Archive for March, 2019

Civic Character and Civic Service as Components of a Democratic Pedagogy

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

1 ‘Bottom up’ purposes of education

Democracy must be experienced to be learned and in this connection there is a democratic deficit in contemporary classrooms world wide.  

The need for a children’s democracy to underpin civic actions is not new. As English aristocracy was giving way to democracy in the 19th century, Matthew Arnold investigated popular education in France and other countries to determine what form of education suited a democratic age.  Arnold wrote that “the spirit of democracy” is part of “human nature itself”, which engages in “the effort to affirm one’s own essence…to develop one’s own existence fully and freely.  What he didn’t say is that a democratic education means cultivating the experience of engaging in political processes.

During the industrial age, John Dewey argued that children should not all be given the same pre-determined curriculum. In ‘Democracy and Education’ he develops a philosophy of education based on democracy. He argues that while children should be active participants in the creation of their education, and while children must experience democracy to learn democracy, they need adult guidance to develop into responsible adults.  In his view, the purpose of education is to uplift humanity Through self knowledge each person must decide what use he or she will make of their knowledge but the young should remember that their great aim should be the uplift of humanity. He said this should apply particularly to the use of evironmental resources. In his view the value of the resources of nature lies in the extent to which they are used for the welfare of humanity. By welfare he means health, happiness and prosperity.  Prosperity need not be measured in terms of financial gain. He said,

“The time will come when men will look back on the present and wonder how or why the knowledge of science was not used for the welfare of mankind. What can the colleges do to train the young best to serve their fellow men? Education should not be so practical; so devoted to gains that the great object in life is obscured. Do lawyers strive to serve their fellow men as they should? Are the efforts of all in authority; of all enjoying the best in life used for the betterment of the race? If education tends to improve the mind and lead the ones enjoying it to altruistic effort then it will not be in vain. This will be grand and an era of good will for mankind will be ushered in”.  

Amy Gutmann argues in ‘Democratic Education’ that in a democratic society, there is a role for everyone in the education of children. One of her central tenets is that education should maximize students’ future life choices without prejudicing them for or against any controversial conceptions of what the good life should be. The roles and goals of participators in mining Earth’s bounty are best agreed upon through deliberative democracy.  Deliberative democracy has its roots in Athenian-style democracy that originated in ancient Greece where decision-making was carried out by large gatherings of citizens, largely without the aid of ‘representatives’. It is based on the idea that authentic discussion between free and equal citizens, including young people, can enable local consensual decision -making. This has legitimacy and is much less vulnerable to the distortions that come with party politics, because modern democracies need a rich ecology of democratic practices supported by strong legal systems, different forms of citizenship education and a free press.

Gutmann summarizes the similarities and differences between her democratic educational theory and its progenitors as follows:

“Like the family state, a democratic state of education tries to teach virtue – not the virtue of the family state (power based upon knowledge), but what might best be called democratic virtue: the ability to deliberate, and hence to participate in conscious social reproduction. Like the state of families, a democratic state upholds a degree of parental authority over education, resisting the strong communitarian view that children are creatures of the state. But in recognizing that children are future citizens, the democratic state resists the view, implicit in the state of families, that children are creatures of their parents. Like the state of individuals, a democratic state defends a degree of professional authority over education – not on grounds of liberal neutrality, but to the extent necessary to provide children with the capacity to evaluate those ways of life most favoured by parental and political authorities”.

This theme was taken up by the journal “Democracy and Education’, which was established to investigate “the conceptual foundations, social policies, institutional structures, and teaching/learning practices associated with democratic education.” By “democratic education” is meant “educating youth…for active participation in a democratic society.

Yaacov Hecht claims that Democratic Education, being an education that prepares for life in a democratic culture, is the missing piece in the intricate puzzle which is the democratic state.

