Tag Archives: twitter

Do You Need Inspiration? Connect with Others!

Photo by Steve Corey under a CC license
Photo by Steve Corey under a CC license

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about the importance of being a connected educator. In the U.S., October is Connected Educator Month with many opportunities for professional development and making connections. This seemed a perfect time to revisit the possibilities of connections and connecting.

One person from whom I get many ideas to think about, blog posts to read and other interesting tidbits (on Facebook and on Twitter) is Tami Brewster, a teacher at Hampstead School. Most of her posts on Facebook are about education, either reposts from other educators, thoughts about her own classroom or questions that she needs answered. I went to speak with her about the importance of a professional learning network (PLN) to her.

I visited Tami at her school and asked her how she grew her online PLN. She spoke about going to conferences and symposia and starting to follow people she met on Twitter. The face-to-face encounters led to an online relationship. In other cases, through recommendations from people, she started to follow educators and then was always delighted when she had the opportunity to meet them face-to-face. Hugs always ensued! Tami interacts with them through Twitter and Facebook. While Facebook started for her as a way to connect with family, it has turned into an important part of her PLN. She posts good practices, sometimes her failures (to let everyone know we are all human and not everything works out the way we expect it to), links to free apps she hears about, meaningful blog posts written by educators…  Slowly she has built up online relationships with teachers both in North America and in other parts of the world – teachers who teach in circumstances similar to hers. They are a source of ideas and inspiration.

When Tami makes connections through recommendations from other people, she always checks out the profiles and credentials of these educators before deciding to follow them. The idea is to follow those whose ideas and opinions you value, not just to collect people to follow. Twitter can be overwhelming if you follow too many people!

Photo by Chrissy Hellyer under a CC license
Photo by Chrissy Hellyer under a CC license

But online is not the only kind of PLN to have. I am sure many of you already have a PLN – you just don’t call it that. It’s all the colleagues both within your school and from other schools with whom you share ideas. Tami has made a point of cultivating her face-to-face network.

Within Tami’s school, she is fortunate to have a schedule that allows the cycle team to meet “should they wish”. PLC (professional learning community) time is blocked in a couple of times a week. And meet they do! I spoke with Tami, along with Guila Luck and Heather Strulovitch. The three, along with others in the cycle, have been preparing to implement a 1:1 BYOD (bring your own device) environment in their classrooms. They have not only used planning time in school but have been meeting on Saturdays to try to make this new way of working be a success. They, in turn, have reached out via Twitter and Facebook to get help from others who have already implemented this kind of project getting suggestions and advice on everything from technical issues, to acceptable use policies, to good educational practices. Tami described how, with the strong online connections they have cultivated, they are able to get answers to questions quickly. By putting it out into the universe, so many people see it, and if everybody is testing out your problem, the sooner answers are found. Tami described how someone was trying to see how far he could push an app to do what he wanted. He was testing the limits of the app. These teachers are testing their own limits – how far they can push themselves to make their classrooms real hubs of excited, engaged learners.  Guila, a first year iPad user, talked about the importance of being able to get mentoring from colleagues with more experience (she also relies on students to teach her at times). Heather spoke about how knowing that you have a community of teachers to turn to, to share with, means that debriefing after a lesson will help you see ways to change, to find new approaches. Not every lesson is perfect, but it is the reflection afterwards and the bouncing of ideas off others that helps her evolve as a teacher. It gives her that extra drive to keep going. This group of teachers has built a community where they can share the negatives along with the positives (trust is an important aspect) and they all have become stronger teachers for it.

Tami is also in touch with teachers from other schools in the city who, like her, work in English / inner city schools. They face similar challenges and can offer each ideas and support. They share best practices – this year , the question: “What are you doing for the month of September?”, was put out there. This resulted in each teacher finding some new ideas they could put in place in their own classrooms.  Sharing happened partly face-to-face, but mainly through the sharing of files through their Google Drive accounts and through e-mail and even texting.

Now that the students are starting to use their devices, they too are connecting out of school hours, within a closed community, about schoolwork. Tami can see that they are engaged outside of school time; the students, too, see the power of connection.

