I was honored yesterday to take part in a panel discussion at the #140 Character Conference with Lisa Nielson (@InnovativeEdu) and Kevin Jarrett (@kjarrett), moderated by Aparna Vashisht (@Parentella) and focused around teaching Social Media to students.

The talk was part of a conference put on by Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) to celebrate connections made through social media and the real-time internet and explore the possibilities these tools hold for the future as well as the “State of Now.” Watch a great interview with Jeff here.

It was powerful to listen to talks based around how the real-time internet will change how we interact with our physical surroundings as well as talks on news gathering and the voting system as well as Chris Lehmann’s (@chrislehmann) powerful School 2.0 talk (haven’t seen it? Shame on you. Watch it here.) I also enjoyed MC Hammer’s interview (he is seriously legit, no joke!) and the panel discussion with the founders of both Foursquare (@dens) and Gowalla (@jw)–competing companies that offer a similar service. There was also a spirited talk by Chris Weingarten (@1000TimesYes) that you can watch here.  Warning. Lots of F-Bombs.

What struck me was how many of the panelists and speakers kept referring to using Twitter to make personal connections.  Many of the attendees at the #140 Character Conference are business people, marketers, members of the media (newspapers, radio, et al.), etc… and are trying to find ways to connect with their clients, audience or customers in a personal way.

We, as educators, it seems are way ahead of the business world in how we use Twitter to make real, meaningful connections.  The education panels themselves are proof enough of this. I had never met anyone on the 2 panels face to face (except Kevin, my edcamp Philly co-conspirator) but I have known them for a year on Twitter.  The connections we had made over the last year through Twitter made it seem as though we were long time friends.  We wasted no time laughing, cracking jokes and holding meaningful discussions about education and technology.

Here is our short but sweet panel discussion on Real Time Communication and Education.

Once they are up, I will embed the second education panel of Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby), Steven Anderson (@web20classroom) and Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal), moderated by Kyle Pace (@kylepace). It was quite passionate!

Thanks to http://www.ippio.com for segmenting the videos for easy viewing!

You can also see a great talk by a teacher who used Twitter to teach his students Animal Farm by George Orwell on their site here.

30 Thoughts on “The #140 Character Conference”

  • I just happened to click on your link to "MC Hammer"'s twitter and found what I usually find on twitter– incomprehensible half-thoughts, incomplete sentences, not at all what I would consider meaningful conversation. In the wake of this 140 conference, I'm going to begin an investigation into how much Silicon Valley and corporate America is behind the Web 2.0 connection with educators as far as possible sponsorships, gifts-in-kind, and other means to "buy" support. I mean, I can't imagine any normal individual getting so excited about cell phones unless they are somehow profiting from the advocacy. I just sense a very insidious and potentially corruptive relationship here. The cell phone industry, for example, generates multi-billions in sales, and the cheerleading I'm hearing from some teachers just makes me wonder who's paying for the pom-poms! I'm sorry, I have to be suspicious of commercial interests interfering with education at this level. This is way beyond buying basic classroom supplies from Oriental Trading, this is about a capitalistic juggernaut trying to remake society in their own consumerist/materialist image.
    EDIT: I've learned that Jeff Pulver, the telecom gazillionaire, was the brains and bucks behind the 140 Conference. It proves my point. Pushing Web 2.0 is a profit venture, not an altruistic one.

  • I'm also convinced, although I can't prove it as yet, that at least one (if not more) of the higher ranking education reps at the 140 Conference are in the tank for Apple and other Silicon Valley business interests. One of the more known education blogs right now is running this strange crusade against smartboards. Now, if someone is pro-tech use in the classroom, why would they be so against one type of tech? Of course, smartboards aren't sexy like the iFads from Apple and smartboards aren't part of the pop culture driven fads among the geek crowd. And some of these people, I want to see their complete education and teaching credentials to gauge whether or not they're really qualified to judge what's best for education. It's as bad as Daniel Pink. he's not a teacher, he doesn't have a teaching certification, he's never managed a classroom, yet, he's pontificating on education like he knows what he's talking about.

