I start the new year, one of my goals is to organize the countless articles, tweets, and posts I have saved and bookmarked over the past many months. It’s no easy task due to the large number of items I have tagged. A few are just silly, like this Twitter thread about how various professions are portrayed in the movies. Here are a few of the hundreds of entries in the thread: The original tweet from @Ceilidhann: Hello, I'm a writer in a movie. I write one piece a week and live in a two bedroom New York apartment with a walk-in wardrobe. Also I never actually pitch anywhere, the jobs just come to me. Hello. I’m a computer geek in a movie. I can break into any system by typing random keys extremely fast then shouting ‘I’m in!’ All the while this is happening green text will be projected scrolling up my face. My T shirt has a band on it too. (@Chrishollis11) Hi, I’m a pregnant lady in a movie. My waters break in a huge gush at the most inconvenient time while I experience my first and very painful contraction. Very soon I push a 3 month old out in one screaming heave. Baby is miraculously not attached to anything. (@mslaurasawesome) Hello, I'm a bartender. Detectives often come by my bar, asking questions about a person who was last seen having a drink there a week ago. I flip my white bar towel over my shoulder and can suddenly remember every detail of the person in question and who they were with. (@Sean_Ford1) So, yeah. Those are a fun way to pass some time.
But what I really needed was a way to organize hundreds of other interesting articles and links, things I wanted to come back to, think about more deeply, or talk about. I had so many bookmarked items that Twitter often froze as I tried to scroll through the list. Not super functional. I did a Google search and found an app called Wakelet that is really coming in handy. (There really is an app for everything.) Wakelet lets me create “collections” that keep different topics organized. I’ve downloaded the app on my phone, and now instead of bookmarking things into one big jumble in Twitter, I share the posts directly into my organized collections like Pedagogy, Individual Differences, and School and Classroom Culture.
For all the many downsides of social media, the educator universe on Twitter is very powerful and positive. And those moments of connection – where something you’ve posted resonates with someone else and vice versa – are very nourishing. It’s about seeing and being seen in some small way. And it is interesting and important to think about which students in our classrooms get that kind of nourishing feedback and which students tend to slide under the radar.
This next tweet comes from a similar place. We have to know our students well in order to find ways to give genuine feedback and create moments of connection. A couple of students in my math class, who are not the biggest fans of fractions, still managed to make one of the class’ most useful and entertaining videos about mixed number multiplication. It was lively and funny and let me see their considerable strengths in a totally different way than any paper and pencil task could have.
And this one makes me think about another moment from class recently. We were talking about when fraction division is useful and a student suggested the answer is “never,” adding that no one ever divides fractions or does any other math outside of math class. A few others agreed. Yep, we do math mainly because we’re forced to. It’s easy enough to hear the complaint in there. But it’s more challenging and fruitful to listen for the request. Some students are not yet finding what we are doing relevant to their lives or interests. Fraction division is medicine for a headache they don’t have. And that was the request in the complaint. Help me understand why I should care about this. Other tweets ask us to sit with them a little longer. They challenge our assumptions or ask us to think about issues or systems more critically, like these:
Sorting tweets turned out to be surprisingly engaging task, though more time-consuming than I might have predicted. I found among my bookmarked items tweets that entertained (and among those, some that I thought my students would really enjoy but had forgotten about), tweets that shared innovative ideas or ways to think about teaching particular topics (I even found a great and real-life task for fraction division), and others that made me stop, think, and ask hard questions. If you are an educator or administrator who hasn’t checked out Twitter yet, I’d highly encourage it. But have a system for organizing what you find. Post script: In case anyone was wondering whether there were any “I’m a teacher in a movie” contributions, I did find a few: Hello, I’m a new teacher in a movie. When my first group of kids are acting up because of whatever reason, I just yell something cool like Yolo, lol or Fortnite, and they all get quiet, like me a lot and never make a sound again for the rest of the year. (@simenspurkland) Hey, I’m a teacher in a movie. First, all of the students ignore me and give me a hard time. I want to quit and the other teachers are like zombies. Soon though, we learn more about each other, become friends, and every student loves coming to my class and learning. (@MkTeritoryPD) (If you find this thread as amusing as I clearly did, the original post from Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) on January 3 has a few thousand retweets and hundreds of responses.) Photos courtesy of Kristin Blais