There are many reasons why education is important, but the above contributors to the debate about the purpose of education play down its contribution to economic growth and outcomes. Nevertheless, from an economic point of view, education continues to be defined as the stock of skills, competencies, and other productivity-enhancing characteristics.  This was the view of the World Economic Forum in 2016. Furthermore, politicians continue to see education as a critical component of a country’s human capital, which increases the efficiency of each individual worker and helps economies to move up the value chain beyond manual tasks or simple production processes. This value chain driven by education was described by the sociologist Ulrich Beck in the 1980s, when he called Germany an elevator society in which millions of skilled workers upgraded from Volkswagons to Audis and expected their children to rise further.  Now, the economic elevator culture is faltering abd young Germans are joining the precariat. In sociology and economics this is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. The term is a portmanteau obtained by merging precarious with proletariat.

Germany’s economic power is largely the result of its education and training system and its applied research in the eyes of interviewees.  But it’s impossible to quantify the relationship precisely because there are many other limiting factors.

The economic purpose of education in the UK was exemplified by Nick Gibb, Government Minister for English Schools, speaking at the 2015  Education Reform Summit. His standpoint was that the purpose of education is to underpin civic actions as follows;

  • it is the engine of our economy;
  • it is the foundation of our culture;
  • and it’s an essential preparation for adult life.

The minister put serving economic growth as the top priority of the English education system.  

Making this point he positioned education in relation to the state of the economy, “….which in 2014 grew by 3% – the strongest growth since 2006, and the fastest in the G7”.  Employment in 2014 was at its highest-ever level, with 1.85 million more people in work since the last government entered office. Business investment had increased by 25.6% since the first quarter of 2010.

Regarding the role of education in achieving this success the minister said

“….most important of all, we must ensure that more people have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a demanding economy. For example, the UK’s … “long-term performance has lagged behind those of our international competitors. Our 15-year-olds are on average 3 years behind their peers in Shanghai in mathematics and we are the only OECD country whose young people do not have better levels of literacy or numeracy than their grandparents’ generation”.

The implication is that Government  beĺieved that a better performing education system would boost year on year economic growth, which is the foundation of the UK consumer culture and a driver of climate  change.

2  A bottom-up global democracy of children

The first Earth Summit, held in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, was the largest meeting of world leaders ever. Together these leaders created a document called AGENDA 21, a blueprint for saving Planet Earth.  After the conference ended, thousands of young people from nearly 100 countries, funded by the UN and other international agencies,worked together in an extraordinary effort to find out exactly what was agreed in this important document. Their efforts produced a unique book, designed, written and illustrated by children, for children, to inspire young people all over the world to join the rescue mission ‘to save planet Earth from environmental degradation’.

The UN Secretary General of the UN at that time was Boutros Boutros-Ghali.  He wrote:

“I sincerely hope that this book will help children from all countries better to understand and appreciate the fragile world in which we live and to dedicate themselves to do everything possible to protect and enhance this Earth. ” .

As they edited the book the production team thought about how to organise the thousands of young people who had had an input to the project.  They put it this way.

“How on earth could 2.5 billion human beings under the age of 18 be connected in a way that would be democratic without being bureaucratic?  How could we enter into the adult’s decision-making process without starting to be as boring as them? The first thing to do is select issues, not representatives. That way we can all choose what we want to talk about, after which the question of who does the talking is less important.  The first place is to organise is in our schools. Each Rescue Mission will start with a conference where we would decide the isssues and select a small action council to see things get done. Like the School’s Councils in Frace, we will have regular access to local government and work with them, perhaps to organise the Local Agenda 21”.

Their solution was to promote a network from schools that would carry a Global Democracy of Children through the various levels of government in partnerships with NGOs.

Their aim was for the schools to help the communities they served make local action plans for improving local well-being (Fig 1).   

The book ‘Rescue Mission Planet Earth’ failed to galvanise the adults as teachers and politicians to change an education system that had been designed by the western powers long ago  to serve colonialism. Also, in 1994 the Internet and social media were in an embryonic stage and not available to provide a platform for young people to gather globally and voice a new educational framework to promote prosperity for all without denuding humanity’s ecosystem services.

Fig 1  Networking a global democracy of children

The new framework has to be the Millenniium Ecosystem Assessment and the 2030 goals for a sustainable global economy  The Assessment marks the advent of the ideational educational knowledge framework of cultural ecology, where humankind works with nature instead of battling against against it.

No one has defined the philosophy of cultural ecology better than David Orr who  in 1994 set out its new educational imperatives.