  • "I'm going to begin an investigation into how much Silicon Valley and corporate America is behind the Web 2.0 connection with educators as far as possible sponsorships, gifts-in-kind, and other means to "buy" support." <– I'm sure that we would all applaud your efforts on this front. If someone is getting a "kickback" for pushing for technology use in the classroom, I'd like to know about it. My money says no-way-in-hell, but please, dig away. That info we can all use.
    However, I will say this: why aren't you taking on inflated textbook pricing as well? Isn't that its own capitalistic juggernaut?
    Whether or not the 140 conference is worth more than one-too-many-hugs-from-strangers is up for completely separate debate. It seems to me that most teachers are using Twitter to connect, swap some ideas (kind of like happy hour, really), and then they reconvene about their conversations/ideas outside of Twitter. I'm not sure that MC Hammer's tweet stream is at all indicative of the efficacy of teacher interaction on Twitter (and look, I'm not a teacher and not part of a "PLN" so I'm not asserting otherwise; I'm simply saying that those of us who aren't part of it don't really have access to exchanges that go on behind the scenes).
    However, what really strikes me about your comments is that you seem *livid*. Why are you so furious about people who aren't inside the classroom getting in on the education conversation? It seems you're deeply concerned that something larger is at stake and I'd really like to understand what exactly that is.
    I'm going to go spend some time reading your blog.

  • It is great to see a different perspective than what I normally see in regards to the 140 Conference, Daniel Pink, and IWB's. I also love a good conspiracy theory. Unfortunately none of your arguments are supported very well. It is no secret who Jeff Pulver is or that he is responsible for the 140 Character Conference. I have had over six years of experience using IWB's and I am convinced they are one of the most over-hyped pieces of technology in schools. I too am no advocate of schools spending money on them. Finally, while I admit Daniel Pink has no teaching credentials, I would argue that he is still a teacher (unless you consider him an entertainer.) Do you actually believe that a teaching certificate is what makes one a teacher?

    Please don't take this as a personal attack, I think your viewpoint is valuable and would love to have you share more of it with me. You can find me on Twitter as @wmchamberlain.

  • Guess what? People like to make money. Right now, by using the Internet, commenting on this blog, any number of large corporations and already filthy rich individuals are making more money, off of your participation.

    I generally don't like/trust teachers as a group. In fact, I think the whole system is broken. But any of the individual teachers I have met and interacted with on Twitter have been dedicated, thoughtful and genuinely interested in make the educational experience better for kids. But, I have a feeling that that doesn't really matter to you and would question my interests, affiliations and education/qualifications. I started to use Twitter in the hopes of growing my business. I now use Twitter because I am meeting some fantastic, innovative and inspiring people, booth for-profit and non-profit.

    I appreciate the effort to be provocative and speaking truth to power. But do you know what you're talking about?

  • Mark,

    The way you make this such a black and white issue is hard to comprehend. The only goal of the educators I interact with on Twitter is to find new exciting ways to engage students. SmartBoards and cellphones don't engage students and I would say the same for any other new "sexy" tech tool. Passionate teachers who know how to utilize these tools engage students.

    In regards to Dan Pink, I think that he cites a great deal of research in both Drive and A Whole New MInd. Have you really read them? If so, I am not sure what there is to argue about. He makes some clear connections that the quality teachers I know agree whole-heartedly with.

    How do you think schools should change? Just wondering if you have some thoughts on what we could do to make our schools more relevant and engaging places where students would find their passion.

  • Lee, I'm curious about your comment, because it's similar to others I've heard: "I generally don't like/trust teachers as a group…. But any of the individual teachers I have met and interacted with on Twitter have been dedicated, thoughtful and genuinely interested in make the educational experience better for kids." On what is your distrust based, then? Have you met dozens or hundreds of other individual teachers who aren't dedicated, thoughtful, and interested in a better experience for kids? Or is it just a general impression based on assumptions and rumors and media depictions of "teachers as a group" (as though teachers are some sort of Borg collective)?

    Please forgive me if this sounds harsh–it isn't intended to be, though I am a bit weary of teachers being talked about as a group when we are actually millions of individuals. It's kind of like saying all Americans are alike. Or all teenagers. Or all talk show hosts. Or all business owners. Are there some likenesses? Sure. Does that mean all agree on all points? Heck no.

