So, last night I decided to get with the times and check in on one of these #hashtagED Twitter chats that few of my online colleagues have been saying are the ultimate in online PD. The one that was being promoted a bit at EduTech was #AussieED and I took note of the 8.30 pm AEST start time, and dutifully watched for 8 pm my time with my trusty iPhone at the ready. I even saw the topic was around this idea of being a teacherpreneur which I thought could be interesting as it threw my mind back to a recent Stephen Downes post in which he wrote:
Why do I dislike the idea of teaching entrepreneurship so much? Because it changes the child's perspective from the idea of serving social needs through work and learning to one of serving the needs of people with money. And when you have this perspective, you can never get at the question of why these people have all the money in the first place, and you can never perform work which changes that.
This observation really resonates with me. Being an entrepreneur means the world of business, money making, exploiting of marketplace gaps and investing in hope of a future financial payoff. There is no problem with entrepreneurs in the education space - consultants, software developers, PD providers and so forth - even if some believe that they are more crucial than what they really are. But to apply that label to classroom teachers or school based leaders, well, that is a big stretch in my mind. So to me, a "teacherpreneur" would be someone from a teaching background constructing or plugging a service or product. But clearly, I am in the minority.
I was not really prepared for the scope of the #AussieED experience. I had loaded up TweetDeck and straightaway the tweets were running off the page so fast that I couldn't even read one before it was being bumped down the page. The moderators had posed some questions - the first being "What is your understanding of a teacher entrepreneur?" And it seemed like anything went ...
Q1- teachers who are forward thinking and break new ground by searching for new innovative ways to teach
A1. A educator who spends their time in the creative and innovative design of pedagogy.
A1 A teacher who creates, invents or re-invents an idea, system or product to more adequately meet the needs of learners
@ICTEvangelist A1: Someone who invests in the needs of students and makes it their business to enhance youngsters' life chances. #aussieED
@ICTEvangelist #aussieED A1 - one who tests, tries and believes in their ideas reaching out to as many as they can..inclusive to the core
It was starting to sound like anyone or anything could be classified as a teacherpreneur - but these responses seem at odds with the first hit on Google:
a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
Then a couple of tweets came through that was on my wavelength.
The term edupreneur is just another way to commercialise education. Look at the feed on this tag already
A1. Someone looking to exploit a niche. Regards the term intellectual property loosely. Doesn't need to be a teacher.
And it was true about the feed on the tag. As my head spun from all of the one way traffic on the #AussieED tag, I was amazed that there was very little pushback or challenging of the concept. It seemed universally accepted that being an entrepreneur is totally a positive thing, and not only that, almost anyone and anything related to teaching could be see as entrepreneurial! I figured to make any sense of this at all, I needed to start at the beginning with the initial question, and it got some traction with one of the moderators. The screengrab shows the conversation as it unfolded.
As you can see, an actual entrepreneur (who is in line with the dictionary definition) got involved in this conversation but I still felt like innovation is being mistaken for being entrepreneurial. I know they are not mutually exclusive but it is possible to be innovative with being entrepreneurial.
Anyway, at that point, I thought I would bail and go work on a blog post or something but I thought a brief acknowledgement to Brendan Jones was in order:
And there was the word of the night - antigroupthink - which summed up perfectly my experiences on that topic in #AussieED. I'll participate again sometime in the future but not before checking out the topic thoroughly first, and working out a strategy for dealing with the torrent of tweets.
I have mixed conflicting feelings on Twitter chats.
I have a lot of respect for those that moderate Twitter chats because it’s a very crowded space and it can be hard to engage an audience. For fun I decided to count how many twitter chats were running during the hour in my time line — 5 different chats!
Chris Betcher’s post “An Act of Heresy’ – http://chrisbetcher.com/2014/09/an-act-of-heresy/ highlights a lot of what I don’t like about Twitter chats and the responses in comments highlights the benefits twitter chats can have for those that engage with them.
