Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Starting A Classroom or School Twitter Account

This is the seventh post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Then we looked at TED Talks. We moved on to Twitter chats. Then our last post looked at some pretty neat things you can do with YouTube. Last week we  took a look at Diigo and how to curate the information you are finding this summer. Today we will examine the things to consider if you want to use Twitter in your classroom or your school in the coming school year. 

While Twitter is beginning to catch on with many educators, schools are still lagging in their adoption of the platform. But let's think about it. Twitter is a quick and easy tool to let the entire school community know what's going on with you and your students. Updates can come from anywhere and users don't have to have a Twitter account to follow along.

But where do you start? What are some things to consider? Here is my primer and some advice for schools (and districts) that want to start using Twitter.

Think First-There are a few questions you and your team (and it should be a team) will want to ask and answer before you jump in:
  • What do you want to do with this account? What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want to communicate? So, you are going to have a Twitter account. Great! Why? What do you want to tell people? The possibilities here are really endless. But think beyond the basic stuff like picture day and what's for lunch. Consider taking pictures of kids doing collaborative projects or highlighting staff of the month. It can really go beyond all the regular communication and show the community what your school (or district) is all about.
  • Who will be in charge of the account? Will there be just one person who will post or will you have multiple people who post? This is all situation dependent. I would say more than one person is great but too many and things can get out of hand and duplicate information could easily be posted. Keep it simple and experiment to find what works for your group.
  • Will you follow anyone? Again, this is situation dependent. You may want to follow other schools and the teachers in your school but will you follow parents? Students? Community members? If you are just going to be broadcasting following becomes less of an issue. If you want to facilitate interaction then following is important and your group will need to decide some guidelines on who to follow.
  • If someone sends you an @ message, will you respond? Often times your account will get mentioned or someone will send you a question. Your group will need to decide how to handle these questions. My district has a Twitter account but it is a one way conversation. It rarely will respond to questions from the general public. I believe it should be interactive. So take time to get back to folks who need information from you. 
What's In A Name-Now you are ready to set up your account. You will need an email address that is not already associated with a Twitter account already. If you can have a generic email set up by the district that is the best way to handle that. Otherwise you will have to find an email address to use. (You could always set up a dummy gmail address as well.) The email address is used to confirm the account and sent notices of DM's and new followers and such. You will want to pick a name that is easy to remember and is your school's brand. This is the point where you will define who your school will be on Twitter. Remember though, users only have 140 characters to tweet with and if your user name is @RonaldReganHighSchool that doesn't leave a lot for others to tweet with. So maybe you go with @RRHS. Adding your location like town or state doesn't hurt either. Just keep it simple. And remember, there are several hundred million Twitter users so don't be disappointed if your first choice for a username is taken. Get creative and find something that can become your brand.

Who Are You- A profile will go a long way in letting people know who you are. This is the place you can put in your full school name, location, description and link to your school website. You will also want to put in a picture, either of a mascot or school symbol. That helps other users identify, quickly, who you are.

Hashtags- A good idea is to also come up with a hashtag. This will allow you to track conversations even if your account is not mentioned in a tweet. So for example we use in our district, the initials as our hashtag, #wsfcs. The hashtag is good because classes and teachers can send tweets and still reference your school with out mentioning you in the tweet. You can then collect them and retweet them as you see fit. And you don't have to follow everyone either to see what folks are saying. If you have monitors set up near your entrance you can use a program like Twitterfall to display all the tweets coming in on your hashtag. That might also entice folks to check out your Twitter account and learn more about your presence there.

Promote- The account does no good if no one knows about it. Let everyone know. Put a widget on your website so every time folks visit they see your updates. Tell parents about it in mailings home. A simple "Follow Us On Twitter" and a link will go a long way into getting folks to see what you are saying. You may also want to make some videos on how to find your updates and what you will be using your account for.