    If your (and by extension, the public's) distrust of teachers is based on something of substance, then let's deal with that. If it isn't, then I'd ask you to reexamine that distrust and instead look to the actual, individual teachers whom you do know to form the basis of your opinion.

  • bhsprincipal: "Do you actually believe that a teaching certificate is what makes one a teacher?"

    if you are teaching at the K-12 level and aren't certified by your state, then you should be disqualified.

    Jeff Pulver isn't really interested in kids' educations that way teachers should be. He's interested in pushing the Silicon Valley telecomm inspired wares and meeting his bottom line. Daniel Pink selectively cites research that fits his agenda. He doesn't cite anything that disagrees or that offers any balance. My wife was forced to read one of his books a few years back and I happened to read it as well. I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about regarding Pink, an non-practicing attorney who needed something to do so he wrote a book. He's a band wagon provocateur and little else. I've written a few pieces on Pink and the other Peter Pan-ish Sir Ken on my blog, which you are free to read and comment on, if you wish.

    "what we could do to make our schools more relevant and engaging places where students would find their passion."

    Hire teachers who aren't dullards, who have electric personalities that turn a teaching day into a rapid fire performance that doesn't give kids time to stop and think about the time. Hire teachers who are true artists at heart, not clock watchers or pencil pushers who consider pop culture the zenith of aesthetic achievement. You want Robin Williams from The Dead Poet's Society, not Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller.

  • Having re-read Mark's comments…

    point 1–be aware of who is pushing certain technologies into school. While I don;t think the cell phone industry is behind the push for cell phones, I do think cell phone junkies are. I think the problem is that we are pushing "cell phones" instead of "hand held" computers. People can't get their heads wrapped around using "phones" in class–but if you left off phones and simply said what the computer in the phone was being used for I think there would be a better chance of connecting with folks like Mark.

    point 2-watch out for the cool kids in the ed world telling you what tools to use with your kids. It is a bit crazy how one big shot blogger could brag about a tool and then everyone is using it and while the class might look more exciting, what has really changed?

    point 3-be wary of non-educators telling us what to do in a classroom. Would teachers get upset if a principal was hired that was a business consultant, or an author who had never taught before?

    Sorry, but in a twitter world and ed tech world where everyone wants to have a conversation about "change," it seems as though they only want to have it with folks who have the same vision as their own. As soon as someone comes out with strong passionate words that oppose their own they are seen as argumentative or crazy.

    MB–let me tell you where my comment is coming from….last week I was the "Mark" at our Bd of Ed meeting. I was simply dismissed as argumentative, unresearched, and not worthwhile to listen to. I was ignored by an entire room of people and dismissed as the crazy one as I talked about views that if I tweeted out would have gotten shouts of joy from the chorus in twitterland. I think we all dismiss those views that are so different from ours…and yes we call them argumentative when posted on our blogs. I still think it is awesome that your blog is so great that someone who doesn't even agree with you would take the time to write an opposing viewpoint. Focus on your awesomeness and be proud that you elicited such a great opposing viewpoint, and less on the view 😉
    By the way, is it true you are getting a Smartboard tat?
    I should go back and re-read…but will post as is!

  • Elizabeth King: "However, I will say this: why aren't you taking on inflated textbook pricing as well? Isn't that its own capitalistic juggernaut?"

    How else do you expect teachers to be paid for the books they author? Do you think they should write textbooks for free?

    "I'm going to go spend some time reading your blog."

    Please do and feel free to comment. I guarantee you, you'll find it different from 99% of the other education oriented blogs. You see, I'm not carrying water for business interests. I'm not a shill for corporate America.

  • What is more important in a teacher? A passion for performing, or a passion for learning? I'll take someone who is passionate about helping children learn over someone with an electric personality any day. I can teach performance skills to the former. Performance and keeping students engaged is certainly part of the craft of teaching. There is far, far more to it, though. I can tell you I've been at it for nearly two decades, and I'm not close to having it all figured out yet, let alone mastered. I learn a great deal about my profession every day, and every time I teach I find out how much more I still have to learn.

