Topic Trends on #edchat and What They Say about Education Today

https://tristanverboven.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/twitter-bird-1.jpg?w=300

If you are a 21st century educator and you are not an#edchat follower, you should really stay in more. Three years ago when the Twitter discussion group began, founders Tom Whitby, Steven Anderson, and Shell Terrell thought it would just be a casual chatroom for educators. It has since become the go-to barometer for education issues on the net.

Here’s how it works. Every week, following twitterers pitch them education-related discussion topics. They choose 5 topics to go on twtpoll.com . The topic with the most votes is then discussed Tuesdays 12pm NYT (EST) and 7pm NYT (EST). For about an hour,  English-speaking twitter-savvy educators all over the world hash it out. This casual crowd-sourced consensus-based democratic system never fails to get educators talking. Read the trade press all you want, but if you want to know what’s really going on in education, its on #edchat.

The beauty of a thing like Twitter, is that its possible for a guy like me to put the screws to it. Just for kicks, I collected all the discussion topics from the last three years, put them to some content analysis, and found some science to the madness. No study worth its salt would come without its data and methodology (below). But for those who want to cut to the chase, here are some interesting trends Ive noticed on the edu-twitesphere over the years:

Topic Themes:

  • 2010: In the first year of discussions, most of the chat was about integrating technology into the classroom and the anxiety associated with it. It mostly came down to  relationships between administration and teachers. Social issues around standardized testing were also a big issue.
  • 2011: By the next year, issues of digital literacy started to become the primary trend. As discussions about administration and standardized testing began to dwindle, it was less about the social and ethical aspects of technology integration and more about how to work it into the classroom. .
  • 2012: Now integration of technology in the classroom continues to grow in importance. There are more topics dealing with ethical questions about education and teaching methods. Standardized testing has returned as a topic but no longer in relation with approaches to education, nor in the context of assessment as learning. There is , however, a rise in questions of teacher training and self-directed learning.
  • Overall: Almost half of the topics discussed over the three years were ethical questions on the subject of the approaches to education with technology in the classroom. Early discussions involved a lot of questions about teacher relations with administration and standardized testing. They then gradually began to focus on classroom pedagogy, professional development and self directed approaches to learning.

Keyword Tendencies:

Certain words are expected to be part of any discussion on education, but there were some noticeable patterns that emerged that were consistent with other data.

  • The word “Teacher” was stable over time while the word “Educator” increased over time. This is consistent with a rise in topics discussing self-directed learning and approaches to learning involving technology.
  • “How” questions decreased slightly while “what” questions tripled. This is consistent with a rise in ethical questions about digital literacy and teaching methods. And a decrease in issues pertaining to administration. . Most importantly, this is consistent with the overall quality of the questions used in topics. Early topics were simply keywords or phrases as headings. Topic questions evolved gradually as users formed more effective phrasing. Many topics have come up repeatedly, but in various forms. Over time they have become more focused on specific aspects of the topic.
  • “PD” increased in 2012, as well as the words “you”, “your” and “own”. This is consistent with a rise in topics about self-directed learning and professional development.
  • Words “Social” “Media” and “education” peaked in 2011. This is consistent with a rise in discussions on digital literacy and teaching methods.

Trends

As a regular participant in these online discussions since 2010, I can consolidate the data observed in my findings with my own insight. Various new topics have emerged with growing in importance.

  • Online learning Discussed under various names, it can be distinguished from Classroom Technology in that it does not necessarily involve a classroom context. It can refer to traditional courses taken remotely (distance learning) or with certain components performed online, or courses taken entirely online.
  • Digital Literacy Over time, the discussion on technology has evolved into more specific domains. Digital literacy has now come into its own as a subject of interest. In 2010, digital literacy did not exist as a topic. In 2011, it emerged as an issue pertaining to classroom technology. Educators were concerned with establishing an educational context for new media while cultivating safe, relevant applications. In 2012 Digital Literacy relates more significantly to issues of self-directed learning and professional development. Educators seem now to be more concerned with cultivating their own relationship with technology, rather than adapting existing structures.
  • Standardized Testing What began as a major topic trend in 2010, was overshadowed in 2011 by discussions on classroom technology. By 2012 standardized testing was no longer being discussed in the context of approaches to education. The few remaining mentions tended to focus on discussions of its relevance, and the trend has been shifting towards assessment as learning.