But I Don't Want To Be On Twitter-You may find resistance to the idea of a school Twitter account because folks don't want one of their own. That's cool. They don't have to have one. The easiest way to follow updates is to have their own account but they can also subscribe via the RSS feed found on your profile page, subscribe through SMS (text) messages on their phone (they have to have an account for this) or they can add the Facebook widget to their page and see the updates every they visit. And remember, you should have the widget on your school webpage so there are many ways to see the updates without actually your community using the service themselves.

There are some other basics you will need, especially if you haven't Tweeted before. Check out my Twitter In Education Livebinder for the basics.

So this summer, if you haven't already, take the time to get a school-wide (or district-wide) Twitter account set up and help connect your school to the community. And if you can think of other things to consider or something I might have left of leave me some comments below.

Image From Flickr CC spencereholtaway

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Doing More And Learning More With Diigo

This is the sixth post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Then we looked at TED Talks. We moved on to Twitter chats. Then our last post looked at some pretty neat things you can do with YouTube. Today we look at Diigo and how to curate the information you are finding this summer. 

Recently, I was asked why do I use Diigo for my social bookmarking tool. The more I thought about it the more I needed to write about all the great features Diigo is not just for regular ol' users but has some great features for educators too.

First, what the heck is Social Bookmarking? Most people are familiar with favorites or bookmarks in their browser. Basically, when you come across a website you want to make sure you come back to later or want to visit a lot, you bookmark it (or for you Internet Explorer users you favorite it). But there is a flaw. Unless you have some add-on installed or special program, your saves don't travel with you from computer to computer and device to device.

Enter Diigo. When you save to Diigo your saves go anywhere because they are saved to the cloud. Sounds mystical doesn't it? The social part is because you can make your saves public and share the wealth of knowledge with others. Say you are a science teacher. Your fellow science colleagues can go and view your saves because you have made them public.

There are loads of other features as well, like highlighting on a webpage, adding sticky notes to pages, saving pages to read later without actually adding them to your collection and so much more.

One of the most powerful features is the tagging. Basically, if I save and don't tag it, I will have to remember the name of the site or something in the address. That can be tough when you start to get 1000-2000 saves like I do. Trying to remember exactly the name of a site I want to share just isn't going to happen. Instead I use tags. With tags I can categorize my saves. So, looking at I might tag that as "Search" or "Search Engine." So this way I look at my tags and find what I need. Now, I do at this point have too many tags but its super easy to go back in and reorganize things.

Another feature I love is the ability to auto-post to my blog. If you look at the posts previous to this one you will see 10 of my favorite saves from previous weeks. I set that up through my preferences. I tell Diigo what saves I want to post (either everything I save or specific tags) and what time I want it to post. And presto! A fresh blog post of resources to share.

And the groups are great too. Have a special interest or area that you want to find resources for and share with? Maybe you have an Interactive Whiteboard or you are interested in Pre-K education. Or perhaps you are in a 1:1 school. There are groups for all these where members can share their saves to not only their inventory but to the group as well. Diigo will email you once a week with all the new content. Pretty neat, huh?

Anyone can do any of those things. Joe Smith off the street can sign up for a Diigo account and do all of those things. But if you are an educator, watch out! So many more features await you.

First thing to do is get a regular Diigo account. Then visit the Educator Area and apply for the Educator upgrade. Once you get upgraded you can access all the new features in the Teacher Console. You can create class groups and student accounts.

The next step is to create a group. This could be one group for all your students or individual groups for individual projects. You give the group a name and it gets a unique URL. And one of the best features is you can make the group private, meaning only who you want to see the information will be able to.

Once the group is created you can create student accounts. No email addresses needed. You create the username and password. Then you can add those created accounts to the group. If you have already created accounts you have the option to just add those accounts then.

The advantage here is that anything the students save goes to the group. So if students are working on a group project they can share their saves together, automatically. Or as a class, if you are working on something everyone can contribute information they find.

There are so many more features to learn about...

More Resources

Student Learning With Diigo-This great site that helps you establish Diigo in your classroom and offers suggestions for use and lesson plan ideas.

10 Reasons To Use Diigo-Still not convinced? Check out this article with more ideas and resources.

Social Bookmarking and Annotation-This page from our good friend Bill Ferriter has loads of information on using social bookmarking services like Diigo, in the classroom and how to go deeper and help students understand how to curate their information.

