Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Innovative Ways To Improve School:Home Communications

My oldest daughter, Reaghan, is getting ready to be a 2nd grader. Heading back to school with her is one of the busiest times of year. There are lots of meetings, papers to read and fill out, and new things to learn about her school. As a parent, I rely heavily upon the communication efforts of the district and her school. Classes haven’t even started yet and she’s getting many phone calls, letters from her school and the district and lots of other information.

We still have 2 weeks to go!

This is a great time of year for any school or district to look at how they are communicating; evaluate methods used, analyze effectiveness and longevity of communications, and assess audience reached. The ultimate purpose of these communications is to not only share information but to promote engagement within the school, the district, and the community.

Traditionally, schools and districts have used things like the notes home, weekly packets, phone calls and/or emails to communicate throughout the year. While many of these still are valuable and have their place there are new and not-so-new mediums like social media that could be used to deepen the engagement with the community or do something entirely different. These mediums can be a quick and easy way to not only share timely information but moreover tell the wonderful stories that exist in your buildings.

Here are some new and new ways of thinking when it comes to improving School:Home Communications.

Twitter: You might not think that 140 characters provides adequate space to convey one’s message but Twitter can be a powerful medium to engage with parents and the community. In 140 characters one can share a powerful idea, reminders of upcoming events, and notes of encouragement. Twitter is continuing to grow as a popular place for parents and community members. Hashtags can also be powerful to increase a district’s or school’s reach. Today, many schools and districts are creating and using hashtags on Twitter as a means to unify conversations. Those hashtags can be used by parents, students and the community to share as well.

Ideas for Twitter:

  • Share a daily quote or message of encouragement. 
  • Post links to resources or sites for parent engagement or curriculum resources. 
  • Promote the use of the school or district hashtag to encourage parents, students and the community to share stories, pictures and video from their point of view. 
  • Share links to any of the other ideas below. 

Instagram: Pictures can better help us tell a story or capture what’s happening in your building. Parents and the community like to see their students in the classroom or athletes on the field. Instagram has made it easy for anyone to become a professional photographer and the sharing of those images simple. Using Instagram in schools or to tell the district’s story can be another way to get parents and the community involved providing a window into the school and showcasing the learning and accomplishments that take place.

Ideas for Instagram:

  • Share a student of the day or images of what’s happening in the classroom. 
  • Images from athletic events, clubs, or concerts highlight the student involvement in the district.
  • Images or short videos to help parents better understand curriculum, standards, or where to go for help. 
  • Give students a voice and let them take over the account once a week or month and let them decide on the story they want to tell through images. 

Snapchat/Instagram Stories: You might not think that Snapchat or Instagram Stories have a place in the classroom or school but they can be very exciting and an easy way to broaden your audience. The premise for both is the same. You add images and short videos to your story. They stay a part of your story for 24 hours and after that they are gone. (On Snapchat you can explore Stories there to get an idea of how it’s used for events or holidays or  other celebrations.)

Ideas For Using Stories:

  • A Day In The Life of A Student or Staff Member
  • A Day In The Class. What are different classes in your building like on a typical day?
  • Share images and video from a specific event like a Career Fair or assembly. 
  • Create a story around the big game, concert or arts event. 

Periscope/Facebook Live: Video can be a great way to engage the community when the community can’t get to the school. In the past, broadcasting videos and events from within the school was a difficult process that used expensive equipment and needed a high level of expertise. No longer! The phone you carry or the tablet you’re using to read this post can all be used to help you broadcast video in real-time. Periscope and Facebook Live are two easy ways to do this, no special equipment needed. With Periscope, videos are archived  and can be  shared via a link, posted to your Twitter account or published to platforms like YouTube. Facebook Live requires the use of a Facebook account but the video is instantly archived and shared in your News Feed. Both services include ways for commenting and sharing as the video as it’s being broadcast live.

