Is this a bad thing?

I was thinking about a comment on a fantastic blog post by Sue Dunlop (@principaldunlop) during my Staff Meeting today. Sue was replying to some comments from other educators about mobile technology, and here’s what she said:


This really got me thinking, as I’m the person that will be texting (or in my case, tweeting) during a meeting, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not engaged.

I can’t just sit and listen. I’ll sit quietly, but I won’t absorb anything. If you ask me what I learned at the end of the meeting, I’ll say, “I don’t remember.” It can be the best presentation ever, but I guarantee that I won’t remember any of it — unless I write it down. A funny thing happens when I write things down: I remember them, even if I never look at them again.

Today was a PA Day in my Board, and we were in meetings all day long. I started off the day presenting to the staff, but then I sat down and watched a presentation on John Hattie and visible learning. This presentation largely included watching this great video where Hattie explains his beliefs and research.

I decided to do something that I don’t usually do during a Staff Meeting: I chose to tweet out what I was learning. It was incredible! I couldn’t keep up with all of Hattie’s wonderful quotes. Best of all though, when I was sharing them, I was also thinking about them, and I started to make connections. Now not only did my tweets help me remember what Hattie said, but they helped me make sense of what Hattie said.

Tonight at dinner, I was actually talking about Hattie’s beliefs, and I remembered almost all of the details, thanks to having the opportunity to not just listen, but to write and share what I heard. All teachers are different, and I know that tweeting lines from a video (or later tweeting information shared during a presentation by Em Del Sordo, our Organizational Leadership Principal of Student Success) would not work for everyone, but it helped me understand the information better.

Mobile technology allowed me to do what I did today. Yes, people often use mobile technology for personal reasons, and yes, it would have been easy for me to be off-task today, but what I shared was all very much on-task. Maybe as teachers, we need to continually show how these “personal tools” can also be used for learning, and then we have to ensure that we create a environment where students want to use these tools for academic purposes.

What do you think? How do you create this environment in your classroom? How do you use mobile technology as teachers? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


8 thoughts on “Is this a bad thing?

  1. I agree completely and thanks so much for sharing your learning today! I learn much more if I am writing or tweeting then sitting and listening. When I am working with my small groups or doing guided reading I have the students compose a tweet to share with the group at the end before they return to class. Although they don’t have technology with them (no wireless yet), they are preparing for what is soon to come.

    When facilitating we use a similar strategy throughout the session, having that participants tweet their thoughts, questions and concerns. For some it is their first introduction to Twitter and many are hooked when they leave.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your learning today.

    • Thanks for your comment, Marsha! I love how you’re using Twitter with your guided reading groups and other small groups (even without technology yet). What a great way for students to reflect on their learning! I think I might try this as well. Thank you for giving me something new to think about! 🙂


  2. Not a bad thing at all Aviva — I’m completely with you on this!! My Macbook has been a common sight at any and all inservices and meetings for years (liking the iPad for some things, but I need multiple windows open on a laptop screen in order to do everything I want during PD and meetings).

    I’m continually summarizing and making meaning of everything I hear. Fortunately after many years of piano and computer keyboards, I can watch and listen to information while my fingers also fly! It’s like my brain and my hands and ears and eyes are “one”, in concert like an orchestra. For me, the frustration lies in not being able to keep up with everything I want to be doing while listening. Sometimes I want to raise my hand and ask a question, or my mind goes off on a connected tangent connected to someone else’s comment, or I want to google a concept or new term I hear or visit the website the speaker has just referenced. I need more me’s to keep it all connected. I’ve regularly taken our staff meeting minutes for the last six years — and people thank me all the time for the detailed notes. But to be honest, even if someone else took the official notes, I would still take my own notes — because that’s how I understand everything I hear. Now to be engaged in PD and take notes like I’ve always done — AND tweet to be connected on the back channel — has become the new challenge! I dream of a day when I have a class with 1:1 devices so we can share this passion for communication during the day….we’re getting there! I can’t ever imagine just sitting when there is so much to learn and so much to process and so many connections to make with people and information. Which is why I also travel with an extension cord 🙂 Thanks for this great post. Look forward to digesting everything you have shared here.

    • Thanks for the comment, Michelle! I love the connection that you made to your years of playing the piano. I never thought of this before, but I can definitely see how this is true!

      Your comment made me smile because I’m also the one that takes minutes at the staff meetings (and have for years) because doing this writing does help me listen and reflect. I wonder how many of our students feel the same way too. As we get more devices into the hands of the students, we can really see the answer to this!


  3. Thanks for the thought provoking post Aviva. As somebody who NEEDS to write things down during meetings so I remember them, your observations about the impact of putting what we hear to paper (or screen) are bang on. As teacher we often complain that students do not write what we say or talk about, but then as listeners ourselves we are critical of people who take time to write, tweet, scribble, or otherwise take down the ideas being deliver to us. In order to receive the messages, some of us need to write them out. I see the real benefit of back-channeling PD in the conversations that can occur with other people during or after the session. The conversation then extends our learning and understanding thereby making it a more enriching experience. Additionally, anybody who is not present can still be part of the learning. Think about this post from one of @techieang’s colleagues:

    She can still take part even though she has to be away from the session.

    People look at me as though I am not paying attention to the conversation when I am tweeting during PD, but these posts can lead to some great learning above and beyond the intended session focus.

    • Thanks for sharing this great example, Chris, as well as your own experiences! I absolutely agree with you. It’s amazing: if I hadn’t tweeted out yesterday’s PA Day session learning, the discussion on these topics would have ended yesterday. Thanks to tweeting though, the conversation continued today. There’s a lot to be said for back channelling!


  4. Engagement looks different for different people. This is why it’s so important to have a variety of approaches or entry points in any learning session, whether for children, youth or adults. Different approaches can also spark different ways of thinking. I love the use of a Twitter back channel during meetings and PD. Today’s Meet works the same way.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sue! It’s so funny that you said this because this is what I do in the classroom with my students, but I never really considered it when it came to adult professional development. Often during a read aloud, I have students writing in the Commons blog, others sharing via Twitter, others discussing the book on Today’sMeet, and others just listening orally and talking about the book out loud. This differentiated approach seems to work well to ensure that all students listen to and can process the text. Maybe this same differentiated approach would work just as well at staff meetings. Thanks for giving me even more to think about!


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