Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer 2017 Learning Series-6 Awesome Tools To Try This School Year

For the next several weeks I’ll be sharing posts that you can use for your summer learning. School may be out for many but the learning we do as educators can last even outside the classroom. These posts will take us through Twitter chats and how you can participate in real time or whenever you want. Next we will examine some ideas on how to get the most out of any conference you attend this summer or beyond. We will then move to some non-educational books that you can use to grow as a learner and a professional. From there we looked at Formative Assessment and how easy it is to do today. In the last post I gave you some ideas on how to better engage parents this upcoming school year. Finally we will finish the series by looking at some new and exciting tools to try in your classroom. Each post will offer up some basic information along with several learning challenges you can undertake. Happy Learning!

I’ve done a great deal of traveling this summer, working with districts on School:Home Communications, technology planning and more. And every school and district office I spend time in the scene is the same. Hallways lined with full and empty boxes of new laptops, Chromebooks and iPads that will ultimately end up in the hands of teachers and students.

As students prepare their notebooks and book bags, and teachers prepare their classrooms and lessons, looking at all this new (or existing technology) one could be thinking to themselves what do I do with all this stuff? How do I integrate this technology seamlessly yet effectively to enhance student learning?

There are so many new and exciting tools, apps and sites to discover and use throughout the course of the year. Some, when you look at them, seem great but don’t really offer any substance. While there are many more that go untalked about because they don’t have a large Twitter following or are just brand new. What are the new (or new to you) tools you can use this school year to get the more out of those devices but most importantly, what will impact student learning in positive way?

Here are 6 tools you can use throughout the course of the year to make a difference in your classroom.

Flipgrid
http://flipgrid.com
I became a fan of Flipgrid after a conference I attended earlier this year used it before the conference to capture what attendees were excited about and afterwards to share what they learned and how they would keep the learning going. Flipgrid is a video capture app that can be used for things like pre-assessment, sharing what we know, formative assessment, and group conversations. Simply create a free teacher account, create a board and invite students to discuss the topic with a recorded video, text or link. No accounts are needed for students as everything is done through a code or link to the board. Here is one I created (that I would love for you to add to) on summer reading. You can also check out this post to learn more about what you can do with Flipgrid.

Recap
http://app.letsrecap.com
This is one of those apps that once you use it you will wonder what you did without it. Available as a free app Recap allows students and teachers to simplify the formative assessment process. Students record a short video using their device and then send it to the teacher. The teacher can respond via a video or other comments. Where I think this app really excels is for professional development. Imagine being able to deliver PD and know, in the moment where everyone is in their learning. We can then change instruction on the fly, modeling what we’d do in the classroom. The whole time keeping an evolution of the learning process. I am a proud Recap Pioneer, a program that advocates for the use of the product in schools. Check out this post to see what all is possible with Recap.

EdPuzzle
http://edpuzzle.com
I’ve been honest in the past about how I don’t think Flipped Classrooms are necessarily a good idea. That said, using video in the classroom to enhance student learning can be a great idea. Odds are you will assign or use video this year for students. Why not create an interactive lesson with it? That’s where EdPuzzle excels. Content doesn’t have you come from just YouTube. You can use a variety of sources, even uploading your own video. Then you can add check points along the way to ensure students are aligning their learning to your outcomes. As a teacher you can see exactly what student responses are and keep track of everything. It’s a great app to use to do more with those videos we use in the classroom. Here is a great post that outlines how to use it and what you can do with it.

BookCreator
http://bookcreator.com
Of all the tools and resources on this list, Book Creator is the newest to me. I was introduced to it by my friend Shaelynn Farnsworth. When she was describing it to me I was getting excited about what could be possible. This app does what it says. It takes the rich content that students create, videos, text, images, and audio to create an interactive book. In the English classroom create a Slam Poetry Book. In the social studies class take that boring report about a country and make an interactive travel book that goes deep. The list is really endless. You could even use it to create a digital portfolio that students can show what they know throughout the school year. Available as an app or a Chrome App you can use Book Creator on nearly any device. Check out this post for more useful ideas and resources.

