Social Media as Third Space for Teacher Education

This is my post for the Digital Scholars Institute.  I feel honored and inspired to be a part of it, and I’ve enjoyed hearing about the digital projects that people have been exploring across UMW.  My project has to do with using Twitter for student communication and collaboration, and with the ways that professional identities (including my own) are formed through networks of scholars and teachers on Twitter.


I started Tweeting last year for the Domain of One’s Own initiative.  I loved many aspects of the project, from meeting people from across Mary Washington, to exploring blogging, to building a digital identity, to tweeting for professional/teaching purposes (okay, occasionally personal too–but all of it is related, you see–it’s all a way of presenting personae and constructing identities.  Blurring lines and such).  I even made had my students Tweet: it was an experiment that revealed some limited success and a lot of challenges.  The main challenge seems to be that without a grade, students seem very unlikely to tweet for class; of course, there have been a few exceptions.  But when it worked and was graded, students were sharing sources and interacting with alumni and discussing topics outside of the standard class time.  I linked to research that related to their interests (I still do this for the ones who still have accounts).  It became a new place for conversation, with different rules for who “got” to speak.


Some research I have been reading/citing is developing into a useful framework, and that the idea of a “third space”–a hybrid space where participants are on more equal footing.  This idea is relevant to various aspects of teacher education, such as when students do service learning outside of a school, or when supervisors or mentors interact with students outside of practicum sites and university coursework.  I view social networking sites such as Twitter as a third space where interactions can be extended or take on different qualities from the “official” spaces of interaction.  You know, it’s a third space for faculty, too, to interact outside of work settings.  Basically, I really like Twitter.  People who think it’s silly probably just don’t get how it can be used effectively.  Don’t get me started on the finding for one study that some people see it as “self-promotion.”  I almost just got started, but I won’t.  Next time.


This project is developing, but I want to look at the frequency and possible motivators for teacher education students’ participation in professional networks on social media as part of a longer-term, more formal, mixed methods study of these factors.  I want to ask students both inside and outside of our context and learn from best practices in other settings–an example might be professional chats (described here in an article by colleagues); I have never done these and want to learn about how teachers and preservice teachers (PST) use these kinds of tools.  They are free and loosely moderated and I’m sure that scares some people. A related but secondary focus of the study will be how and why connections on social media develop among scholars at professional conferences.


A tweet that sums it up:

an amazing opportunity for #AERA14: sharing the hashtags/tweeting to my PST students to show what scholars in the field do

— Janine Davis (@JanineSDavis) April 7, 2014


Lessons Everywhere

I had a colleague I never met.


Actually, that’s not true. I met her once in an elevator at a training, where she admitted that the elevator was making her nervous, but that was before I even started at UMW.


She was on leave this last fall, when I started at UMW, and she passed away this winter.  So we were technically colleagues this fall, even though we never worked together.


There were drifts of books left in her office; they were later relocated to a table in the Ed Suite where people could take some if they liked.  A person’s books reveal who a person is and what they care about.  There are lots of books there on teaching, the arts, writing, reading…the list goes on.  I wish I had known her better, but at least now I know her books.


I picked one up that looked interesting and opened it to where a blue post-it marked a short chapter; it is called “Fall in Love at Least Three Times a Day.”

photo copy photo (1)


How amazing: this colleague gave me advice even though she is no longer here.  In the blue-flagged pages, the writer doesn’t mean to fall in love with a different (or even the same) person three times a day, but rather reminds us to appreciate all the tiny beautiful amazing things that surround us.  In the chapter, Georgia Heard writes, “I’m in love with this light and everything the sun brushes.”  The book and the chapter remind me of how hard it can be to be positive, but how essential it is, and also this article that I found through Twitter: How to Stay Sane: Revising your Inner Storytelling.  The article is on a site with which I happen to have fallen in love.  The beauty of the layout, the colors, the organization, and the topics that relate so perfectly to my interests.


As it happens, there are still some books on that table in the Ed Suite.  I just know she would want you to have one.