Ideas For Using Live Video:

  • Broadcast Back-To-School Meetings or other meetings throughout the school year for parents and community members who can’t attend. 
  • Weekly message from the Supt. or other leadership team members about what’s happening in the district. 
  • Broadcast sporting events or have students provide commentary from events. 
  • Doing a science fair, geography fair or other student celebration of work? Broadcast it and have students provide the commentary. 

Finally Use Your Website: I know this post is supposed to be about innovative ways to improve School:Home Communications but let’s be real. The school website is still a vital and valuable tool to communicate to your parents and the community. Many still visit your school website to find information, contact numbers, and resources for helping their student at home. Increase the duration of a viewer’s stay by blending educational news with posts that share a story. Posting pictures, video and news stories that capture what it’s like to be a student or a staff member in your school or district can be a great way to let the community to know what’s happening there. Your website becomes less about the static information that’s posted there and more about the stories. And remember, many of the tools we’ve listed here can be embedded on your site. So you can put your Twitter feed or Instagram feed right there where everyone can see.

Ideas For Your Website:

  • Post the morning announcements via a video or if you’re using Google Hangouts On Air you can embed the video archive. 
  • Recognize a Student/Staff/Volunteer Of The Week. Give them a short questionnaire that you can post the responses to. 
  • Have a contest where you post baby pictures of students/staff have in the comments have folks guess who they are building school culture and community.
  • For high schools, run stories in the Fall of where staff members went to college to get Juniors and Seniors thinking about where to apply.

The key takeaway with any of these is that communications are ever changing. There is this dynamic ebb and flow of communication with stakeholders that needs to always be considered. What works for one may not work for another. Therefore it is vital to keep evaluating the methods and tools used and measure their effectiveness. Analyzing metrics and surveying parents and the community can give you valuable insight into how effective you are engaging and perhaps also, provide a new path to take when it comes to improving your School:Home Communications.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Embracing Formative Assessments This School Year

For me, the beginning of the school year was the best time of year. I always enjoyed getting back into my classroom, setting things up and getting pumped for the journey ahead with my students. The beginning of the year was a good reset. I could reflect back on the previous year, examine what I had learned over the summer and plan for a better year coming up.

One area of improvement still to this day I wish I could go back and improve even more was assessment. Mainly, embracing formative assessment.

In my first year of teaching I taught the way I was taught to teach. Delivering content to my students, assess at the end, remediate if necessary. With that cycle, I always had kids who were behind, who never seemed like they could catch up.

I was talking with a teacher friend the summer after my first year and she suggested something simple. Put a large piece of paper next to the door. Give every student a pack of sticky notes. On the way out the door they could put their thoughts about what they didn't quite get or what they were still having trouble with. They could leave their name or not. Either way it gave valuable insight to how the students were learning but also could help shape the lesson for the next day.

What a difference that made.

The following school years that board became an important place for myself and my students. It provided them a way to tell me what they needed and a place for me to reflect on my teaching and give my students what they needed.

Now, as 1:1 and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) are taking over our schools, it's becoming even easier to formatively assess what our students know and for our students to leave feedback as to what they need because of this ready access to technology. However, look at my former classroom. I was able to embrace formative assessment without the need for any devices. The technology certainly helps but isn't always necessary.

Here are a few of my favorite sites and apps that can help you more easily fit formative assessment into your classroom this school year.

Online Sticky Notes- Just like the physical space in my classroom there are lots of virtual sticky note sites out there. Two of my favorites are Padlet and Lino. These provide a virtual corkboard for students to leave notes or questions or comments on their learning. Both sites are easy to set up and free. Best part, kids don't have to have an account to leave a note and they can do it any time, anywhere. All they need is the address. (So you don't even have to be a 1:1 classroom or BYOD. The kids could do them from home.)

Backchannels- Hugely popular at conferences and other educational gatherings the backchannel provides a way for participants to share in conversation while participating in learning. In the classroom they can be a way for kids to collaborate without shouting across the room. In terms of formative assessments, questions at various points through the lesson could be posted there and kids could respond. My favorite backchannel service is TodaysMeet. Again, simple to set up (all you need is a room name and to decide how long you want the room to be open). Free as well, it's available any time, anywhere.