Screencastify
http://screencastify.com
I’ve been advocating for the use of screen recorded video in the classroom for a long time. The possibilities for students to demonstrate what they know and for educators and leaders to get back time in faculty meetings are truly endless. There have been several programs I have tried and it wasn’t until I landed on Screencastify that I finally found what I was looking for. Available as a Chrome App it’s so easy now to record a webpage for a walkthrough or the desktop for something more. You can even capture your own video and sound. All the recordings go into Google Drive where you can easily share or embed. If you spring for the Pro Plan (which I highly recommend) you can even edit your videos right in Google Drive.

Snapchat
http://snapchat.com
Snapchat is one of those apps that most know about but struggle to find a use in the classroom. I argue is the perfect app to capture those wonderful stories that happen in the classroom everyday. The thing is, not all of those stories need permanency. And since stories in Snapchat only last a short time, it can become a great app for sharing. Using it also helps to show that apps like that can be used for something positive. Using a mix of images and video along with filters and stickers, you can share all those great things that happen every day. Check out this post to see all the other ideas you can use Snapchat for.

I have 2 challenges for you as you start school this year. Commit to trying to use at least one of these apps in your classroom this year. Learn it well, examine the possibilities, try and fail then try again. The second thing is to share your experience. Send a tweet, write a blog post, lead a PLC meeting, share in a faculty meeting. Do whatever you can to share your learning, not only with these apps but everything you learn this year with other educators.

Learn more about being a Tech-Savvy Teacher by reading my post,
6 Areas of Development For Tech-Savvy Teachers.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer 2017 Learning Series: Create Solid School:Home Relationships This Year

For the next several weeks I’ll be sharing posts that you can use for your summer learning. School may be out for many but the learning we do as educators can last even outside the classroom. These posts will take us through Twitter chats and how you can participate in real time or whenever you want. Next we will examine some ideas on how to get the most out of any conference you attend this summer or beyond. We will then move to some non-educational books that you can use to grow as a learner and a professional. From there we looked at Formative Assessment and how easy it is to do today. Today I give you some ideas on how to better engage parents this upcoming school year. Finally we will finish the series by looking at some new and exciting tools to try in your classroom. Each post will offer up some basic information along with several learning challenges you can undertake. Happy Learning!

Solid relationships are built upon strong communications. Whether it’s with a spouse, family member or friend, the ability to communicate well can make or break any relationship. The same is true for our school systems. Students, teachers, staff, parents and the community all need to feel that they have the best information possible and that each is an engaged member of the school community.

An effective School:Home Communications Plan is multifaceted and complex. Ensuring that all stakeholders receive the best, most complete information, on a “channel” that meets their needs can be a challenge. However, no matter the plan, there is always room for improvement.

Here are three ways to improve any communications plan to enhance relationships and build engagement with all.

Be A Storyteller
How many times do we turn on the news and hear another negative story about schools? It seems like almost on a daily basis there is an exposé about failing schools, or how lack of funding is hurting how students learn. For those of us on the inside of schools, it can seem as if no good news is ever told. The reality is that there are amazing things happening in schools everyday. From the small stories that are personal within one particular classroom, to those that can have an impact across communities, these are the stories that need (and deserve) to be told.

There is no question the information that matters to parents and guardians is the critical information related to grades and academics. However, there is something to be said to learn of those great stories that lie just below the surface in every school. The classroom that read the most books in a period or the school that donated food to a local food bank for the Holidays or the student that created Braille Machine out of Legos because his school couldn’t afford it. There are students, teachers, volunteers and community members who are doing amazing things in and for schools every day. Start a blog and tell their stories. Use your weekly email or special section on your website to highlight what’s great about your school or district.

Diversify Through Social Media
Social media is an almost constant part of our daily lives. From checking our likes on Facebook to posting pictures of our amazing meal on Instagram, almost 3/4 of all Americans use social media on a daily basis. We see hashtags on our sports teams’ jerseys and on our favorite television programs.

