Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Twitter Clique: Us vs. Them (Part 2)

In my previous post I shared excerpts from a recent #edchat to illustrate a disturbing theme I’ve noticed in numerous educational chats these past few months: “us” vs. “them”. In case you don’t have time to go back and read part 1: “us” includes all the enlightened, connected teachers who use Twitter and embrace technology in education. “Them”, on the other hand, represents the intractable, disconnected teachers who don’t use Twitter. Perhaps it’s because they fear technology or they fear failure. Either way, they’re not here, and their teaching isn’t up to snuff. Boo. Hiss. Evil. (Picture me with my fingers making a cross to ward them off.)

All sarcasm and faux drama aside, while reading through the #edchat transcript, I actually came across some encouraging comments that question this kind of discussion and thinking. I want to share those comments in this post so you can read what made me smile.

As a reminder, the #edchat topic I’m referring to: How should teachers deal with colleagues who are comfortable with 19th century methods and punitive measures for non-compliant students?

Please note, as before, I refrained from including any Twitter handles. You’re welcome to find out for yourself in the transcript who said what. It wasn’t important to me because my purpose is not finger pointing at particular individuals – whether I agree or disagree with what they said. Rather, I’m more concerned with the general culture created through formal educational Twitter chats.


Some participants questioned the day’s #edchat topic, while others questioned what they were hearing throughout the conversation.

Do we have the right to try to correct others who have a teaching philosophy different from our own, even at the expense of kids? #Edchat

But is that necessarily a bad thing? If it really ain’t broke, why fix it? #edchat

Is it up to us to change what is working for someone else? #edchat

as a general question: In your personal experience is this a common problem? #Edchat

Is it up to us to change what is working for someone else? in true collab environment; must appreciate differences #edchat

Only if you can prove your methods are more effective. Without some measure what ground do you have to stand on? #edchat

Using 19c techniques are normal and they help students learn. Why should a teacher change? #edchat

Agreed! Too often tech becomes a synonym for “engagement” Sometimes I think we r 2 focused on dazzling ’em w tech #edchat

Exactly. So why force it on effective tchr? RT @_: Using tech doesnt guarantee excellent teaching and great learning. #edchat

It seems to me that today’s #edchat topic is too negatively phrased.

It feels to me that with the language the topic uses it limits what language we can use to discuss this issue. #edchat

Perhaps instead of “deal with” we should use “work with”? Learn with? #edchat

I see what you mean, but if I’m an educator who has it under control, why risk messing up when I know I’m OK this way? #edchat

Supporting “Them”

At times, some of the participants came to the defense of “them”.

We cannot force someone else to change their teaching. We can only offer help, be supportive, and stay positive. #edchat

(1/2) It’s important to remember that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another, everyone an individual. #edchat

(2/2) Have colleague who is very lo-tech but has kiddos COMPLETELY locked on his every word! It is a gift!!! #edchat

Some techniques are timeless. It’s the all or nothing that causes conflict. Need balance & variety. #edchat

Some teachers actually do better w/ low-tech & they’re more effective that way… I think that should be okay. #edchat

I don’t think it is up to teachers to try to force change. I share my “techy successes” but I don’t think “my way is better” works #edchat

#edchat technology is not the only way forward – it is one way. Need to be mindful that it is not the be all and end all for tchrs and chn

Don’t forget though, that some of these teachers have been through many waves of “the new great method/program/etc” #edchat

Good teaching does not require #edtech. Be open minded. We all can learn from each other. #edchat

Our joy is the art of teaching. It’s never the same for anyone person or class. Otherwise we’re no different than a computer. #edchat

Inclusiveness and Collaboration

Finally, some of the discussion shared an attitude of inclusiveness and collaboration without insinuating that “us” knows better and needs to change “them”.

Me, too 🙂 I personally don’t think it is necessarily bad for kids to be exposed to a variety of teaching methods #edchat

I think the only right we have is 2 engage in conversations w/ those like that; we cannot force our philisophy on others #edchat

But we can’t just shut our doors – we have to collaborate and share what we’ve learned with our peers #edchat

Don’t force change if something works – but – keep introducing new ideas and techniques – share #edchat

Agreed. Having that kind of know-it-all attitude can really turn teachers off… esp when you want to share ideas w/ them #edchat

Sometimes, coming from the top down helps. But there is nothing better than coming from the bottom up. Teachers organically adopting #edchat

Setting aside time for real learning conversations with trusted colleagues about student work brings about positive change. #edchat

An attitude of “policing” is not the way to approach it. #edchat

Final Thoughts

In the end, I want to make it clear that I treasure the conversations I participate in through Twitter and blogging. They’ve opened up my professional world way beyond what it was before. Heck, they’ve blown the doors right off the hinges. By writing these posts, the last thing I’m trying to do is vilify anyone for any one thing they’ve said.

