to it, however, let’s consider the larger context in which the question is set. Really he is asking about being distracted by alternative conversations during real time events, in this case with the use of Twittr, at a PYP exhibition or some other conference. The short answer, I think, is that we are all engaged and distracted by different thing and at different levels. If something is truly engaging then no amount of white noise can disengage us from it.  Even if we are Tweeting it, we do so in the hopes that it is enhancing the event and adding a layer of complexity. But sometimes it is just best to shut it down and allow ourselves to be truly absorbed.

For me, like most people I assume, it is difficult to turn off my brain. My constant Twitter stream of thoughts is always on. So even when I am experiencing a talk or presentation, my brain is firing on all cylinders. I find it useful to house these thoughts in my Twitter stream. Partly because I just want them stored somewhere, remember Twitter was originally called a micro-blogging site. I still see it as short form blogging or public note-taking. For better or worse, Twitter has become my online public stream of consciousness. Since I cannot turn that off in the midst of reality, I choose not to turn it off on Twitter. I Tweet what I think, when I think.

This is nothing new, before Twitter I always had a small journal into which I would scribble these random thoughts. The beauty of life now, is that my little black journal talks back! This talking back, however, is what I think Jesse sees as distracting. And he is right, it can be. When the back channel becomes more interesting that the main event, what is one to do? Here is the scene, you are at a keynote speech and the conversation about what is being said is more engaging than what is being said! What do you do? Not sure I have an answer for that. Hate to sound like a broken record, but these are personal negotiations about balance and priorities. I  believe in giving people respect when they present and affording them as much of my attention as I can. As I do more and more speaking and presenting, I expect that much from an audience. That is a personal thing for me. Even at meetings, I try to have my laptop down, when I know the person speaking wants my attention. I see so many teachers, the same ones who always complain about distracted kids, checking Facebook at a staff meeting when they should be doing something else!

So in the case of the PYP exhibition, the question is does Tweeting add to the experience? Or is it a gimmick to appear to be using technology? Not sure I can answer that, but if technology feels wrong then it usually is. Put down the tweets and give those kids the wonder and engagement they deserve.

Sorry abut that tangent…back to how I Tweet in class. I have touched on a lot of the points already, so I will refer back to them in the next few paragraphs. I know many people are a bit aghast and put off when they here that I usually Tweet my way through all my classes. “How can you be teaching and Tweeting at the same time.” or “The kids deserve your full attention.” or “If you have time to Tweet then some kid is not getting enough attention!” Fair enough.

To start I guess we need to define some basic terms: teaching, classroom, attention. I don’t feel that my students are getting a traditional classroom experience with teacher talking at them and delivering content. There are seldom times when I need undivided attention. More and more often,  I am realizing that whole group delivery of instruction is a waste of time. So much of my actual teaching comes through 1-1 chats or small group interactions. It is when the kids are busy with actual work or creation or production that I sit with them and re-teach whatever it was I taught at the beginning of class. So I usually deliver major concepts or skills or ideas at the start of class. Laptops down. Old school. Listen to me. I am the sage on the stage baby! I know some things about (X) and I want to share these ideas with you. I know how to do (Y) and you need to listen. Of course there is discussion and hopefully an open line of communication. I never Tweet during these times. These lectures usually happen at the beginning of a unit and I try to keep them short.

Once kids have listened, it is time to get on task. This is when laptops flip open, mine included. I have very few, if any rules, about who can use what and where they should be online during class. I allow cell phones, sometimes kids need to text. Sure go ahead. You need to check your Skype, fine, as long as you stay on task and do what you should be doing. I seldom have any issues with kids being distracted, because when the time comes to have their laptops open most kids know the task and are into it before I say a word. A five minute text is no big deal. If someone were to spend the whole time texting during my class, then we would chat. This has never happened.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by mgjefferies

Kids usually work alone or in groups and I hover. I stop and sit and talk. I redeliver content. I make sure the skills are there. I chat about things that are relevant. I stop everyone, “Laptops down please.” I make a point to the whole group. Back to work. I go to each group, each student and check for understanding. There is usually music playing. Instrumental Beastie Boys is a nice touch.  We had Korean Pop yesterday. The mood is light.

