Friday, August 5, 2011

Co-creating group synthesis with Twitter! (#edtech #HGSEPZFOL)

This has been quite an amazing week. I just returned from a four-day conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) titled the Future of Learning (FOL), and my mind seems to have spun out of control. All of the speakers were so amazing to listen to, and each one awoke a part of me that I think was sleeping. The institute was inspiring.

On the family front: Amy and Sam took the trip with me, and talk about success. I am so proud of both of them for battling the (big?) city and taking it all in stride - those "crosswalks" at Solider's Field Road were terrifying to navigate.

And, on the tech front, a small group of us took Harvard by Twitter Storm.

The latter item is my focus now, as I need much more time to digest everything from the institute, and the family stuff is much better said in person (open invite to hang out, anyone?).

First, the narrative:

There were 200 participants in the audience from a variety of professional capacities, countries, ages, and technological expertise. I'd say everyone had pen and paper (no batteries to recharge!). Most had a laptops and cell phones. A lot had tablets (iPads everywhere). Few had Twitter accounts.

At the opening plenary on Monday, Veronica Boix Mansilla informed the audience that FOL created a hashtag for anyone who was Twitter-inclined (twit-clined?) - #HGSEPZFOL. So, armed with my trusty iPad, I rushed off to cyberspace and found a few loyal Twitterers (i.e. @PrincipalThinks, @Lorfehr, @wedaman, @TripleFSharp) putting the feelers out. I joined right in.

Much to my surprise (and to Harvard's), there was quite a lot of Twitter traffic generated that afternoon. Veronica displayed some of those tweets on Tuesday morning (and following mornings). The stream continued. @PrincipalThinks suggested a Tuesday PM beverage, and about 7 of use awning-hopped to a cozy little pub and introduced ourselves. In person. Can you imagine that.

Wednesday comes, and the Tweeps (titled by @bjfr) represented, our numbers growing. By the end of the day, @bjfr organized a larger group of us together for a very important, and damn cool, mission:  we would co-create the final plenary on Thursday, using Twitter as a group synthesis of all that we had experienced. Our job was to get the tweets out there. Non-Tweeps would write their ideas on paper (no batteries!) and hand them to the Tweeps, designated by colored flags taped to the back of our chairs.

Thursday afternoon arrives, and the Twitterverse shook with the full force of FOL synthesis.

Using TwitterFountain, tweet after tweet appeared on the screen. The minutes and ideas flew by, and more and more participants signed on. It was a glorious moment.

All drama aside, the experiment was quite amazing to watch. Given that one of the throughlines of the institute was the Digital Revolution, a small core of us made it happen, real-time. @PrincipalThinks read some stats after we ended the TwitterFall, and the small number of us tweeting (200 at most, most likely a lot less) were able to reach over 7,000 individuals on Twitter.

I think the room felt the power of the moment and the power of the tool used appropriately. I hope they continue to investigate it and create their own PLN (personal learning network). I hope they open their eyes to the possibilites opening before us each day.

I gotta say, I gave myself a little pat on the shoulder. Think about it...lil' ole' me going up to the big Ivy League, unprepared and feeling small in the shadows of the giants. Then, on leaving, just four days later, feeling that I was able to truly make a difference. That was a great moment for me, knowing that I was part of something that WILL spread, that I was able to help facilitate such a great sharing of minds and ideas.

I won't forget FOL 2011, and I hope FOL won't forget what we discovered and created together.