Monday, September 24, 2012

The Most Common Questions (And Answers) I Get About Twitter

A while back I wrote a 3 part series on Twitter. In Part One I shared how I do Twitter PD, which might not be the way you think. In Part Two, I crowdsourced what some folks on Twitter wish they had know before getting started. And in Part Three I shared some of my tips tricks and secrets.

I am revisiting the tips and tricks section because a few things have changed, or been added to and I have some new ideas I want to share.

Profiles-One of the Top 5 questions I get asked is about profiles. Should I use my name? Should I put my location? How much information should I share? The answer depends. I use my name and location and specific information in my bio because they are all part of my brand. (And I learned early on I didn't want to be confused with another Steven Anderson who isn't exactly the nicest guy. Another reason why I use Steven W. Anderson too.) Certainly a first name helps be a little more personal. And you might only want to share your state (or province or country). And with your location, watch out for apps that update your location every time you Tweet. That changes your profile with your exact GPS coordinates, that a simple Google Search on those will show you exactly where you tweeted from. I also include information in my bio that tells a little bit about me. It's information that I am comfortable to share with anyone and anyone reading it knows what I do and the things I am interested in. I also use a real picture of myself. So in case we run into each other you can say hi! Bottom line, if you feel comfortable sharing it, share. If not, share what you feel comfortable with but try to put at least that you are an educator or interested in education and at least change your profile picture to a cartoon avatar. It helps looks less spammy.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers-How did you get to 50,000 followers? How do I get there? I rarely talk about numbers and am often humbled by the connections I have made via Twitter and the opportunities I have had because of it. And while the numbers are what they are, they don't define how I use Twitter or what I do while I am there. I am still as likely to post a really great blog post as I am a picture of the most awesome daughter ever (that would be mine in case you were wondering). If I loose some, ok. If I gain some, great. For me and I tell people too, its about quality over quantity. You should follow someone if they provide value to you or add a voice you need to hear. If they follow back that's a bonus. You will grow your audience and your brand as you go along. Don't join Twitter to get a huge number of followers. If you are, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Do it because you want to learn and share and grow.

Should I Follow Everyone? Well, again, that depends. I certainly don't because I just couldn't keep up. You should follow those that you find add value to your learning but you should also follow those that push your thinking and who you might not agree with all the time. There is no magic number or ratio (although some sites will try to tell you there is one). It's all up to you to decide what your comfort level is. There are many people I follow who don't follow me back and hey, that's cool. I can still learn from them. Again, I am in it for the learning.

How Do I Find People To Follow? Easy young grasshopper! Hashtags. I've written about the benefit of hashtags before but the basics are this. When you are starting you either heard about this thing called Twitter from one of your teacher friends and you joined, following them and a few others or you did some PD where everyone created an account and everyone followed each other but no one really knows what to do now. This is where hashtags can be your best friend. There are so many great educational hashtags and people tweeting on those hashtags it's easy to find people to follow. (And new content to share too.) (Check out this great list of Educational Hashtags.) The other great thing you can do is look at who those people are retweeting and mentioning. They might provide some value too. And don't be afraid to follow for a while and then unfollow. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Do I Ever Sleep? Sure do. Naps are great too :)

What other question do you have? Leave some in the comments and we will see if we can get them answered.

photo credit: Scott Beale via photopin cc

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Apps That Teach! (And Might Be Fun Too..)

I get asked a lot what are my favorite apps. And I usually can rattle off a few. Evernote, Twitter, Wunderlist to name a few. But what about apps that actually teach? What about apps that kids (or you) can use to learn?

I have a few teachers in my district working on a 1:1 tablet project and we are going to be introducing some apps in a few weeks that are fun but have a purpose. Many of these are STEM apps (as STEM is a big focus for us this year) but they could be used in lots of places.

Angry Birds: (iOS, Android) Yep. You read that right. Angry Birds. While totally addictive and fun to play, there is loads of learning potential. Physics, angles and more. We could stretch it and do estimation (How many birds will this take me), evolution and how different characteristics of the birds affect game play. Even writing. (Here is a great series of physics questions to answer using Angry Birds, no tablet or phone needed.)

Plants vs. Zombies (iOS, Android) Another fun and addictive game, Plants vs. Zombies is great for the science classroom, mainly looking at adaptations and evolutionary concepts. But there is some math with estimations and predictions. Even conversations around habitats. See, Zombies can be fun!

Plague Inc (iOS) Epidemic (Android) Wanna destroy humankind? Can you create superbug that will end civilization as we know it? Of course you can't for real (unless you are a Mad Scientist or something) but in Plague and Epidemic that is precisely what you do. Chose your method of infection (bacteria, virus, etc) and infect populations. Spread your disease, changing the infection methods, symptoms and resistance as you go. If that isn't fun science I don't know what is!

Move The Turtle (iOS) A fun and simple app, the objective here is to learn programming. You can practice using a variety of easy-to-learn commands that will make your turtle do just about anything.

Cargo-Bot (iOS) Another programming game however, in this one the goal is to program a robot to move boxes into specific patterns. In the beginning its quite easy to master but as you progress through the levels you learn harder and harder techniques for making your robot do your bidding.

Alge-Bingo (iOS) Algebra and Bingo? They do mix. And they can be fun. In order to fill in your card, users have to complete simple to complex algebra problems.

Math Ninja- (iOS, Android) Another math practice app. Here the objective is to lead your ninja to defend your treehouse against the evil tomatoes. But watch out! Those tomatoes can be sneaky!

Simple Physics- (iOS, Android) You know you have always wanted to design your own roller coaster, ferris wheel or tree house. Now you can. And they will be physically accurate. So design way, but be careful. Physics can be fun but dangerous too.

Those are some of my favorites. What are some of yours? What games do you use to teach and learn with. Leave your ideas in the comments below.

photo credit: SamCheong via photo pin cc