Schools and districts are also embracing social media as another channel to engage stakeholders. Twitter provides a quick, 140-character way to get the word out. Facebook can engage with more than just parents and guardians. However, if you are limiting yourself to just those 2 channels you are missing out on additional ways to engage with your community.

Even though Twitter and Facebook are now seen as the “traditional” social media channels, it is time to diversify and engage in other spaces. Twitter and Facebook offer both ease of use and quick deployment of message, however, are they the best choices for delivering a multifaceted message?

Take Pinterest for example. The number of Pinterest users continues to grow day after day. Pinterest is a very visual medium and appeals to a great number of people because of that. For school communications, this could be used to share blog posts with images, links to curriculum resources or boards to help parents be more involved in school. The possibilities are really endless and you can engage with the same audience for a different purpose.

Other Social Media And Communication Tools To Investigate:

  • Instagram-Easily share images of the great things happening everyday in schools.
  • Snapchat-Not every image or video deserves permanency. Most are good in the moment and can be replaced the next day. Share using the My Story feature what students are learning or even use it to share with the community the professional development that is happening. 
  • Periscope-Live broadcast meetings or other events for parents/community members who can’t attend. 
  • SchoolMessenger App-This is an easy way to foster simple 2-way communications between teachers and parents. No cellphone needed. Simply sign up, create a class and invite others to join. 
Remember, these are not the only ways to communicate that information, but another way to meet people where they are.

Avoid Message Fatigue
We are bombarded with a tremendous amount of information daily. Each of us has developed our own filters to deal with all the data; letting in the information that matters, and letting go of the information that doesn’t.

As the Father of a Third Grader, I can attest to the barrage of information I get daily. Papers in a daily folder, emails from the school and district, phone calls from the school and district, notifications from the teacher via text message, most of it repeated information three or more times. I once had someone tell me you have to communicate information nine times, nine different ways to ensure that the message gets across. The reality is, who has time for that? When it comes to school communications, sending that many messages, that many different ways, can lead to “Message Fatigue”.

To avoid “Message Fatigue”, begin by taking stock of what messages are sent and how. This needs to be done not only at the classroom and school level, but across the district as well. Some questions to ask:

  • Is there information at the district level that is also duplicated at the school level? The Classroom level?
  • Can information sharing be streamlined so it is coming from one channel? How can the best information come from the best channel?
  • Is there a way to share information with the school community less often, but still ensure that it is timely?
  • What choice are you giving to parents and the community to receive the information when and where they want? 

Next, we need to survey stakeholders to find the preferred communications channels. A recent survey done by Pew Internet of parents of school-aged children found that many parents preferred digital channels to receive information from schools because of the immediacy of the information. While a daily or semi-daily phone call is traditional, is it the way parents and guardians in your school or district want to be contacted? What other, more real time, digital means can you use to get parents and guardians the information they want (and need) in the most appropriate way for them?

Lastly, review reports often. Take a look at all the reports available to determine the effectiveness of your communications. In your phone log, are the calls being partially listened to? That can be a sign of message fatigue. Take a look at your email log. Are they being open and read or just glanced at? In your overall message log, do you have a good variety of communications that matches what your stakeholders want? These reports can provide a treasure-trove of information that can help you stay up-to-date on avoiding message fatigue.

A strong School:Home Communications Plan not only helps to communicate information to the community in a timely manner, it also helps build relationships, establish connections and create a culture that all stakeholders want to be a part of. By being a storyteller, diversifying your use of social media and avoiding message fatigue you can take your school’s home communications to the next level!

Want to learn more? Download my whitepaper with more information. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Summer 2017 Learning Series-Embracing Formative Assessment

For the next several weeks I’ll be sharing posts that you can use for your summer learning. School may be out for many but the learning we do as educators can last even outside the classroom. These posts will take us through Twitter chats and how you can participate in real time or whenever you want. Next we will examine some ideas on how to get the most out of any conference you attend this summer or beyond. We will then move to some non-educational books that you can use to grow as a learner and a professional. From there we will look at Formative Assessment and how easy it is to do today. Then I’ll give you some ideas on how to better engage parents this upcoming school year. Finally we will finish the series by looking at some new and exciting tools to try in your classroom. Each post will offer up some basic information along with several learning challenges you can undertake. Happy Learning!