Observations

Early on, the discussion group was small and focused on teachers’ professional concerns. #edchat was an ideal forum for discussion and griping about standardized testing, interdepartmental politics and social issues surrounding traditional education settings.

By 2011, these discussions had evolved to concerns about the importance of technology and digital learning. Terminologies were still vague, and much of the discussion was on how to work it into an existing educational context.

The discussions of 2012 have shown yet another step in this evolution.  Topics are taking a direction into reconciling logistical concerns about administration, policy and pedagogy. They now point to issues of teachers taking control of their own professional evolution and understanding learning outside of a traditional educational context. Concerns over relations between teachers and administration have all but disappeared. Staff management is only discussed now in context of professional development and teacher training.

The following theories come into play:

  • Connected teachers are starting to abandon their faith in traditionally structured education systems in favour of more self-determined forms of learning.
  • Frustration with integrating technology in the classroom has driven many connected educators to seeking alternative platforms for reaching and assessing students.
  • Connected teachers are starting to look to administrators to invest in training teachers in new approaches to education that involve more innovation.

Further research into the actual discussions held under these topics could give far more insight into the actually subtexts formed among educators. These discussions are all exhaustively archived with their topic headings and open to the public. The amount of data is significant and would require a more focused study of the data to be relevant.

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Methodology

Thanks to meticulous archiving by educator Jerry Swiatek, All #edchat discussions are available to the public online at http://edchat.pbworks.com/w/page/219908/FrontPage

The discussion topics have been collected and organized by year. I have  taken each week’s entries and categorized them under one or more of the following categories.

  • SM (Staff Management) – Education administration, hiring, qualifications, interpersonal relations among staff, policy
  • AE (Approaches to Education) – Policy, instructional objectives, attitudes about education, directions past and future
  • SI (Social Issues) – Poverty, access, community, politics, social concerns
  • PC (Professional Conferences) – Participation in conferences, organization
  • TT (Teacher Training) – Professional development programs, teacher’s content knowledge, improvement, developing skills
  • DL (Digital Literacy) – Social media, internet research, online communication, internet ettiquette
  • ST (Standardized Testing) – Standardized tests, exams, standards
  • AL (Assessment as Learning) – Assessments and their relationship with pedagogy
  • TM (Teaching Methods) – Specific teaching techniques, methods
  • EQ (Ethical/philosophical Question) – Questions intended to create a debate about values, morality and ethics.
  • SD (Self-Directed) – self-motivated learning, metacognitive approaches to learning
  • CT (Classroom Technology) – integrating tech into the classroom
  • OL (Online Learning) – digital learning, elearning, etc.
  • TB (Textbook) – All issues about textbooks, standardized teaching materials, and their digitalization

The majority of discussion topics fell under more than one category. Using text analysis software (http://textalyser.net/), I checked all of the categories for their association with other categories. This data revealed more hybrid sub-categories.

I then put all of the topic lists through the text analysis software to reveal the most common words used. These results were organized by year to be compared and analyzed for trends and patterns.

Data

The following chart shows the number of times each of the categories occurred in the discussion topics over each year. The final column shows the overall sum of all the topics.

Category Totals

2010

(of 83)

2011

(of 94)

2012

(of 68)

Total

AE (Approaches to Education)

26

55

37

118

CT (Classroom Technology)

23

19

18

60

EQ (Ethical/philosophical Question)

16

24

25

65

SM (Staff Management )

22

15

7

44

DL (Digital Literacy)

8

24

11

43

TM (Teaching Methods)

9

13

17

39

ST (Standardized Testing)

13

8

5

26

TT (Teacher Training)

5

9

8

22

PC (Professional Conferences)

0

3

18

21

SI (Social Issues)

7

8

4

19

AL (Assessment as Learning)

2

4

4

10

SD (Self-Directed)

0

7

3

10

OL (Online Learning)

0

4

2

6

TB (Textbook)

0

1

2

3

Since the number of discussion topics is different each year. The following is the percentage occurrence for each category. Certain topics were not discussed in 2010 and are marked as “0”. The right column contains a brief observation of the overall tendencies.