During these times, Twitter is just another student. It sits there. As I hover, I share my thoughts or Tweet what kids are saying or doing. Remember I cannot turn of my thought;  I have some of my best ideas when I am with kids. Sometimes people respond, if it is not taking too much energy I respond. If it will take me too far from my kids then I say, “I am in class catch you later.”

We would never tell a teacher not to have Google open during class, because it is too distracting. I see Twitter in the same way. I like that my kids see I am on Twitter. It is not a secret. I want them to know that we have the power of a huge network at our backs. If they have questions I don’t know I say, “Let’s ask Twitter.” The other day, kids were editing their films and they needed footage of an old school bell. I suggested we ask Twitter. An hour later Adrienne sent us a 45 second clip of a bell at her school. I want kids to see that things like this are possible. I want them to understand the power of Twitter.

After a few seconds hovering over Twitter, I go back to a group that is working. It is a system that works for me. Now I am lucky to work at a school that is 1-1 with small class sizes and great kids. They work hard and are usually on task. I like to think I design units and assessment they find fun and engaging. If I find that things are not working, I improvise and we shake things up. I do not sit at my desk Tweet away, while kids fill out worksheets!

Are there times when I do get too absorbed with something that is happening on Twitter? Sure. I would be lying if I said no, but that is where that balance and personal negotiation comes in. I move away. I stop. I learn to control myself. Isn’t the biggest lesson we could model for kids. How to know when to be present and when to connect someplace else?

This post is already too long, so I will not talk about why I do not really use twitter with kids. That will be coming soon…


#freelissgriffin campaign

This is a simple yet strangely disturbing story, that needs your attention and commitment to helping a network member in need. Melissa Griffin is a an energetic, dynamic and vital part of my network. We first met last year in Shanghai through mutual friends and have maintained and fostered our friendship online- through our blogs, but mostly through daily interaction on Twitter.

Like most of us, Melissa uses Twitter to stay connected, as a powerful professional development tool, as well as a tool to have  a good laugh We all know and understand the power of  Twitter on our lives these days. Now imagine if  you woke up and your account had been suspended. For no reason and you had no recourse to get it back online. No one would respond to your questions and suddenly, Twitter is gone- just like that!

I revived this email from Melissa tonight:

Thanks for the #freelissgriffin campaign. I have heard nothing, nada, not a peep, not tweep from the main dudes at twitterland. Not sure who joined in, as I can’t watch. All I can do is click on a tweep’s page and I’m limited to one hour of access a day, from first click.  My next step is to go straight to the top. The only way is to tweet. How ironic.

I have chosen ye to help, one last time, because you were in the original #freelissgriffin campaigner and/or are my main tweeps. Some aren’t in this email list, because I don’t have their email – we are tweeps (and sometimes facebookers). I put on my investigative hat (wikipedia and google) and found Jack Dorsey. He cofounded the twitter universe, he left and is back again. Fascinating reading. Being one of the very first tweeps he goes by @jack

Could you would you tweet at him? Can’t think what else to do and I miss tweets and tweeps and twits and RTs and DMs. I’m a addict

@lissgriffin <– [formerly known as]
(not a bad tweep)

I can’t help but think how dissapointed and upset I would be if Twitter just shut off for me, without any recourse to get it back. So let’s band together and get Melissa back on Twitter. Please copy this post to a Tweet and send it to @twitter, @jack and any one else you think could help. Be sure to add the #freelissgriffin hash tag.  Pass the word (come on power users with lots of followers, get this into your networks) and let’s see if we can get this bad boy all over Twitter and get Melissa back among us!


