Mark Barnes Interview: Student Centered Learning, Social Learning, Narrative Feedback, and Twitter

hello everyone this is Jack ask you from teaching ESL online and joining me today to talk about student-centered learning social learning and Twitter is mark barnes now mark is the author of three books role reversal the five-minute teacher and teaching the I student and also has a fourth one on the way he also is a publisher of the popular education blog brilliant or insane so mark welcome and thanks for taking your time today to join us at teaching ESL online thanks jack I’m happy to be here and always excited about talking about students that are learning and social learning and all those things fantastic well could you start by just telling us a little bit about your background and also what you do now yeah I was a classroom teacher for 20 years and I taught mostly middle school 7th and 8th grade language arts I spent a couple of years at the high school level on i also am an adjunct instructor at to ohio colleges teaching online learning and how to do the kinds of things we’re going to discuss today I left the classroom a year almost two years ago and to to do more writing and and more professional development I work for ascd who published my first two books on their faculty and I work in a on an online virtual learning network for ASCD as a part of a bill and melinda gates foundation grant on and i’m now i’m doing some writing for Corwin my second publisher teaching the I student which is coming out on in August is with Corwin and then I’m working on a new book about a different kind of assessment and that is coming out in early 2015 so I’m extremely busy with writing and I’m getting out in front of teachers and doing some conferences and workshops and so after 20 years in the classroom it just it got to a point where I couldn’t really balance the two things and I I loved being in the classroom but I felt it was time to move on fantastic and do you get to travel a lot through for your work and your writing I do I’ve been this past year I was I was all over the United States I’m in Ohio and I was out in California and Texas a little bit on the East Coast and I also traveled into Canada and get some more with a school in Canada so yeah I got around quite a bit great well I moving onto to your first book role reversal and you talk about creating a results-based environment one that focuses on bringing out the learners intrinsic motivation could you briefly explain what this type of classroom looks like and maybe give her a completely examples to ya on you know I in the first decade or even a little more of my career I was what I would call a traditional teacher I was you know I I used a lot of the strategies that I had learned in my service days and you know teaching was sort of this um this simple model of stand in front of kids and lecture and give them worksheets or workbooks and lots of homework and tests and then move on to the next unit on and I just felt after a long time that that wasn’t getting it done anymore and maybe it never did but um I decided I needed something different i spent a summer doing a lot of research reading a lot of best practices and psychologists and people who had studied motivation like Daniel pink his book drive was really influential on me a lot of stuff by researcher Alfie Kohn about how traditional education doesn’t really work and I just decided to try it and to do something different and I thought how can I take all of these different things I’ve learned and create something new and uh you know what I thought was I was really most concerned with the final result which is learning and the kids could can get to learning in a lot of different ways instead of a teacher standing and doing the same exact thing for every kid that you know kid might want to do it a different way from this kid so I just decided to create the support of chaotic workshop style environment where kids collaborate and work on projects over a lengthy amount of time and work on computers or mobile devices and do some different things and the most important thing of all is i eliminated traditional grading and I said you know tired of measuring

kids learning and punishing them if they don’t turn something in with zeros and & F’s and on that turned out to be something really exciting so the results only learning environment looks a lot like a workshop that teachers might go to you see kids in in small groups working you see sort of a chaotic environment where kids are up and around and and talking and maybe a kid over here is reading a book and a kid over here is writing doing different things all headed toward the same goal to to learn whatever the objective is at that point in time right really interested in you know just going from what you’ve talked about their can relate this to english language teaching too and thinking about when I worked in traditional environments and language schools especially those that were really focused on the exam and where everything was geared towards getting this examined for the kids showing the marks of the teachers so to the parents and then when I steps out of this and realized you know I can do my own thing I can teach how I want to teach and moving away from this just was a great thing for me and it allowed me to really focus on what’s important for the learner and for me was teaching adults at this stage and which is a little bit different to children but it still has that same you know fundamental idea of really focusing on the learner and what they want to achieve and think about ways that you can do this that you know aren’t necessarily traditional yeah I agree and I think this kind of this style works with any learner you know whether it you know I’ve talked to people out of conferences who said well you know what do i do when i teach first or second grade and no other people say well what if I teach 12th grade and and even with adults and I teach adults as well and you know I I think that it’s a it’s a strategy that works with anyone you know when you look at and I thought about a lot about this when i wrote role reversal when you look at really young learners you look at kids who are in kindergarten first grade second grade at that point in time it looks a lot like a results only learning environment you know when you walk into those classes you see a lot of controlled chaos and kids are moving around and they’re talking and because they haven’t got to that real structure that we start