Categories by Percentage

  2010 2011 2012 Average
AE (Approaches to Education) 31.33% 58.51% 54.41% 48.08% Increased then stabilized
CT (Classroom Technology) 27.71% 20.21% 26.47% 24.08% Stable
EQ (Ethical Question) 19.28% 25.53% 36.76% 27.19% Gradual increase
SM (Staff Management) 26.51% 15.96% 10% 17% Gradual decrease
DL (Digital Literacy) 9.64% 25.53% 1.47% 12.21% Peaked in 2011 then decreased
TM (Teaching Methods) 10.84% 13.82% 25% 17% Gradual increase
ST (Standardized Testing) 15.66% 8.50% 7.35% 10.50% Gradual decrease
TT (Teacher Training) 6.02% 9.50% 11.76% 9.09% Gradual increase
PC (Professional Conferences) 0 3.19% 26.47% 0.09% Significant increase
SI (Social Issues) 8.43% 8.50% 5.88% 7.60% Stable
AL (Assessment as Learning) 2.41% 4.25% 5.88% 4.18% Stable
SD (Self-Directed) 0 7.44% 4.41% 0.04% Stable
OL (Online Learning) 0 4.25% 2.94% 0.02% Stable
TB (Textbook) 0 1.06% 2.94% 0.01% Stable

The last 5 categories are marked “stable” despite a fluctuation. This reflects the low outcomes for those categories. Certain categories did not appear in the first year.

Significant tendencies:

  • AE, CT and EQ are consistently the dominating category throughout the three years.
  • SM Started as a dominant category and has significantly decreased in importance.
  • ST has also gradually decreased in importance over time.
  • PC has gone from non-existent category to dominant category
  • SI, SD, OL and TB are not discussed in the first year.

The majority of topics could be classified under more than one category. The following describes the number of times categories appeared together (or among others) in a topic. The right column contains a brief description of the overall tendencies.

Topic Trends

Trends

2010

2011

2012

AE & CT

7

5

5

AE and CT consistently important topic
EQ & SM

3

0

0

EQ about SM only occurred in 2010
SI & CT

2

0

0

SI and CT only occurred in 2010
ST & AL

2

0

0

ST and AL only discussed together in 2010
SM & AE

2

5

0

AE and SM were not discussed in 2012
ST & AE

2

2

0

AE and ST were not discussed in 2012
CT & EQ

2

2

3

EQ and CT have been consistently discussed
EQ & AE

0

10

6

EQ and AE were not discussed in 2010
AE & TM

0

5

6

AE and TM were not discussed in 2010
CT & DL

0

7

3

CT and DL were not discussed in 2010
AL & TM

0

2

2

TM and AL were not discussed in 2010
AE & TT

0

0

2

AE and TT were only discussed in 2012
DL & AE

0

9

2

AE and DL were not discussed in 2010
SI & AE

0

3

2

AE and SI were not discussed in 2010
AE & DL

0

0

2

AE and DL were only discussed in 2012
SM & TT

0

2

2

SM and TT were not discussed in 2010
SD & TT

0

0

2

SD and TT were only discussed in 2012
CT & TM

0

3

0

TM and CT were only discussed in 2011
SD & AE

0

2

0

AE and SD were only occurred in 2011
TM & EQ

0

2

0

EQ and TM were only discussed in 2011

Significant tendencies:

  • EC & AE & CT are consistent trends throughout, except for EQ & AE together in 2010
  • EQ & SM are only discussed in 2010
  • AE & SM & ST are no longer discussed in 2012, and SM & ST are never discussed

The following charts show the percentage occurrence of specific words in the topics. Each chart shows the top 20 most common words for each year. It is compared to the frequency of those same words in other years. The right column contains a brief description of the overall tendencies.