Plickers- A tech tool for the non-tech classroom students merely need to hold up a card with a QR code on it. Using the free Plickers app, teachers then scan the room. The app reads the QR codes. The way the student is holding the card corresponds to an answer choice or letter or whatever you want that end to represent. Once the teacher scans the room you can see instantly who answered what and respond accordingly. It's a quick and easy way to use the power of technology to formatively assess without all students needing the technology.

Kahoot- Kids love friendly competition. And Kahoot is a formative assessment tool cleverly disguised as a game. Simply enter questions into an easy to use template and then students, either as individuals or as teams can see who can gather the most points by answering the questions as fast as they can. For the teacher there are dashboards that show who answered what and that, along with the instant feedback when the questioned is answered can be a great way to introduce and use formative assessment.

Poll Everywhere- This is another one of my favorites, simply because of the variety of uses and methods of submitting responses. Similar to the others, the teacher can create a simple feedback poll or leave the question open ended. The students can respond via text message, website or even Twitter. Again, the point here is we can capture the feedback from the students using a variety of methods, almost instantly. Another great feature of Poll Everywhere is the data analysis you get. You can export results to create more ways of analyzing data. (Like if the questions are open ended, you could export the results to put them into a Wordle to see what terms are showing up the most.)

Socrative- This one is quickly become a go-to app for formative assessments for educators everywhere. The teacher creates an account and a room (for, you guessed it, free). Then the students go to the site (either through the app or through a browser), enter the room number and they see a question or a open response question to answer. I like this one a lot because of the variety of choices for questions to answer. One is even called Exit Ticket where kids can quickly summarize what they learned and tell you what they need for tomorrow.

Quick and easy, six tools you can use this school year in your classroom to help improve formative assessment.

These certainly aren't all. What are some of your favorite sites or apps to help with formative assessment in your classroom? Do you have a suggestion about formative assessments? Leave some feedback below.

photo credit: GettyImages-Examen via photopin (license)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Setting The Stage For A Great School Year

Back when I was in the classroom this was the most exciting time of the year for me. I always enjoyed heading back to school more than any other time. Getting back in my classroom and getting things set back up, buying new supplies and planning for all the great things I learned over the summer were just some of things that excited me. I couldn’t wait for kids to get back in school and for learning to start again.

While back to school can be a fun time it can also be a challenge. It should be a time where we set the stage for a great year. However, there is always so much going on and so many things to do it’s easy to get bogged down in the weeds of endless meetings, paperwork and lesson planning.

There are many things you can do to help yourself and your kids at the start of school to have a great year. Here are just a few.

Get Connected
-One of the most important ways an educator can grow and learn is to get connected. Reading blogs, contributing to an online community or checking out a Twitter Chat are all ways that you can hear about the good things that are happening in other classrooms/schools and learn from others. These places can also serve as a virtual sounding board when you run into a problem or need a solution. Coming up in October is Connected Educator Month so there are many opportunities to learn how to be a connected educator including book studies and free webinars. And speaking of books (shameless plug) you can check out my book, The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning that can help guide your connected learning.

Create A Virtual Classroom-My school website was the way that I let the world know what we were learning in our classroom. I could post notes from class, any files students needed, use the calendar to post homework and curate a list of resources for students to use outside of class. It’s important today to create a virtual space for your classroom. Some districts provide a website for educators to do this, while others allow them to create their own. There are a wide variety of products out there (like Edmodo or Schoology) to do this so spend some time finding one that suits your needs. You’ll also want to examine how you can extend conversations from your classroom to the virtual spaces as well. Taking your classroom into the cloud allows you to create a private space to post questions, comments, blogs and more. These online spaces allow learning to happen not just in the schoolhouse but after hours as well.