“Those now being educated will have to do what we, the present generation, have been unable or unwilling to do: stabilise world population; stabilise and then reduce the emission of greenhouse gases; protect biological diversity; reverse the destruction of forests everywhere; and conserve soils. They must learn how to use energy and materials with great efficiency. They must learn how to utilise solar energy in all its forms. They must rebuild the economy in order to eliminate waste and pollution. They must learn how to manage renewable resources for the long run. They must begin the great work of repairing as much as possible, the damage done to Earth in the past 200 years of industrialisation. And they must do all this while they reduce worsening social and racial inequities. No generation has ever faced a more daunting agenda”.

Fig 2 Common ground of a school/community democracy

A  school/community democratic pedagogy incorporates two essential components, civic character and civic service .

Civic character includes social and emotional skills, the principles and practices of democratic participation and the values and dispositions of an effective responsible citizen.

These skills and values are vital for successful relationships and participation in school, organizations, community and career, as well as political engagement.

  • Value and demonstrate honesty, personal integrity  and respect for others;
  • Understand and effectively manage their emotions and behaviour;
  • Act toward others with empathy and caring;
  • Resolve differences in constructive ways;
  • Understand how to participate in the political process and democratic institutions that shape public policy;
  • Exercise leadership for social justice;
  • Work to counter prejudice and discrimination;
  • Think critically and creatively about local, state and national issues, and world events;
  • Contribute time and resources to building community and solving problems.

Civic service includes the understanding of a community/national/world problem and planning and implementing a project to help solve that problem, in the context of learning and practicing the knowledge, values and skills of citizenship.

Civic service involves student groups devising and operating an action plan for tackling a local issue by :

  • Identifying a current issue that they believe needs to be addressed.
  • Researching the issue from multiple perspectives, with help from community
  • mentors.
  • Choosing a potential solution and presenting a rationale for their choice.
  • Planning and implement a project to promote their solution.
  • Reflecting on learning  about themselves, their team, their  issue and civic responsibility.
  • Giving a formal presentation of the project, what was learned, and conclusions.

Through this process students will experience working together to achieve a common purpose. They will demonstrate an understanding of their civic responsibility and contribute  meaningful solutions to their community. The vision of Rescue Mission is that students will become civic service leaders, caring for their school, community, nation and world.  This means looking from the inside out and see the embeddedness of education into the surrounding cultural environment and its rich variety of services and actors.  The aim is to develop the outward looking school, a school that opens up towards both its internal and external actors – physically and mentally that manage their community’s environmental services.

3 Ecosystem services in education

The concept of ecosystem service was first coined in early 1980s. By drawing attention to the many services ecosystems provide for human beings, the aim was to raise public interest and concern for ecosystem protection

While originating in the ecological sciences, the ecosystem service concept puts human needs and preferences in the centre of cultural ecology and measures the health of ecosystems based on their ability to provide humans with benefits.  The United Nations’ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2003 and 2005 stimulated interest in the cultural aspects of ecosystem services, which are defined as the ‘nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences’. In this classification system, ecosystem services include ten subcategories of which cultural heritage is one.  Each of these services is given a short explanation. Cultural heritage is defined more broadly by Tengberg et al as follows:

‘Many societies place high value on the maintenance of either historically important landscapes (cultural landscapes) or culturally significant species’. These valued elements of human experience can be understood as heritage when the focus is on physical objects or places, that have been passed on from generation to generation. But heritage also incorporates various practices and tangible aspects such as language or cultural behaviour in a broader sense. This also incorporates ways to go about conserving things and choices we make about what to remember and what to forget, often in the light of a potential threat and in relation to future generations. Cultural heritage is thus not only what former generations built up but also the way it is interpreted, valued and managed by contemporary society in our everyday life. Historical artefacts and the way practices are reconnected to historic features within landscapes are reconsidered as heritage because we attribute values to them. Cultural heritage is therefore not static but is constantly changing by being re-evaluated and interpreted in various ways by different actors”.