I also prefer deeper conversations and some Twitter chats move so quickly that it is too hard to engage in deeper discussions. Also participating in a Twitter chat for a hour often leaves me feeling like I’ve run a marathon — and perhaps I worry needlessly how that makes some one who doesn’t have my technology skills feels. I generally only participate in a Twitter chat if I’m invited or is a chat topic that interests me. For example, I monitor the #flipboardchat in Tweetdeck to see if they are discussing a topic that interests me during their weekly chat.
Perhaps worth trying the #satchatoc as a comparision? Quite a few of our friends participate in that chat.
PS did you know you can embed a tweet with the URL? http://help.edublogs.org/embedding-with-a-url/
Graham WegnerPost author
Hi, I looked back at that post of Chris’s and found that I had even commented on the post! Plus the commenter below, Rob, even participated in the comments in a very cool discussion. Interesting that I remarked on not having tried a #hashtag chat and it took me nine months to actually have a go. I will have another go at another time but I am a bit wiser about what to expect. Thanks for the tip about embedding tweets but sometimes they have a habit of disappearing offline, and the screengrab preserves what was said. Yes, I’ll look at the South Aussie chat as it might be a bit smaller scale.
Graham, as I remember it, yours was the first Australian teacher blog I ever came across and I enjoyed following along with what you were doing. It might have been 8 or 9 years ago while I was still in uni. Before then, I didn’t know teacher blogging was a thing! So, it was great to see you join the chat.
I think the challenge for many in this chat was the different terminology. Stephen Downes’ concerns are warranted because what he’s talking about is teaching entrepreneurship to students (I see benefits in this but not as a central driver of the curriculum like some may suggest).
However, the chat was about teacher entrepreneurship or ‘teacherpreneurs’ (as you understood it). Downes’ quote is about something else entirely.
That was a tough chat to start on. It was a busy one. It was a topic that most don’t have a strong handle on – me included. Saying that, if we were discussing things that everybody fully understood, what would be the point? So yes, people had different understandings of what it meant. But I’m surprised you say there was no pushback. After people put in their first answer, I saw them discussing semantics, fleshing out their understanding of terminology and challenging people with a different view. Not every post you make is going to get traction. But from your screenshots, it seems you got plenty.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen the term groupthink levelled at education chats. However, chats don’t lead to full consensus. There are a diverse set of people in every chat and plenty of dissent. Could there be more? Always. This requires a few factors which aren’t always at a premium:
– Contributors knowing the topic well enough to be able to critique it
– Contributors being courageous enough to challenge ideas of others respectfully
– A chat format that encourages dissenting views, including questions that encourage critique
– Contributors from different backgrounds that have authentically different views
– People bringing the spotlight to differences in opinion or understanding
The aussieED team and I try to facilitate this but your shared experience shows we can do better.
There are plenty of positive and negatives to education chats just as there are to blogging and other forms of social media. Big chats like #aussieED can be a bit of an extreme sport to keep up with. At best, I don’t think they can be matched as a melting pot of ideas, launching you into blogging or further discussion. I recommend latching onto someone’s idea and starting conversation. If you don’t find your way back to the next question, it’s not the end of the world.
I hope you do participate again!
Graham WegnerPost author
Thanks for dropping by to clarify things, Rob. Hey, I wouldn’t worry too much about what I think because the #hashtagED process clearly works for heaps and heaps of people. I am only responding to what my eyeballs were catching which clearly would only be a fraction of what was unfurling during that time. I suppose it does get down to expectations and because of my newness to being in this activity magnified my feelings.
Thanks for the feedback about this blog – it is coming up to ten years since I started it, and yes, the social media landscape has certainly changed a bit. My problem is that I probably still follow a lot of people from my formative networked learning days and still struggle with knowing who of the newer, much larger group of educators to follow and engage with.
And, yes, maybe I don’t like the idea of entrepreneurialism being associated with learning and can’t get past the negative images the word conjures up in my mind. So, when I found someone else seeing the concept through a similar viewpoint, I probably participated in my own version of groupthink as well. I think language and semantics is very important in building common understanding. It is one of the reasons I dislike the PLN acronym because I’ve yet to find a definition that accurately captures how learning through nodes and connections can be called a Personal Learning Network. I feel it grossly understates the complexity of what happens online. But enough of my pontifications – I’ve learned from the experience and that’s the whole point of the exercise anyway.