Tech Tools I Have Known and Loved

This post started as an exercise and kind of morphed into a personal timeline of tech tools.  I had kind of forgotten about it, languishing there in the drafts, until I saw Andrea Livi Smith’s blog post about great tech tools for teachers.  I love the idea of that app for attendance but I could never wrest the ipad from my 3-year-old’s grip.  And really, what’s more important: taking attendance, or a few rounds of Toca Tailor?  What’s that, you say?  Attendance?  Ok, I will stick with paper for that but I have my eye on that ipad for the future…


I am lucky in a sense because I relate to the ways that students just know and use technology and think nothing of it.  I am not THAT young, but I started to wonder why I feel this way.  Interestingly, in this post, I found it hard to keep it truly time limited–one kind of tool kind of morphed into others over time in many cases.


It all started with…

*Logo the turtle (circa third grade?  GOTO LINE 10)

*the IBM PCjr (playing paratroopers and Monster Math but hating the latter)

*Videogames: Atari, then Sega, and much later, Playstation and XBOX (mostly my brothers’ or college friends’ systems.  I was never very good at MarioKart, though.)

*Programming games like Tetris into TI-84 calculators (I admit I never did this myself, I always just let a dude put the game in there for me.  It was always a dude.  But I’m sure it’s not any more.  In fact, my only comp sci teaching student is female!  Woot!)

*AOL and the magic of email (this in about 10th grade.  Good times, but communication was limited to the ONE other friend I knew who had it.  I did have a dream about hugging this person recently, so that has been another nice side effect of this post.)


*Email all the time, starting freshman year of college, when I had to borrow my roommates’ computer because the 386 I brought to college couldn’t handle Ethernet and NETSCAPE (!!) (but I mourn–and still have–those paper letters)

*Listservs (the drama of drama kids)

*Mapquest (literally finding my way as an admissions advisor in New England)

*Evite (for partays–I still use it today, but they are decidedly different parties)

*Snapfish (sharing photos–but later I developed a preference for Shutterfly for actual photos, and now Instagram and Facebook for online sharing.  I miss the actual prints too, like I miss the letters.)

*Microsoft Publisher–it was not bad at all, y’all

*Yahoo! answers (embarrassing, but I was one of the good ones, I swear!  Yahoo! even came to my house in CA to study me!)

*Facebook (I see a shift here–it changed the nature of interactions and made long-distance friendships entirely more possible and sustainable because of the everydayness of updates and the easy way/motivation to add pictures)

*Power Point (it has its moments)

*Teaching with Blackboard, then Moodle, and now Canvas (I admit I love it, I love grading things online and I LOVE Speedgrader.  It makes me be organized–papers don’t get “lost.”  And I like savin’ some trees.)

*Research/library catalogs online (I am old enough to remember card catalogs and microfilm–and yes, I know microfilm still exists)

*Skype (with friends and students)

*Domain/blogging (again a shift–it’s about making explicit my interactions with the technology now)

*Twitter–I didn’t see the point until I stumbled upon the #Museum Super Bowl hashtag and instantly fell for it.  It doesn’t take much…

*Next: screencast/livestream of lectures?


Why do I respond so well to all of it?  Is it Logo?  Maybe because my family just always had it around, even back to the bins full of tiny paper squares from the old computer punchcards.  My older brother used to hide things in those bins.  Fun fact: there’s a building on the VT campus (Derring) where the windows are the architect’s name on a punch card.  Anyway, looking back, I evolved academically during just the right time to be learning and using technology.  And the tools themselves evolved and changed in these little categories than then kind of came together (as with photo sharing sites, then Facebook–it combined the best of multiple words); that’s a good image for the Concept Development model, which works in similar ways because our brain works in those ways.


I lived in two major eras–pre- and post-internet–and I dig the pioneer kind of feeling that brings.  What will be the equivalent for students today?


Graphic Organizers and You

This is for my students in 351 and anyone else who is interested (looking at you, future 580 students…)


The task was to read an article (“Eight Things Skilled Teachers Think, Say, and Do”) and construct a graphic organizer to illustrate how they think about and do (or don’t do, or don’t agree with) the things described in the article.  Nonlinguistic Representations and Identifying Similarities and Differences are actually two strategies in one class text, Classroom Instruction that Works.  This assignment occurred to me when I was reading the same reading assignment that the students read, which is a chapter that ties together nine research-based strategies for student achievement.  The photo I’m adding below is actually  my notes in the margin of that book, because as I read the content, it reminded me that I also need to make some super strides in my domain for the Domain of One’s Own initiative if I have any hope of competing.  So the content of the organizer is different from the students’ task, but the process of creating it is the same.