This post was written in partnership with Acer Education. 

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. This evolution should (and is) cause a shift for all teachers to look to formative assessment as the basis for understanding where students are in their learning.

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

Acer TravelMate B117-If you are looking at an inexpensive, purpose device that can also help with formative assessment then look no further. The Acer TravelMate is a durable student laptop that does what you expect but also has some cool features. One of the best is the incorporation of multicolored lights built into the lid that allow for the teacher to send a quick question to students and they can respond with these lights, simply and easily. Software is also included so both students and teachers can track their progress over time. Like these other tools, it allows for quick feedback to the teacher on understanding but I don't need anything extra like a different website or cards to hold up. The TravelMate 117B does it all for me!

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.

Eight different tools that are quick and easy you can use this school year in your classroom to help improve formative assessment.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer 2017 Learning Series: Non-Educational Books To Read...Over and Over

For the next several weeks I’ll be sharing posts that you can use for your summer learning. School may be out for many but the learning we do as educators can last even outside the classroom. These posts will take us through several different ways of extending your learning. We started with Twitter chats and how you can participate in real time or whenever you want. Then we examined some ideas on how to get the most out of any conference you attend this summer or beyond. Today move to some non-educational books that you can use to grow as a learner and a professional. Then I’ll give you some ideas on how to better engage parents this upcoming school year. Finally we will finish the series by looking at some new and exciting tools to try in your classroom. Each post will offer up some basic information along with several learning challenges you can undertake. Happy Learning!

Spending lots of time on airplanes and in airports means I have a great deal of time on my hands. If I’m not prepping for a keynote, working on a presentation or compiling some data I’m reading. I keep a constant supply of books at arms length and believe it or not most of them aren’t educational books. I do find time to read content or theory but I find more and more it’s the non-educational books provide more to my learning because it causes me to reflect on how the subject matter c0uld apply to the work I am doing with administrators and teachers.

There are lots of great list of educational summer reading. This one from ASCD is full of texts I find on my own bookshelf. Here is another one. And another one. Some have lots of value others are just there to push books.

The thing to remember is, just like in the classroom, read what provides value to you. If educational books are your thing, awesome. If you are looking for a good beach read to escape, even better. Whatever you read, do it often. Reading is the foundation of learning and we all should be doing it more.

Here are 5 books that I’ve read recently that have seemingly no connection to education but have had influence on my work and my thinking as an educator and learner.

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are-This book from Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former data scientist at Google writes about how data, specifically Google Trends can tell us a lot about who we are as people and a society. Comparing the answers given to popular surveys Seth concludes that what we say to our friends and ourselves and what we ask Google are two totally different things. Using that data he can predict presidential elections, relationship habits and more. I have been using many of the data points here to talk to administrators about the use of social media and how data can skew what we know about the world.

Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed-This was my most recent read and a great one. Daniel McGinn takes us through all the research around getting prepared for major events in our lives. Giving examples from sports, performance arts, medicine and more we learn that there is scientific evidence to suggest that pep talks don’t work, listening to music while you run or work is about the worst thing you can do and how to overcome a fear or speaking or presenting. I found I was doing a lot of things wrong in my own life and especially with my kids. We have to believe we will do well and data suggests, we will.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right-Suggested to me by a good friend I was skeptical of this one at first. I have tried and failed about 1000 times to get organized and this seemed like another one of these books to tell me what I was doing wrong and how to do it better. And while it was that kind of book, it wasn’t my methods, it was my mindset. Since I’ve read it (twice now in 6 months) I find myself taking lots away each time to help me be more productive and how to shift my mindset on how I am organized. A quick and easy read.

