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


Setbacks but plugging ahead

Hang in There!

Ah, the hang-in-there kitten.  I can empathize, my friend.


I had planned to work on a #DMCI project with a student who would record video of student lessons in various settings and we’d edit together a video, but the snow and sports and other obligations have meant too little extra time for the project for her.  I am powering ahead but trying to work out how I can be in multiple places at one time to record these lessons.  I need to make my pitch video* and I need to figure out a plan…part of me wants to just carry the camera with me at all times when I’m on campus, and just record snippets of students planning here and there to edit together later.  That would work for my quick intro video plan, but not for the other options such as library of lessons using models that could be really useful to our future students. I also want to capture lessons and planning from students in classes other than my own.  They often record themselves teaching, but on a wide variety of cameras of different levels of quality.  Maybe the various levels of quality could add to the charm, though, and showcase the messiness of it all.  I can see things like the Steadicam Smoothee (described here by Andy Rush) helping with the quality…maybe it’s about a progression of quality in the video clips over time as we figure out how to capture quality video in such far-reaching settings as student teaching practica.


We can do this, kitten.  I know it.



Hello Pandora (In More Ways than One)

I have been thinking about having (but probably not making) my students use Twitter.  This releases a Pandora’s (more on her later, sort of) Box of questions: will they resent it?  Will they use it for the purpose I intend? Will it oversimplify their research?  Will it put them at risk if they are uncomfortable using their real name (that one’s kind of easy: don’t).  I see this blog as a good way of capturing how I have used Twitter over time, and I can also see having them read this to understand more about my motivation for encouraging them to use it.


One of the amazing things about Twitter is that you can see articles and images that are relevant to your interests but that you may never have seen otherwise, such as this photo essay about teenage train hitchhikers that I saw today.  It is just like a visual and literary (and two-way) Pandora station.  A friend once said that he can ask a trade-related question and get instant responses from experts all over the world.  It is super great, folks.


After looking at the photos from the link above, I read many of the comments, which on YouTube can make me fear for the future of humanity.  But here, people commented with their Facebook profiles, which are generally people’s real names and it generally means that people won’t sound like evil, bigoted jerks.  The responses to the images were fascinating:  some people saw a free, romantic life without bills and trips to the grocery store.  They saw the excitement of youth and juxtaposed that with the drudgery of their lives as adults.  Others saw grimy , endangered teens who were running from some unnamed (but imaginable) terror.  Some even directly addressed others to try to “correct” their view of the images, perhaps thinking about the effect these (often well-written) comments might have in swaying others.


This is what Twitter brought me with this one link, in the space of about ten minutes: good images provoke intense reactions; they make us wonder and worry about what we see.  There are so many narratives, many of them competing–and some people want to try to change (or at least the impact) the narrative of others.  Maybe we should do that more.  Where is line between “bossy” and confrontational and reasoned debate?  How does this relate to teaching?  Do some teachers teach that out of students?  Do the best thinkers and debaters do something more “important” with their time and $200,000 scho0ling than educating students?  That’s a narrative, too.  A recent student even just shared (through a message, but I should make it a post) this article about avoiding teaching at “elite” universities.  And there is all of this noise about MOOCs out there too, and I stumbled across this blog post by  Susan Amussen and UMW professor Allyson Poska on MOOCs and feminism and power–which is something I’ve been thinking about too.  All of these things–the power and effects of images and narratives–are true of school and of our content areas, whether it’s history or math or English or art or whatever.  I see it as our job to acknowledge these narratives, question them, and help people develop and share them.  There is a lot of noise that gets in the way.  Good teachers will tune that out.


How does this relate to students conducting action research?  Let’s imagine you, a math teacher, notice that your students are doing poorly on their assessments.  You look on Twitter and search hashtags and find this article on interventions to combat stereotype threat.  It’s not the same as a research article, but it leads the reader to some true research studies that might help form a new and related study.  Publications, writers, and organizations share articles quickly and briefly on Twitter that you MAY NOT FIND ACCESS TO IN OTHER WAYS.  Sure, the library has subscriptions to journals.  But certainly not all of them.  And by following a broad swath of people and organizations that are related to your interests, you will see far more articles, images, blogs, and conversations, spaced out over the day or whenever you are able to “dip into” the feed (props to the great Martha Burtis for that phrase!)