  • First, I'm curious which education blogs you read written by corporate shills. I follow many, including this one, and know some of the authors personally, including this one, and I can truthfully say that not one of them are blogging as a way to drum up business for any corporation. All of them blog because they care about the profession and about generating conversation among colleagues about issues that matter to them.

    Second, if you believe that by purchasing textbooks you are supporting teacher-authors, you might be interested in this article about how school textbooks are actually compiled:http://www.edutopia.org/textbook-publishing-contr

  • marybeth: You see how desperate people get and how resentful they can be. By the way, my LinkedIn profile should read:

    "I hold an Instructional I certification in Elementary Education K-6 and an Instructional I certification in Special Education N-12."

    I believe 70 graduates credits (nine shy of an M.Ed) in education qualifies me to speak confidently about our profession, added to fifteen years in classrooms.

    People in the business selling wares to teachers view me as a threat, because I don't buy their sales pitches or respect their aim to undermine the teaching profession. I am not anti-tech, I am anti-Big Business.

  • Mark, I think you are missing the point of this post entirely. It's not about the technology but rather the connections that people make because of it. It's not about the latest gadget but rather how people are inspired to use it. There are tools that allow us to gain insight to a student's thinking like never before and best of all, they are free. It's not about the iPad, or the cell phone, or the IWB. It is about being creative, interactive, and having access. People will use some technologies effectively and avoid others. I, personally, love smartphones for the classroom; the kids now have my classroom in their pockets. Give me an IWB however, and I'm going to ask you why you spent thousands of dollars on a mouse. It's just not a tool that I use. Web 2.0 lets the teachers and more importantly, the students decide what works best for them. You're coming from a classroom perspective that is top down and frankly, outdated. View this from another perspective and you will understand.

  • Gerald: One posts to a blog or a message board and they're raving about Apple and Steve Jobs and the iFad and saying things like "this is the FUTURE!" and peppering their speech with descriptors like "21st century!" and "empowerment." It makes them sound like shills, because that's marketing salespeak to push the purchase of an expensive toy gadget.

    Teachers aren't supposed to be involved in public marketing campaigns for Silicon Valley. They are supposed to focus on their classrooms and their kids in order to do the job they were hired to do.

    I'm already familiar with the process of publishing textbooks and yes, most all authors would agree that the earnings aren't typically lucrative. But really, the payoff arrives from the rise up the ladder either toward tenure or a higher faculty rank.

  • Gerald: performance skills are inborn. You can't turn a dullard into someone interesting. It can't be done. The kids of the present want to be entertained as well as taught. it goes without saying that proper pedagogy must play a part. It was never my suggestion that one supplants the other. But if you can't grab their attention at the outset with some performance razzle dazzle, then even the best researched lesson will be for naught. That's fact.

  • Wmchamberlain: I personally refuse to twitter, as I won't let an app limit how many words I can employ to convey my thoughts. if kids want to use it, fine.

    Daniel Pink is an attorney and an author. if he wants to be a teacher in the formal sense where he can knowingly discuss educational issues, then he should go to school and earn a degree or a certification.

    It's like if I wrote a book on the problems in the legal profession. What would be the point? I'm not an attorney.

  • Paul: I am compelled to be skeptical and suspicious anytime free market mavens attempt to interfere with what I do.

    My view is that most crises are invented to sell something new to the masses that they likely don't need, but feel they have to have because some dubious authority figure says they must.
    The Big Lie theory often comes to mind when I read supposed education "experts" predicting a future of complete technical subordination in schools. Sadly, so many well-meaning educators are lapping this stuff up without thinking.

    That's the big problem I have. I'm noting so much lemming-like behavior it's scary.

  • Mike: I look at the Big Picture, it most certainly IS about technology and how too many people are letting themselves being carried away by it all like little kids on Christmas day instead of taking a measured and deliberate approach to vet it properly. There needs to be far more scrutiny because very little that's pushed by pop culture and Madison Avenue in the last thirty years is any good, at least the way I see it.

    if you require a gadget to be functionally creative and interactive in any regular educational setting, then you should consider another profession. At best, it's an enhancement, not a substitute for anything. However, the ravings I'm hearing are from these grown-up gadget junkies who think kids nowadays shouldn't be functioning without it. it's just as Paul Bogush said in another post down the list.

