By Blake Harvard
If you’ve ever ventured into the land of edchats on Twitter, you’ve probably experienced the feeling of seeing someone tweet information that you either disagree with or know to be false. How/when do you potentially question this person respectfully to ask about their tweet? What do you say?
Recently on twitter I was asked my opinion on this topic:
Mr. Symchych brings up a great point. Typically, especially in the US, if you do participate in edchats there seems to be a bit of a herd mentality. By disagreeing or questioning one, you may be inciting a ‘tweet-tsunami of backlash’ from the herd. How do I approach the herd without spooking and/or provoking? Because most edchats move so rapidly, you have to be quick with your replies and information. For this reason, there are only a few tips I have for hopefully getting your point across respectfully and effectively:
- Ask for evidence – When they tweet, politely ask if they’ve got any references or research that backs their claims. I usually approach it something like this: “These numbers are really interesting, do you have a link or reference to support these stats?” A majority of the time, I don’t receive a reply to my question, which I assume means they either didn’t see/understand my tweet or they’re ignoring me because they do not have an answer that will suffice. Occasionally I will get a response like, “I don’t have any evidence, but it just makes sense to me.” If this occurs, I usually respectfully mention that, without evidence of effectiveness, we don’t really know if any tool/strategy/gadget works.
- Provide evidence. Again, as politely as possible, link to writings or articles that refute their claims…I usually just ask them to please have a read and let me know if they have any questions as I’d love to continue the conversation. More often than not, there is no tweet in reply and the communication ends there.
- Know when to cut your losses. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to have a constructive conversation. When offense has clearly been taken and there’s no going back, I suggest respectfully backing out of the conversation and quite possibly the entire chat. Just a few weeks ago, I excused myself from a chat and the leaders quite respectfully asked to DM me to discuss what topics I would like to see discussed during their edchat. Class move, I think.
To be fair, it can be quite intimidating to oppose the herd. For me, it was an issue of not wanting to come off as insincere or disrespectful to fellow educators. However occasionally misguided, I assume teachers who go to the effort to have a twitter handle and participate in twitter chats are among those educators who want to improve…they are teachers looking to refine their craft. Unfortunately, however, there are quite prominent educelebrities who tweet information or quotes with no evidence of effectiveness that are accepted as truth. I see this as a big problem. As I’ve blogged before, schools/students need teachers who are critical consumers of information; having the tools to decipher fact from fiction.
That is why I participate in so many edchats. While they can be tedious and you see an over-abundance of chats on school culture, technology, and growth mindset, edchats are the best way to get the message out to the masses. And the message of using evidenced practices is a noble message. When I think of the direct and indirect consequences of convincing one teacher to dig deeper with a critical eye, it keeps me going. One more teacher using evidence-based practices with his/her 150 students over the course of a career…you get the point. It is certainly a cliche of teaching, but it really is for the kids.
Oppose the herd. Fight the good fight…respectfully.
***If the topics of evidence-based practices and connecting research with the classroom teacher entices you, I would like to suggest you look into the works of The Learning Scientists (@AceThatTest) and researchED. In my opinion, no one links research with the classroom better than The Learning Scientists and researchED holds conferences across the world with the aim of bringing people together to promote evidence-based practices in the classroom.
Also, here’s a recent post I wrote on giving credit to the people and writings that have most shaped my beliefs about teaching in the classroom. Highly recommend.
This piece first ran in its original form here at the Effortful Educator.
Blake Harvard is the AP Psychology teacher at James Clemens High School in Madison, Alabama. He has been teaching for about a decade and received his B. S. and M. Ed. degrees from the University of Montevallo. He has a particular affinity for all things cognition and psychology; especially when those areas are also paired with education and learning. He started his blog, The Effortful Educator, to highlight research being done on learning, memory, and cognition and their connections to the classroom and is kind enough to share his work with us here at Good School Hunting.