Bill MacKenty

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All things twitter


Posted in Personal Twitter on 08 - January 2023 at 09:56 AM (one year ago) 1518 views.

I've decided to take part in #dungeon23, a distracting and fun project to build a little bit of a dungeon everyday. But I've decided to approach it a bit differently...

As I am a fan of procedurally generated content (and making procedurally generated content), I've decided to build different systems and eventually combine them so people can have rich, varied and different dungeons and settings. The link to the github repository is here. I'm following a basic schedule here:

• Sunday — Settlement description, a village or a town. Could also be a bandit camp if that strikes your fancy

• Monday — Environment description. Think the local weather, geology, flora and fauna

• Tuesday — More in-depth settlement description

• Wednesday — Culture description of something fun or interesting about the local people. Something to make them stand out

• Thursday — NPC description, someone important or interesting on the island

• Friday — Faction description of either a new or existing faction. Be sure to make ties between factions and peoples

• Saturday — A rumour about something from the past week

Social Media and PLN’s: a lot of a little

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Teaching Diary Twitter on 23 - September 2014 at 10:07 AM (9 years ago) 374 views.

#cdl_mooced I'm currently learning via a fascinating MOOC Coaching Digital Literacy

The unit I am working through is about social media and PLN's (personal learning networks). For the record, I love personal learning networks, and have benefited tremendously from my involvement in them. I've been a social media user for a while, but I don't really think they work for me as a PLN. 

What I see in social media (twitter, facebook) is a lot of a little. 


After reducing the "signal to noise" problem*, I see people post links to tools, without any deep thinking or consideration of context. It's pretty easy to post an infographic, link to a blog, embed a youtube video, but it's much harder to meaningfully change student learning with that same link. 

Social media makes it very easy to share, but does that equate with better? I'm unsure. Where I have seen social media shine is when a very specific content area is linked to another very specific content area. For example, when a third grade teacher "follows" another third grade teacher. Or when a 10th grade English teacher "follows" another 10th grade English teacher. Posting a link, a website, or some great web 2.0 tool might help, but I don't think it meets the definition of being connected. My bias is rooted in my growing conviction that focused, mindful attention is the best way to learn and remember. 

This weekend, I'm on my way to Istanbul, Turkey where I will meet with other IT Directors from the Central and Eastern European School Association. We all work in similar schools, with similar issues, challenges, and successes. This is my primary PLN, and one which I derive great value from. This face to face contact, this focused, uninterrupted time where we are learning with each other is like solid gold for me. And it is this that is missing from social media. Social media makes connecting quick, easy, and ephemeral. And that's the problem I have with it. I'm curious to hear your thoughts about this. *


 Bill's social media signal to noise maxim: the ratio of cat pictures to actionable useful content determines the value of social media as a learning tool.

Edtech Conferences - worth it?

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Support Twitter on 03 - April 2014 at 04:21 PM (10 years ago) 322 views.

I recently tweeted: Does participating in #learning2 (or any big ed-tech conference) make a difference in student learning? I've always been "meh" about them...

Are they worth it?

1. I've always felt these conferences were of dubious value. When I pay for staff to go to them, I usually get a standard bell curve one or two staff who had a life-changing experience, and one or two staff who were bored to tears and everyone else falls in between. My personal experience echoes this observation. Kids aren't benefiting.

2. I believe teachers grow best through self-reflection, peer coaching, and good professional evaluation. I'm not sure how ed-tech conferences facilitate this. Sure, teachers can learn about tools, and they might learn about some ideas for project-based learning, but how much of that is making a difference in the learning for kids? Is the learning return worth the time and money invested?

3. I see a wide variety of presenting skills at these conferences. Although this is related to point 1, the content and delivery can be variable. The keynote speakers are often more known as keynote speakers, and less as authentic innovators of classroom learning. I've been to many edtech conferences, and all the keynote speakers are compelling, but then there is that whole "our context and your great idea" problem.

4. One of the failings of these conferences is their focus on Nouns over Verbs. The conferences attract advertising and make money by selling advertising space. Many sessions are dedicated to advertisers who do not discuss how learning can be different, but by perpetuating the horrible myth that the tool is magic and will change things! This, by the way, is a disease in educational technology, that the tool alone will fix what’s wrong with learning. It never has.

5. If the goal is to learn new things / try new things, why not try a speedgeeking session? I think about locally produced organic produce being much better for you than crap made thousands of miles away. Back to point 2, I believe teachers learn best when they are engaged with a colleague and are learning with them (see also: plc). There is less of a translation cost when you learn locally.

6. The problem is that sometimes (sometimes), a teacher goes to one of these conferences, and the stars align, and there is star-trek sound effects, and they return profoundly changed. Sometimes that happens. Maybe we need to pay more attention to preparing our teachers to attend these conferences to increase the likelihood of Eureka.

I am curious what the 2 regular readers of this blog think about the big Ed-Tech conferences. Are they worth it?

That thing about Twitter - I still prefer RSS

Posted in Educational Tech Twitter on 11 - January 2011 at 04:05 AM (13 years ago) 298 views.

Stephen Dowes writes about the possible beginning of the end of twitter here.

Mr. Dowes writes:

"This post shows how easy it is to create a Twitter account and have it automatically reply to Twitter posts of any description. At the very least, it greatly increases Twitter volume. At worse, it renders useless any search and fills your screen with 'replies' to your tweets."