Keyword Tally 2010

Keyword

2010

2011

2012

 
how

3%

3.30%

2.40%

Stable
education

1.80%

3.80%

1.90%

Peaked in 2011
do

1.80%

1.90%

2.40%

Gradual increase
should

1.70%

1.20%

1.40%

Stable
what

1.70%

3.80%

5.10%

Greatly increased
teachers

1.70%

0.80%

1.50%

Bottomed in 2011
learning

1.70%

1.40%

1.90%

Stable
students

1.10%

0.80%

1.20%

Decreased in 2011
reform

0.90%

0.70%

0.90%

Stable
student

0.90%

0.30%

0.60%

Decreased in 2011
classroom

0.60%

0.10%

0.50%

Decreased in 2011
schools

0.50%

0.60%

0.50%

Stable
educators

0.50%

0.70%

1.20%

Increased
media

0.50%

1.20%

0.60%

Peaked in 2011
effect

0.50%

0.30%

0.40%

Stable
tech

0.50%

0.40%

0.30%

Slight decrease
learning

0.50%

1.40%

1.90%

Stable
social

0.50%

1%

0.30%

Peaked in 2011
internet

0.50%

0.30%

0.30%

Stable
having

0.50%

0.10%

0.3

Stable

 

 

 

 

 

Keyword Tally 2011

Keyword 2010 2011 2012
education 1.80% 3.80% 1.90% Peaked in 2011
what 1.70% 3.80% 5.10% Greatly increased
how 3% 3.30% 2.40% Stable
do 1.80% 1.90% 2.40% Gradual increase
change 0.30% 1.50% 0.30& Peaked in 2011
learning 1.70% 1.40% 1.90% Stable
media 0.50% 1.20% 0.60% Peaked in 2011
should 1.70% 1.20% 1.40% Stable
social 0.50% 1% 0.30% Peaked in 2011
specific 0.00% 0.90% 0.60% Stable
development 0.30% 0.90% 0.60% Stable
students 1.10% 0.80% 1.20% Decreased in 2011
technology 0.20% 0.80% 0.40% Stable
positive 0.00% 0.80% 0.50% Stable
teachers 1.70% 0.80% 1.50% Bottomed in 2011
reform 0.90% 0.70% 0.90% Stable
educators 0.50% 0.70% 1.20% Increased
schools 0.50% 0.60% 0.50% Stable
professional 0.30% 0.60% 0.90% Increasing
teacher 0.30% 0.60% 0.60% Stable

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keyword Tally 2012

Keyword

2010

2011

2012

what 1.70% 3.80% 5.10% Greatly increased
how 3% 3.30% 2.40% Stable
do 1.80% 1.90% 2.40% Gradual increase
learning 1.70% 1.40% 1.90% Stable
education 1.80% 3.80% 1.90% Peaked in 2011
teachers 1.70% 0.80% 1.50% Bottomed in 2011
should 1.70% 1.20% 1.40% Stable
students 1.10% 0.80% 1.20% Decreased in 2011
educators 0.50% 0.70% 1.20% Increased
you 0% 0.50% 1% Increasing
your 0% 0.40% 1% Increasing
schools 0.50% 0.60% 0.50% Stable
reform 0.90% 0.70% 0.90% Stable
professional 0.30% 0.60% 0.90% Increasing
does 0% 0% 0.70% Appearing first in 2012
media 0.50% 1.20% 0.60% Peaked in 2011
own 0% 0% 0.60% Appearing first in 2012
development 0.30% 0.90% 0.60% Stable
pd 0.20% 0.40% 0.60% Increasing
student 0.90% 0.30% 0.60% Decreased in 2011

 

Highlighted boxes indicate words that do not appear.

 

References:

Swiatek, J. (2010, September). Front Page #edchat Archive posted to http://edchat.pbworks.com/w/page/219908/FrontPage

Huber, B. (2004) Consulting & Global Strategies: Textalyser (Version 1.05) [software] Available at http://textalyser.net/