    I can't appreciate gadget junkies. Material possessions that are mostly luxuries don't do anything for me. That's a value that was instilled in me when growing up. Materialism is evil. This whole Web 2.0 movement is so entrenched in this mad consumerist obsession in society, which is why I must speak out in favor of more deliberate action. Still moving forward, but carefully and less conspicuously.

    Fearful of the top down approach? Sounds like you're too afraid to assert your authority over kids. Are you a parent, if I may ask? Do you let them run your household? Just wondering.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if you are the same person that posted as "Concerned" earlier who couldn't properly read my LinkedIn page. You sound suspiciously like someone that tried a similar distortion tactic on a LinkedIn message board a few months ago. He was the last person to suggest I'm not a teacher. Just remember, Concerned Lee, I've spent fifteen years in classrooms working with students. I did not abandon them after a few years to chase bigger bucks in the corporate world. If you truly cared for students, you'd be in a classroom making a difference for not much pay, not sitting in a cubicle making cold calls, chasing leads, and padding an expense account. That's why I don't value awards or honors. I can't pay my mortgage or feed my children with a paper certificate lined in gold leaf telling me what I already know, that I did a great job.

  • Fair enough, just like cell phones work for me, pencils must work for you.

    I must say though, that technology has made so much more possible. Have you ever used one of the many iterations of etherpad? Now I don't just get a rough and final draft, I get to see every edit a student made as if I was watching over their shoulder and gain much deeper insight to their thought processes.

    Have you ever used Jing to evaluate work? Now I can explain my evaluations beyond small corrections in the margin. The feedback is much more in depth and useful to the students.

    Have you ever used google docs to collaborate with your peers? We now knock out work in 1/4 the amount of time it would have taken otherwise. I can now say that I have a life again. Not to mention that I set up share folders to collaborate with individuals worldwide. Without even thinking, their lesson plans show up in my inbox and mine in theirs. It has been a wealth of inspiration.

    And as far as the smartphones are concerned, my kids now have full 24hr access to my classroom, a daily planner that they won't lose, a communication system for me and their classmates to reach them (check out textmarks.com), a camera that can be used as a scanner, a notebook if synced with evernote, a dictaphone, an mp3 player for recorded lectures, and a video camera that is better than the one I would have to sign out of the library.

    All I have described is just the tip of the iceberg and besides the smartphone, it's all free. Who WOULDN'T be excited about that?

  • Sorry, Mike, but what you're describing doesn't sound like a life to me, but rather enslavement. Get back to me in ten years when that tumor in your head from constant cell phone use becomes bothersome for you.

    As for excitement, simple pleasures do it for me. I'm a grown up, not a retro-adolescent looking for non-stop thrills.

  • Enslavement through collaboration and a reduced work-load? Crazy talk! I now agree with wmchamberlain above, you are just hear to argue and grief.

  • Great points, Paul and much appreciated.

    We should always be wary of using a tool just because it's flashy and cool and someone with a large reach says to use it. I am always wary of non-educators telling us what to do in the classroom. Especially since we have no school board and that is exactly what happens every day here in Philly.

    I agree that there is often too much back-patting on Twitter and we are all "preaching to the choir." The struggle is to have a productive, civilized and professional dialogue coming from both sides. Thanks for providing some food for thought.

  • You're wrong, Mike. Many people of your generation cannot view the situation from a traditional adult/parent perspective. You're viewing this from the perspective of children who need to play with their toys. I'm fifty years old. I don't have much n common with twenty or thirty year olds. They seem like they're from another planet sometimes and not from the America I once knew.

  • "Hauck’s Honors: The only honor or award that means anything to me is a paycheck." –This is not only shameful, but also down-right sickening."

    When you grow up in an impoverished household like I did, you learn that you can't feed yourself or your family on accolades and praise from strangers.

  • You conveniently left out the part where I worked and taught at the university level for about 12 years. If you are going to rip me, then don't lie and distort the facts.

  • I certainly hope you weren't referring to me, william, unless you believe I don't have an obligation to defend myself against those lying about my professional record.

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