Set Goals And Reflect Often-As an educator it’s important to reflect on the previous years, the high points and the low points. Use those reflections to build personal and professional goals for the new year. Maybe you want to learn a new technology skill or challenge yourself to grade differently. Whatever your goals, make them actionable and reachable. Students can do the same. Set aside time to have students create learning and personal goals they want to accomplish throughout the year. Develop a plan to check in regularly and report back. Using something like Google Docs or Forms makes collecting and sharing those goals easy. Or if you want to take it to the next level, using Recap, students can record those goals through video as part of a larger portfolio to keep track of their learning all year.

Add Something New To Your Technology Toolkit-Odds are over the summer you learned about something new to try in your classroom. The beginning of the year can actually be a great time to think about new ways to integrate technology into learning. One of the tools I learned about this summer is EdTech Software. This is a textbook ebook solution for the classroom. If you use any kind of adopted textbook the EdTech Software can organize all those companion ebooks into a shelf for students so they can access them easily. But it’s much more than that. We know many textbooks aren’t all that flexible. With Shelfit you can supplement with videos, links and other resources to extend the ability of that static textbook and provide a customized learning experience for students. You can check out what it can do here and sign up for a free trial.

Establish Relationships-Getting to know my students was the first thing I did every year I taught. There was always that pressure to get started with the content but I found that if I made connections with my students, I could more easily teach them. I understood who they were, their passions, and their interests. Take the first few days to learn who your students are. The time taken will pay off in the end. And keep those relationships going. Schedule time to talk with students 1-on-1 as often as you can. Even a simple conversation in the morning or in the hall can prove to be beneficial.

Remember, this really is an exciting time of year. Take time to enjoy it!

What are your favorite ways to get ready for a new school year? Leave some thoughts below. 

photo credit: Homeschool Supplies via photopin (license)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Recap App: 3 Back-to-School Ideas for Student Videos

Last time we co-authored a blog post, Shaelynn Farnsworth and I shared Blab. It was so much fun and such an easy app to integrate into the classroom we wanted to share another favorite of ours!
Recap is a free video response app created by Swivl which allows students to reflect, respond, and demonstrate through video. Recap is easy to use as both an educator and as a student. It is also an excellent way to model and use digital literacy modes in the classroom! Simply create a class and assign a Recap to students. Questions or prompts can be teacher-created in the forms of text or video, and can be assigned to individual students, small groups, or whole class. When completed, teachers can share the whole “Review Reel”, or each individual child’s video. Share options include email or weblink!

Here are 3 Back-to-School Ideas that will have your students (and parents) Recapping through video response:

Reading Interest Inventory - At the beginning of the year, giving students a “Reading Interest Inventory” provides valuable information about each students’ reading preferences and how they view themselves as readers. It also provides a launchpad to place the “right book” into their hands that may hook a reader for a lifetime. Using Recap, students could record themselves on their computer or ipad. These video responses would provide valuable insight to climate and culture of literacy in the classroom. Here are a few of unique questions to include on a Reading Interest Inventory: What is your earliest memory of reading or books? How do you choose a book? What do you notice adults reading? When should a person leave a book? What two books or magazines do you wish we had in our classroom library?

Student Goals and Reflection - Another way Recap could be used at the beginning of the school year is to capture a student’s goals for the year. Part of educating the Whole Child is helping the student see where they are with their learning and where ultimately they want to end up. We know that learning is a continuum. So using Recap students can record where they’d like to see their learning be at the end of the school year. Maybe they want to be a better math student. Or perhaps they want to be able to read more proficiently. What ever their goal they can capture it. Then throughout the school year they can refer back to it. Use it as part of their own personal reflective practice. How are they progressing? What do they still want to do. Have they met their goal and maybe it’s time for another. These videos can become a part of a larger learning portfolio where students examine their learning throughout the year.

