Social Media Experiment: Day 4 – Integrating Ideas!

“Was initially worried about #20minwms impact on class time/flow, but it has been a big hit.  Love it! Not disruptive at all.” ~ @valerieste

How great is that?  @valerieste’s tweet summarizes the initial teacher concern and hesitation.  Her tweet challenges us to try, to experiment rather than assume.   

The two tweets above are from our young learners.  In addition to working on retention (primacy-recency) we were hoping that we would find connections between our courses.  Our young learners are noticing.  Are we? It is worth repeating.

“Science and math are really related;  curriculum bleed into each other” ~ @TaraWestminster 

“I noticed that too, starting to see how twitter can be used as a tool, collaboration.” ~ @fencersz

As always, you can follow the conversation on Twitter using our hashtag, but here is a sample of what we are learning. 

Imagine starting your school day as a 14-year-old to see a tweet from your principal that many of your classmates and teachers can read that says

“You are doing a great job contributing to #20minwms.  Keep up the effort!”

Bravo to our principal, @boadams1.  Bravo and brava to the faculty members participating in this experiment.  Model learning for all! 

Today, Friday, January 21, there were more than 53 tweets by at least 14 faculty and 5 students where 4 are from our junior high and one is from the high school. @swgough wants his high school learners to directly participate so that he can have documentation of the formative assessment to reflect on as he plans for the next lesson.   

Our friend and colleague, @Deacs84, took the time to tweet from across the creek.  It means a lot to many of our tweeters that she is watching, reading, and encouraging from afar.

We are experiencing a few problems and struggles.  If you have problem-solving ideas, we would love to hear them.

  • Yesterday, we did not get any results when we searched on our #20minwms hashtag.  This is problematic if you are looking for connections between classrooms, teachers, and learners.  After several hours of communication with our fabulous IT department, we learned that ads were the cause of the problem.  We have resolved this internally with great support from our IT guys.  (Thanks, again.)
  • When we search on the #20minwms hashtag, some tweets with this hashtag do not appear.  It seems to skip a tweet or two from time to time.  This is very frustrating to the tweeter and to the data collector. 
  • One adult-learner’s tweets using #20minwms have never appeared during the search.  We have already changed her tweets from protected to not protected.  We can see her tweets in our timeline, but they don’t appear when we search.  It is frustrating.  She wonders what she is doing wrong when she isn’t doing anything wrong.  It is maddening.

This past week we have been tweeting responses to the question “What have you learned?” or the prompt “I have learned…”  Next week those continuing to participate will be asked to tweet answer to “My question is …” or “I still need…”

We have had more faculty discussing Dr. Sousa’s research about retention and primacy-recency.  A few more have read the research.  My goals for this week:

  • Our #20minwms team will grow in number, in confidence, and in learning. 
  • There will be more pictures and less “eggs” (the default Twitter gravatar).
  • More of our tweeters will understand the language of twitter. 
    • Specifically, more understanding of @, #, RT, HT as well as when/why to use them.
  • More of our colleagues will read the article from Dr. Sousa to be more informed about why we are trying this experiment. 
  • Formative assessment of learning in a non-graded setting will impact classroom activities, planning, communication, confidence, and learning.
  • We want to have more tweets from our current team as well as tweets from others.
  • I want @bcgymdad and @joeschmo81 to tweet or to know that @DownSouth300 is ahead of them.  (Yes, according to the data collection, @DownSouth300 is much more “with it” than these two!)

Remember @boadams1’s tweet from the ropes course on Thursday:

When we don’t pull TOGETHER as a team, we can get stuck. In sync, we can move forward.


Social Media Experiment: Day 3 – Connections!

The tweet from @boadams1 while at the ropes course with our young learners connected to my learning and work in every hour of today.

When we don’t pull TOGETHER as a team, we can get stuck. In sync, we can move forward.

THE most powerful learning for me today was the connections between Dr. Sousa’s research on the 20 minute learning episode (primacy-recency), formative assessment, and social media.  In the JH History PLT today, we paused the discussion about essential learnings for students studying the Civil War.  I asked these adult learners to summarize what they were learning.  @JenLalley called on one of the adult learners.  His reply was honest and direct.  “I’m not learning anything; I don’t teach this course.  I’m not actually paying attention.” 