There you have it. Head over to Diigo and get started.

Oh if you want to check out my saves you can do that here.

What do you think about Diigo? If it is something you already use, what do  you like about it. If you don't what do you think you will like most about it? Leave some comments below. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Doing More With YouTube

This is the fifth post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Then we looked at TED Talks. Our last post centered around Twitter chats. Today we look at some simple, quick and easy tools to do more with YouTube. 

Many districts are realizing the potential that YouTube learning can have in the classroom. There are lots of great videos and channels out there on 1000's of topics. I have put together a list of some of my favorite tools to use with YouTube. Some are for the creation end, while some are for the consumption end. Overall they hopefully will give you a good start on getting more out of your favorite video service.

YouTube Video Editor-When it comes to video editing, my skills are definitely lacking. And lets face it. Sometiemes Movie Maker wont cut it or you just don't have the funds for iMovie. The YouTube Video Editor is a great alternative. Upload your raw video and you can make cuts, transitions and add text to your movie. Do you find you are missing something for your video? Do a Creative Commons video search right there and find what you need. You can also upload sound tracks to ambiance. Once done, the video saves right to your YouTube account. Easy!

Quiet Tube-We all know there is some junk out there on YouTube. Be it the related videos or in the comments. Quite Tube might be the answer for you. This is a bookmarklet that, when  you are on a video you want to watch, you click and it strips away all the content on the page except for the video. No annoying comments. No inappropriate suggested videos after. Just the video you want to show.

Tube Chop- There are some videos where all you need is a small portion. When I am designing Moodle courses, I will sometimes only need small parts of videos to embed. Welcome Tube Chop. Take the URL of the video you want to chop and trim both the beginning and end to what you need. You can then share it via a link or embed the chopped video on your site or page.

Drag On Tape-There may be times you need a series of videos and they would be better off watched one right after another. Drag On Tape does just that. Insert the videos via their YouTube URL. You can trim to the sections you want, add another video and another and another, creating your own personal mixed video that you can then post via a link or embed.

Watch2gether- Sometimes watching a video as a group is just what you need. Watch2gether does just that. You create your own, private screening room. You then share the room via a link with your group. They enter and you can watch the video, synced together. There is an option to create playlists and the chat feature works great for collaboration.

So there are 5 of my favorite YouTube tools. Do you have a favorite tool or maybe a tick to share? Leave a comment below.

Creative Commons Image

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Twitter Chats For Learning

This is the fourth post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Then we looked at TED Talks. Today we are diving deep into Twitter chats, looking at #edchat and other chats worth your time. 

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, its 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.

The History
#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 though-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 to their tweets. We have organized chats every Tuesday. The main chat is at 7pm EDT and lasts an hour. Another chat for our friends in Europe and beyond is held on Tuesdays at Noon EDT. Polls are posted by me (@web20classroom) on Sunday afternoons and voting ends Tuesday mornings. The highest vote getter is discussed at 7pm EDT and the second place is discussed at Noon EDT. Participants are welcome to suggest topics for discussion by filling out this form

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  services like Tweetchat or Tweetgrid to follow the chats. These work every well and will auto include the hashtag when tweeting, which can be handy. 

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 at and are viewable any time. (To be honest, I usually have to go back to the archive to read up on everything that happened.)

You can't follow every conversation during #edchat. We average about 200-300 active participants a week and over 1500 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. 

#edchat is just a small part of a greater education community that regularly engages in conversations to make learning better for kids. We are big believers in action after the chat and encourage our participants to go out and do something as a result of the chat and blog/tweet about it and share it with the world. The chat is our opportunity to engage and think and share but it means nothing if we don't do. So thats why you regularly see people use the #edchat hashtag during other parts of the week to share what they are doing or thinking or saying.

So what about other chats? There are lots and lots. You can see on this spreadsheet just how many there are. You could spend just about every waking moment on Twitter engaged in a chat. But there are a couple for educators that you should definitely check out.