Parent Involvement - At the beginning of each school year, many of our youngest learners attend a back-to-school night or an open-house in which they meet their teacher, unpack their school supplies, and explore their new surroundings in the safety of their parents. It is also a time that many parents and family members come to the realization that their child is growing up and “leaving the nest”. What a perfect time to have a “message station” set up for parents or family members to leave a Recap for their student. Imagine the joy in a child’s eye after receiving a message from their parent or family member on their first day of school. Recap classes can be accessed through a pin number assigned to the class, so those parents or family members unable to attend can record their message from anywhere. It is also a great way to demonstrate to parents how you will meet the digital literacy demands in the Common Core State Standards, as well as how technology can be used in a meaningful way even with our youngest learners!

Recap is an engaging and creative way for students to share their understanding through video response! Recap is a free app and is available via the web (so perfect for chromebooks), as well as an iPad app. Coming soon - a  phone app, Recap from anywhere at anytime!

Monday, July 11, 2016

We Are All Teachers Of Literacy

"If we talk about literacy we have to talk about how to enhance our children's mastery over the tools needed to live intelligent, creative, and involved lives." -Danny Glover

At ISTE 2016 I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel, sponsored by Samsung Education, with other educators and industry experts, spending an hour talking about literacy in the age of technology. It was an engaging discussion that looked at how one district in Tennessee leveraged technology to improve reading in the middle grades and also how literacy instruction is being impacted by the use of technology. My role in the discussion was that of a former District Technology Leader and what I’ve seen when implementing district technology programs centered around literacy.

For me this discussion really hit home. As a Father of a 2 daughters I see on an almost daily basis how computers, tablets and apps are impacting their literacy skills. For my 7 yr old she uses her tablet to find books she wants to read and also is able to practice her skills through read aloud and other features in the books. For my 3 year old she is able to use her manipulatives and other apps to practice her letters and letter sounds. It’s truly incredible to watch both of them using the technology and its power to learn.

As I’ve reflected on this panel a lot there are some important themes to remember when it comes to literacy and technology that we need to remember.

We Are All Teachers Of Literacy-Something that gets lost on many teachers is that, in addition to our role as content experts, we are also teachers of literacy. In the lower grades this idea is more embraced because of the single teacher model. But as students progress through the middle grades and into High School the idea of every teacher being a literacy teacher gets lost.

Each content area has it’s own special language that kids need to understand. For example in my science classroom we had our -ologies, chemistry terms and others that I needed to make sure my students understood. In addition there was reading in the content area that is also important. So regardless if we teach World History or Advanced Calculus or Biology we are all teachers of literacy.

Be A Skeptic When It Comes To Technology And Literacy-As we talked about in our panel there is a lot of technology out there that can be used to improve literacy with students. Look at my girls. They, like many other kids are using it. But we have to be careful. In my time as a District Technology Leader I saw plenty of schools waste many dollars on software that promised to improve how kids read or recalled what they read when really the technology was a babysitter.

We’ve probably all heard of someone looking for the “next big thing” when it comes to technology and literacy. We need to be careful and we need to be skeptical. Ask yourself, is what the technology trying to do really going to improve how kids read and comprehend what they read? Or will the technology just get in the way? Don’t just use technology to help kids read because it’s new or flashy. Focus on the technology that can actually help them improve.

Literacy Is More Than Just Reading-Another important theme from our panel discussion was, that while the literacy skills of reading, decoding and comprehension are all important, literacy is more than that. We’ve entered an age where the definition of what actually makes a person literate is shifting and evolving. The introduction of technology into learning is changing the ways that students communicate information. These “technoliteracy” skills that students need employ to communicate, no matter the technology. Blogging. Vlogging. Podcasting. Snapchating. As long as students have this comprehensive set of literacy skills it won’t matter the technology or app they use. They will be able to communicate their learning most effectively.

In this age of anytime access to technology and information kids need the other literacy skills too. Those of content curation, information evaluation, and the use of various, appropriate technologies to communicate information. For example my good friend Shaelynn Farnsworth teaches how students can use something simple like infographics to improve specific literacy skills and to convey a tremendous amount of information in an engaging way. In order to make literacy more whole we have to look beyond just the skills of reading and look at literacy as multimodal, especially in this age of technology.