30,000 and Counting

I don’t want to know what people eat for breakfast.

I don’t want to know what they are doing and thinking every second of the day.

I just don’t have anything to say that is that important.

Nothing in my life is that interesting that I have to broadcast it to the world

Well, let me tell you something! Actually let me tell you a few things. Let me tell you 30,000 things! My life is that interesting and I can’t (won’t) shut up about it. My every thought is worth a broadcast and everything I do is life changing. Take this for example: It is Friday night,  I am blasting the Beastie Boys to get in the mood to write this post. My head is bobbing; my heart is racing because I am excited about scribbling these thoughts into the cyber void. I have goosebumps. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the freedom and the tools to assign value to my thoughts, my life, my experiences. If my life is not interesting enough for me to write about and share with the world than I feel am doing something wrong. If I am not excited about what I eat, then I am eating the wrong foods. If the minutes of my life are boring than I am wasting it.

I share it all because sharing it forces me to be aware. It forces me to shine a light on my ideas, my thoughts, my kids, my books my writing, my doubts, my friends, my politics, my thoughts on god, on the beauty of homemade pasta, music, and parenthood. Hell, 30,000 tweets are not enough for me, I am writing a memoir describing every memory in exquisite detail. Why? I am fascinated by the whole damn thing. The questions. The answers. The whole journey is one amazingly intense ride and I don’t want to miss a second of it. More importantly, I don’t want you to miss your life either. I hope my enthusiasm can act  as a mirror for your life too.

What people who think their thoughts are not important, or that their lives are boring, or the people who say they don’t care about what other people are doing every second of the day- don’t understand is that this one life is all we get. One life, one shot. Game over. I see it two ways: First: if you feel your life is not interesting enough to share with other people than you may want to ask yourself why. Second: If you feel that other people don’t care about your life, you are underestimating people’s need for human connections or your ability to tell stories.

For the first time in human history, we can all be published authors with a push of a button. What? What’s that? This only means that there will be a lot of mediocre prose and garbage media out there? Fair enough, but it is ours- this voice, these space, these stories, and I for one will share as much as I can for as long as I can. I will do my best to weave a world of tenderness, wit and honesty. I’ll take a crack at humor, reflection, and art. I’ll share the low-brow and the high. I’ll share the novel and the bizarre.

People often ask, “What the hell do you say in 30,000 tweets?” The answer?  The story of my life. I am writing it all down and throwing it all out into the universe and you know what I am finding? That a tribe of kindred spirits are gathering around me and digging on what I confess. No one’s life is special enough to warrant so much attention. No one’s life is so unimportant not to warrant some attention. I know people gawk at my output, but honestly I have found a formula that works for me.  When I scan my list of RTs, I am honored by the pieces of my soul that people share. I am not here to share edtech resources. I am here to shift a culture. I am here to inspire and push people’s buttons. I am here to make you think. I am here to manipulate every tool into a weapon of art and creation.

Who knows? Maybe someday I will collect all these snippets of experience and wrap them up in book. Or maybe I will forget them all and sweep away the memories like the sands of a Mandala. But, for now, I am here and jotting it all down. Thanks for joining me on my ride. My advice to you dear reader or timid Tweeter, is tell me what you had for breakfast. What are you doing this very second? Share the infinite epiphanies you had right before you fell sleep last night. What’s your favorite song? Movie? Book? I find it all interesting because I find life interesting. I find you interesting. So go on don’t be shy. Tweet, blog, write, film, share…you’ll be surprised what comes back to you.


Next Level

You know how there are people on Twitter you kind of know but not really? You see their smiley avatars and occasionally Re-Tweet their links or post, but you have never really “talked” to them. After an especially insightful tweet, you look up their bio again, follow the bread crumbs to their blog and say, “Maybe it is time I add this one to my RSS.” And when you do, suddenly that person begins to open up and bloom in your life. You get a few more bits and pixels of who they are. Suddenly, you start to notice their tweets more often and find yourself commenting on their blogs. Maybe there is the occasionally Skype call, and before you know it he unmet friend is in your midst and you cannot recall a time before you “knew” them, oh and of course you have still never met in “real” life.