Tami described having a PLN as giving her a window into many classrooms around the world. It has given her access to ideas and resources that she may not have had. And most of all, it has given her inspiration. She turns her back on “We’ve always done it this way.” We need to change and evolve to meet the needs of today’s students. Her PLN has given her the push to try something different. Each year, now, she tackles new ideas and has found ways to differentiate and to engage her students in more meaningful work.

And it keeps her energized.

Follow Tami on Twitter @brewstami

 

An Inside Look at Using Twitter with Students: Our Third Twitter Chat

 

photo by Matt Hamm CC BY-NC 2.0
photo by Matt Hamm CC BY-NC 2.0

This past week, the teachers, students, and principal of LearnQuebec’s online school had our third all-school twitter chat. Three is a magic number. Once you’ve done something three times, it starts to become a habit. You also start to notice trends, behaviours, what works best, and what doesn’t. Most importantly, you get an idea of how it’s evolving, if it’s gaining traction, and we are all now convinced we are onto something!

 

 

 

A little background:

snipofclassroom
Our classroom (students’ names appear in chat area at lower left,
hidden here of course)
  • We’re synchronous online classroom teachers. Our students are in brick and mortar schools all day but when it’s time for Math, Science, Physics, or Chemistry, they get online with us. They are from all over Quebec, many in remote areas. We’re all pretty used to interacting live online, in fact, we pretty much crave it due to the lack of f2f time.
  • By “all-school”, I mean all of our teachers, all of our students, and our principal.
  • Most of the teachers already use Twitter with their students, so most of them already had accounts and were comfortable using it.
  • At the beginning of each year, we get permission from the parents of our students to be online in many sites – google drive, twitter, blogs, geogebratube….and the list just keeps growing every year. So that part was already taken care of.
  • For non-Tweeters: A twitter chat is what happens when a bunch of people all get on Twitter at the same time to tweet at each other. It’s like a party that happens online, except that you can actually have way more conversations with way more people at a twitter chat than you could ever manage at a party.

The story so far:

We started having these twitter chats in February of this year. Our purpose was to create a stronger sense of community amongst our online students, whom we almost never get to see face to face, and who almost never get to see each other. Here’s a quick synopsis of the first two chats:

Chat 1: Feb. 5, 2014:  If you’d like to read all the details of this wonderful event, including the actual tweets that happened that night, I blogged all about it here. If you’d rather not read that whole chapter, allow me to summarize: It was great! We decided on 5 questions, the theme of which was online learning – the one thing that unites all of us. The participation rate was very encouraging – we had about 35% of them there, and by the end of the evening, there were about 700 tweets with the #lqchat hashtag. The staff were all so thrilled by the event that we spontaneously had a staff meeting immediately afterward to debrief! We were so blown away by how enthusiastic our students were about the opportunity to interact this way. It took a while to calm down! My takeaway was that every human needs to connect, regardless of age, academic interest, or what medium you use. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Chat 2: March 12, 2014:  Unfortunately, I didn’t blog about this one, not because it wasn’t great or important though! You can see the complete chat here, separated into questions. Summary: This time we used some of our students’ suggestions for chat topics, like career plans. The theme was still online-based, but also looking to the future – theirs and ours. Once again, the staff met afterwards to take it all in together. Chats can be quite overwhelming. Not only is the sheer volume of tweets impossible to keep up with, but the stimulation generated by all the ideas and connections can be quite overpowering as well. We had about the same amount of participation, and we were once again thrilled by it all. As a side note, suddenly there was more tweeting happening on a daily basis from some of the more reluctant tweeters on our staff! My takeaway – sometimes to get from A to B you have to aim for C, and then unexpectedly end up at B on your way there.

Our latest chapter:

Chat 3: April 22, 2014: This time, we asked for the students’ ideas in a more concrete way. Peggy Drolet made a google spreadsheet for them in which to give their input. The staff met, and together came up with the questions, using as many of their suggestions as possible, while keeping it safe, appropriate, non-academic, and interesting. Unfortunately, as I write this, Storify is not fully cooperating, at the moment, in giving us the full set of tweets for all the questions, so I have had to take a few snips to give you an idea of the flavour of the responses.