Rather, I want to point out that our conversations create a culture, intended or not. By speaking so freely about “them” and how much they are behind the times or how bad they are as teachers, we are creating an unwelcoming environment should those teachers ever choose to join Twitter. As I said in my previous post, teachers face enough criticism from outside sources. The last thing we need is to attack each other.

So what would I suggest? Focus on you and the issues you face with your job. Not the issues you have with how someone else is doing their job. You are the one person you can control and change for the better. Focus on that in your online conversations. You have such a great community ready and willing to help.

And don’t stop collaborating with others at your school. Have conversations (in person even!) where you can say more than 140 characters at a time. I mean really. Look at the excerpts from the #edchat. With the constraints of Twitter, you can hardly put together a coherent thought sometimes.

Talk about issues that matter to you, but also listen to issues that matter to your fellow teachers. It should be a dialogue, not a monologue. When you’re jonesing for affirmation for everything you’re passionate about as an educator, Twitter is a click away. Just don’t forget to foster professional relationships with “them” that are in the same building as you. Those are the people you have to see and work with day in and day out.

The Twitter Clique: Us vs. Them (Part 1 of 2)

Admittedly, I only joined the twitterblogosphere a few months ago, so I’m not speaking from years of experience. However, in only a few months of taking part in Twitter chats, #edchat mostly, I have made a disturbing observation. Many of the chats tend to include an “us” vs. “them” theme. I’ve found it very off putting, arrogant even, and I wonder what effect it has on creating/maintaining an inclusive online community.

Tonight I read through the transcript of this week’s #edchat to see if I could find some evidence to back up what I’ve been feeling. This week’s topic ended up being great because I found exactly what I was looking for. Better than that though, I found people actively questioning this mentality. It was very encouraging.

In this post, I’m going to focus on the “us” vs. “them” comments. In the next post I’ll share the comments that were more inclusive and encouraging.

This week’s #edchat topic: How should teachers deal with colleagues who are comfortable with 19th century methods and punitive measures for non-compliant students?

First of all, I didn’t feel like the conversation was actually on topic. Maybe I am misinterpreting the topic. I thought the topic was about non-compliant students and the 19th century discipline methods employed by some teachers. Misinterpretation or not, the conversation focused instead on how to encourage more teachers to incorporate 20th century teaching methods in their classroom. A topic perfectly suited for “us” vs. “them” discussion.

I only made it through the first 300 or so tweets, but I feel like I found plenty of evidence. Also, it started to feel really repetitive. A lot of the same sentiments were expressed over and over throughout the conversation. I’m not analyzing this for a thesis or dissertation, so I felt like I collected enough evidence to make my case in a blog post.

As I went through the transcript, I marked tweets that expressed an “us” vs. “them” mentality. I also quickly (and loosely) categorized the tweets. Here are some sample tweets from each category. I added the implicit assumptions that I see associated with each category.

Please note, I refrained from including any twitter handles. You’re welcome to find out for yourself  in the transcript who said what. It wasn’t important to me because my purpose is not finger pointing at particular individuals. Rather, I’m more concerned with the general culture created through formal educational Twitter chats.

There is a “them” and they are not like “us”.

Assumption: Teachers who participate in Twitter and blogging are doing the right thing. Those other teachers are not doing the right thing. They should change.

Exactly you have to gently show them how tech can help with what they are teaching #edchat

it’s important not to step on their toes but continue to set an different example- there’s a new way to skin this cat #edchat

 I’m not sure ignoring them is a solution. We all complain about how slow #edreform is. We need to address them head-on. #edchat

 absolutely; we can’t fall to the pressure to scale back what we do to make others happy #edchat

 I know that I also have to not allow myself to get frustrated with others that don’t know technology. #edchat

Perhaps we need to beam them back to 1900? 🙂 #edchat

 If their methods are hurting students, then I do think someone (e.g. admin) should step in #edchat #edu355

 You must work with their perception. If they do not perceive a problem, then change will not happen. #edchat

 In defense of our profession and the public villanization of teachers, do we have an obligation to police our own? #Edchat

 No obligation to police your own, but certainly hold others accountable in a myriad of ways is prudent #Edchat

 Yes…we have to realize, though, that nothing we say or do will change that; they have 2 decide 4 themselves 2 change #edchat

 There is a better way.

