Taking the Biscuit

December 9, 2012

Just a couple of things to comment on this week from my online life.

Vote Biscuit

I don’t know if you are aware of #ukedchat. It’s a Twitter hashtag which now seems to be overused all week round, but its main purpose is for education discussion between 8 and 9 on a Thursday night. Unfortunately, because of who has time to spare on a week night, and the general inclination of the online educator, it tends to be dominated by techno-zealots arguing strongly over whether it is better to use technology to engage students in creativity and critical thinking, or alternatively, to use technology to differentiate between students to facilitate critical thinking and creativity. Every so often I like to pop up and spend time expressing the sorts of opinions you hear from ordinary teachers in ordinary staffrooms only to be accused of trolling, luddism and hating kids.

The discussion topic is chosen by a poll which takes place in the previous week and here are the latest options:

Edited - Screenshot 2012-12-09 at 07.25.46
I don’t know how the biscuit option got there. Perhaps it is meant to demonstrate the type of critical thinking question that a progressive educator might ask. Perhaps it is a mistake. Perhaps it is a joke. Regardless, I’d quite like to see it win as it might encourage more original topics on #ukedchat By comparison, last week’s discussion topic was “What is your most useful website used in teaching?”. The biscuit option should have no difficulty winning the poll; last time I looked it had 74% of the UK vote. However, when it first shot into the lead on Thursday night there was a somewhat anomalous surge of votes for another option, all from the US and all in a single night.

Edited - Screenshot 2012-12-07 at 06.06.57

I’d hate to think that biscuit might lose because of somebody using proxy servers to fix the poll. So if you get a chance, go to here  and vote biscuit.

Go Block Yourself


There was a bit of a discussion – okay a handful of self-righteous tweets and one blogpost (see December 7th here) – about my decision to block someone on Twitter. Blocking is when you no longer see a tweeters’ tweets, and they can no longer follow you from that account (although they can still read your tweets by logging out). I’m not a big fan of people who use blocking to avoid having to see opposing arguments. In fact, it’s often an indicator that you have won an argument if you find someone is blocking you (I’m very proud to have been blocked by eminent progressive educator Jo Boaler for daring to suggest I wouldn’t be ignoring criticisms of her research just because she is more eminent than her critics). However, I think it is worth making it clear who I will block.

1) Bullies. Katharine Birbalsingh got harassed off of Twitter by people sending her abuse and behaving in a generally disconcerting and obsessive way. I will not go the same way. Send me insults once and I’ll probably retweet them so we can laugh at how pathetic you are. Send me several insults, or one extreme one, and I’ll block.

2) The Unwell. There are a couple of people (both of whom I have tended to encounter on the Local Schools Network- make of that what you will) who seem to be exhibiting genuine mental health problems in their online behaviour. Even if they do provide arguments I will not engage with them as I’m not sure a row with me is what they need in their present state of mind. I will attempt to ignore such people and block if they interact with me on Twitter.

And the latest category, and the one which has started the latest controversy, is:

3) Cheerleaders. I began to notice that sometimes some people would wade in whenever I was having an argument to make snarky comments about me, and to tell whoever I was arguing with how great their arguments and opinions were, even if they were obviously out on a limb and falling apart. If people are losing an argument then they probably deserve to know they are losing it, so I never found this stuff helpful. However, with a couple of my followers it became such a frequent occurrence, and they never offered an argument themselves, that I began to feel they were following me only to bolster the confidence of anyone I disagreed with. After a bit of discussion about it, I decided I would block those individuals if they continued. One did, one didn’t. I don’t expect everyone who follows me to agree with me or even like me, but sometimes I do need to be able tell somebody “that’s not okay” without somebody who has applied no thought to the issue popping in to say “yes, it is”. There really is no point following me if your only agenda is to make debate more personal and unpleasant and to disrupt the actual flow of the discussion.


  1. You might be interested in Wayne Bishop’s two new responses to Boaler, first on the merits of her work and second on her scurrilous allegations: http://math.stanford.edu/~milgram/

  2. […] such interest. People ran campaigns using the innovative #votebiscuit hashtag. There was talk of vote rigging too. Yet, on the night, despite having tweeted about it and explaining the premise behind the […]

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