So people are writing programs that look for specific words in a twitter post and then reply with a random quote. Yawn. That's been going on for years over on IRC in the form of chat bots. It's not totally unexpected to emerge on twitter, and I agree with the idea that could be really annoying for twitter. There's probably something smart to say about broad and shallow versus narrow and deep. Maybe we all love twitter so much because we've been taught to think broadly instead of deeply?

The problem is this just amplifies the signal to noise ratio I see on twitter. I've carefully followed and unfollowed people on twitter, and I finally have a decent list that generally gives me something interesting to read - I've often referred to twitter as human RSS. But even amongst my cultivated twitter friends, the signal to noise is high. For every great twit that points to an interested resource, I see ten that talk about their cat.

I think Will RIchardson nails twitter when he says:

"I thought a lot about Twitter, actually, and realized (again) that for me at least, it’s become as much of a bane as it has a boon. (This really isn’t news.) Much of the reason I don’t blog any longer, I think, is the Twitter effect. It’s easier just to Tweet out an interesting idea than to examine it more deeply here." (source).

I still read RSS most mornings. I scan headlines, stories, and open a new tab for stories I like. I find the discourse on blogs richer and more deliberate. That there is value in twitter goes without saying, but signal to noise ratio for twitter is a bit high for my taste.

Greatest email in the history of the internet

Posted in Blogging Personal Twitter on 21 - July 2009 at 05:02 PM (14 years ago) 300 views.

Ok, to be technical, it was a twit from twitter, but still…

Do you still have the schematics of StarTrek ships? I’m looking for a Romulan Warbird I can knit.

For those who don’t know, I maintain the internet’s only repository of Star Trek freighter schematics. Other sites have ship schematics, but I only keep freighter schematics.

I will ask the sender of this email for a picture of the knitting project and post it here. Until then, thank you so much for the most wonderful email I have ever gotten, and I will buy you a beer next time we meet.

Twitter and the same old passwords - I’m guilty of this also.

Posted in Educational Tech Security Twitter on 18 - July 2009 at 06:11 PM (14 years ago) 281 views.

Looks like the nice folks at twitter got bit by a hacker. They report the problem stems from a twitter employee who the same password on different systems.

Oh man, I am so guilty of this. 

I basically have three passwords I use for all services (including hosting!).  After reading the twitter post, I am starting the process of changing my stuff. I’m thinking of something like:


Get the idea?  Maybe I should just rotate my passwords more frequently.

is twitter educational?

Posted in Educational Tech Support Twitter on 24 - April 2009 at 09:21 PM (15 years ago) 321 views.

Got a comment question I wanted to respond to here:

Just curious, what are your thoughts about incorporating Twitter into the curriculum.

Don’t use a piece of technology just because you can. Edward Tufte spoke about this very eloquently. Just because we have (insert new technology here) doesn’t mean we should try to cram it into our curriculum.  This is why we need to be very careful about powerpoint - think about what you need to teach, and THEN think about the best way to teach your material.

However, part of my passion in life is looking at new technologies, and wondering about them . Ever since I figured out what twitter was, I’ve been rolling this question around in my mind.  I don’t have an answer, but I have some initial ideas.

How would you approach that?

I’ve been reading about the backchannel lately, and I really like the idea - for kids over 18.  I think twitter (and google chat) are like passing notes in class - that kids (under age 18) can’t really focus on a teacher AND a side conversation. I think if I asked a group of 16 year old kids to create a back channel, they wouldn’t be able to stay focused. I think if we twittered during class, we would need to review the twits before class ended.

How would you use it to help kids learn? Especially elementary school kids.

Well, I would think of twitter as a reflective device.  So as I’m teaching (or reading) something, I would ask them to take notes via twitter. With about 15 minutes left of class, I would review the twits, and have a discussion. Or, I might review the twits for the next class (what great feedback for a teacher).

I’m afraid that this Twitter thing is just going to take up a lot of the kids time and stuff instead of having some real evidence that it’ll help kids learn.

I share your fear.  The thing is, twitter doesn’t try to be anything BUT a 140 character update thingy. I see twitter mainly as a tool to reflect on a back channel conversation. But is back-channel reflective communication a useful thing for young kids? I’m not so sure.

I mean Twitter is a great idea, but I’m just not sure of it’s educational value.

I agree. I think the REAL value of twitter comes in from teachers learning / sharing with each other. I’ve already picked up some very useful information from twitter, and I’d like to add more people to follow (this is why I’m looking for a way to categorize / read) twits.

Great question

What I want: Twitter group (categories) in an RSS reader.

Posted in Blogging Twitter on 23 - April 2009 at 05:21 PM (15 years ago) 282 views.

I wrote about twitter here. In a nutshell, I think twitter is human rss. Cool. But useless unless I can incorporate it into my rss reader. Twitter isn’t just about me regurgitating my trip to a coffee store, it’s also about learning what friends are doing.

I’m currently following 127 people, and being followed by 40. I’ve got 60 updates.  What I would love is a web-based program where I could categorize my twitter follows like my RSS feeds:

1. friends
2. ed tech
3. geeks
4. gamers
5. NYC

You get the idea.  I dislike clients - the more I can keep on the web, the better. Does anyone know anything I can try?

How is twitter different than RSS?

Posted in Educational Tech Twitter on 01 - April 2009 at 05:26 PM (15 years ago) 243 views.

Twitter is RSS.

After playing with twitter for a few weeks, I’ve decided that twitter is “human RSS”. I login to twitter, and do the exact same thing I do in my RSS reader.  I scan articles, links, and snippets, and open them in tabs if they look interesting. Signal to noise is kind of higher than RSS, with many people saying many things I don’t care about. But I get that in RSS as well (just not as high).

What do you think?