#SSchat-Mondays 7pm EDT- This chat for Social Studies teachers has some of the brightest minds on Twitter that participate. Their topics, while centered around social studies, range from portfolios, to PBL to Understanding by Design. Whether you are teaching Kindergarten or AP American History, this is a chat worth your time.

#Edtechchat-Mondays 8pm EDT-While new on the scene this chat is quickly becoming one of my favorites to follow and lurk on. The topics here center around everything Edtech and learning. Past topics have included curation of digital resources, iPads for learning and doing more with technology PD. If you have an interest in anything educational technology, definitely check out #edtechchat.

#Engchat-Mondays 7pm EDT- This chat for teachers of English does some very interesting chats and often has special guests and moderators.

#PTchat-Wednesdays 9pm EDT- This is one of those chats that has seen a lot of changes. Now that my friend Joe Mazza is heading it up, it is finally doing some good. Joe is trying to bridge the gap between parents and schools and in this chat he invites parents to talk about issues with education from their perspective. It is a chat that gets bigger and bigger every week and one that I enjoy lurking in on.

#NTchat-Wednesdays 8pm EDT- Another chat I love to lurk on is this one from my friend Lisa Dabbs. They share topics and resources for New Teachers but you don't have to be new to participate. They share such great stuff I always have something I can share the next day.

#Elemchat-Saturdays 6pm EDT-For teachers in the lower grade levels, this chat is always a good time. The stories they share in addition to the resources are great for anyone that sits in here.

Remember, there are tons more chats worth checking out. Find one, lurk for a while. Get a feel for the flow and when you are ready, jump in!

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Learning Series-TED Talks For Learning

This is the third post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Today we look at TED Talks and how you can use them to start a conversation and a great resource to do more with TED in your classroom. 

Sometimes, in a group it can be hard to get a conversation started. You need that one focal point for everyone to rally around to get things moving. Videos and images are a great way to get your message out there and get folks talking. The same is true in the classroom. I can be helpful to start a unit or a topic off with some kind of visual stimulant that gets those creative thoughts moving.

That is why I love the TED videos. Especially the Talks In Under 6 Minutes series. These are great, snapshots of what could be longer conversations in short bursts. They come in loads of topics that could start a class discussion or kick off a meeting.

Below are some of my favorite videos to spark a conversation. There are tons of these be sure to head over to the TED website to discover more of them.

Derek Sievers: How To Start A Movement-This is hands-down my favorite one. I use this video to talk about leadership, obviously, but also the perils of the movement as well.

Rob Reid: The $8 Billion Dollar iPod-Understanding data and how it can be manipulated is important.

Renny Gleeson: 404, The Story Of A Page Not Found-How the 404 Page can build relationships.

Thomas Suarez: A 12 Year Old App Developer-If you give kids a chance, they can do some pretty cool things.

And lastly Mark Bezos: A Life Lesson From A Volunteer Firefighter-Why you shouldn't wait to be a hero.

Those are my 5. What are some of yours?

Oh, and in case you didn't know. There is a great wiki on Teaching With TED. Definitely worth a look if you want to use these or other TED videos in your classroom.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Learning Series-It's All About The Hashtag

This is the second in my Summer Learning Series, where I share "make-it, take-it" resources, ideas, tips and tricks for the summer and for the classroom. The first in the series was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo. Today we will look at how to utilize hashtags for learning and sharing.

If you remember, in my 3 part series on Twitter, I wrote about how I completely changed the way I do professional development on Twitter. In a nutshell, I no longer start with signing up and tweeting the first day. I always show how to use Twitter without ever signing up. I believe it's important to establish the value in using it rather than using it and attempting to find the value.

What a lot of people don't realize that Twitter is a very powerful search engine. Just like Google, if you know how to use the search effectively you can find pretty much anything. And one of those effective ways is leveraging the power of hashtags.

What is a hashtag you ask?

From The Twitter Fan Wiki: Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol.

