flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

There is so much written about the benefits of Twitter in regards to learning. This is often epitomised by Twitter Chats, regular catch-ups revolving around a hashtag and a series of questions. Some of the limitations to Twitter Chats is that it can be a challenge to keep a track of all the ideas being shared, as well as engage in deeper conversation.

A twist on the usual chat structure is the SlowChat. This usually involves a question posed with the intent to provoke conversation. Like the usual Twitter Chat, this is captured by a hashtag. Some examples include the #teacher5adaySlowChat or Paul Browning’s participation in the rotation curation #EduTweetoz using #whyiteach. These chats are usually built upon the back of preexisting communities and usually done with some intent.

An alternative to these hashtag chats are the incidental ones that occur each and every day. These organic ‘chats’ often start with two in conversation. Sometimes the beginning is a particular topic or question, other times they start with the sharing of a particular reading or resource. As the conversation continues, others often come on board, bringing different perspectives. Sometimes they are tagged into the conversation, while other times they simply join in. Not only does this provide a depth of discussion, but without the constraints of the hashtag allows the conversation go in whatever direction it needs to. Individual value is gained by each participant. For some it is possible answers gained, while others it is clarification.

An example of such a chat occurred recently when Andrea Stringer shared out a link to a report of pre-service teachers:

What followed were questions about quality, elaborations on the differences between a teacher, leader and coach, suggestion for alternatives, such as co-teaching, a focus on development and the sharing of various resources. What this demonstrated was the power and potential of a PLN and networked learning. As Andrea Stringer highlighted:

What is even more significant is that Deborah Netolicky has continued the conversation in her own way, writing two posts teasing out the notion of quality teachers and unpacking what they do.

Often when people talk about the benefits of Twitter, they focus on structured activities such as Twitter Chats or the limitations of 140 characters. However, we must not overlook the power and potential of serendipity that it allows. Simply spending time at the well, as David Culberhouse would put it, can produce unforeseen rewards.

So what about you? What learning have you been a part of online that was unintended, but had a significant impact? As always I would love to hear.


DISCLOSURE: I do not own shares in Twitter and do not believe that every teacher should join Twitter. I am however interested in the various nuances of the connected life and helping give voice to this. This is why I am interested in Ian Guest’s current doctoral work.


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It can be easy to get tricked into thinking that this a book full of answers, a guide as to what to do to implement change. However, it is as much about the conditions required, as it is about challenges faced. David Culberhouse provides a range of questions and suggestions to help you scale creativity and innovation in your context.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

In a recent episode of Future Tense, Matthew Smith presented a report on the dingo fence that stretches across south-eastern Australia. The fence was developed to keep out dingos out of the fertile part of the Australia. However, researcher Euan Ritchie explained how the desired purpose does not always achieve the intended outcome. For although the fence was designed to help protect sheep flocks, in eliminating one of the environments natural predators, it has led to an over-abundance of wild animals and a subsequent decrease in vegetation. As Ritchie explains,

With dingoes being absent from ecosystems we have more cats, we have more foxes, we have too many kangaroos, we often have feral goats, pigs et cetera, and they all have their own impacts.

In addition to this, the fence – stretching over 5000 kilometres – costs roughly 10 million dollars a year to maintain.

The answer being purposed to improve the state of things is rewilding. Already used in Europe and America, the practise involves reintroducing top-level predators into an ecosystem in order to restore function back to the landscape. One of major concerns comes from farmers who such things as the dingo fence were created for. There have been different strategies and solutions used to quell the impact of predators on livestock. They include: large guardian dogs, such as maremmas, smaller fencing to protect young calves and lamb, as well as reimbursement for lost  stock. What is interesting is that it been argued that due to the decrease in herbivores and increase in vegetation, properties with dingoes are actually better off in a net sense. Scientists are therefore proposing not to simply remove the whole fence, but to move parts of it in order to monitor and manage the change.

This discussion of rewilding got me thinking about education. In a recent post, David Culberhouse discussed overcoming the barriers and pushing past procedures. As he explained,

The problem is that at some point, like with all obstacles or walls that we create, the danger we are trying to keep out finds a way in.

Maybe then what is needed is a rewilding of education. So often structures are put in place to support instruction and schooling. A point Greg Miller touches on in a recent post. Practises that are then measured and maintained through standardised tests. The learning landscape is then left barron with little beauty and a lot less care.

What if we removed the fences, where instead of focusing on managing experiences for students from the top on down, we co-create experiences with students from the bottom up. Supporting students to be what Ewan McIntosh describes as problem finders. This does not mean simply leaving students to their own accord, instead like the guard dogs protecting the flock, support them in the maintenance of their learning portfolios to add discipline to the process. For those learners in need of smaller fences, provide scaffolding in regards to the development of core literacy and numeracy skills, especially in early years. While provide focused assistance to those who need additional guidance to aide their learning.

Some see all of this as a risk of sending the lamb to the slaughter. Condemning students to an education of ‘stuff‘. The problem is that we are doing that now. With the research done, it is often already decided what is important to know and do, rather than placing students in the driving seat of their learning.

Some see things like Genius Hour or 2-hours allocated to inquiry as the solution. However, as Audrey Waters questions,

Don’t we need to think about how to re-evaluate 100% of time in order to make school more student-centered, not simply fiddle with a fraction of it?

