The Crib Sheet

During the exchange I was discussing in the previous post, Becky (Wood) shared an example of one of the resources she had been using to provide whole class feedback:

Later, in a quote tweet, she went on to reference and credit the author of the original resource:

The quote tweet not only acknowledges the author, but via a notification, will tell them that one of their tweets has been acknowledged in some way. The tweet Becky was quoting links back to a blog post where the ‘Marking Crib Sheet’ by Greg Thornton was first(?) released. Before I move on to discuss this further, I want to mention that, presumably as a result of the notification received, Greg popped into the original exchange, just to express his gratitude for being acknowledged. Folks regularly express thanks in this way and are appreciative that people find value in the resources they produce and share.

If we now take a closer look at Greg’s tweet that Becky quoted:

We can get an immediate sense of the value that people have ascribed to the Crib Sheet through the number of times the tweet has been retweeted and Liked. I’m of course assuming from those figures that people have found value, but of course celebrity tweets also often get heavily RT’d and Liked, perhaps for different reasons. Nevertheless when we dip down to the Replies to Greg’s tweet, people’s opinions become less in doubt:

Just discovered the amazing #markingcribsheet – finally something to really structure my DIRT! Thanks @MrThorntonTeach, can’t wait to use it (@MrsCandypop)

Love this! Just used it to plan feedback for class set of exam questions. The blog post is really useful in explaining how it all works! (@misstait_85)

so I introduced this to a T&L meet in school today.
Guess what we’re trialling together now… (@jsamuelcjohnson)

Together with the positive comments, throughout the thread, people often ask questions of Greg which he patiently answers, or guides them back to his blog post where the answers can be found. The blog post is incredibly detailed and clear, explaining why the crib sheet was produced, how it was produced and providing examples of the ways in which it has been used. Generously, Greg also provides links to a a ‘How to’ guide and a blank template of the crib sheet. The post itself is a rich, multimodal ensemble worthy of further discussion, but that’s perhaps for another time. The ‘Comments’ thread of Greg’s post, like Twitter, also features a number of questions and people expressing their gratitude:

I really like this, as a Primary Teacher who covers PPA, I can see this would be a good way of feeding back to the class teachers also. Great for Computing and other subjects where no written work to mark e.g. computing and music. I am going to start using this straightaway and will share with colleagues. Thanks for sharing it. [Link]

… is typical of the 48 (as of 19/09/2017) comments. There are also 9 pingbacks from other blog posts which have outlined the ways in which they have used and/or adapted the crib sheet, many sharing their variations. Several also discussed the political climate within which the crib sheet sits and which help to explain why people find resources like this so potent; factors include assessment, workload, inspection, accountability.

All good then? In the interests of balance, whilst the majority of tweet replies or blog comments were indeed positively inclined towards the crib sheet, a few, whilst not entirely critical, expressed concern at pupils being named on the sheet. Some pupils were praised, which is presumably OK since no-one mentioned that, but some respondents were worried at the names of those pupils who had work still to complete being shared amongst the class. Greg responded to each of the people who mentioned this, but I think this was probably an area of contention which remained unresolved.

Donning the sociomaterial hat

This is a phenomenal assemblage and eclectic mix of actors that it could take an age to unpick fully. I was enrolled into the assemblage from the quote tweet I mentioned at the outset, but could so easily have come here through another actor. As the above figures show, the tweet itself ranged far and wide; the retweets alone ensuring that it will have trickled through hundreds of timelines. The other blog posts which referenced Greg’s post also spread the message more widely through the social media channels with which they’re connected. Several tweets and comments also describe episodes in which discussions of the resource shifted offline into staff meetings and other fora. I, and other people could have come to this by any one of a number of different paths, but the assemblage continues to grow. It becomes manifest in staffrooms, pupils’ books, meetings, computer folders, and in changed teachers’ practices and pupils’ learning. The school marking policy which changes as a result of the crib sheet assemblage becomes part of it in just the same way as the pupil whose punctuation changes when their name appears on the sheet. I wonder where (if?) it stops? Is there a Hype Cycle for a tweet, a blog post or resource? Is it better explained by the diffusion of innovations model? Does an assemblage grow and decay with time if the actors no longer perform it? The teachers who might change jobs; the blogs or Twitter accounts that are closed down; the tweets that get deleted when users seek to ‘clean’ their timelines. Does a longitudinal study have any meaning within a sociomaterial approach? How is time done?

So many of the tweets and blog comments described the ways in which the original crib sheet had been adapted. Beginning life in a History department context, it found it’s way into other subject areas and has crossed phases from secondary to primary. From a digital file downloaded from Greg’s blog post, it then gets adapted digitally, before finding itself passing through a printer, being displayed on a noticeboard, stuck in a pupil’s book, scanned, viewed through a visualiser or displayed on an interactive whiteboard. Like de Laet and Mol’s (2000) Zimbabwe Bush Pump, the crib sheet is a fluid object. The fact that it is so adaptable, flexible, responsive and that it travels easily from place to place makes it stronger. It persists and endures better than a rigid object precisely because as a fluid it is open to change. In spite of the different adaptations which are made and the forms it takes, the fundamental purpose of providing class feedback is still maintained. For one teacher it might follow a Y11 science investigation, identify skills that need practising, is displayed through a projector and then discussed with the whole class in order to prepare them in advance of a GCSE exam. For another teacher, it might follow a Y7 English homework set to three different groups and thereby highlight strengths and weaknesses in poetic style comparatively across the groups. The crib sheet is still the crib sheet, but is enacted differently in each case. What fits in one classroom, in one school, for one teacher, may not work elsewhere, but the fluidity of the crib sheet enables it to accommodate and respond to different needs.

So where does Twitter fit?

We could make a case here that it was Greg’s blog post, or the need to address marking load, or the crib sheet itself which made the difference and precipitated the changes that people described. On the other hand, given how far it seemed to range and the number of reactions it provoked, we might argue that it was the tweet that produced the most noticeable outcome. But this would be sociomaterial suicide. All of these actors are crucial once we think in terms of the assemblage. If we identified the tweet alone, it couldn’t exist without the Twitter platform, which in turn relies on the connectivity that the Internet provides. Greg’s blog post too relies on the same backbone, but would have been far less impactful without the capacity for the inclusion of multimedia. Those who are critical of sociomaterial accounts might point to Greg’s centrality; without his creativity, his technical ability and his desire to share the product of his labours, none of this would have been possible. That is indeed true, but if we also erased any of the nonhumans to which we might not ascribe the same creativity or generosity as Greg, the outcome as described in this post dissolves. The assemblage includes tweets and Twitter, so they too constitute part of the learning assemblage which has been and is being performed.

De Laet, M., & Mol, A. (2000). The Zimbabwe bush pump: Mechanics of a fluid technology. Social studies of science, 30(2), 225-263.
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