So perhaps it’s the definition of literacy that needs updating or maybe it’s just our perception of it that needs changing. Either way we have to look at literacy differently. Literacy is an entire set of skills that enable all of us to engage with information differently. Literacy today is taking on a whole new meaning and many years from now it will mean something entirely different. Therefore, we have to look at literacy through a new lens and expand on our definition of what makes kids and all of us literate and examine how technology supports our ability to do so.

photo credit: The future of books via photopin (license)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Technology Resources For Early Childhood Learning

I am the father of 2 daughters. Reaghan is 7 and Chesney is almost 3. As a Dad and an educator I am constantly looking for the best resources to provide for them at home to supplement the learning they are doing in their schools.

Especially with Chesney.

Every parent wants their child to have a jump start on learning and ensure they are prepared for a world of learning, especially with technology. And I am no different. I want Chesney to love learning, be an explorer and tinker with things but also be a fluent user of technology. So in my spare time I am always on the hunt for ways to support her as a learner.

I am a big fan of Tiggly when it comes to Early Childhood and technology. Tiggly are manipulatives used in conjunction with apps for the iPad. The manipulatives teach things like shapes, colors, letter sounds and more. The apps are highly engaging and Chesney loves them. She will sit with her letters making words and then, the best part, she can create a digital story using the words she learned.

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Now, my background isn’t in Early Childhood. (The closest I came was that one day I spent observing in a Kindergarten classroom during college.) So I would never claim to know all that there is to know about Early Childhood education, especially when it comes to the infusion of technology.

Lucky for me the International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE) has a lot of resources for anyone who is interested in enhancing Early Childhood with technology.

ISTE Standards-The best starting point are the ISTE Standards for Students. While not written specifically for Early Childhood education, all of them can be used in that setting. Each Standard is broken down into sub parts to help guide kids in understanding areas like creativity, information fluency, critical thinking and more. It’s never too young, for example, to work with kids on the aspects related to digital citizenship. The Standards provide a framework on what to focus on and also provides resources to help meet those goals, with a particular emphasis on Early Childhood education.

Early Learning Network-Part of my advocacy work revolves around helping educators discover the power of connected professional learning. ISTE has a whole set of Professional Learning Networks for members to do just that, connect with other educators. For Early Childhood professionals there is the Early Learning Network. With over 1000 members and over 160 discussions you are sure to connect with others to learn from and grow with.

Tech as a Tool for Going Global in Early Childhood Webinar-Another great feature that ISTE has is their webinar series. For Early Childhood Educators this webinar on the tech tools to use in the Early Childhood classroom to go global is not to miss. As with many of the things we’ve discussed here, the earlier we start with helping kids navigate the digital world, the more they will be prepared as they get older.

If you are going to be at ISTE 2016 in Denver you can also learn more about Tiggly and loads of other Early Childhood technology in the Early Childhood Playground. There will be lots of hands-on stuff to play with and experts to help talk to you about how to do more with tech with our youngest students.

In addition to these resources there are countless articles and blog posts to explore as well!

Some might think that young kids and technology don’t mix. I disagree. There are so many great and simple to use technologies that can enhance the excitement for learning that kids at that age already have. And these are the perfect years to start conversations about digital literacy and citizenship.

So check out all the great resources Tiggly and ISTE have to offer!

photo credit: Power User via photopin (license)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Changing Our Views On Social Media For Learning

Snapchat

Facebook

Instagram

Vine

Twitter

What do you think about when you hear those words?

Maybe you think about social media in general and how it’s continuing to grow. Or maybe you think about how those can be used as platforms to connect with others. Or maybe you think they are all a waste of time.

What do you think kids think about when they hear the names of those apps?

When it comes to social media and the use of these tools there is still a large disconnect between the platforms kids use and what we use in the classroom. Make any mention of using Snapchat as a tool for storytelling and your audience may look at you with dismay.

For many adults, especially educators, these tools don’t have a place in the classroom. They are seen as platforms to merely be social. And kids also don’t see them as a tools to incorporate into their everyday learning. Although I would bet if we asked them, they’d want to.

