Schools promote drivers ed – learning by driving with guidance. Schools should do same with social media.

When students reach a certain age and responsibility level, I believe that school should permit – promote even – the use of various social media tools. I think we should “Be safe and teach them to drive.” If we truly  are preparing students to lead and serve in a changing world, then we should teach students to utilize respectfully and responsibly the methods and processes that can be used in an engaged and purposeful citizenry. Literacy in today’s terms essentially demands that schools take an active role in educating our learners about how to connect with others from whom we can learn and with whom we can contribute to causes of import and worth.

I regularly think and engage with others about the reasons why students should or should not be allowed to use social media as part of school. These sessions, of course, include the opportunities, as well as the potential consequences. Perhaps soon, I will try to write a post that summarizes more of these ledger items, arranged as assets and liabilities. For now, though, I am focusing on two aspects of social media that I crave for my students: 1) encouragement and interaction from a wider, more authentic audience, and 2) opportunities to engage in civil discourse to develop one’s thinking and understanding.

1. Encouragement and Interaction from a Wider, More Authentic Audience

On Friday, December 23, 2011, I published a blog post entitled “Homework – Conforming to School Norms, Opps for Exploration, Unnecessary, Essential?” Moments after pressing the publish button, the following response came via Twitter (see image).

I know @occam98 personally; we work together at the same school. As a colleague and as an educator, I admire and respect @occam98, and I value his feedback and encouragement. To my knowledge, though, I have never met @bauerphysics. Because @occam98 tweeted about my blog, I now have encouragement and support from another educational thinker and teacher. Such feedback is wonderful. And, thanks to these two immediate responses, I may garner more comments on the actual blog post that will help me further to develop my thinking and understanding about homework as a school practice.

What if my exploration about the practice of homework were more confined, as if I could only talk to my immediate classmates and my teacher about my developing thinking and research about homework? I would have fewer potential network nodes on which to connect my thinking and learning. For students, I wish that they could engage in such connected communication through appropriate use of social media in schools. Some schools permit such use. Some schools promote it. Other schools forbid such use. Yet many students use social media independent of school. Duh! I prefer that students have the opportunity to benefit from the co-pilots, navigators, and coaches who are their school teachers (in addition to their parents). With such over-the-shoulder Yoda-dom for the emerging Luke Skywalkers, I believe students can safely interact and receive encouragement from the “teachers” whom they’ve never met in person…without turning to the Dark Side.

2. Opportunities to engage in civil discourse to develop one’s thinking and understanding

On the same day that Twitter brought the responses detailed above, I also engaged in another Twitter discussion with an acquaintance and a never-before-met-face-to-face person. If I am remembering correctly, I believe I met @SarahebKaiser at a Solution Tree event. But I have never met @Paul_Mugan. As in the above example, Sarah tweeted a blog post that I had written (“Pracademics”). I deeply appreciated the tweet and the encouragement, like I appreciated the support from @occam98 and @bauerphysics. In this second example, though, my learning advanced as a result of a different kind of online interaction than I had had in the first case. During this second case, I enjoyed participating in a fairly vigorous civil discourse, from which I grew immensely.

@Paul_Mugan, a follower of @SarahebKaiser, disagreed with an idea that Sarah tweeted – an idea specifically drawn from my “Pracademics” blog post. What then transpired was a fabulous learning opportunity for me…with a “stranger.” In the Scribd document below, I provide a taste of the dialogue and discussion. I did not capture the entire conversation on Scribd, but one could find the full exchange on Twitter. In total, I think over 30 exchanges occurred. We discussed and debated the nature of learning – acquiring versus applying knowledge. My views and opinions on the topic were both reinforced and altered. I grew tremendously in my understanding of learning – a topic that I think about quite actively. And thanks to an acquaintance and a “stranger,” I was able to think even more actively through the course of a civil disagreement and interchange. The back-and-forth provided a great opportunity for me to develop even more perspective consciousness about the complex domain of learning.

I would love for students to experience more opportunities for such civil discourse. Potential debates and discussions and teachers and learning opportunities are everywhere. With open minds and open media, we can immerse ourselves in invaluable conversations.

Also, as students engage in more project-based learning, I believe that their school activities increasingly  will tend to address various issues that confront our communities. Through such connected-communication tools as WordPress and Twitter, our students could write about their growing understanding of the issues (like our Writing Workshop: Environmental Studies eighth graders do on WordPress). Blog posts could be tweeted and readers from around the globe could engage in great discussion and civil discourse about the issues. With coaching from trusted teachers, our students could both solidify and expand their understanding. Students could connect with other thinkers and advocates on such issues as obesity, the importance of sleep, computer-assisted language translation, mass-scale window gardening, and developing better prosthetic limbs for amputees (all topics that have recently benefited from open-source problem solving). I would love for more students to contribute to such problem finding and problem solving.


Because of the connected learning in which I am involved, I believe my knowledge and understanding has accelerated exponentially in the last two years – yesterday alone provided a hyper-speed movement of my thinking on homework and learning. “School” is anytime and anywhere for me now. What’s more, on a sociological level, I tend to believe that people are good and want to help – I experience such examples from “strangers” on a daily basis now. And as a teacher, I want these lessons and perspectives for my students, too.

Seeing Schools in the News

I am grateful for those who challenge and stretch my thinking. Often, a metaphor or simile, posed by another, helps me to consider the core and the edges of an issue. To compare “this” to “that,” if not overly done, helps me to understand a thing better.