At the end of the day, will I give students a choice about whether to use Twitter?  Sure.  Because how could I teach them about differentiation without doing it myself?  But I do hope that Twitter helps deepen their understanding and interest in the same way it has for me.




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.

Students’ Views of the Virtual Environment

See below for an online Task for 351 Students and any other interested parties:

SlideShare is a great resource for teachers who use Power Point, and it shows lots of best practices of presenting–this one here has a small amount of text (and no audio), but the message is clear and focused.

Step 1: Review this presentation and respond to the questions below on the Canvas discussion board (or here if you are a guest!)


1. What do you think about this view of education in general and of virtual education?
2. How have you seen the five big mistakes in action?
3. (You may need to make a login to browse) What presentations do you see that might be useful for your content area?
4. Respond on Canvas to the discussion board posting named “SlideShare response”
Step 2: Read the following draft proposal to turn our class (351) into a more blended learning environment: OLI
1.Consider what you believe/know about online learning, your knowledge of our class content, and your thoughts about the tasks in the sample syllabus (it’s in the appendix of the OLI file above).
2. Respond on Canvas to the discussion board posting named “OLI/351″
If you are just visiting or want to make a more public comment here, post away!

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.


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.  

Response to The Digital Scholar, Chapters 4-5

Thanks, Weller, for making me feel lucky to work in a place where people are not telling me that I have to publish in a certain kind of journal and not spend my time blogging or tweeting or whatever.  From where I’m sitting, it looks as if those people are under the tidal wave of a trend that’s only getting bigger right now.  Not only do I not hear those things, but we even have this initiative to help us learn more about how to do it!  Sure, it can’t hurt when it comes to getting the institution’s name out there, but props to the powers that be for giving us the room to explore.  It is certainly risky, after all–I am reminded of the “views of the speaker don’t necessarily correspond to the views of the institution” kind of statement.  They are constructing an online identity that each of us are now a node of–the collection of our online identities (and I will call them that now, because they are more than personae in the way we are doing them), together with all the other data and comments and websites and such combine to create the UMW identity.  So I feel glad to be trusted to be a part of that.

Response to Weller reading for Domain of One’s Own Initiative at UMW

I’m responding to the first three chapters of The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Changing Public Appearance, by Martin Weller.  This is for the cool new initiative at UMW I’m getting the chance to participate in right now: A Domain of One’s Own.


I am both fascinated and, frankly, terrified about some of what Weller lays out in these chapters.   One might say it’s…(sunglasses) Or-Weller-ian.  I am hiLARious.


Anyway, where to begin?  Well, foremost in my mind in his discussion of online learning and the role of the university.  While he isn’t sounding our death knell quite yet, he is obviously enamored with the magic of the internet when it comes to online learning.  Hey, sometimes I am too (see last blog post–soon I will know how to link to that here), but as someone who studies and teaches about curricular design and effective teaching practices, I think a MAJOR missing piece in this picture of sharing material in new ways is feedback.  More specifically, when I assign a paper in a class with a reasonable number of students (let’s say 14), I can give feedback on the students’ understandings and knowledge.  When I open up discussion board questions, things can spiral out of hand right quick, and I may not see everything that every student writes.  That’s not to say that we never converse online, we do, but I am envisioning this with many more students and can see the downsides for sure.


I am reminded the super-early days of online learning, which I got to see because I went to Virginia Tech for my undergrad degrees.  There was no Canvas or Facebook or Twitter in the mid-90’s, of course, but back then we had listservs for some classes.  We all had email and used it.  And I will never forget the overly personal email that a student sent to a class listserv of about 50 people ABOUT ANOTHER STUDENT.  The details are juicy, but anyhoo…I digress…