I was THRILLED with his honesty, candor, trust, and assessment.  Isn’t it better to know  at the 20 minute mark than to get to the end of the class period and realize (or not) that a learner was left out?  @JenLalley used her solid facilitator skills to deflect attention from this adult learner to others to summarize our learning.  We tweeted.  Then the magic happened.  The team began to connect the essential learning work of the Civil War to essential learning work for World Cultures.  It engaged this left-out learner.  He enthusiastically participated in the work and conversation after the 25 minute mark.  His contribution was valuable.

Formative assessment at 20 minutes, at any time, informs all learners.  It allows us to make on-the-fly adjustments to accomodate and include all learners.  Notice that the team made the adjustment; the learners adjusted to have inclusion.  It was an unspoken community decision.  Powerful!

Today, day 3, we had 13 faculty members and 4 students directly tweeting at the 20 minute mark.  The tweets using #20minwms has an 11 hour span today.  Eleven hours of tweets on learning from our learners.  Eleven hours! 

Of course you can follow this work on Twitter, but again here are examples. This list is longer than normal because we can start to see connections between classes.  Connections made by teachers and by students.  I think it is so great and very interesting to see the summary of learning posted by the teacher and the student.  (Note:  I always use learner rather student but in this case, we are all learners.  I am using teacher and student to differentiate the age of the learners.)

Isn’t this great?  One of my young learners said in class today that Coach Jones was teaching them about spreadsheets in science today too.  Connection!  You can read my tweet above and @aatmuri1’s tweet.  @aatmuri1 does not sit with me to learn algebra but has Coach Jones.  This confirmed that my learners were accurate in their assessment of what they were learning and the connection between two of their classes.  Progress!

Look at the tweets from @epdobbs and @runningwitty about songs and poetry.  See @aatmuri1’s tweet today connected to @senor206’s tweets yesterday about reading in Spanish.  Nice!  @kplomgren, @TaraWestminster, and @boadams1 all gave perspectives about learning from the ropes course.  Our students, our young learners, can see our learning too.  Read @JenLalley and @jgough’s tweets about the History PLC. 

@abaconmoore is using formative assessment and self-assessment and is reporting results of learning.  @occam98 is on leave this week and is still participating.  This is his second day of tweeting with our virtual colleagues about our learning, formative assessment, and social media. 

@sgough asked today if his learners could directly tweet.  Could they tweet with him so that multiple voices and perpectives could be recorded?  Wow!  Yes, yes, yes!

The most powerful tweet, for me, of the day comes from @boadams1 while at the ropes course with our young learners.  If you didn’t know he was at the ropes course, you could assume that he was with us in the History PLT.  If you didn’t know he was at the ropes course, you could assume that he was with us in the Algebra I.  If you didn’t know he was at the ropes course, you could assume that he was with us in English. We are pulling together. 

When we don’t pull TOGETHER as a team, we can get stuck. In sync, we can move forward.

Social Media Experiment: #20minwms Day 2

A quick report on our progress.  Today 12 faculty members and 3 students participated in our social media, learning and the brain, formative assessment project.  Actually 13 faculty members tweeted; we think that the missing tweets are from a faculty member with protected tweets; more problem solving tomorrow.  The BEST thing is that this faculty member wants her learners’ tweets to be “on the record.” 

The research from Dr. Sousa is being discussed with our learners, their parents, and our colleagues.  While you can follow us on Twitter, here are some samples:

High school students engaged with tweets from across our campus to learn what is happening at school.  Most are intrigued that their Junior High principal @boadams1 knows how to and actually tweets.   We know that he is practicing walk-through observations to better understand our learners (of any age). 

Two of our virtual colleagues are dreaming and envisioning this work and learning at their schools.  I’m close enough and want to drive over and talk to faculty and learners about the experiment for one.  If you decide to try this with your colleagues and learners, will you let us know your hashtag?  We want to watch our learning grow.   