As the ecosystem services approach is becoming a key tool in environmental decision-making, there is a need for the practical discipline of conservation management of cultural heritage to engage and influence the ecosystem services societal discourse so that cultural heritage is seen as a useful and valuable environmental resource for living sustainably.  Education has a key role, which is evalutated in the European Commision’s thematic paper ;The Outward Looking School and its Ecosystem’ (2015) a rethinking of education as learning entrepreneurship through introducing opportunities to open up the community served by the school as a learning resource.

Europe is facing major changes in education, one of the domains, which has evolved less than others since the 19th century. Rethinking the educational system tends to break down barriers and adapt to a changing world. However, the school curricula still remain too centred on key subjects with little connection between one and another, not sufficiently related to present-day realities and not sufficiently encompassing skills in digital technology. This leads to poor PISA results, early school dropouts and increased unemployment. Where schools and teaching institutions see in culture and cultural heritage an important mind-opener they remain too imprisoned in a day-to-day organisation lacking flexibility, personnel and appropriate financing. Field trips require time, money, efficient, properly trained teachers, and shared responsibilities. In this context the local heritage sector is a relatively untapped dynamic outdoor laboratory.

The heritage sector is in constant evolution, rethinking its goals, encompassing new fields and being at the core of new declarations and conventions. It enhances participation, engaging not only specialists but also the layman. In developing public-oriented activities, from schools to adult lifelong learning, the awareness and need to protect our common heritage has grown, as has the idea of considering it a responsibility shared withhin the community. However, heritage education as such is too often related to one-time events and not centred enough on the long-term cultural trajectory.

Integration of heritage matters in a variety of sectors, among which heritage education is an important if not essential answer to:

  • Democratic citizenship;
  • Environmental protection;
  • Job growth;
  • Social inclusion;
  • Sustainable development;
  • Well-being;
  • Political engagement

In ecology, ecosystems consist of a systemic community of living organisms which interact with the non-living elements in their environment. These biotic and abiotic components are regarded as linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Ecosystems are defined by the network of interactions among organisms, and between organisms and their environment. They can be of any size but usually encompass specific, limited spaces.

In the world of education, ecosystems may be defined as the full variety of actors (i.e., living species) and all nonliving elements in use for education through teaching and learning. The full variety of actors involves the population inside school (mainly teachers, principals, students, other staff) as well as the population outside school (entrepreneurs, associations, institutions, parents, families, friends and private persons etc.). The non-living (abiotic) elements inside this milieu are defined by all available material means (buildings, classrooms, external locations, tools, IT resources, etc.) and they influence the nature of interaction of populations.

All these populations are connected through networks. They form together a meta-population and inhabit the same milieu. In the entrepreneurial school, the nature of this milieu is characterised by a shared entrepreneurial context.  To understand the constituents of the entrepreneurship education ecosystem of a school requires an investigation of the motivations of the actors in the ecosystem. Primarily, this motivation is held by the educators who may spread it to learners. Since motivation is based on perceived benefits, a school needs to investigate primarily the benefits desired and perceived by teachers. In this context teachers and learners become entrepreneurs, and their entrepreneurial activities may be of monetary nature, but they can also be related to the ‘marketing ‘ of societal, philosophical and personal values. Hopefully some of these products would be elements of a democratic pedagogy necessary for future generations to to implement a global circular economy.

Using Twitter to Promote a Democratic Humanistic Education Network

Friday, March 8th, 2019

1 Towards new pedagogies

Educational theorists have long been calling for new pedagogies that afford authentic learning opportunities, are responsive to ever changing digital information landscapes, and that will position learners in active and participatory roles. The need is particularly acute for critical learning about the educational relationship between culture and environment.  Here there is the requirement for alternative educational solutions stimulated by the nature of developing IT information landscapes and conceptual bridges between culture and ecology. These new learning landscape have been described as:

the ‘intersubjectively created spaces that have resulted from human interaction, in which information is created and shared and eventually sediments as knowledge’   

In other words, the new ‘word and picture’ technologies for organising and presenting information make it relatively easy for a researcher to connect one subject to another and share the new ideas that thereby arise to create new interdisciplinary knowledge.  It is in this vein that Alison Hicks and Caroline Sinkinson connect and contrast personal learning environments (PLEs) and critical information literacies (CILs) in order to explore the design of pedagogical responses to the information environment. Their view is that PLEs are commonly created using specific technologies and tools, such as online  personal and group organizers like EverNote.  However, the model is not wedded to a specific technology but rather to a process that aims to visualize and organize the influx of information and resources that students are confronted with daily. They believe that PLEs are essentially a positive educational response to the overload of information in the digital age.

