Sunday, 4 March 2012

24 hours on Twitter

I have recently become an avid user of Twitter. I occasionally tweet, but more often spend a good half to one hour a day reading through the tweets in my timeline. Is this just a waste of time? I don't think so, and to demonstrate this, I just want to list the things I have found during one 24 hour period using Twitter.

Firstly, I read a reflection on the PISA results by an American commentator in their educational newspaper, Education Week. The commentator argues that, "To my way of thinking, the most important research question in the whole field of education is why some national, state and provincial education systems produce both more equity and higher student performance than others." He goes on to wonder why researchers have not really provided answers to this question. There's food for thought here, although I'm not sure I agree with the commentator's emphasis on national curricula as the positive force for good. I tend to see national curricula as limitations rather than as positives.

Next, in the same educational newspaper, a report of a study about to be published which found that first-graders who participated in Interactive Writing improved their independent writing, including such skills as organization, word choice, sentence fluency, spelling of high-frequency words, capitalization, punctuation, and handwriting. Interactive writing here means children "collaborating on producing a piece of writing for as little as about 10 minutes during the school day". This seems to me to be an excellent justification for a collaborative approach to writing in the primary years.

Then a report on The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality. This is music to my ears as a teacher educator. It claims that the research suggests "A teacher one standard deviation above the mean effectiveness annually generates marginal gains of over $400,000 in present value of student future earnings". How much more justification do we need for a major re-investment in our teachers?

I found an article in the Review of Educational Research entitled: "What Forty Years of Research Says About the Impact of Technology on Learning: A Second-Order Meta-Analysis and Validation Study". This is significant because the trend in the literature on the effects of technology on learning has been fairly negative. One of the conclusions of this study, though, is that, "the average student in a classroom where technology is used will perform 12 percentile points higher than the  average student in the traditional setting that does not use technology  to enhance the learning process". Of course there are all kinds of caveats about this effect, but it'svery nice to get some positive findings about the impact of technology.

The Mobile World Congress is currently taking place in Barcelona. 60,000 attendees, hundreds of firms demonstrating their gadgets, as well as a full conference programme. The Read Write Web site gives a review of five important outcomes from this congress, where, surprisingly, the star of the show seems to be Android. Is Google really taking over the world? (well, I'm sticking with my iPhone and iPad!)

Back in Education Week, there is an interesting commentary on personalisation (sorry - personalization) in learning. This makes the point that successfully personalising learning is not just about finding the right technology and content for individual learners, but is also about the relationships between teachers and learners. What we've always said - to teach successfully, the first priority is to know your kids!

From Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society comes a report into the ways in which young users of age 18 and under search for information online, how they evaluate information, and how their related practices of content creation, levels of new literacies, general digital media usage, and social patterns affect these activities. This suggests that young people tend to jump at search results which immediately seem appropriate, rather than conduct more thorough, and evaluative searches. We need to think more about educating them in searching and information evaluation.

The Read Write Web site also has a review of the new Pew study of hyper-conected youth. Teens and young adults are hyper-immersed in technology. A total 95% of teens ages 12-17 are online, 76% use social networking sites and 77% have cell phones. Of the slightly older age group (18-29 year olds), 96% are Internet users, 84% use social networks and 97% have cell phones.Stakeholders have mixed views about whether this is positive or not. Approximately half believe that hyperconnectedness will have a positive impact, suggesting a stronger ability to multitask, cycle through personal- and work-related tasks and become more adept at finding answers to deep questions. But the other half believe that the brains of such millenials will not retain information. They think millenials will be focused on short social messages and content that will entertain. They will be incapable of deep engagement with people and knowledge. These Internet users will surf around, grabbing the first bit of information they find. They will take fiction as fact. Interestingly, young people tended to be positive but older people tended to be nagative. Another generation gap!

Well, that's just my own highlights. Another day on Twitter. Fascinating, isn't it?

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