Thursday, 6 November 2014

Rethinking a Twitter disaster

Picture a classroom with 14-15 devices with children busy taking part in a chat session with over 1200 tweets and 25 classes participating. Add to it their classroom teacher who is moderating the session, its the last 10-15 minutes of the day so the class is starting to pack up and those who have been in another part of the school are filtering in excitedly. Sounds like chaos! This is the situation I found myself in last Thursday as my colleague entered the room to expose a "F-bomb" that had just been launched by my class in the chat session. I scrolled to the top and there it was for all to see, lobbed casually into cyberspace with no other tweet content so the intent and meaning of the message were in plain sight.

With devices shut down and class packed I let my them know I was disappointed and angry. They left school knowing they weren't to bring devices the following day as a trust issue had arisen. I had quickly been able to rule out several kids based on duties or responsibilities that had them out of the classroom, but this still left a large pool of students.

After school I spoke with my colleague, our IT support and the DP. Removing devices, a renewed focus on digital safety and mention of hunting for the IP address would all be used to attempt to find the culprit. The kids had been in peers, there was hope that 1 would come forward. Talking with Stephen Baker, another Kidsedchatnz coordinator, he supported the tactics but didn't envy the position.

The next day, they were asked to write apology letters and discuss digital safety. No further progress was made as to a culprit. It's fair to say that I was bitterly disappointed for both Kidsedchatnz, the classes exposed to this, the innocent parties in the room and our school. We had misrepresented our class, school and enthusiasm for BYOD and eLearning.

That weekend as I reflected I decided that I should apologise to them. I had partly contributed to this situation through trying to do too much. Over time we had been using more & more devices during a chat session. By having so many participating it made it more difficult to monitor what each group was doing, it only took 1 child to push the limits. A lot of thought perhaps over 1 word, a word that is all over our television screens, but our RTC require us to keep our students safe. I owed my students and others participating honest reflection of my own role in this.

Monday morning I spoke to the class about my role in this and apologised but stressed that I was still disappointed. We followed this up by investigating the power of the internet by focussing on what takes place in 1 minute and then sent out a simple message to investigate the reach of just 1 tweet. We have have discussed Digital Safety many times, but this lesson appeared to really resonate.

When the class had a look Tuesday afternoon, the potential viewers based on 21 Retweets was between 25 - 35,000 followers. They were blown away by the magnitude and 2 astute children likened the spread of a tweet to that of a virus.

Tuesday night I reflected on 2 days of device-free learning that had gone very well with plenty of engagement, choice, learning and student voice, I reached a shocking conclusion. I am convinced that I had moved away from effective use of the devices! However, the shift was so incremental that I hadn't noticed and it was only a complete removal of devices that highlighted this. This begs a question that I can not answer fully right now and brings me to the purpose of this post. What are the symptoms of ineffective use of technology that I should have noticed?

Clues that I have identified in my reflection:

  • A group of students that were seeking every opportunity to complete a learning task, but still not completing it.
  • Angst & disagreement between group members while completing tasks.
  • Tasks that were getting little to no feedback/forward or teacher support.
  • The tweet & inappropriate language suggests that they weren't being supervised or that I ought to have paired the students more effectively.
When recorded like this above, it would seem blindingly obvious, but each & every incident has taken place over several weeks and I have treated any issues on their face value rather than looking at any overall trends.

There is plenty of material discussing the point that eLearning should have the "e" removed, it is still effective pedagogy that drives the use of technology. I'm not a 'tool driven' user of technology and have experienced much success with technology so I am a little frustrated by this realisation. I'd appreciate some feedback on other indicators of ineffective use of technology, especially anything going beyond the 'why' a certain tool is being used.