Today we have a snapshot of what is happening in the high school and the junior high.  Our conversation today took a turn from “how do I do this on Twitter” to “I saw your tweet; I have a question.” “Your learners are using spreadsheets to connect to formulas; what was your approach?” We are not wondering what is being learned in our building; we are reading about it, asking questions, and learning.

Think of the possibilities for learning if we can make connections, if our learners make connections. 

It’s about learning for all!

Social Media Experiment: #20minwms Day 1

On Friday, January 7, 2011, my colleagues and I ran a practice round for an experiment that combines tweeting and social media with formative assessment and some of Dr. Souza’s brain research on primacy-recency.  I left school that afternoon with a strong sense of play-for-learning with my colleagues.  You can read about this practice round in the following blogs:

Experiments in Learning by Doing:  Social Media Experiment: Brain & Learning; Formative Assessment
It’s about Learning:  Achievement-Action: #20minwms
Quantum Progress:  20 minute pulse checks!  
¡Inglés fatal!:  The School as a PLC  

While we were all set to start on Monday, January 10, we were thwarted by Mother Nature.  Today, January 18, has been our next school day.  I was worried that we had lost our momentum.   In fact, I missed the 20 minute mark in my 8:00 class.  My learners thought it was hilarious!  (I did redeem myself during the rest of the day.)

More than 40 tweets from 11 faculty members went out over the course of the school day.  While you can follow us on Twitter, here are some samples:

¡Inglés fatal! posted My 20-minute learning which documents his students’ behavior as well as his learning.  He writes:

“My 20 minute learning for today: when the student has ownership of the activity, the impulse to abandon it is not nearly as strong as when they’re simply “carrying my luggage.”


@boadams1 and I co-facilitate Synergy 8.  The Mobile Technology Team (aka the Synergy 8 cell phone team) has requested to participate along with the 5 HS, 12 JH, and 2 ES teachers in our Social Media, Formative Assessment, Learning and the Brain Experiment this week.  In order to make this easier for his classmates, one of the MTT team leaders setup a backchannel using TodaysMeet for students not on Twitter.

Four faculty members sought me out today to ask for a lesson on Twitter and tweeting.  This was no easy task because I spent the majority of my day off campus with my learners at Georgia Tech’s ropes course.  We are going to have a Q&A session or a mini-lesson for new tweeters Friday morning.

@sgough reported being taught his learners.  It started because he had the hashtag mixed up.  He used #20wmsmin instead of #20minwms.  “So then I had to learn how to delete.  They had me resend.”  Several of his students and former students are now following him.   

Are we learning together?  Are we integrating research about primacy-recency for our learners?  Is there potential for learning, discovery, and connections?

To follow ¡Inglés fatal!’s example: 

My 20 minute learning for today:  I have a lot to learn from all members of our community regardless of their age or level of formal education. 

The most profound comment of the day comes from my learners when emerging from the ropes.

“Take risks and trust your teammates. Reach out a hand to help. The first step is the scariest.”



Assessment Without Feedback: Does Learning Occur?

When there is assessment without feedback who is learning? Is it the primary learner or the observer? Which is preferred? Does it matter? 

Maybe we should ask if the assessment was formative or summative, right? If the assessment was summative, then the lack of feedback could indicate that we are done. The learning episode is over; you got it or you didn’t. You met the target, fell short of the target, or exceeded expectations. No second chance; it is what it is. I suppose we should consider summative assessment without feedback to be like Web 1.0. Information is posted, period. It is a lecture. The communication goes one way only. The assessment is static. Even if it is summative assessment, Web 1.0 assessment, shouldn’t the learner see the results?

Now if it is formative assessment, the question gets more challenging. Formative assessment without feedback, hmm…Does learning occur? Who is learning? Should formative assessment more like Web 2.0? Can the assessment be dynamic? Can we engage in conversation?…make changes?…grow together?…learn collaboratively?

Will you consider the following assessment examples and the impact of no feedback?

Example 1:
I watch KW work and notice that she consistently adds when she should subtract. I have learned; I am informed. I might adjust my next lesson, but in the absence of feedback, has KW learned?