Critical, or democratic, pedagogy is an educational movement which gives people the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and sense of responsibility necessary to engage in a culture of questioning information and interrogating ruling hierarchies. These abilities are of benefit to young people when they increase their political agency through heightened awareness of social injustice and the means by which to communicate and challenge this. A central feature of the critical pedagogical approach is critical literacy, which teaches and provides opportunities for analysis and critiquing skills. Critical literacy has been recommended by a number of authors as a valuable aspect to include together with personal learning in information literacy (IL) courses. Critical IL could contribute to enabling the development of political agency and increasing users meaningful and active involvement in democratic processes.  The ability to do this is heightened because of the free availability of social media. This opens up a new approach to humanistic education.

2 Internet learning

There is no doubt that advances in IT technology have greatly increased the amount of information available on the Internet.  Significantly, they include lower barriers to participation. This explosion in accessible and inexhaustible content is an opportunity for educators to reshape their understanding of information, particularly in terms of traditional conceptions of division of knowledge, authority and validity. These changes can be seen in shifting practices of scholarship from imparting knowledge and facilitating its use.  ‘Internet scholars’ use participatory humanistic technologies and online social media to share, reflect upon, critique, improve, validate, and so further the development of their personal body of knowledge within their own online knowledge networks and mind maps. On this learning journey IT takes them through academic silos, leaving trails for others to follow, consolidate and expand.

While PLEs and CIL both support learners’ critical engagement with new information environments, each was developed within a different field.   Hicks and Sinkinson demonstrate that education for information literacy intersects with the concepts and goals of PLEs. They suggest that PLE scholarship informed by CIL scholarship, and vice versa, will yield a deeper understanding of modern learning contexts as well as providing a more holistic and responsive learner framework.for leadership.  With these propositions, the authors invite educators, librarians and information technologists to engage in a dialogue about these concepts and the potential for fundamental pedagogical change.

3 Hyperbox club

I 1912, Everett  L. Getchell wrote a paper, ‘THE PICTURE IN EDUCATION’, in which he pointed out the power of the magic lantern as an educational tool for picture-education;

“The time saved and the accuracy of impression gained through stereographs and lantern slides leads one to wonder why they are not freely used. It seems to us that the geography and history of the grades in the future will be developed largely with the picture as a nucleus, and the story woven around it”.

Although Getchell probably did not know it, two hundred and thirty years previously the German theologian Johann Siegmund Stoy had created a boxed ‘Picture Academy for the Young’ (Bilder-Akademie fur die Jugend).

Pictures became an international force for social education between 1925 and 1934 when Hans Neurath and his wife invented  Isotype (International System of TYpographic Picture Education). Isotype is a method of showing social, technological, biological and historical connections in pictorial form. It was first known as the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics, in the Social and Economic Museum of Vienna.

PLEs and CILs are approaches to learning and inquiry that are particularly responsive to pictures. is a new and easily accessible landscape for picture education. The central feature that draws attention to an educational Tweet, is a picture around which an educational Tweet can be constructed as a dense and deep hyperlinked information package, summarised with a condensed piece of text (Fig 1),  

With more than 241 million active users, 500 million Tweets, and 2.1 billion searches every day, online teachers have a multifarious, active and informed audience to engage with.

Fig 1  Educational ‘anatomy’ of a Tweet


Twitter is a really a microblogging platform that allows individuals to communicate by sending short messages of up to 280 characters. Although it enables people to be in constant contact, its value in an educational context is less clear.  International Classrooms Online (ICOL) is researching the use of social media to create and freely share authoritative personal bodies of knowledge produced by teachers and students to promote democratic humanistic education. Research has shown that students feel more engaged in political issues when they can speak with authority on issues that are going to affect their lives and those of future generations.  That is why they are more motivated to learn new things. Twitter as an educational tool is able to open up totally new worlds for students and allows Tweeters to collaborate and participate in meaningful hashtag chats..