Prechat:

Here the Storify for the prechat chatting that took place. As it happened, that night there was also a very important hockey game happening at the exact same time as our chat. This hockey game happened to involve the Montreal Canadians. Have I mentioned we are all Canadians? Living in Quebec? So, of course, we get a little excited about hockey. More than a few people were, um, multi-tasking during the chat! These happened before and during the chat:

hockeychat

And finally, here are the actual chat questions, with a few of the responses:

Q1: What is the happiest/proudest you have ever been in your life?

q1

Q2 What is the coolest thing about math/science?

q2

Q3: What is your favourite pastime/hobby?

q3

Q4: What tech tool is your favourite & why?

q4a q4b

Q5: What about you would people find the most surprising?

q5

Q6: What is something that you are not learning presently in school that you want to learn?

q6a

This last question took an interesting and unexpected turn toward the end!

q6b

A few other things that happened:

An idea was hatched for us all to do our own version of Pharrell’s Happy video!

happy

Our students’ personalities, sense of humour revealed themselves:

funny

And as usual, our fabulous principal was there and supportive “like a boss”!

dianne

Finally, the day after the chat, we all asked our students to type their reactions on the eboard in class. I have taken snips of those and put them on this padlet wall, word for word. Yes indeed, I really think we’re onto something!

To Tweet or not To Tweet? Twitter in My Classroom

Twitter for me? Twitter for my classroom? Is it really possible? I mean Twitter is for finding out what Justin Bieber eats for breakfast or which NHL hockey players are injured for the next game. Or so I thought… Four years ago, I attended the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference. The theme was “Exploring Excellence”. One of the workshops I attended changed my whole outlook on social media in the classroom. The workshop turned out to be extremely overwhelming—hashtags, retweet, twitter handles, follow, #ff, and much more. But there was one statement that caught my attention. “You make it what you want to make it. Follow your interests and your passion.” My passion is teaching. I am a math teacher. I teach secondary 4 students. My goal as a teacher is to provide opportunities for my students to be active in their learning. Math is not a spectator course and I feel students have to express their thoughts about their trials, their errors, and their celebrations. I am continuously seeking ways to help teenagers become comfortable, confident and I want to instill a love for learning. That summer, after the conference, I lurked. I became comfortable with Twitter. I learned the language. I discovered a tremendous amount of resources I am now using in my classroom and I made connections with the most inspiring educators on this planet. And so, –three years later—yes, I tweet with my students.

Why I think Twitter is a powerful teaching tool Often, teenagers feel their voice is not important. They feel they are not contributing anything worthwhile. To them, their thoughts are unimportant for their teachers and their peers. A hashtag I created, #mystrategy, was to prompt the students to share what makes them successful when they are solving a math problem. One of my students tweeted

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And I responded.

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If the students feel their input is valued, they will feel they have a voice.

How I set up our class Twitter account First, we have a class discussion. What is Twitter? Every year, I discover not many students have Twitter accounts, nor do they know how to use Twitter. And they do not really know how we will use it. So, I start with a definition. Then, we discuss, “Why will we use Twitter?” We discuss how valuable this tool can be for their math learning. We exchange ideas on the importance of collaboration. We talk about leaving a digital footprint and the importance of being careful about what we share on the internet. After our discussion, I provide the following slides:

Slides my students will see

  Examples of tweets/hashtags

For the first three months, students do not know what to tweet. It is important to create prompts. Here are some examples along with some student tweets: The students tweet about math “Make a statement about the graph”

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new5

The students share happy moments

“What was your happiest learning moment this week?”

new6

The students share what works for them when using a math concept

“What steps must I be careful with when using the quadratic formula?”