Example 2:
I proof-read what QS has written and observe that QS uses semicolons where he needs commas; I am informed. How about QS? Does he learn without feedback?

Example 3:
@JoeSchmo81 observes me in class with learners and discovers that one of his students, SE, outwardly engages more in my class than in his class. @JoeSchmo81 learns that I have a method that he wants, he has questions. If @JoeSchmo81 doesn’t share his feedback, will he learn how-and-why I do what I do? Will I be surprised to learn that @JoeSchmo81 thinks my technique with SE is working? Will I grow to pay attention to my learners in a different, better way?

Example 4:
I assess my learner’s disposition. I ask them journal to tell me how they feel. How they feel; not how the class feels. I learn that I have hesitant nervous learners that feel unsuccessful even in the face of good grades. I change my actions to work on the confidence of the class. I do not write each individual student back. Will they learn to be more confident and less hesitant?

Can we call any of the examples above formative assessment? Is it possible to have authentic formative assessment without offering feedback? We all agree that writing “good job” across work is not adequate. Shouldn’t we say what was good about it? How individualized does the feedback need to be? Is “Good Job!” better than no feedback?

No feedback leaves the learner to wonder, worry, and question. Is my work acceptable? Is my work so horrible that it is not worth the time it would take to comment? Am I doing great so no news is good news? Was it bad and they don’t know how to tell me?

Do you think that Web 1.0 is better and more informative than nothing? Does Web 2.0 improve communication and learning? And what will Web 3.0 bring?

Ever feel like you’re in the wrong place? Part 1: The Questions

How about this for a journal prompt?

This is not a good feeling, is it?  You feel everyone is looking at you, and not in a good way.  You are self-conscious wondering if everyone knows how awkward you feel, wondering if they know that you don’t know.  Everyone else knew what to do before they arrived.  They all got “the memo” telling them who, what, where, when, and how while yours got lost in the mail.  You just know that they are all judging you, whispering about you and how out of place you look.  Do you spend the entire time worried and uncomfortable?

I’ve been thinking about Quantum Progress’s class that I observed last Friday (1/7/11).  As a disposition check, he asked his learners to rate their thoughts on solving this problem:

A student, running at a top speed of 6 mph, is trying to catch a school bus 10m away that starts to accelerate at 1 m/s^2.  Will the student catch the bus?  Can you solve this problem? Don’t solve it; tell me how you feel about your ability to solve it.  Tell me using the following scale:

1 – I have no idea how to even start
2 – I can start but I have lots of questions
3 – I can do it but I might have a couple of questions
4 – I am all over this.

Learners leveled themselves and then reported a table average for their team.* Teams reported 2.67, 3, and 2.85.  I cannot capture, in words, all of what I witnessed.  This leader of learning communicated important messages to his learners while he collected these averages.  His tone and body language communicated much thought and concern as he asked

“This might be a lack of confidence instead of a lack of ability, don’t you think?” 

GREAT question!  To me, his response conveyed his surprise at their answers, and his belief that they had the ability and might be underestimating their understanding.  He questioned them to the realization that, while difficult, they had the skills and reasoning to solve the problem.  He conveyed his confidence in them and coached them to have more confidence in themselves.  (You can read about the impact of his reaction in the learners’ responses to the 20-minute pulse check.  I observed the learners noted in the “Other class’s responses.”)

I’m wondering if the learners’ lack of confidence is about physics, math, programming,  problem-solving, or something else.  It causes me to think about my learners. 

I am inspired to ask these important questions for my learners’ next journal. 

  • Can you share a story of when you felt like this? How did you feel?  What worried you? What were you thinking? 
  • Do you ever feel like you are in the wrong place in your understanding and learning?  Will you describe when you felt like you were in the wrong place in our class and why?  What can you or should you do to make it better?
  • Who have you identified to be in the wrong place?  Why?  Is it possible, just possible, that you have it backwards?  Continue your writing by analyzing who is in the wrong place from another perspective. What do you think?