teaching when they get older when they get the fifth and sixth and seventh grade and so on and you know that influenced me i thought wow what a really vibrant amazing learning environment i spent some time observing some kindergarten classes and kindergarten is one of the coolest places to be an education and i thought why don’t we do this later as well why do we get away from a learning environment like this that’s really vibrant and exciting and enjoy asst and and that was a big influence as well great great yeah and it’s something i see as well is that because this is the the type of the traditional methods where is very exam based and because children grow up being used to the system it’s also when people turn into adults and they leave school and look for an education for example in language schools they seem to be comfortable with this very traditional base exam based method of of learning and so it’s been interesting for me to work with people and you know to talk about that they need to get away from this and to find things that really interests them when it comes to language learning and now something you mentioned before about feedback and giving feedback and then you talk about an narrative feedback Oh could you explain a little bit what what this is and what this looks like yeah yeah be careful because if you get me talking about this I won’t stop on this is this is the basis of my new book and I mean role reversal there’s a lot of feedback and even in my other books or certainly you know it will works its way in but on my new book which will be out early next year is all about this and the the cornerstone of the narrative feedback that I’m a fan of is a system i created which really i pulled from a lot of systems on and I call it SC two are which means summarize explain redirect and resubmit and the idea was I said I want a system that’ll be sort of a formula not like traditional grades not like putting numbers and letters on kids work but something that they would get used to seeing and they would understand so I said you know what do I really need to do and there’s a lot of great research behind this as well that on we need to give kids descriptive feedback we need to do as much as we can to eliminate the subjectivity and grades are very subjective this is a debate i have often people say well you know if i

put a you know numbers on a paper percentages or letters then that that measurement is objective and i say actually really isn’t objective at all those kinds of measurements are the most subjective thing we can do to kids because there’s so much input from the teacher and its really all opinion if i assign a piece of work and i decide to give it an arbitrary value it’s worth 100 points and i decide all of the ways that students get those points and that really becomes my opinion and what I’m doing is judging their work and saying well this is ones and comparing we do we do a lot of comparing an education which I also wanted to get away from so what I decided I was I really wanted to assess learning by pulling away as much of the measurement and subjectivity as possible and saying to and getting kids volved in a conversation and that feedback is a two-way situation where i would say tell me what you’ve done and why did you do it what what made you go this way or that way on an activity or on a project and let’s think about the lessons we had in class and let’s think about maybe any guidelines that you were given on a particular assignment so how did you approach that what did you accomplish what have you learned and then what’s really important is that the two are the two ours are really important in SC two are and that’s redirect and resubmit this is something we get away from an education and back in the traditional world when I was teaching I completely ignored this I almost never gave a student a chance to go back and say well you got this wrong based on the guidelines and the lesson you got this wrong so how can we go back and revisit prior learning and maybe demonstrate mastery because I think that education should be about mastery learning and not about punishing kids with grades yeah that’s so interesting and you know relating this to english language teaching is this feedback mechanism that we can introduce what app through tools like Google Drive we can we can get the students to submit their home where we can evaluate them and then we can have this conversation going on through the comment section and through different applications that we can use to as you say you know gain this this mastery and this could be for pronunciation for example to get the students to submit something and like a phrase then for us to evaluate it for them to go back and learn again and then to really move on and build some momentum with this so I think this is really valuable for the English language teachers too and you know you mentioned pronunciation Jack and I and I think that you know when you’re talking about English language learners that’s a really important key and there’s there’s so many great tools out there today and that’s one of the things that I’ve talked to a lot of teachers in out in workshops and all about is that you know there’s so many tools that we can give to kids you know mobile learners and that’s such a huge thing right now it’s really what my book teaching the I student is about is that we’re in the mobile learning age kids have devices and they want to use them and unfortunately a lot of education is about putting those things away people say well those are a distraction let’s leave them in a locker let’s put them in a purse lets you know whatever when we should be saying let’s take them out and use them as the amazing tools for education that they are so you know you think of all of the amazing voice tools that are available on your ipads or your smart phones or your ipods and when you take ll kids and you say let’s use these and let me hear you read something or say something and then let me provide the feedback and and let you hear it back that’s really powerful yeah definitely then I see this all the time you know is social learning and my students working on mobile devices and it obviously teaching online we try to encourage these things and and the way of teaching is a little bit different than classroom teaching and and one way that I do this is to say you know change the language of your device into English so that you’re constantly looking English and to subscribe to articles on your mobile device in English you know download podcasts and English on you on your mobile devices so you’re always surrounded by this and now it did in your opinion do you think this is just going to continue growing the social learning and and what is the best way for teachers who aren’t really use of this technology to adapt to this trend on really an important question and and I think absolutely again I say this in teaching the I student debt and along with some fabulous research that we are

