Twitter Droppings

Being a small collection of links from my Twitter posts this past week that deserve a few more than 140 characters.

For many years we’ve been told that we need to differentiate our instruction. But, according to one writer, it doesn’t work. More specifically, “Differentiation is a failure, a farce, and the ultimate educational joke played on countless educators and students.” I wouldn’t go that far but I’m concerned the concept is being used to push “personalized” or “individualized” instruction which, as I wrote in an earlier post, is often about automating the learning process. That could be the ultimate joke.

One writer seems to believe there’s Too Much Damn TV: “1,715 TV series aired in 2014, of which 352 were scripted.” Yes, that is insane. It also makes me wonder how producers found 1363 subjects in the “real” world that were interesting enough to record.

Last week saw the first serious talks with Cuba in nearly 40 years. It’s great progress but also represents just how pig-headed US leadership can be. This “normalization” is long overdue and hopefully will lead to rethinking some of our other stupid foreign policy.

And finally, a milestone for anyone who has flown on US carriers in the past thirty years, Sky Mall is filing for bankruptcy. The cause is supposed to be “internet access and more gadgets on planes” but I’d like to think that people just got a little smarter about spending their money on that catalog’s crapgadgets. Or maybe not.

Twitter Droppings

Being a small collection of links from my tweets of the past week that deserve a few more than 140 characters.

The Bootstrap Myth, an episode of the always interesting DecodeDC podcast. It’s all about the fact that “as compelling as the story is, the data show it’s not nearly as common as we’d like to believe”. Or that lazy  and/or deceitful politicians want us to believe. Go listen.

The Post headline begins The U.S. has more jails than colleges. Unfortunately, the article is mostly statistics and an infographic about where those prisoners live, not about the much larger issues of why we have so many Americans in jail. Another big issue, however, is why the Post spends so much of its energy on trivia instead of covering issues.

Air travel is not a fun experience any more and has become much worse in just the past five or so years. A writer in The New Yorker says that change is no accident. Airlines want basic passengers to pay additional fees (which is largely pure profit) for a better experience, and are willing to make the basic one crappy to do it.

To go with that downer about air travel, an essay explaining Why Americans Are Terrible at Vacation. For one thing, “America is the only advanced economy in the world that does not have government-mandated, paid time off”. But there’s also the fact that 41% of us who have paid time off don’t even use it all.

And finally, for many decades we’ve heard all kinds of predictions of how artificial intelligence (AI) is coming. Now some big thinkers (like Elon Musk and Steven Hawking) are afraid it’s here and we aren’t ready. What kind of ethics can be built into self-driving cars and stock trading algorithms? And who decides?

Twitter is About Today

A writer on Medium explains Why I love Twitter and barely tolerate Facebook, starting with “Twitter put simply is fun, fantastic, and all about the here and now.” while “Facebook is mired in the past.”.

There’s no memory at Twitter: everything is fleeting. Though that concept may seem daunting to some (archivists, I feel your pain), it also means the content in my feed is an endless stream of new information, either comments on what is happening right now or thoughts about the future.

Twitter is a steady stream of mostly joy and makes my life better. Facebook is filled with people I barely know, chain-emails and disaster news about the sky falling that reminds me of my own past as well as my “friends” at every turn. The Internet is here today and all about tomorrow, and I prefer my social media to reflect that, and that’s why I love Twitter.

No matter how you feel about the two services,1 the short piece is worth a read.


  1. I also love Twitter and may have an even lower opinion of Facebook than he does.

Marketing Without Twitter

I’m not a fan of internet censorship filtering in schools (or really anywhere). I know we want to keep kids away from the really bad stuff on the web, so I’ll grant that some electronic measures are necessary.

Still I see far too many teachers relying on the technology instead of learning to manage internet use in their classrooms, and especially as an alternative to helping their students learn to responsibly navigate the web. Maybe because it’s not on the test.

Anyway, when it comes to filtering, I have to admit our overly-large school district does a pretty good job in keeping a very light touch on the process. At the top level we choose to block sites in certain categories, mostly the stuff the state requires. Staff members then have the option to request that specific sites be blocked (or unblocked) at their school, subject to approval of the principal.

Although in the past many schools chose to put resources like Facebook and YouTube on the block, very few, even at the elementary level, do so now. Blocking Pinterest is currently popular but that will probably change over time and a new boogyman will take it’s place.

However, every so often, a blocking request is submitted that I find somewhat puzzling and, in this case, rather amusing.

Last month a teacher in one of our high schools submitted a request (twice) to have Twitter blocked. It seems there had been some bullying incidents using that service and she seemed to believe that getting rid of the website would help solve the problem. It’s not an unusual approach: blame the technology. I’m guessing she didn’t realize students were likely using their phones to access Twitter, bypassing both our network and Twitter’s homepage.

What I found really odd about the request came from what this person teaches: business marketing.

How the hell do you teach about marking products and services in 2013 without addressing the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites? Every company in the US and elsewhere is scrambling to figure out how to make these tools work for them.

Of all the classes in this school, I would expect social media to be a major topic in those dealing with the modern business world.

By the way, the principal denied the request, although I don’t know if any of this was part of his reasoning.

A Few More Characters

Some of the links I tweeted this week that deserve a little more comment.

Both the Mind/Shift blog and The New Yorker took note of different studies both of which suggest that daydreaming is a natural part of being human and necessary to our mental health. Of course, many parts of American culture (school?) equate daydreamers with slackers.

From the Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning blog an explanation of Why Teachers Need Social Media Training, Not Just Rules. The New York City Department of Education recently issued a nine page set of those rules which, if they were smart, would be the starting point for some great discussions (between teachers and students as well), rather than the final word.

From Gary Stager, Throw a Few Million American Teachers on the Barbie in which he notes that American teachers, despite being “insulted, mocked, punished, shamed, blamed and threatened” for the past decade generally refuse to stand up for themselves as a profession. He’s right. Certainly we’ll never see in the US something like what educators in Victoria, Australia recently did when they walked out and shut down 150 schools in that state.

Also from Stager, a long list of things he’s tired of. As with most of what Gary says and writes, I only agree with about half of it. However, to his list I would add that I’m very tired of districts like mine who allocate increasing amounts of time, attention, and technology to the mundane task of testing and test prep rather than using all those resources “to amplify student potential”.

And finally from the Read Write Web blog, a post revealing that millennials are not so tech savvy after all. That’s a lesson many teachers need to learn. Kids certainly know how to use computers for fun and games but they need to learn how technology can be applied to their learning. That’s our job.