Well it may be premature, but I think I may have found an kindred spirit. I do not know her well enough to say for sure, but I like her open and enthusiastic vibe. Last week I added Katie Hellerman‘s blog The Teaching Game to my RSS and have been pleasantly surprised by her eagerness to build community and make connections. For me, it started with her post Getting What I Really Want Out of Twitter. Which was followed by her Connection Challange.

This post is me taking up the challenge Katie! I have chosen you as the person I want to learn more about and perhaps work with.  I understand that these things should happen organically if we want them to be authentic, but by mentioning her in my space, I hope I am talking a positive first step to help not only build our relationship, but hopefully also introduce her to my network as well. And of course there are connections we share already, so maybe this intensification will help cement and tighten bongs elsewhere.

After I commented on her blog, Katie sent me an email to which I responded with this post:

Hello again Katie,

I felt weird responding to you via email, because I thought the whole point was to open up and share in order to build community. I have chosen to post my email to you’re here on my blog, in hopes that maybe others new to my blog will find my introduction useful as well.

You ask why I am in Jakarta, so let me start there. I have been teaching at international schools for seven years now I started in Kuala Lumpur, then I was in Qatar and now Jakarta. I like to live overseas, because I feel the world is too big to waste living in one country. I want to expose my children to different experiences and show them the world is a place to absorb and learn from. I also taught for two years in the US Peace Corps in Mozambique where I met my lovely wife.

Born in Iran and raised in the Bay Area, I find nationalism and culture stifling and tedious. I would rather be seen as an internationalist. Simply put I grew tired of the States. I occasionally miss home, but I am spending my summer in Thailand this year, so I quickly get over it.

You ask about my goals beyond what I am doing. I love working with kids. I love watching them grow and explore. I am currently teaching middle school, but I would like to teach higher level English course and dabble in working with teachers. I have never envisioned myself doing anything but teaching, so I see myself as the old-long-white haired dude at a school well into my sixties. Never a fan of ambition, my goal is to raise two world wise daughters, find some kind of peace in my heart, and maybe make a difference in the lives of the children I encounter.

Wait I lied! I also want to publish a few novels, record an album, tour the world and be a rock star of sorts. I want to run for public office in the States and climb a few mountains. I want to travel to every continent and learn to play the clarinet and ukulele.

As for the rest of my story, it is unfolding everyday here on the Internet. You can find my passions, my music, my books, my art, my life tucked away in various nooks and crannies of the web. I feel it is all to convoluted and complex to be simplified in a blog post, that is why I write it and sing it and smear it in as many places as I can. You want to know me better, drop me a line, start a conversation and I will keep up my end, just ask the people who already “know” me.

Balls in your court! What more can you tell me about you? Here is my challenge to you: find something I have done on the web that somehow grabbed your attention and leave a comment. I will work from there to connect it back to you.

As for you dear reader, what do you think of Katie’s challenge? What brought you here? What are you offering? How can we take our relationship to the next level? What do you want to know? What are you willing to share? Go ahead, confess, spill your guts. Let’s see what you got!


Marathon Man

As the year comes to close there will be the inevitable litany of blog posts recapping achievements, documenting successes and reflecting on next steps.  Kim Cofino started it with her latest post, and since I am flying to Lombok tomorrow and hoping to take a much-deserved break from Twitter and Edublogging, I want to gather my thoughts here, now, in this blog post.

Unfortunately my list of accomplishments may sound a bit more personal than Kim’s, because I am not really working within a Tech team, regardless I would like to thank my colleagues at school, and my wife/team member/tech protégé  Mairin Raisdana for being so open and hungry to learn about technology and move forward. So where to start?