The advice given today by Twitter to increase your reach as a twitterer is to ‘add a picture; people like pictures!’.  Additional information is accessed through an URL link.  An entire suite of Tweets is extractable using #-tagged filters. Feedback is available using ‘Twitter Analytics’, which displays day by day  ‘impressions’ and ‘engagements’ for each Tweet. An ‘impression’ is a Tweet that has been delivered to the Twitter stream of a particular account.  An ‘engagement’ could be a click to a landing page, a reply to a Tweet, or a comment on a Facebook post. Either way, the record of an engagement means that someone has the Tweeter’s attention and they have become engaged in a positive way. In Twitter-speak, a ‘Moment’ is a set of Tweets curated in a sequence that tells a  story. It is a personal linear narrative; a mind map incorporating the personal Tweets of its maker. It can also include other people’s Tweets. ‘Moments’ have their own URLs and can be shared and developed with others.

To summarise, Tweets are pieces of information that are turned into a body of knowledge when they are packaged as a Moment.

4 Trees in mind

This section is the account of an experiment in using Twitter for creating PLEs and CILs.  It is based on picturing concepts of the material and symbolic interaction of trees with culture.  

No matter where or how we live, there can be no doubt that most of us cannot help noticing trees. Their obvious cycles of greening and shedding of leaves, give tree-watchers a sense of trees as powerful symbols of life, death and renewal. Trees project a raw intensity that refuses to flinch in  the face of the powerful meaning we read into trees which is that they represent both death and new life. In this context, most people cannot escape a sense that trees are sentient beings just like us, They bleed when they are hurt. Do they feel pain? We revere trees as keepers of past secrets and sentinels of the future. We innately feel a deep connection to them.  In this strong cultural perspective, trees illustrate the theme of the memento mori, the medieval Latin theory and practice of reflection on mortality, which is as old as Western art.  

An important insight from the complex role that trees have played in the construction of the human ecological niche is that acquired characters have taken on a social development role in transforming selective environments. This is particularly relevant to human genetic evolution, where, from early times, our species appears to have engaged in extensive environmental modification through cultural practices involving trees. Such practices are typically not themselves biological adaptations.  Rather, they are the adaptive behavioural product of those much more general social adaptations, such as the ability to learn, particularly from others, to teach, to use language, and so forth. These, underlie human culture, and hence, cannot accurately be described as the work of extended phenotypes. A universal behaviour to form communities seems to be a sequence of;

  • fell trees;
  • build settlements;
  • and grow crops.

This is a linear material process in which managing trees for sustainable community services has played a vital role in the development of a local tree management system called coppicing.  Trees become cultural symbols along the way. Because of such imaginative thoughts, trees are a bridge between people and nature and through these thoughts trees have taken on great cultural significance. In particular, they tell us that the mind is what the brain does to form cultures which are the behavioural outcomes of mental programmes shaped by environmental problems, mysteries and opportunities.  These mental programmes work as well as they do because they were shaped by social selection to assemble a mental scaffold for human niche construction. They incorporate trees as symbols sanctified by our primeval ancestors’ will to master trees, along with other life forms, rocks, and each other. So ultimately trees become embedded into local ecosystem services for human survival and reproduction. Hence comes forth the significance of the cultural role of trees.  They are vehicles to encourage people to develop their own cross-curricular, critical learning network about topics such as climate change and social justice associated with ancient and modern land use practices.

A collection of pictures illustrating pictorial concepts of the cultural ecology of trees was assembled on Twitter under the name zygeena (Fig 2).  The first one in this series was posted on the 14th October, 2015. They followed on from a series of mainly textual Tweets containing information about the general educational philosophy of cultural ecology and climate change, which had been uploaded intermittently from 9th February 2012.