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new8

 

And the students become very creative:

new9

 

The students encourage each other before an evaluation

“How will you prepare for the evaluation” or “What will you put on your memory aid”

new10

 

The students have conversations:

new11

 

The students share their questions, thoughts, ideas, and words of encouragement.

new12

new13

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And there are many other hashtags we use.

#INTU (I need to understand)

new15

#trianglepictures

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And I tweet.

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Here is a voicthread. You will find out what my students think of twitter.

What my students say

 

As a teacher I have gained so much on Twitter. My teaching practices have changed because of the ideas that are shared by my Professional Learning Network. (PLN) Here are a few awesome educators that have had an impact on my outlook on what it means to be engaged, connected and collaborative in a classroom; @cybraryman1, @c_durley,@ShellTerrell, @coolcatteacher. And the most inspirational person for me is @angelamaiers. On the last day of school, I tweeted the following. It was inspired by Angela Maiers’ popular hashtag, #youmatter

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Twitter Chats – Making Connections

Photo by: Amodiovalerio Verde under a CC license
Photo by: Amodiovalerio Verde under a CC license

I know many people think of twitter as a place where people post the inanities of their lives “Having coffee at…” “I’m at the corner of…” Twitter has much more to offer than that. By judiciously following some incredible educators, I have a network of people from whom I learn (and I hope they learn a bit from me). I have been on Twitter since 2007; my initial participation was tentative. I read tweets. It was only as I slowly built up my network that I started to really use twitter as a source of professional development. You can follow some of the leaders in education. Don’t be shy; they may not follow you back, but they won’t block you from seeing what they share.

Now I take part in tweet chats. What is a tweet chat, you ask? It is a conversation on twitter. A time is set aside for discussion on a particular topic. All participating use a hashtag that identifies that the tweet is part of the chat e.g. #cdnedchat. Tanya Avrith, from Lester B. Pearson School Board, is one of the founders of the Canadian EdChat (the other being Michael Quinn from SWLSB). I participated in the inaugural chat on April 29 and there were educators taking part from across the country. I had the opportunity to speak with Tanya about cdnedchat. Here is what she had to say.

tweetdeckChats are usually moderated, with the moderator posing a question to start off the conversation. The pace may be very fast, but there are tools to help slow down the tweets. One tool is tweetchat. You simply enter a hashtag and let tweetchat do the work. You can pause, set the refresh rate and change the size of the tweets. This site is strictly for viewing the conversation. When you are ready to start contributing, a tool that can help you  is Tweetdeck (I use it and Tanya mentioned it as well). You can create a column to follow a particular hashtag. This article can help get you started.

In a chat the moderator will post a question usually starting with Q1. Participants may answer the question A1 or contribute a tweet on the topic. During the hour the moderator will add questions to keep the conversation going.

A sample column from my tweetdeck can be seen on the left. You can reply to a tweet add or find out more; you can retweet  to share something you thought was interesting, with or without adding your own comment  and you can favourite a tweet to easily find it later. When there is someone whose tweets speak to you, you can follow them to see what they are tweeting when not part of a tweet chat. It’s a great way to build up your PLN. Tweetdeck makes it easy to follow the thread of a conversation.

Here are a few Twitter acronyms which will help you decipher some tweets

@username – the @ addresses a specific user
DM – direct message (you can only tweet directly to someone who follows you)
RT – Retweet
MT – modified tweet (when you retweet but edit the retweet)

There are many tweet chats run by educators. The #cdnedchat is a great place to start as the ideas and links you get are posted by fellow Canadian educators. It takes place every Monday at 8:00pm Eastern Time. Find out more on the web site and be sure to watch Tanya’s video on why these chats are important. There are also tweet chats that target specific kinds of teachers (Kindergarten, Science, Flipping…) For an extensive list, have a look at what Cybraryman has curated. Remember, if you can’t be there at the specified time, you can always go back to read what transpired by searching the hashtag.

Q1 Have you taken part in a tweetchat? What did you gain from it?

Q2 Are there tweetchats that you would recommend for your colleagues and why?

Q3 What do you think about having a tweetchat around each week of LEARN’s blog?

I’m looking forward to your answers.