Assumption 1: The way I believe teaching should be done is the right way. Those not doing it this way are wrong and should change their methods.

Assumption 2: This better way of teaching almost always features technology as the key component.

It might not be broke, but if there is a better way of doing it …  #edchat

 We can’t change people but we can present better methods that get results. #edchat

 It’s not about the 19th century world, it’s about the kids world and future of learning. #edchat

 Teachers need to continually learn and come along with the times. It’s not fair to kids to not be up on current best practices. #edchat

 Teachers still using 19 century methods need to learn how to begin engaging students in the digital age! #edchat #edu355

 I know that if teaching methods do not change where I teach, we will fall farther behind the curve. It is up to me to be a catalyst. #edchat

 We love making, drawing and doing the learning with kids, but technology has changed the way we teach for the better of the student. #edchat

 Tech = language our Ss speak. We have to adapt so they can learn our academic language more effectively #edchat

 We have to continue pushing integration of contemporary methods and technology as the norm. Drive the rest to extinction. #edchat

We need to lead by example.

Assumption: See the “There’s a better way” category.

The best way to lead is by example. Share successes you have in classroom & offer support #edchat

 #edchat Lead by example, but do not let others affect your effective use of #edtech.

 leading by example works wonders. I’ve seen a lot of dinosaurs turn into birds via refreshing young new teachers #edchat

 have to continue to try to share when we feel like giving up on it, because one day, one person might change. Makes it worth it. #edchat

 Excite the non believers by having a Smackdown with those who use tech. #edchat

 Be a role model. Show them through actions that you can engage students and make a difference! #edchat

 Life is about evolving as individuals and as part of society. A schools culture can evolve witth a few tchrs & admin. 2 lead the way.#edchat

offerPD and model strategies For the staff. If the leader can do it—so can the faculty #positivemessage #edchat

 The “peer pressure” model isn’t ideal but I’ve seen it work. It’s how we did online grading #edchat #edchat

 Those other teachers fear new methods, fear technology, and/or fear failure.

Assumption: Teachers are not changing their methods or using technology out of a basic fear. If we can help them overcome the fear, they will improve.

I am a technology coach in my building. Many of those teachers are afraid of the technology. Show them and Help them! #edchat

 We sometimes 4get that it’s not necessarily an unwillingness 2 do something diff/new, but fear…of failure. Have 2 cr8 success. #edchat

 Yes, we all should be constant learners and not be afraid to try new things. #edchat

 If we push / make colleagues feel inferior, we will only feed their fear (of failure). Need 2 b patient. #edchat

Those other teachers just don’t have the motivation to learn to do their jobs better.

Assumption 1: Teachers should be constantly learning. 24/7/365. A teacher who isn’t learning at all times isn’t doing their job.

Assumption 2: The learning a teacher should be doing should specifically focus on how to teach in a better way.

Teachers need to realize that there is not enough time and money to constantly support PD. You need a PLN and learn on your own. #edchat

 Do they not care or are they ill informed? #edchat

 Unfortunately, many are not self-incentivized to want to change their methods. “If it ain’t broke….” #edchat

 I only partially agree. Some are too hard headed to change and admin won’t necessarily hear that argument. #edchat

 #edchat Q1Need to approach same way you would a releuctant student-empathy, encouragement, coaching, support/mentoring. Celebrate small wins

 You just perfectly summed up my point! Many are not even open to change. That is something that needs to be addressed. #edchat

 It’s difficult because you’re not their boss. Often, they have more years experience. Won’t help if they aren’t willing to listen. #edchat

It’s not about forcing change IMHO. It’s about ensuring Ts are always looking to find optimal practices. Too many don’t #edchat

If administrators are stuck in the 19th century, there is little incentive to be different. They also may perceive tech as a threat. #edchat

Parting Thoughts

There you have it. A sampling of tweets from the first 300 tweets of one #edchat discussion. Imagine how many tweets I could have collected from the 1425 tweets total in this week’s discussion. Imagine how many I could gather if I analyzed #edchat on a weekly basis. What about other educational chats?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why many of these comments are made. Some people are genuinely frustrated in their particular school. They’re excited about what they’re doing, yet they feel alone. I’ve felt this way numerous times in my career. We’ve found kindred spirits on Twitter and it feels good to find others like us. However, teachers are already criticized enough from businesses, news media, parents, and politicians. How helpful is it to criticize each other? Does this divisive discussion really serve the greater good of the teaching profession? From the tweets, it’s obvious that the “us” crowd wants other teachers to change, presumably for the better, but if the “them” crowd knew they were being talked about like this, would that really encourage them to join?