It is a bit taboo and perhaps considered vain to talk about numbers, but since it is clear I have no issues with ego, awards, or numbers counting, I will start there. My numbers are up!

I am sure there are many that will say numbers don’t matter, but for someone who started a few years ago writing to an audience of one, it is encouraging and rewarding to watch the bars on the graph grow taller and taller. I am not arguing that higher numbers mean success or a better blog, or a better community, but I am saying that the more people stop by and read my blogs, the more chance there is to build authentic connections. Beyond the numbers, however, the thing I am most proud of and happy with are the consistent comments from my regular readers. People like Will Chamberlin, Adrienne Michetti, Clint Hamada, Cathy Crea, Melanie McBride, Tim Bray, and Keri Lee Beasley (There are so many more to mention!) have proven time and time again that having a small committed readership is more important than a huge one. So while increasing numbers are a good way to build a robust readership, a blog must have a foundation of people who look to it as a pleasure to read and with which to connect. I know that I have a support system in place that challenges my thinking, supports me and my students, and offers me material on which to reflect. So why mention numbers?

Over the last semester as my blogs have gained popularity, my voice and ideas are reaching more people. Through Twitter and my two blogs I have been able to connect with a variety of people worldwide. School kids in Canada, a variety of online interviews, and of course face-to-face connections. I have been accepted to present at the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong, and I am speaking with Melinda Alford about leading a cohort at the next Learning 2.0 conference in China. I have had constructive feedback on my teaching more here, and support for the blogging initiative I am trying to spearhead at our school.

Wow! That’s a lot of hyperlinks. Which means it has been a busy productive term. For people who are new to this online world of networks and connections, I hope my recount can shed some light on the power of blogging and connecting. It is not my intention to brag about my work, but to show what powerful professional development maintaining a blog can be. I was able to do all of this in addition to the in house “real” work I am doing on campus, building an ESL department from scratch, learning about the MYP, and helping the IT team move forward on schoolwide initiatives!

Furthermore, my students are making great progress within our classroom. I am experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what second language learners can do when given the tools to express themselves. In short, I am doing what I love and modeling behavior I would like to see in our school.

How does this happen? How did I go from blogging to myself to creating an authentic, caring, supportive, critical group of individuals who read my work, comment, share tweets, and invite me to conferences?

Consistent, open, honest sharing. This is the model that has worked for me. Everyone says they haven’t the time to blog or connect or do anything other than what the curriculum demands of them.  I simply find that to be a cop out. In addition to what I have described above, I am raising two kids, writing a book, and leading a pretty satisfying rich life. I am not trying to say that I am superman and you should be like me; I am simply pointing out that building these networks takes time and energy and it is hard work, but if you take baby steps and stay with it it will bare fruit. Managing time is a choice we all make. If you are serious about blogging, it must be built into your day. Even if it is a few hours a week, it must be consistent.

I often catch myself comparing writing/blogging with running. I don’t do the latter, but first saw the connection through the book What We Talk About When We Talk About Running. Writing is like a marathon, you take your time and pace yourself, but always have a goal in mind.

image by seeveeaar

My goal has never been to become an Edublog celebrity, or to leave my classroom and present at conferences worldwide. I have only ever wanted to share my ideas, my thoughts, and yes my feelings in the most honest way I can to connect with as many individuals across the world as I can. I see this connection as the first steps toward understanding, which eventually I believe leads to a more just and peaceful world. A marathon indeed.

So as 2010 comes to close, I want to thank everyone who has supported me this year with your comments, tweets, external validations and of course love. I feel proud of the work I am doing and I owe much of its success to you. Whoever you, where ever you are reading these words.

Now I am off to Lombok to enjoy some of this:

image by Fadil Basymeleh

I look forward to spending time with family, friends, and my thoughts. Looking forward to disconnecting for awhile, taking a break from Twitter and blogs and enjoying the ocean, my daughter’s laughter, and my camera. See you all in 2011!