Posted by: elightkeeper | June 13, 2011

Blogging on reality’s back channel

Today at 4 pm PST, Education Minister George Abbott will be engaged in a conversation with BC educators on Twitter.  It is great to be a part of this landmark event, but I already know I will be lost in it all.  By the time I think of anything to ask or comment on, the topic will be long gone. I’ve already experienced this on time-based Twitter chats.

In terms of personality traits, I am reflective to a fault.  Entering into today’s chat, I know that tweets are going to fly by me like data spewing out of an old mainframe computer running an ERIC search.  (Trust me, if you don’t know what that is, you don’t want to know.)  As one might deduce, this reflective personality trait does not bode well for high-speed mental tasks. I am a rotten card player and I stink at charades.  Given my nature, I shouldn’t like Twitter at all.  But I do.  In spite of the intermittent information deluges and droughts, it does afford a measure of reflection. It has that flexibility.

Twitter has been compared to a river. We are advised by Twitsperts* to let information flow past, picking up that which we can, and letting the rest go by.  This is helpful as a coping strategy. At the same time, it can lead to large gaps in cognitive assembly.  I wonder about the new wisdom in catching half a topic.  Of course, it is likely better than catching no topic at all.  Nonetheless, trying to erect a damn on the great river Twitter and capture everything for later reading is not the answer. It isn’t even possible.

Today, while the Twitter chat takes place, I am creating a back channel on my blog. This is a switch. Typically, Twitter forms the back channel at live presentations. Consider this a different kind of river, where I’m blogging the flow as I get it, and embedding it in my administrative reality. Here we go on the topic of Personalized Learning (PL) and Technology:

  • “George Abbott ” PL is a focus on each student and their needs and interests ensuring that they receive the support they need to be successful”
  • Toby Steeves asks “A focus on the student from whose position – the students’? How ‘personal’ is a curriculum driven by standards?”

Ah. The old standards question rears its head early into the conversation.

  • “What is personal learning?” asks Chris Rozitis.
  • Will there be less focus on standardized curricula with the movement to more personalized learning? asks Chris Weir

I wish I had two screens to flip between WordPress and Twitter.  Tweets are not ripping, as expected, but coming in small clumps. Where are the peeps today?

  • George Abbott replies, “there will still be standard curricula but it will be focused on competencies not just on content for more flexibility”
  • Toby Steeves again: “Where? In many schools in Vancouver Internet is an embarrassment. Completely unreliable.”

Toby must be sharing my bandwidth, I note, while waiting a painful amount of time for a fresh batch of tweets to load.  One of my teachers comes in to talk with me about reporting procedures for Grade 12 students.  I return to Twitter to find 11 new tweets. Things are picking up.

  • We have a question and a comment concerning legislation about teacher loads (read class size and contracts) in DL.
  • And another.
  • And another complaint about connectivity and a BCeSIS thrown in for good measure.
  • And it wouldn’t be a technology conversation without the R word mentioned (resources)
  • Darcy Mullin: “when the ministry came to our district there was talk about white space in the curriculum.  to me that’s a start”

I’m looking for a definition of “white space”. But wait. I have white space in front of me right now. I get it. Getting away from content. Creating one’s own learning.

  • Tom Hierck “What’s the relationship between standardized testing and PL21?”

The light just burned out in my office. A clerical person comes in who has a dispute over shared workload.

  • Randy Labonte writes, “PL, like tech=catalyst to engaged learning. We are stuck in a broken educ paradigm needing reinventing.”

I think the light burning out in my office is a sign that Randy’s comment is really important. Or it could just be the bad wiring in my office.

I’m waiting to see what Minister Abbott chooses to respond to, or say next. Perhaps he is reflecting, thinking about how to address scattered but interesting commentary.

  • George Abbott: “I am a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson & embrace his concept of multiple paths to education success at all levels incl sec”

A beautifully-crafted, inclusive and elusive response to something. It is a general statement that requires no attachment to what went before.  Good thing, as I missed whatever it was.

  • Alissa Pratt says “personalized learning also = the freedom for personalized teaching

That’s a great way to look at things.

  • David Wees “Those of us who have blogs, can we agree to write a reflection on these issues and share our ideas in more detail later?”

Well, shoot, David. I’m on it. I love that you use the word “reflection”. A teacher comes in, needing help with digital reporting procedures. I spend another 15 minutes alleviating suffering.

  • And finally, from Minister Abbott: “Thank you to everyone who participated! Look forward to future dialogue through this and other means – Go Canucks Go!”

I’m back and everyone on Twitter is leaving for the hockey game that starts in 5 minutes.

And that’s 60 minutes – 3 periods of play -with elightkeeper. What did you learn today?

*Twitsperts: (N) 1. Twitter experts.  Not to be confused with Twitspurts, which refers to n. i) little kids on Twitter or v. ii) a sudden rush of brilliance that is miraculously contained in 140 characters or less.



  1. Great blog. Very helpful in putting things in perspective. I am really interested in what you and others would like to see, use and be a part of in the future as we move toward more open government and citizen engagement. I commend Minister Abbott in taking on the twitter chanllenge. And I commend all of you for participating. This is new space for all of us.

    • Hello Eve, I also commend Minister Abbott for engaging in the Twitter stream. As my blog post suggests, it can be a rather daunting task just to track a Twitter chat. To be the focus of the questions makes it even more challenging. Twitter is a great equalizer, as partipants with a common interest join in by choice – elected officials, trustees, administrators, teachers, students, parents and citizens. Events like this, while seemingly small, begin to eliminate old constructs that have served as barriers to communication and openess in education and community. Posting a comment here is a gesture of engagement. I am hopeful that a very insightful parent who emailed me privately will add a comment to ours as well. When all voices engage, particularly those who have historically been silent or separated by design, we will make great strides. Thank you for your comments, and for being part of building something new. Cindy

  2. Thanks for posting this – I am a student teacher and it’s really interesting for me to read the tweets bouncing around on BCed. I appreciate the detail you add to those tweets in your blog. I am just getting to know the curriculum and I completely respect George Abbott for partaking in the discussion.

    • Hi Nicole, As you will have noticed, the tweets aren’t properly sequenced and not all of them were captured on my blog. But that was part of my intent. But Twitter still works, doesn’t it? To be able to engage in dialogue with the Minister of Education is not something most of us would get an opportunity to do in the past. Thanks for adding your comments. Cindy

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