Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Twitter Chats Matter

As a co-founder of #edchat and a life-long learner I've had the opportunity to be a part of 100's of Twitter chats over the past 5 years. From the beginning of #edchat when it was just a few people chatting to now state and specialized chats that get 100's of people following, these chats matter.

But why?

Meeting New People-Social media is called that for a reason. Twitter chats expose you to colleagues and friends you might not otherwise engage with. As I've written before, hashtags are powerful. While you might not follow me, we can still engage in a meaningful conversation because the hashtag connects us. One-way conversations don't really work on Twitter. I find engaging with new voices one of the reasons I keep coming back to Twitter chats.

Hearing New Ideas-These new colleagues that you are engaging with will bring new ideas to the table. Twitter chats not only expose us to new people, but we hear new ideas that could be a great takeaway afterwards. I've had many experiences where after I chat I think what great ideas to share with my teachers or administrators or something new I wanted to try for my own professional learning. This exposure to new ideas and sharing of what works is what drives many to engage in Twitter chats

Opposing View Points-Twitter chats often get knocked as "an echo chamber" or "pats on the back." Sure, are there times when everyone agrees? Definitely. When it comes to how students should be learning or how students should be engaging with technology, many people in the Twitter space have similar ideas or thinking. But the reality is we all are doing something different and even thinking a different way. This is my favorite part of Twitter chats. I don't engage with people because we all think the same. That would be boring and frankly we wouldn't learn anything. I engage because I want my thinking to be pushed. I want to see an opposing view point. I want to learn.

Finding New Resources-It usually never fails. I sit down to a Twitter chat and by the time I am done my Pocket list or Evernote notebook has grown exponentially because of the number of blog posts, new tools, videos and more that are shared. Because of the educators involved, the new ideas and the opposing view points, I will find a new blog to read, video to watch or website to check out. These are not only times for me to push my thinking, they are times for me to be a learner too. And I like that.

Creating Action-Since Twitter chats provide valuable information, resources and thinking, many take to blogs afterwards to chronicle what they are doing as a result of their conversations. I am a believer in establishing, at the end of the chat, what you are going to do as a result of your conversation. Turn your words into actions and then report back. Write a post on your blog, tweet out using the hashtag, share your learning with someone else. Don't let the benefits of the chat stay with you. Share them with the world.

What about you? Are you drawn to Twitter chats for a particular reason? What benefit do they provide you and your learning? What is your favorite Twitter chat(s)? Leave some comments below.

Looking for a chat to join? Check out the official EDU Twitter Chats List:

Happy chatting!

photo credit: eclecticlibrarian via photopin cc

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why Curation Matters

I spend a great deal of time looking up stuff. Whether that stuff is blog posts to get a pulse on what is happening in the edusphere or researching new tools to share with teachers, I come across a wide variety of resources that I need to save, catalog and be able to come back to later. Curation is a large part of my day. 

But what is curation? Why is it important and how can you do it easily

I absolutely love this video. The definitions everyone gives for what curation means to them are so totally different yet the same.

The Internet has allowed us to retrieve as much information on any topic from pretty much any source we want. Wading through the junk can be tough. We have to rely on the collective knowledge of our friends and colleagues to help us sort the good from the bad. (Because remember, alone we are smart but together we are brilliant.)

But that is only half of the curation process.

Once we find the good we have to be able to store it and find it again. Having good tools at our disposal is crucial so that the hard work we go through to vet resources doesn't go to waste. These tools also allow us to share our learning and curated resources, adding to the global knowledge.

Curation is an important part of my learning and professional development process. I get a great deal of information from serivces like Twitter and blogs I read. That's the easy part. The more challenging is the filtering of the information and saving it for later so I can find it.

For that I rely on 3 important web tools in my arsenal.

Evernote-Hands down, my favorite app for organizing. Not only do I have it installed on every computer I have but on my mobile devices as well. With it I can organize everything I am doing into notebooks and notes. On the web I have the Clipper installed so I can snip quotes, references or parts of blog posts that I want to come back to. Best part? All the annotations come with it so it makes the citation later much easier. From my phone I can add to or edit my notes, insert photos or audio. No matter where I am or what I come across I can add it to my notes and notebooks in Evernote.  

Pocket-This is another app/program that I have everywhere. Since I do much of my information gathering through things like Twitter I need an easy way to save information without adding to to my master repository. I think of it like a way station. An opportunity to vet the resource before deciding I don't need it or transitioning it to a place for long term storage. With this browser extension I can, with the click of a button mark the site as something to read later. I can search by tag or key word and since I have it installed on my mobile devices I can read my saves when I have a moment or save something to my list when I am out and about. 

Diigo-This is another place I save web resources. Again with a browser extension I can take the items I am ready to permanently save and add them to my Diigo list. Oh and I can use the various tools there to annotate and mark up the pages and add any notes. I add tags to organize them and I can share all my saves with a link or two. If you are an educator you get even more perks like the ability to create accounts for your students, sharing lists of sites easily and creating groups so students can share resources. 

Curation is becoming increasingly important. Being able to filter information quickly and retrieve the saved information even quicker are skills we all need to develop and help kids develop too. These skills are going to prove very valuable in the future.

What tools do you use to curate information?

What tips or tricks have you developed along the way?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thinking About Redefining Professional Development

As a former Director of Instructional Technology my job was to provide technology embedded professional development (PD) to a district of 4000 teachers. Each day was filled with new and exciting challenges, trying to figure out how we could best help our teachers understand technology integration, while keeping our PD fresh and engaging. I’ve been a part of a lot of successful PD and been a part of a lot of not so good PD.

The traditional forms of sit-and-get PD are giving way to MOOCs, webinars, Edcamps and flipped learning. But what does all that mean? What does this transition to innovative PD practices mean and where can we find these new forms?

One idea that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is Flipped Faculty meetings. I always heard there wasn’t enough time before school/after school or during the day to do professional development. So we had to look at how to reclaim some of that time. If we take the traditional staff meeting, many times the information shared is just “for your information” or anything that could be posted to a blog or in an email. The idea of the flipped faculty meeting means the time normally spent on the boring stuff can be turned into a time to share, learn and grow, together, as a faculty. There are lots of ways information can be shared to capture that time back. Check out this blog post to learn more.

Faculty Meetings aren’t the only thing we can flip. Traditional PD models can be flipped too, where work is done before to learn basic skills via video or through course work. Then face-to-face time is spent going deeper with that understanding, creating something or looking at how the learning can be applied. The post on The Flip Side Of Professional Development really captures how to make this work and gives several examples.

Professional Development is more than just flipping the traditional models. There are lots of new and exciting ways to take control of your own professional learning. The DIY Professional Development Kit from Edutopia is full of ideas and resources you can use to drive your own learning. Everything from learning on Twitter to Unconference models to building a Personal Learning Network is covered here. What else would you add?

There has never been a time to think about how to break free from boring professional development. With so much information being shared online and off, now is a great time to think about how you can take control of your learning!

photo credit: hawkexpress via photopin cc