Fig 2 Tree Tweet (3 Jan 2016)

Impressions = 801. Total engagements = 9

The tree Tweets have been divided between two Moments

Messages of the Trees 1

Messages of the Trees 2

5  Climate in mind

Climate change is by far the biggest political issue facing humanity with profound consequences for all our future cultural relationships with ecology. ‘Climate in mind’ is a Twitter educational  initiative to stimulate the self assembly of an international group of students and teacher facilitators with personal Twitter accounts, using the Twitter tag #democraticpedagogy to co-produce an educational philosophy (pedagogy) and create an online curriculum for learning about climate change; what it is; how it is happening; what the consequences are; and how people can have an input to national and international policies to control it.  The role of a facilitator is to raise the confidence of individuals through helping them build a thoughtful personal body of knowledge. This is the process behind humanistic learning, also known as “person- centered learning” or ‘self-appropriated learning, which is also a key factor in education/training for leadership.

The Twitter project ‘Climate in Mind’  was initiated on the day when pupils of UK schools ‘went on strike’ to draw attention to their fears about the effect of climate change. Their Twitter tag is #schoolstrike4climate.The following sequence of Tweets was published by Denis Bellamy between 15 Feb to 3 Mar 2019 on the topic of democratic pedagogy,

Tweet 1

The target of a democratic pedagogy to meet the aims of the students who went on strike to pressure the politicians to tackle climate change is to challenge the beliefs and practices that dominate the current fictional world view of boundless economic growth because the only future for humanity is one planet living …

Tweet 2

I am using this tag  #democraticpedagogy to discuss humanistic teacher/learner interactions required to develop and implement a critical global curriculum for shaping new citizens for one planet living …

Tweet 3

1A democratic pedagogy for today is an educational framework which guides learners to gather question challenge and develop information to create a personal body of knowledge and apply it for one planet living …

Tweet  4

Central to the school strike for climate is a plea from young people to become involved in establishing a democratic pedagogy to coproduce a curriculum centred on the management of climate change to ensure the wellbeing of future generations …

Tweet 5

Teachers of a democratic pedagogy are facilitators.  They lead individual learners to question ideologies and practices considered oppressive,encouraging liberatory responses of their own intellectual development for one planet living

Tweet 6

A democratic pedagogy is a theory and practice to produce a democratic classroom which is under the shared authority of teacher and learners. This is a primary educational goal of democratic pedagogy. …

Tweet 7

At the core of undemocratic education policies is a model of indefinite economic growth with yearly increases in wealth that caused our present ecological crisis  A democratic pedagogy is necessary to evaluate a future with no growth. …

Tweet 8

The aim of a democratic pedagogy is that individuals create a personal body of knowledge and share it to change the oppressive nature of society knowing that this will require radical re-ordering of priorities in institutions and ideologies.

Tweet 9

Democratic pedagogy in the classroom …

Tweet 10

Democratic pedagogy in the global context of a democratic network of young people self educated to adopt a conservation world view. Based on a children’s Agenda 21 (Rescue Mission 1994) …

Tweet 11

Democratic pedagogy in the national context of one planet living in Wales  #schoolstrike4climate

Tweet 12

Democratic pedagogy in the global context of a democratic network of young people self educated to adopt a conservation world view. Based on a children’s Agenda 21 (Rescue Mission 1994) …

Tweet 13

At the core of undemocratic education policies is a model of indefinite economic growth with yearly increases in wealth that caused our present ecological crisis  A democratic pedagogy is necessary to evaluate a future with no growth.

Tweet 14

Democratic pedagogy in the global context of a democratic network of young people self educated to adopt a conservation world view. Based on a children’s Agenda 21 (Rescue Mission 1994) …

Tweet 15

Click on following URL to see a mindmap of a climate change curriculum … This is a work in progress.

Tweet 16

Click on following URL to see a mindmap of a democraticpedagogy.  This is a work in progress …

Tweet 17

To see a democratic pedagogy in the national context of education for one planet living in Wales UK click the following URL  

A Moment was created for these Tweets (15 Feb 2019 onwards).

It is so simple to participate. Open a Twitter account and Tweet your microblog with the hashtag #democraticpedagogy.