Confessions of an Advertising Man-This one might be the most unusual book on my list but it is hands down my favorite I’ve read in a very long time. With chapters like “How To Start An Advertising Agency” and “How To Get Your First Client” it might not seem like there is anything to learn here unless you want to be in Mad Men. But seriously, if you are interested at all in creativity and leadership, you need this book. First published in 1963 it has long been considered the bible for ad agencies. However for me it was eye opening to see how someone who was once called the most creative man on the planet sought out talent, organized teams and was hyper-focused on tasks at hand. I have already read this one again and constantly keep coming back to parts of it to use in my work with administrators.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy- Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and already an accomplished author. In this book she opens up about the sudden death of her husband and how she found herself a single mother of two children. But she writes of resiliency and how when things don’t always go the way we plan we need to be ready with option b, or c, or whatever. She blends personal story with research on how we all deal with adversity and how it’s a strength we can all build.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer 2017 Learning Series-3 Rules For Attending Any Conference

For the next several weeks I’ll be sharing posts that you can use for your summer learning. School may be out for many but the learning we do as educators can last even outside the classroom. These posts will take us through several different ways of extending your learning. We started with Twitter chats and how you can participate in real time or whenever you want. Next we will examine some ideas on how to get the most out of any conference you attend this summer or beyond. We will then move to some non-educational books that you can use to grow as a learner and a professional. Then I’ll give you some ideas on how to better engage parents this upcoming school year. Finally we will finish the series by looking at some new and exciting tools to try in your classroom. Each post will offer up some basic information along with several learning challenges you can undertake. Happy Learning!

As the end of June approaches that means the annual ISTE (International Society for Technology In Education) Conference is around the corner. ISTE is one of my favorite conferences because I get to catch up face-to-face with those I haven't seen in the past year, I get to learn with some incredible educators and I get to see the latest gadgets and must haves for the classroom.

If you are a social media user or a blog reader you may have seen several posts related to getting more out of ISTE. Many who attend have loads of great ideas to maximizing the impact you have while you are in attendance. Before many conferences, there is advice about how to follow the conference hashtag or to drink lots of water because you’ll do lots of walking. All the advice you hear is great and definitely worth a follow.

But I want to go deeper. When I go to conferences, either as a presenter or a participant, I challenge myself and my audiences each day to get the most out of the conference experience. Many will save all year long to attend or travel a great distance. How can we make the most of the conference learning, but still remembering our purpose to extend the learning for others?

I think there are 3 things to remember, not only for ISTE, but for any conference or learning event you attend.

Put Your Thinking Cap On And Push The Boundaries Of Your Thinking
It is easy to attend conferences like ISTE or any conference and only go to the sessions lead by our friends or go to sessions where we already know a lot about a specific topic. While there isn't anything wrong with that, are you doing the most with your conference experience? Push yourself. I am still a skeptic of flipped classrooms. So I make a point to attend at least one session where it’s discussed so I can widen my perspective. Try to find those gems of sessions that you might just walking away thanking yourself for attending. Make a point to attend at least one session where you disagree or are a skeptic about the topic. Go in with an open mind and make the most of your experience.

Reflect, Often
Because you are going to challenge yourself and your thinking, it will be important for you to reflect on your learning. Review your notes at the end of each day and write down your thoughts. I love Evernote for this. I can compile everything there (notes, drawings, pictures and handouts) and have it on all my devices. Many conferences are also creating shared Google Docs so that anyone can add in their thoughts and reflections collectively. It’s also a good idea at the end of the day, when you are exhausted and walking back to your hotel to just take some time and think. What did you see that challenged you? What do you still have questions about? How can you take what you learned and apply it to your students?

Don't Be A Hoarder, Share Your Learning
Think about if you shared what you learned with 5 people and those 5 people shared with 5 and so on. The learning becomes so much more valuable. Find many ways to share both at the conference (social media is great for that) and when you get back to your school/district. Did you go as a member of team? Have your team take 5 mins and share all the resources with those that couldn't attend. Flying solo? Post your Evernote notebooks to Twitter or to your blog. How ever you decide to share, just be sure to share!

