Promise, Tool, Bargain

9/07/2008 02:31:00 pm

My main interest in teaching and learning on the web centers around exploring the effective use of social media to deepen our pedagogy and our students learning.

In Clay Shirky's recent book, Here Comes Everybody, he closes by saying that there are three "rules" behind the effective use of any social tool: it "relies on a successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the [students]".

The promise is about why would you use a certain tool. i.e. begin by asking yourself, what do you want to accomplish with your students? What do you want them to learn?

The tool is about answering the question: how do you want them to learn it?

The bargain, in Clay's words, "sets the rules of the road: if you are interested in the promise and adopt the tools, what can you (the students) expect and what will be expected of you?"

This is not a recipe for success. It's more of a framework to pin your thinking on. There are infinite paths to any goal; every teacher and student may start and end a course at the same place but the path they follow to get there is unique to each individual.

These three ideas can serve as a framework to guide our thinking as we try to answer the question: So, exactly what am I going to do differently with all this stuff in class tomorrow?

What do you think? Is this a helpful framework for thinking about using social media in the classroom?

You Might Also Like


  1. I think it's very important to think this stuff through. I wish I always did!

    The framework looks like it would encourage some thinking-through, and on that basis I'd say it's a good thing.

  2. I like the framework and although it's nothing new, it's nice terminology.
    What's new is the tools we are teaching with and what I find to be difficult is the Bargain, communicating expectations in an often unfamiliar environment. I'm glad someone is thinking on this level about these practices. Thanks for sharing

  3. I also find the Bargain to be the most difficult part of the process. In some classes we establish the Bargain quickly and students buy in fast. In other classes it's much more difficult to Bargain and I end up "using force" to solicit their participation (they loose marks).

    In one class this semester a group of kids bought in swiftly. Almost all of them joined the blog within 2 days and, after our first formal class, made some excellent contributions to a Google Spreadsheet I made for them to begin exploring the characteristics of parabolas. You can see our public doc here.

    In another class I still haven't got more than two kids to sign up for the blog.

  4. Short and sweet post Darren. Thanks for making me think.

  5. I think in this egocentric-minded society we live, we need to incorporate a "payoff" into this framework. As unorthodox as this may seem, students will want to know what the payoff is; that is, how this learning experience will benefit them. If we keep this in mind as instructors, our teaching experience will be much more fruitful.

  6. Hi there mathbyjoe. What you call "The Payoff" is what I described as "The Promise".

  7. These simple rules really help to guide us down the right path in order to help students learn. The line "every teacher and student may start and end a course at the same place but the path they follow to get there is unique to each individual" says a lot. It's important to look at each situation and realize that each and every person is different and has different learning styles. This can be difficult but helps each student so much

  8. Realism, Relevant, Resonance. If we were to take Shirkey at his word, we would be free to claim World or Warcraft is an LMS.

    The effective trinity is outcome/activity/assessment - which youth online loves to be connected (to their friends and informal hang-outs) - the tools used must have pedagogical relevance to the trinity.

    Plenty of teachers adding 'bling', but that doesn't mean their outcomes are better.

    Its a nice idea, but alas school are not about to welcome 'here comes everyone' - they are all about sifting people into social hierarchy and perpetuating patriarchy - though high-stakes testing.

    I can't see they are about to adopt Shirky-isms