Some examples of substantial personal bodies of knowledge produced by students and their facilitators beyond twittering can be accessed in the LIBRARY OF ONLINE EXEMPLARS at:

Twitter has a powerful analytics system for tracing the dynamics of individual Tweets. For example, the number and type of interactions a Tweet receives is automatically recorded day by day.  Also. the total number of interactions received by all Tweets can be plotted as a histogram over any time period (Fig 3). The rate of impressions per day varied and was always boosted on the days when Tweets were published. During a period of seven days without tweeting (Feb 28 to Mar 5) the number of daily impressions increased two-fold.

Fig 3 Numbers of impressions and Tweets on the topic of climate change per day (Feb 27 to Feb to 7 March).

Each new Tweet boosted the number of impressions for that day.  This was followed by a slower rate of interaction. Over the first 20 days of the project the Tweets had earned 1,8 k impressions at a rate of around 100 per day. Engagements accumulated at a slower rate; an average of 3 interactions per 100 impressions.

This raises the question of the factors that limit the impact of a Tweet in gaining an audience and getting the recipient to delve deeper into the subject matter.  To a large extent this is an issue of the way in which people interact with information that is delivered to their computer screens. The following five facts illustrate the psychological limitations of this basic interaction.

  • The average person gets distracted in eight seconds, though a mere 2.8 seconds is enough to distract some people.
  • 81 percent of people only skim the content they read online. (Jakob Nielsen has written that the average user reads at most 20 to 28 percent of words during an average visit.)
  • People form a first impression in a mere 50 milliseconds.
  • Posts that include images produce a 6-fold higher engagement than text-only posts.
  • People are 85 percent more likely to buy a product after viewing a product video.
  • Posts with videos attract 3X more links than text-only posts.

Then there is the tone of the actual Tweet, which has to be enthusiastic.  If you want to earn reTweets and engagement, you have to be at least as enthusiastic about your Tweet as you want your followers to be. A sincerely excited and positive tone in your Tweets will make it more likely that your followers will get in on the conversation and help you spread the word. For example, would you be more likely to reTweet this “Starting Saturday we are expanding hours at all of our restaurants.”, or “Great news night owls! Starting Saturday you can get great burgers, shakes, and fries until midnight!”?

Also  certain words and phrases are more likely to create engagement. For example, the word “you” is extremely powerful in all forms of social media content, but on Twitter, its power is even more exceptional. It reminds followers that your focus is on their needs and interests, and when used in a question encourages responses. In addition to the word you, superlatives (awesome, mind blowing), verbs (share, reTweet, click, look, see), and urgent phrasing (check it out today!, Learn more at our website! Limited time to respond!) urge people respond.

Content that contains images is more likely to be shared and to get responses. However, if you limit the type of visual content you are Tweeting, you could be missing out on attention and engagement. In fact, the most shareable form of content is the infographic.  An infographic is, “a visual presentation of information in the form of a chart, graph, or other image accompanied by minimal text, intended to give an easily understood overview, often of a complex subject.”

The importance of the format of the Tweet is brought out by a comparison of the following two Tweets.  Each carried the same basic message (Figs 4 & 5) but in terms of impressions, total engagement and link clicks the second Tweet was far more successful.  

Fig 4  Tweet published on Mar 3 (2019); viewed Mar 5 ( 2019)

Time elapsed from publication of Tweet = 48hr

Impressions = 39

Total engagement = 1

Link clicks = 1

Fig 5  Tweet published on Mar 5 (2019); viewed 5hr after publication

Time elapsed from publication = 5hr

Impressions = 97

Total engagements = 2

Link clicks = 2

Profile = 1

In summary, Twitter says that an influencer with a good engagement rate on Twitter could expect between 2 – 9 reactions for every 1000 followers. An engagement rate between 0.09% and 0.33% is considered to be high, where an influencer would expect 9 – 33 reactions for every 1000 followers on Twitter. So far, the actual engagement rate for the climate change project from Feb 15 to Mar 7 was 2.8% and the total reactions, link clicks, reTweets and Likes was 57.  With only 29 followers this amounts to 2000 reactions per 1000 followers. These engagements were not coming from followers.

However, from an educational viewpoint the most significant statistic is that 17 people delved deeper into the information, an indication that they were building a personal body of knowledge.  This augers well for the use of Twitter as a personal learning environment for supporting and promoting self-motivated critical learning.

6 Internet references