Summer Challenge
  1. Do you have a blog? If you do awesome! If you don’t take attending a conference as an opportunity to start one. Make a post (or your first post) about the top 3 takeaways from the conference. Add in your reflection about how you want to grow from here. 
  2. Did everyone from your school attend the conference? Probably not. Arrange a #CoffeeEDU where you can invite colleagues for a coffee or a lunch and share what you learned. Discuss what you saw and how you can begin to implement what you learned. 
  3. Do you have something to share? Of course you do! Begin thinking about how you can add your voice to the conference next year. Brainstorm session ideas and write them down. Was there something that you went to that you can improve upon or add your own spin? Then you have them ready when the Call for Proposals opens up next year. Presenting and sharing with audiences is a great way to grow yourself and others. 


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer 2017 Learning Series-Making The Most Of Twitter Chats

For the next several weeks I’ll be sharing posts that you can use for your summer learning. School may be out for many but the learning we do as educators can last even outside the classroom. To start we will look in-depth at Twitter chats and how you can participate in real time or whenever you want. Next we will examine some ideas on how to get the most out of any conference you attend this summer or beyond. We will then move to some non-educational books that you can use to grow as a learner and a professional. Then I’ll give you some ideas on how to better engage parents this upcoming school year. Finally we will finish the series by looking at some new and exciting tools to try in your classroom. Each post will offer up some basic information along with several learning challenges you can undertake. Happy Learning!

Making The Most Of Twitter Chats

If you remember back to my post on hashtags we talked about how hashtags can be great sources of learning. When you begin to look at hashtags you will find some end it "chat." That means there is an actual Twitter chat that goes along with that hashtag. 

What is a Twitter chat? 
In it's simplest form, it’s a set time where folks get together and all post using the same hashtag. Most times there are moderators and set questions. Each chat works a little differently. But the basics are all the same. 

As one of the founders of #edchat I get a lot of questions about the what, where, when and why. So here is everything you need to know (or wanted to know) about #edchat and chats in general. 

The History of #Edchat
#edchat started out of a series of conversations between myself, Tom Whtiby and Shelly Terrell. Tom is a bit of an instigator and likes to push people's thinking about various topics in education. One day he was asking several of these thought-provoking questions and he was getting comments from all angles. He turned to Shelly and I for help. Afterwards, he suggested we needed a hashtag to make sure we didn't miss anything. Shelly suggested a weekly format where anyone could participate and I suggested we have the community vote on what we would talk about. And thus, #edchat was born. We had our first real chat in July 2009. And we have had one every week (except for a break at Christmas) ever since!

The Basics
To participate users need only add #edchat (or another chat hashtgag) to their tweets. We have organized chats every Tuesday. The main chat is at 7pm EDT and lasts an hour. Polls are posted by me (@web20classroom) on Sunday afternoons and voting ends Tuesday afternoons. The highest vote getter is our topic for the week. For other chats the moderators or participants will post the the topic and all the questions ahead of time. 

Following Along
You will need a way to follow the conversations. Many folks use a third-party Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and have a column set up to search for #edchat so they see all the tweets during the conversation. Others use a service specifically for chatting like Tweetchat to follow the chats. These work every well and will auto include the hashtag when tweeting, which can be handy. Another awesome service is the Twitter Chat Dashboard from Participate. But more on that in a moment. 

Afterwards
The archive is usually posted by the next day and it includes all the tweets during the hour time span. Archives of all chats are up here and are viewable any time. (To be honest, I usually have to go back to the archive to read up on everything that happened.) Archives are a great after the chat. Don’t just tweet and not read the archive. You can’t see all the great ideas and resources that are shared when you are chatting. So the archives are there for you to go back to and grab those when you need to. 

Advice
You can't follow every conversation during #edchat or any chat really. We average about 200-300 active participants a week and over 500 tweets for the hour. (Most of the time those numbers are much, much higher.) So, following everything is nearly an impossibility. We recommend tossing out an idea or two and see who latches on. Or just engage with someone(s). Everyone, for the most part, who comes to #edchat is open minded and wants to discuss what the topic is and offer up their thoughts on it. So push someone's thinking or better yet, have yours pushed back. 