*This just screams for a poll, but the seemingly off the cuff poll might have interrupted the flow of the discussion. This a reason to have a TI-Nspire Navigator, but that is a different conversation.
Image obtained and posted with permission from

Learning from Leveling, Self-Assessment, and Formative Assessment

We have been back at school for 4 days. The first day was dedicated to exam analysis, exam corrections, and peer editing.  The second day we talked briefly about graphing simple exponential function and negative exponents and then worked more on their exams.  After school the usual crew worked in my room to complete their homework.  I was really surprised to be asked “Ms. Gough, what level are these questions?”  In an earlier blog post, Deep Practice, Leveling, and Communication, I wrote about the formative assessment with levels that is my team’s current assessment experiment.  On day 3, we decided to go ahead with a formative assessment on computational fluency with negative exponents and then have students investigate exponential growth with an investigation using M&Ms.  We were hesitant to give this assessment so early, but we thought it might serve as a diagnostic assessment too.

Let me stop here and offer our current thinking about the scoring and levels on this type of formative assessment.  These assessments are not graded.  They are taken individually as if taking a test.  The assessments are self-scored, and then our learners complete a table of specifications to help us all determine their level of proficiency and where they need support.  They are to work together to correct any problems up through level 3 and are encouraged to work on level 4 if they are moderately successful with level 3. 

Level 1 – We try to target the most basic of the prerequisite skills necessary for this learning target.

Level 2 – We try to assess a prerequisite area that might cause our learners to stumble based on our history and experience with learners of this age.

Level 3 – This is the target level.  Can our learners function at the desired level?

Level 4 – This is an enrichment level.  If you are functioning on target, can we challenge you to learn more?  These questions generally come from either the Honors Algebra I or the Algebra II learning targets.

If formative assessment informs the teachers and learner and causes a change in practice or behavior, then this was definitely formative assessment.  The M&Ms were out on the table ready to be tossed and counted.  As I looked through their tables of specifications, I learned that hardly anyone was working confidently at level 3.  So, we took a poll.  Do we postpone the M&M lab to work more on negative exponents?  Rarely do I get 100% agreement, but today I did.  “Yes, please Ms. Gough.  We need to work more on negative exponents.  And, will you teach us about exponents that are fractions?” 

It was great!  DD, my friend and teammate, was there to observe the M&M experiment.  We agreed with our learners that the best decision was to stop and teach more about negative exponents; how often are we asked to teach something?

Here are three examples of my learners work and reflections from this formative assessment. 

Isn’t it interesting that VB still puts a score on her paper, but MC and CL do not?  We can quickly see that VB needs pay attention to a few details and needs to be challenged to move to level 4.  MC needs to read the directions more carefully as well as correct her work and complete the table of specifications correctly.  She understands whole number exponents, but needs a little coaching on how to write her answers.  She may not understand the term evaluate, or she may need to read the directions.  MC also needs help with fractions and arithmetic, but she understands negative exponents.  CL is unclear when the exponent is zero and might need a refresher with fractions.  She needs to pay attention to parentheses and should be encouraged to investigate fractional exponents.

One other thing to notice…CL reported 50% at level 3 and marked that this is the level where the work is most consistently correct.  I just had to ask. Her response “yeah, if you look at my work, I messed up multiplying fractions and the zero exponent.  I got negative exponents. You don’t have to worry about me.”  I spend about the same amount of time with these formative assessments as I did when I gave quizzes, but now my job is more interesting.  It is problem-solving, coaching, and having conversations with my learners.  They have the opportunity to critique their work and report back to me.  I feel like I’m coaching rather than judging.  My learners talk to me about what they can do and what they need.

Does the formative assessment and table of specifications help these learners identify where they are and where we want them to be by the end of the unit?  Will it help us know how to plan and teach?  Does it tell us all where gaps are that need to be filled?  Can we work together to close each gap?

Don’t you love CL’s reflection?  “I think I need more help with Integers and exponents with rational numbers.  With rational numbers, I feel like I had no idea what was going on, and like I hadn’t learned that stuff yet.” 

It is about learning.

Seeking brightspots and dollups of feedback about learning and growth.

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