Learning is a conversation. Why aren’t my kids talking?


The future belongs to those who take charge of their own learning.

It’s been ever thus. Still, my student but aren’t there yet. We’ve been running our Twitter–as–a–note–taking–tool experiment for a couple weeks and this past Thursday we saw the first people from outside our class jump in on our conversation. I was tremendously excited (and remain grateful to those who are willing to give some time to students they don’t even know–a testament, I think, to the passion and commitment of great teachers.) The students, however, did not respond at all.

I see two plausible explanations for this behaviour. They are probaly both at work:

One, it could be they just aren’t used to the etiquette on Twitter. Considering most of them had not used Twitter before we started it in class, this can be excused. When, I explained that it was customary to thank those who share ideas and resources they jumped in with thank you notes.

But still, they didn’t really engage. That brings me to the second possibility–and I suspect this is the better explanation: It simply doesn’t occur to them that someone uninvited might have something to contribute to the day’s discussion in particular and to their learning in general. After all, my Grade 11 and 12 students have spent all their years of schooling with only one “teacher” in the room with them. Learning has for them never been a collaborative process. Moreover, students in general are often disciplined for not paying attention to the (one) teacher.

So is this Twitter phenomenon just circumstantial, or is our work on Twitter revealing deeper patterns of behaviour? I’m curious to hear my students thoughts on this so I’m sending this post to them with an offer to comment. Stay tuned…


  1. Reply
    Tori November 11, 2012

    I think part of why we, as students, may find it difficult to keep up the intellectual conversation outside of class-time is due to our lack of time, or perceived lack of time. Considering the vigorous school program we have been dealing with for several months now, we may have picked up a thing or two on time management and I feel like I am one of many students who consider social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. to be a distraction.

  2. Reply
    Justin November 11, 2012

    I agree, especially with the 2nd point. For me, twitter has become mainly a source of entertainment and it seems weird to see funny/meaningless and serious/educational tweets on the same page. Tweeting something also requires you to be mentally focused for awhile and ‘tune out’ of your surroundings, which can be hard in a classroom setting.

  3. Reply
    Nick November 12, 2012

    I need to get into a habit/mentality of checking twitter as a educational source rather than random info which tends to be useless. Creating this habit, and also a newsfeed which isnt clogged off with junk will, I believe, pay off. It will just take time for kids to realize that twitter and other social media sites can be full of concise and interesting information outside the dull classroom environment.

  4. Reply
    Jimmy November 12, 2012

    I think we’re still trying to get used to using twitter as an educational tool as we haven’t used it for that purpose or for that long for that matter (for some). It is a good idea however and still should be pursued in my opinion and I don’t think people are yet seeing the “revolutionary” idea this might might be because us students don’t like change and the idea of using a social networking site for edu purposes scare us. I believe this is a good idea and still can serve great opportunities for the future.

    – Jimmy

  5. Reply
    Flo November 12, 2012

    “Don’t talk to strangers!”~mum. “No talking in class!”~teacher. “You spend too much time on the internet”~dad. What do I do now?

  6. Reply
    Cris (Cris2B) November 14, 2012

    I had to look twice at the names of commentors to make sure these weren’t my grad students posting 😉 Seriously, I think students of any age feel the pinch of time and often find Twitter frivolous. And in many cases, it’s because the tweeting is imposed rather than self-selected. But what’s a well-intended, innovative teacher to do once she’s found great value in Twitter and wants to create the conditions for her students to experience its power? I hope some of my grad students post, too. I’d love more insight on how to make tweeting more palatable. Note I’m using a food metaphor, Jill.

  7. Reply
    Faheem November 14, 2012

    The comment about useless versus educational tweets on the same page made by Justin hits close to home for me. Being a fairly new tweeter myself, I have implemented lists in HootSuite in order to effectively filter through the clutter. My lists are organized into technology, lifestyle, entertainment and business. If you haven’t checked out HootSuite yet, I would highly recommend it as you being your journey in the social media world.

    -Faheem (A techie interested in how people interact with technology and how technology interacts with people)

  8. Reply
    Nick November 15, 2012

    Thank you Faheem! I checked out HootSuite and it is much more organized and visually appealing. Many thanks, this will defiantly enrich my social media experience.


  9. Reply
    Nick November 15, 2012


  10. Reply
    Faheem November 21, 2012

    Nick – right on! Remember to use the online tutorials that HootSuite has. You can customize your views and even schedule tweets to be posted.

    Have fun with technology.

    (Feel free to add me on Twitter and I shall do the same @FKTech)

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