First to set some context:
I'm retired. 30 years in the Printing business, then seven years teaching design with a brief but very exciting interlude with a dot.com start up called Chapbooks.com which delivered the ability for teachers to publish their students work in printed using the web and POD technology. It was 1998 - 2000. I like to think that the idea was just right, but that the technology was still too immature. At any rate, we raised $1.5 million and spent $1.8 million. Then the dot com bubble burst.
I found #edchat a couple of months ago. It's been an amazing adventure. I think I've learned more about what's going on in education in three months than I have in the previous ten years of focusing and thinking about the deep problems of learning.
The thought occurred to me that #edchat itself is a naturally evolving learning tool. I've watched myself very closely to see what I could see about the process of engagement, learning, developing relationships. It could be just right. This is what I think I've learned;
1. Being able to continue a conversation without the constraint of doing it right now is a huge advantage. Life is complicated with many interruptions. Having to respond ;immediately - as in a face to face conversation or even in the email leads me to talking before thinking. Since that's always been a huge problem for me it makes me nervous. With #edchat that stress goes away.
2. The practice of getting a complete thought into 140 chrs has been great for clarifying my thinking. The more I do it, the easier it becomes. I started, like the kids, with abbreviations. Then I tried mathematical symbols. Finally I realized that if I were to get a response it needed to be a clear thought in plain English.
3. I've watched as the work done to store conversations has gotten better and better. From the earlier spreadsheets to the state of the posting the summaries has been wonderful. I think we're on the road to having a wild conversation on Tuesday, then watching a couple of private threads continue. Then being able to go over the whole convo when I have the time to see what seems to have emerged as important threads.
4. The connections to blogs, where thoughts can be expanded and augmented with personal experience is a huge benefit. I can see a comment, hear a voice, follow to the website, read a post, comment if I'm in the mood, share if I'm in the mood and know with whom to share.
I would think that this is exactly the kind of experience we want our students to have. So why not focus on thinking about what are the specific problems that people have in specific contexts to take the power that has emerged and use it classrooms?