Gone but not forgotten

I had to do this week in two parts–maybe this makes up for the week off for Spring Break.


This will be our last week of the Domain of One’s Own project, but I am hoping to keep some of the key lessons I’ve learned going for the rest of my career.  I have my students write the “big ideas” or understand objectives of their lessons, so I will attempt to do the same.

Wish you were here

“I’ve always been suspicious of a doctorate in Education,” he said.  By some fabulous twist of fate and luck, I sat at a high table in Cambridge for dinner, and a begowned old gentleman was saying these words to me.  How to reply….oh, so many choices…I settled on explaining my work as couched within social psychology and the interactions between people and environments (with schools as a particularly rich environment), and he seemed to be okay with that, and moved on to explaining the various pieces of silver on the table before it was time for the secret cheese course and the Latin.  “You must be here for the Harry Potter experience,” said another, this one a lovely young female, also begowned, as she pushed peas onto the back of her fork.  Well…it was very much like that, yes, but the personae being enacted in the room were almost deafening, and that is what I will remember for life.  The contrast to American college life was stark, to put it mildly.

Spinning (Weller, Chapters 9-11)

This week’s reading sent me spinning in two different directions…


I have in my possession a twelve-minute video of myself teaching the Suchman Inquiry model in class today.  I’ll admit to a little shyness when I watch it back, although I almost uploaded it to this blog…but the file was too big.  So I just put it on Canvas for my students, but then I started to think about whether it would work to have an online place for students or me to upload videos of these various instructional models that I am pretty sure are the answer to helping students think critically (mainly the high schoolers they teach, but also the college students too.)


This particular model involves students forming hypotheses about a problem and attempting to solve it as the teacher responds with yes or no questions–and as a teacher it is so tempting to give them the answer, but the whole point is not to do that, to have them discover it on their own.  

Blogs are Dangerous or We Are the New Media

One of the kinds of research I am into is narrative inquiry, which is basically analyzing the stories that participants tell to determine how they construct meaning in their lives.  I am starting to see nearly everything as a series of stories that we tell.  This can seem cynical at times; as one faculty member from another institution was talking about how her workplace was like a dream world where everyone got along and worked toward common goals, I kind of dismissed it in my mind as the story she had chosen to tell.  This wasn’t out of nowhere, she had described another faculty member who “chose not to get involved” and I wondered about that other person whom I will never know.  Did she really choose that?  How did she feel?  She would tell a different story, I’m sure.

Calling a Few Good Changemakers (Weller, Chapters 6-8)

Weller notes that new technologies are useful to encourage interdisciplinary work and thinking; I couldn’t agree more.  And I think one of my favorite moments is when he uses the term “bespoke” to describe some university projects around technology….what a great word.


I have been thinking a lot lately about dispositions, because at a recent conference I attended it seemed that everyone was scrambling to create a dispositions document–and I have some qualms about that.  Has anyone seen that Arrested Development scene where Gob is trying to throw an envelope into the ocean, and it just keeps blowing back at him?

Ta daaa!!! That’s my first embedded image.  I know, I know, baby steps, people.


I feel like that when I question an idea that has spread like wildfire through a group of people.  

The Online Realm–Does it Complicate Persona?

I am really new to blogging, but I love writing and have for a long time now.  It’s not exactly the same, of course, because blogging is more public, but something I’ve been thinking about recently is that having an online presence makes it more difficult to control one’s teaching persona.


There is an element of presenting the self in everyday life (props to my man Erving Goffman) that involves reading what the audience wants and then providing that for them.  People clearly have certain expectations of what teachers will be and do in the classroom (not all of them are positive), and there are teachers who manage to present the “right” self for their setting and “audience”–the class–even though they are obviously more multi-faceted than that.  They have qualities they choose not to share.  An example is something like swearing or sarcasm; generally teachers of young students choose not to show these sides of themselves (of course there are exceptions).  The same is true of college teaching–that is everyday life, after all–but the expectations are different and there is generally far more freedom, at least in most college settings.  Maybe you aren’t a teacher, but it’s true for you too; you in some way respond to what others expect you to do, wear, dress, speak,  behave.  This doesn’t mean you do what those audiences want or need, but you generally have a sense of those expectations and you respond to them in some way.