Summer Challenge

  1. Head over to the Official Twitter Chats Calendar at Participate. There you will find 100’s of chats, broken down by day and time and a description. Before you participate in the chat, check out the archives of these chats. What have they been talking about? Is there anything interesting to you and your learning?  It’s a good idea to do some investigative work ahead of time. 
  2. Find a Chat to participate in. The beauty of using Participate is you can jump in right there from the calendar. Once it’s the day and time of the chat join the conversation. 
  3. Visit the archive of the chat you participate in or other chats that may interest you. Look at past topics and questions. What did they talk about? Can you find anyone new to follow? What resources were shared that you could use in your classroom next year? 

Fast chats not your thing? Looking for something more laid back? Slow chats are gaining in popularity. The concept is the same. There is a hashtag that everyone follows and uses in their tweets. But instead of everyone getting together at the same time folks participate when they can. No need to have a special Twitter client or anything. Just send your tweet when you feel like adding to the conversation. Slow chats are great for busy folks who still want to learn but don’t have the time to take part in the real-time chats. Book talks, reflection questions, planning for next year are just a handful of the ideas for a slow chat. Don’t find one you like? Start your own!


Twitter chats and hashtags hold a tremendous amount of learning that you can’t really find anywhere else. There are so many topics and ideas that anyone can find something that can help with their learning this summer. Take some time and take part in a real-time or slow chat!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Tech-Savvy Educator: 6 Areas Of Development

These are truly incredible times to not only be a learner but an educator as well. The access to information we have is unlike anything we’ve had before. And the tools we have to create a learning environment where all students can succeed are ever increasing. While these are incredible times, it can be quite daunting as an educator to look across this ever-changing technology landscape and feel unprepared.

Using the ISTE Standards for Teachers as a guide, it is important for students to have educators who create learning environments that allow them to innovate, invent and create in ways that are only possible through the use of technology. Educators must also be prepared to continuously move forward, always seek out the best pedagogy and tools to create learning environments students need and deserve.

Being a Tech-Savvy Educator doesn’t have to be either daunting or complex. It doesn’t mean completely changing our practices or abandoning what already works. It means looking to the tools of technology to supplement those strong pedagogical practices already in place.


There are six areas of development every Tech-Savvy Educator needs to focus on:
  • Collaboration with Students
  • Collaboration with Colleagues
  • Innovative Communications
  • Effective Productivity
  • Reflection
  • Formative Assessment
Making improvements through the use of technology in each of these areas can reap huge returns on student learning and understanding and make the overall job of teaching easier, better and more innovative.


The Tech-Savvy Educator: 6 Areas Of Development


Area
The “Why”
Sample Tools



Collaboration with Students
Collaboration with students in and out of the classroom is a building block of being Tech-Savvy Educator. Learning is a social process and should be promoted amongst students. Collaboration comes in many forms from allowing students to work together to solve problems to fostering an environment where students can build off the learning of others.

Collaboration with Colleagues
When educators collaborate it’s proven to:
  • Increase Job Satisfaction
  • Lower Rates of Turnover
  • Promote Positive School Culture
  • Promote Distributive Leadership

Innovative Communications
It is essential for Tech-Savvy Educators to build effective School:Home Communications. Using innovative tools you can meet parents and the community where they are and share the amazing stories that happen in the classroom every day.


Effective Productivity
Tech-Savvy Educators need to work smarter not harder. Having workflows in place streamline the day-to-day demands will only serve to make life easier and better.


Reflection
Reflection is something Tech-Savvy Educators do on a regular basis. It is also something that is promoted amongst students as well. Reflection comes in many forms and can happen a variety of ways.


Formative Assessment
Tech-Savvy Educators understand the need to know where students are in their learning as soon as possible. Through the use of formative assessment we can best understand not only how students know what they know but how our teaching can respond to individual needs.

There are so many more tools that can fit into each area of development. And some tools definitely overlap. Want to learn more? Grab a copy of the Tech-Savvy Teacher presentation and download the resource guide!

Download The Graphic