This is not to say that this is simple or without risk. Just as the proposal with the dingo fence is to move a small part of it and then reassess, one approach to rewilding education maybe to take small incremental steps. Set a goal, take action and then reassess. Starting with 10%, as Will Richardson has suggested. A useful strategy in support of such change is the IOI Process which provides a series of tools that helps discuss not only where you are at, but a map of where the next step may lie.

Maybe you don’t think that this metaphor works? The strategies are too simple or lack nuance? You don’t think that learning is the top predator? That could be so. However, what is important is to continually reimagine and ask the question, what if? Such ideas may not be right or necessarily work, but they promote more discussions and help build towards a brighter tomorrow.

I will leave last word to Gillian Light who, on reflecting upon the need to lead digitally, summed the situation up nicely:

School doesn’t have to involve students sitting in straight lines listening to an all-knowing teacher. Because learning certainly doesn’t involve that.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have not participated in #Rhizo15 as much as I would have liked to. However, I have definitely dwelled on the various topics. Although a little belated, this is something of a response to Dave Cormier’s wondering about the myth of content.


As a part of the roll out of my school’s instructional model. We all chose a topic which we would like to delve into next. I chose to focus on ‘feedback’. Partly because I have a real passion for sharing learning and see a lot of potential for using technology to listen to voices in and out of the classroom. I also really like working with the people who were leading the group.

Although I already had collected some articles and posts on the topic in the past, I thought that I would put it out to my PLN to see what they might have to offer. So I sent the following Tweet:

What follows is the collection of posts, links and resources I got in return:

Is the Feedback You’re Giving Students Helping or Hindering?

Jon Andrews directed me to this post from Dylan Wiliam discussing the importance of feedback and how it is connected with persistence and the growth mindset. It discusses how some feedback can actually be unhelpful in regards to improving.

Feedback on Learning

In addition to Dylan Wiliam’s website, Jon Andrews also shared a link to a short video from Wiliam on importance of giving learners effective feedback as an integral component of formative assessment.

Feedback and Mindset

Dan Haesler directed me to his resources from all his presentations. This includes some really good information on the connection between assessment, feedback and mindset.

Webinar unpacking Embedding Formative Assessment

Jason Borton and Ross Halliday both recommended Dylan Wiliam’s book Embedding Formative Assessment. While Borton also directed me to this video/webinar, where Wiliam explores some practical techniques that teachers can use to develop their formative assessment classroom practice.

Using Gallery Walks for Revision and Reflection

Michelle Hostrup recommended BIE’s work in regards to gallery walks as a model for peer feedback. It provides suggestions how to structure such activities to make them specific and meaningful.

Feedback Matters

Shaun Allison shared a post he wrote collecting together an array of quotes and strategies associated with feedback. The best part is that he provides actual images and examples for each of the strategies that he discusses.

Feedback: Medals and Missions

Jennifer English pointed me to post from Geoff Petty who focuses on the ideas of ‘medals and missions’. Petty supports his discussion with plenty of proformas and research to further unpack the various ideas and arguments.

Formative Assessment

Cameron Paterson linked me to the slides for a presentation he did on formative assessment. Not only does he provide a really clear narrative in regards to assessment, but it also includes a great array of links and quotes. One of the interesting ideas is the potential of students and teachers engaging in the practise of Reggio inspired documentation.

Feedback for Learning (ASCD Vol 70 Num 1)

Peter DeWitt recommended a collection of articles on feedback from ASCD. This includes pieces from Dylan Wiliam to John Hattie to Grant Wiggins. It is also has a great infographic on the seven things to remember about feedback. A great summary of Wiggins’ piece. Although some articles need to be purchased, there are a few that are free.

Austin’s Butterfly

Andrea Stringer shared a short video from Ron Berger which highlights the importance of critique and feedback when striving for excellence. This is one of those presentations that really captures anyone of any age.

Visible Learning

Riss Leung argued that you can’t go past the chapter in John Hattie’s Visible Learning for  unpacking both the research and how it can be applied in the classroom.

3 Variables That Profoundly Affect the Way We Respond to Feedback

Although not responding to my call-out, Tom Barrett shared a link to this video from Big Think in his post written at much the same time. According to Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, the co-authors of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, there are specific variables that distort the way we perceive feedback from others.


Having collected some people’s thoughts on feedback, it makes clear that content is actually people, as Cormier put it in his post. What is important isn’t that I find that one resource that satisfies what I already know and am looking for. Instead, as Cormier highlights,

What is important is that you come to know enough of the stories of a particular field in order to be able to function in that field.

With the discussion of people, stories and resources, I am again reminded of Dean Shareski’s adage about when we go to conferences,

If you leave with one or two people you can continue to learn with you’ve done well.

Too often we focus on collecting ideas and resources, as a stagnant process. Instead what we need to celebrate is the remixing and re-imagining ideas in new and innovative ways. As David Culberhouse describes in relation to the ideapreneur, a term coined by Peter Thiel in Zero to One,

The work of the ideapreneur is not always founded in the making, but often in the connecting of ideas and thinking that already exists in very new and novel ways.  Ideapreneurs are able to make connections that remix and reimagine our current world in very inventive and innovative ways.

If you have something to add, maybe a new idea or a different take on things. Comments are welcome as always.


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