heading to a place very soon where every kid will have a mobile device I mean that the statistics right now are staggering for kids in the 12 to 18 range that already are using cell phones it’s up well over seventy percent on kids with internet access at that age is up in the ninety percent range so I mean they have it they don’t maybe they don’t have it in their hand right now but they’re accessing the internet someplace and even kids with smartphones in that age group you’re already up into the forty percent range of kids who have a smartphone and that has increased in the last two years by sixty percent so I mean you think in just the last couple of years if young kids who have smartphones has increased sixty percent you think about where we’re going in the next five to ten years especially with the incredible ubiquity of the devices they’re growing they’re everywhere there’s something new constantly and on I just wrote this on brilliant or insane a few days ago the other big factor is that the prices are coming down and they’re becoming incredibly inexpensive so I think that and you know this is just looking at those statistics I’ve provided and then I don’t have any kind of metric myself to say this is real but I believe that we are probably five to eight or ten years away from certainly in the United States from I think every single kid in that that 12 to 18 range having a device whether it be a smart phone and ipod a kindle ipad something that they can access the web with and social networks so yes I think we have to face it educators have to face it and they have to say how to prepare for it because not only do I have to teach my kids how to use it I have to be ready to use it myself on as far as the people who aren’t there one thing I think is really big is they need to start researching themselves and reading on about how to use these things watching online videos and actually using them on you know I mentioned my work with Corwin and my book teaching the I student on that is a part of a series that’s new bike or when I’m really excited about this on it’s a part of a series called the connected educator and so next month there will be four books and the great thing about these is they’re short format they’re quick reads they’re like 50 pages 60 pages so you know a teacher can take these and you can read those in an hour or 90 minutes you can download them or get a hard copy so there at your fingertips and they’re all about connecting on with other educators with students using social media using professional development using mobile devices so I think that’s critical we have to be into professional development as educators and say this is calming like a storm and I have to get ready for that storm great fantastic and now you mentioned social media and connecting and you know this week I’ve seen your article why everyone should be on Twitter on on all the social media platforms and so could you just briefly explain you know why in an english language teacher should be on twitter why they should be on this platform yeah you know there’s so many reasons and thanks for mentioning that blog post which was an incredibly popular i’m happy to say about why everyone should be on twitter first of all there’s a lot of good reasons they’re on not number one is free professional development and I’ve written and spoken on this often and social media is really that but Twitter to me is is even more so that than everything else because it is it’s the virtual aspect of it it’s right now it’s in your hands we all have it on our phones or we can if you don’t and the great thing about it whereas I think places like facebook and maybe even Pinterest Instagram are very personal places there places where you know we share photos of our kids and our vacations and things like that what separates Twitter from those is that it is very professional if you’re an educator and your following other educators or you’re looking at hashtag chats like EdTech an edchat and elementary fees chat and all of these things what you have are people

like you and their purpose on there is to share best practices to share amazing technology to provide links to other websites and videos and articles that are all about being a better teacher so I would certainly no matter what I teach but if I’m an e ll teacher I would certainly want to be on there and I would follow other teachers teaching in that same area to find out what they’re sharing you learn so much so fast the other thing is your kids are on their on you know I kids are actually there’s other research saying that kids are gravitating away from facebook and to Twitter um because they feel like that Facebook has become their parents place and Twitter now an Instagram and all they’re becoming more of the kids places but I’m it’s incredible how many are there I type before I left the classroom I taught eighth graders and I pulled my class about Twitter and seventy percent of my eighth graders talking 13 14 year old kids we’re on twitter so you know if they are there we need to take advantage of that as well again instead of you know maybe being afraid of it as a place that we don’t know if kids are ready for we need to embrace it or if you’ve got e ll kids who are on Twitter and you can say yeah let’s join each other and a twitter chat well you’ve really done something yeah fantastic and you mentioned you know like following different discussions there are a couple that are putting the show notes the interview notes later one is ELT chat which is a very popular one for english language teachers and when I first followed that I was just amazed at how as you say professional the discussion was and the links people were sharing the discussions people had and just to see how so many people who were thinking the same things I was thinking you know discussion discussing the same things I was talking with you know Mike the teachers I know and just to see on a huge scale and out in the open for everyone to see and it was at really eye-opening for me yeah