Basically, its a tag in your post so that you or someone else can find it later or track it as it is happening. For example, lets say you are watching the Super Bowl. You want to hear what other folks are saying about the game. You can do a search (on for the hashtag #SuperBowl and see what others talking about. Many TV shows, events, companies, and more are creating hashtags to monitor conversations and just generally engage with other followers.

Right, but how does this help you find stuff for your classroom?

Well, there are loads of great educational hashtags that have been created that you can search out and see what folks are posting. Are you a Social Studies teacher or need history resources? Check out #sschat. Maybe English is your thing. So there is #engchat. Perhaps you are looking for just general education resources. Then you should do a search for #edchat.

There are so many more educational hashtags out there. Lucky for all of us we have CybraryMan. Jerry (his real name) has collected several pages of hashtags for all of us to enjoy.

You may notice that many of the EDU hashtags include the word "chat" in them. There are some great chats on Twitter around various issues in education. (I wrote about this a while back.) Jerry also has a great page of how to take part in the EDU Chats and the times of various chats as well.

Oh and I get asked a lot how  to create a hashtag. Simple my friends, simple. You just create it! There isn't a special form or permission you need in order to make a hashtag you just make one. My advice is, however, do a search on Twitter for the hashtag you want to use, just to make sure other stuff isn't posted to it already. (That can save a lot of time and embarrassment later.) Once you have it in mind, start using it. This can be great for schools/districts or classrooms to create tags to allow other members of the community to see whats being said to follow along with events, games, etc.

The point of all this is that while you may be a connected educator or you use Twitter regularly, there may be some educators around you who just don't see the point. Or they say they don't want to use Twitter. Well, the hashtag provides a way for anyone, no matter who, to reap the rewards of the information that flows across the Twitterverse and have it delivered to you when ever you need it.

What are some of your favorite hashtags to follow? Leave some comments below.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Collaborative Classroom With Edmodo

This is the first in my Summer Learning Series. These are short, learning posts to give you a jump start on some simple tools and ideas you can use in your classroom next year. First up, Edmodo. 

So you might be asking yourself, what is Edmodo?

Edmodo is a social network designed for education. While it looks like another popular social network the differences are clear.

See for yourself.

Look like something you've seen before?

Here is how it works. You sign up for a free account. Really all you need is a name and an email address. Once created you can then create groups. Groups can be used for all sorts of things. A group could be your class or it could be literature groups, project groups or anything you can really think of.

When you create a group you get a alphanumeric code. You give this code to your students. Here is where the beauty of Edmodo comes in. The only way that students can connect to Edmodo is through the group code you give. They register for a free account (no email required) with the group code and they automatically become a part of it.

So lets say I am teaching Chemistry. I give all my students the group code for our Chemistry class. All the students join. From here I can post class updates, discussions, lessons, quizzes, handouts, really anything. Any discussions we have are all threaded and the newest information appears at the top each time you log in.

Worried about how you will keep up with all this on the go? No worries. There are mobile apps that give you the full capabilities of the site right in the palm of your hand. So whether you are an iOS user or an Android user you can download the Edmodo app so you are always connected.

My favorite part of Edmodo are the parent codes. Whenever a student joins a group a parent code is generated. This then allows the parents to sign up for a free account and they can go in any time to see what their student is saying/doing. This also gives them access to the gradebook (if you want to use that feature.)

There is so much more to Edmodo. Here are some places to go to learn more:

  • Edmodo Help Center-If you are new (and even if you aren't, you will want to spend some time in the Help Center going over the different parts and making sure you understand how it all works. 
  • Edmodo Livebinder-This is a comprehensive resource with lots of ideas for use and other places to get more information. 
  • Educating With Edmodo-This is a wonderful Google Site put together by my friend Paula who uses Edmodo in her classroom everyday. You'll find all sorts of valuable information there. 

We use Edmodo in our district and our teachers are loving it. But not only are we using it with students we are using it with our teachers as well. We have several PLC groups that use Edmodo and many of our user groups for Promethean, Smart and other technologies also are using Edmodo as a way to share the wealth of knowledge. So it's not just for kids.

How are you using Edmodo? What advice do you have for those who want to get started? What do you wish you had known when you started. Leave some comments below.