So that’s what I did.

My sister is 17. She’s getting ready to be a Senior in high school. She has profiles on all these social media services and more. She posts pictures of her friends, places she goes and stuff she sees. Most of it is pretty mundane. Some it though like the images and Vines she posts about her learning Latin are pretty awesome. So I asked her. What if these tools were used in your classrooms? What if you could create Snapchat stories or use Instagram to document your learning? What would you think?

“I’d definitely be more engaged! All the kids at my school use these. Then we go into boring classrooms and feel like we are disconnected from our lives. So if we had the chance to use these I’d be excited to go to school everyday.”

Well said Celia. Well said.

Many of the tools and apps I write about are still considered non-traditional. They are that way because they’ve yet to hit the mainstream of education. Just the mentioning of the name “Snapchat” conjures up images of students trading inappropriate images and text messages. Or say the word “Twitter” and instantly some believe it’s a waste of time with people writing about which celebrity crush they have or which sporting event they are at.

It’s these adult attitudes towards emerging technologies that perpetuate the myths around them.

Are there examples of the inappropriate use of any of these technologies? Sadly they are easy to find. But stop and think for a moment. What if we as educators looked at any of these apps and found ways to incorporate them into learning. We could redefine how they were being used by kids and, at the same time, have embedded conversations about how they should be used appropriately.

How can you do that? Where would you begin to even examine how any of these tools could be used in the course of learning? Here are just a few ways each of these services could be used in the classroom.

Note-The point here isn’t that you have to use all of them or one of them. The point is to think differently about these apps and social media in general to understand the realm of possibility.

Snapchat-I recently discovered Snapchat as a great way to tell stories. What most folks don’t know is that while Snapchat is most known for images and text that disappear there is a powerful feature called My Story where the images don’t disappear and you can post video too. This could be used, just like it is called, to tell a story. I travel frequently so I use My Story to document the town or city I am in. What I see and where I go. Then anyone can follow along. (You can follow me there if you’d like. Add me by the username Web20Classroom.) There are lots of other ways to use Snapchat too. This post from Edweek highlights not only how to get started with Snapchat for learning but also how it could be used for Professional Development as well.

Facebook-Of all the apps here Facebook is probably the most “mainstream.” Many schools and districts are using Facebook to promote news items, events and to celebrate all that is good. But there is more that Facebook can offer the classroom. Groups for projects, a space for conversation and more. This guide commissioned by an educational think tank in the UK has some really great ideas for introducing Facebook to your classroom.

Instagram-By using a simple camera app a series of images can be powerful. I train school and district leaders in the use of Instagram as a means to celebrate what is great in their schools. But Instagram can be powerful for kids too. Modeled after the Humans of New York series, the Stories of Waukee is completely student run and contains some very powerful stories. This article from We are Teachers has 10 easy ways to use Instagram in your classroom.

Vine-A lot can happen in 7 seconds. And video, like images, can be a great way to capture learning, describe a particular event or more. I like Vine for the classroom because it’s so dead simple to use and videos are super short. Highlighting what kids are reading, science in 6 seconds, there are so many ideas for the use of Vine in the classroom. This article from Edutopia not only lays out why Vine (and Instagram video too) can be used for learning but shows some really awesome examples too.

Twitter-As many of you know, I’ve been advocating for the use of Twitter for professional growth and learning for many years. It is the best platform for reaching those experts where they are to learn from. However, many dismiss Twitter from the classroom as just noise or not having  a place for student learning. Quite the opposite is true. For example kids can use Twitter to connect to experts in the fields they are interested in pursuing for careers or have a chat with an author of a book they are reading. This guide from MindshiftKQED is full of ideas for getting started and how kids can use Twitter to take conversations from the classroom to beyond.

Instead of looking at these apps through a lens of inappropriate use, let’s reshape the conversation by embracing these as tools for learning while having conversations about how digital tools can and should be used in the best ways possible.

photo credit: Social Media via photopin (license)