I love that they’re there sometimes people say they’re too fast I teach a course on Twitter actually to educators and how to use it as a professional development tool and one of the things I have you know I get people have never been on join this course and one of the things I teach is is how do you follow a hashtag chat and I asked them to participate in an edchat on conversation and that’s the one of the realises like it is it’s so fast there’s so many you know so many people there and they’re sharing so many things so quickly and so there’s a little bit of a learning curve on how to sort of dial into what you want to see in the chat but they are powerful yeah I’m just to go back to this specific one I noticed that people what they do is they summarize the key point means they’ll go take order the tweets that are relevant and that they find interesting the tangent discussions and then put them into like a summary and its really really helpful and yet so far look following a discussion is one tip that you have what are the tips do you have for new language teachers who are going to join this platform now what are ways to build up your followers connect with people and and user platform in a good way yeah the first thing I’d recommend is to find some how-to videos because they’re everywhere and I’m and I think this is a tip that I give to people really for any kind of technology on you know and I have learned so many things from people who share our links to places about certain technologies and then you know I’m very much into self teaching and one of the things I’ll do is if I like a new platform is say okay I’m going to go and I’m going to find out how to video on this and those can be hosted on on the platform site or you can find them on youtube but I think that’s a really helpful thing when I teach to my Twitter course on I provide videos and those are actually hosted on another site that’s public domain it’s learn it in 5.com as in five minutes or less so you know that’s another thing people watching this if you’re looking for videos I probably have a dozen or more videos on how to use Twitter and so I would do that as far as on finding a following and also very easy to do Twitter will actually recommend people you can type in whatever your search parameters are you can you could do english language english language learners your hashtag any of those things and it will bring up people that you could connect with the other thing that i recommend is to find one person who you you have faith in as an educator whether there’s someone you know that you know through things like this or

they are in your area of expertise and go in and and see who they’re following and you and you can do that on Twitter wide open you can look at who someone’s following you can look at um their followers but to me and i started this way when I got on Twitter and I knew nothing years ago and I found someone and I don’t know if i was reading her blog or how I did it but it was a Shelly Terrell who is really well known and she said she’s really pig into english language learning and international presenter you know author phenomenal person and I think I met Shelly through her blog and I just jumped on her Twitter page and she’s got an incredible following I mean probably sixty or seventy thousand followers but I said to myself um who is she following because if I had so much faith in her as an educator and as someone who shares amazing content she’s most likely following people similar to that and I clicked into who she’s following and I have followed a lot of those people and that’s a great way to start so you find people you believe in and you say all right well if they’re following someone they got to be pretty solid educator so I’m gonna go follow some of them think what you find is when you follow people they follow back not everybody it’s not the same as as Facebook where when you friend someone they have to allow you back twitter is different you can follow anyone and and they don’t necessarily follow you back but the more you start following people though they’ll follow back to see what you’re doing and then the other thing is to share you know Twitter and other social networks are about content curation you know what do you have to give because the more you give back and people start seeing that and you want to use hashtags when you’re new because more people see your tweets when you’re on a hashtag so you know if i joined twitter and i have no followers and i send tweets when nobody sees up because no one’s following me but you know if i send a tweet and i use a hashtag at chat or hashtag attack or on you know elt and then those people are going to see that and if there’s thousands of people looking at that hashtag at any given moment they see what you share and that’s amazing and if you share a really good content they go let me see what this person is all about and they might say this is someone I want to follow back so that’s how to get started I think right that’s such good advice there and it’s actually quite similar to what rich kyker talked about in the the Google+ communities as well you know these principles will will follow through on any kind of platform and and but I feel like Twitter is is something that a lot of new teachers a little apprehensive about at first but I definitely recommend getting on there and not thank you so much for taking your time today this has been so valuable and I’m going to you know take what you said here and try to break it down and relate it to english language teaching start a discussion on the the youtube video page and also on my blog and and what where is a good place where people can find you although you can find me on twitter at mark barnes 19 and and and on my blog i think is the best place because there’s new content there every day and that’s a brilliant dash in sign calm and you know there we’ve got I also have some other contributors and we cover tons of subject in fact one of my writers just teaches in China so I think there’s a nice connection for any English language people and he he writes some stuff for me about um you know education and other cultures and I think that’s great so we’ve got great new content there every day pretty much so be great to join us there I’m I like for my book yeah yeah I’ll let I’ll include a link to your Twitter feed your your website also the books at you you have published now so thanks again mark and speak to you soon all right thanks a lot bye bye see ya you