Recently, I tweeted a blog post by Seth Godin. In response, @occam98 connected me to a Clay Shirky piece, “Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis.”

This morning, I finally made time to read the recommendation from John. Now, my mind is pleasantly tumbling (like a dryer, not a fall) about how education may be in a similar state to newspapers. I wonder about the similarities, the differences, the not-worth-comparings.

All of this seems to offer the grandmotherly option between Starkman and the FON crew — “You’re both right, dear. We need institutions and we need experiments.” Even given this hybridization, though, our views diverge: Plan A assumes that experiments should be spokes to the newspapers’ hub, their continued role as the clear center of public interest journalism assured, and on the terms previously negotiated.

Plan B follows Jonathan Stray’s observations about the digital public sphere: in a world where Wikipedia is a more popular source of information than any newspaper, maybe we won’t have a clear center anymore. Maybe we’ll just have lots of overlapping, partial, competitive, cooperative attempts to arm the public to deal with the world we live in.

What is education’s “plan A?” What is education’s “plan B?” What might the hybrid between them look like? In schools, do we need both institutions and experiments? Or “Maybe we’ll just have lots of overlapping, partial, competitive, cooperative attempts to arm the public to deal with the world we live in.”

Curiosity and Connections – #edu180atl 11-29-11 cross-posted

Curiosity and Connections

This morning began like most mornings for me. I rise early so that I can read and write, mostly about educational ideas related to the future of schools and schools of the future. I began this practice years ago because I wanted to enhance my own knowledge and understanding so that I might better serve others on this dynamic path of school transformation in the 21st century. My formula is easy: maintain deep curiosity and make strong connections. The catalyst for the reaction, though, demands constant commitment and daily practice. Like I tell my two sons, ages seven and four, “If you want to get better at anything, you must practice.”

So, by 5:30 a.m., the time at which I am drafting this post, I already have two more hours of learning practice under my belt. I have made a field of mental Velcro so that I can be ready for connections of curiosity throughout the day. This Velcro is made of numerous “curiosity-connection hooks and loops” formed by the countless curiosities and connections pursued by others. I am indebted to others for sharing openly. For you see, my morning routine utilizes Kindle, Twitter, Google Reader, and the blog-o-sphere to connect me to curiosities and connections from vast numbers of amateur and professional educators around the world. Every morning, I am fortunate enough to enter the greatest faculty lounge on the planet wearing David Letterman’s Velcro suit!

Today, I feel Velcro-ly grateful for curiosity and connection practice!


Bo Adams (@boadams1) is a learner first and foremost. Currently, he is the principal learner at The Westminster Schools Junior High School. The photo shows his older son’s recent artwork as he, too, pursues curiosity and connections.

[This post was created and posted originally for edu180atl (, on Nov. 29, 2011.]

Valuable Time – Invaluable, Shared Insights

When I first began my role as principal (this current year is my ninth year in this role), I was not systemically connected to the work and learning of the faculty in my care. Ironic maybe, but true. In the ensuing years, I have developed systemic ways to plug into the work and learning of my colleagues. The efforts have resulted in valuable time and invaluable, shared insights.

1. Weekly, I attend at least 25% (1 of 4) of each of the PLC/PLT (professional learning community/team) meetings. Over the course of a year, this provides me with at least 144 hours of time with the teacher teams who explore ways to enhance learning for students and adults alike. I am able to learn side-by-side with those purposefully and collaboratively exploring curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment.

2. I load into my reader the RSS feeds of the blogs from any Junior High faculty member who maintains a blog. What insight into the thinking, questioning, and practicing of my colleagues this provides!

3. I follow my Junior High colleagues on Twitter…if they have an account.

4. Maybe most importantly, I am given the great excuse (“professional responsibility”) to read the goals and self-assessments of the faculty. I do so to prepare for one-on-one or team conferences with each of the 80 Junior High faculty. These conferences provide opportunity for incredible dialogue about that which we are focusing on in our classrooms and learning spaces. These conversations are among my favorite of the year.

Reading goals and preparing for today’s two conferences is what inspired this quick post; reading a few faculty blogs and tweets also contributed to my compelling need to share.

From just these four, integrated, systems approaches to connecting with my faculty team, I am a part of an intricate web of deep thinking, rich inquiry, and innovative practices. I can see connections in people’s work…I can learn of what they are trying and researching to help students…I can be challenged in my own thinking and teaching practices. I can discern how they are using student/course feedback, peer visits, and administrative observations to reflect on their practice and improve their growing professionalism as educators.

‘Tis I who is blessed to be in this web of thinkers, doers, and learners.

#day1wms – An iMovie of a Few Moments on the JHS Opening Days

Well, in a phrase, I thought Opening Day in the Junior High School was fantastic. In fact, I thought both “opening days” — the new student orientation and the half-day ease-in — were fabulous. To see the excitement and to feel the energy from 561 students and 82 faculty…there is practically no feeling like that in the world. The students are so excited to see each other, and the year is full of potential and opportunity. I was having so much fun that, on too many occasions, I forgot to crank up the Flip camera or iPhone to record the action and activity. But…I did capture enough to provide people with a taste (see video below). Also, remember that you can check the Twitter hashtag “#day1wms” for a compilation of slices-of-time moments and reflections.