Category Archives: Web 2.0 Tools

Twitter – Evolved Teacher PD, Teacher Communication Tool

I have always been one to check out everything, or at least sign up for everything I might at one point find useful.  I also have a thing about getting the user name I want.  This was also the situation when in signed up for Twitter back in July of 2010. Screenshot 2014-10-09 10.54.39 Though at that time I was years behind the crowd fleeing Facebook and joining the next evolution of Social Media.  Facebook was always a way to connect with those whom you lost touch with, to revisit ones past and to share with family near and far what was happening in your life.  Rarely was it able to capture what was happening around the globe and present it in a refined concise manner.  Twitter on the other hand was providing people with a means of following what was happening to others 140 characters at a  time.  And this is what drew me to Twitter.  I always found myself online, reading the latest; local, Canadian and global newsworthy stories from a countless number of online sources from my local paper (The Hamilton Spectator) to the CBC and CNN for my global news.  Twitter gave me the ability to bring all of these sources into one tool where I could hear about the stories as they were shared, at least I thought that it would.  What I didn’t realize was that Twitter rolled meaning that as new “Tweets” were shared the old were shoved off.   I was now missing key events that were not being “retweeted” or re-shared.  Twitter was frustrating to say the least.  I had an account, I followed others, but I didn’t get how it worked.  I put Twitter to the side.

A year or so passed and my interest in Twitter resurfaced.  I cannot recall what brought my attention back to the Twitterverse but I can now say that Twitter makes much sense than what it originally did back in July of 2010.  I now get how to find those missed posts, I use my internet browser to access a web-based version when sitting in front of my laptop, I use an app-based version from my phone and find myself following and contributing to the fast-paced 140 character world of Twitter.

Twitter has provided me with an environment for observing, sharing and learning.  As an educator Twitter as provided much for the evolution of my teaching practices.  A typical PD session in past was delivered by an individual or small group to few or many that attended.   They reminded me of the many university lectures that I sat in on, the difference being that most PD occurs over a 1 or 2-hour session and then you are left to take from it what you can and try to work it into your teaching practices.  Twitter has taken the traditional single session PD and evolved it with the allowance for continual connection with the experts.

I have also taken a new approach in the communication front.  The thought is to give our families and community an outside look at what is happening on the inside in the classrooms of their children.  I have been inspired to do so because of colleagues in education who have provide that look inside for my wife and I.  As teachers we would likely have little opportunity to see what is happening inside the classrooms of our daughter and eventually our son.  But with a tool like twitter and educators like @avivaloca and @AllieDoyle8 we were able to catch a glimpse of what our daughter experienced in her first year of school.  WE can’t thank them enough.  So my journey to connect our classrooms and students with the families continues with the goal of building a stronger learning community.

Twitter, it can be a daunting environment, mind-boggling to those unfamiliar, but with a little willingness to take a risk, it can bring great reward. Give it a try.

And then there was #storify

As the team from Storify tells us, Storify “helps making sense of what people post on social media. Our users curate the most important voices and turn them into stories.”

As a teacher and learner I have seen the role that Storify has in the #connectedclassroom.  Just a month ago, I introduced a plan to my students.  The plan was to integrate #socialmedia tools into our learning throughout our 2nd term in Language, Math, Geography and more.  Our first journey into the world of social media was within the Twitterverse, a fast-paced environment of feeling, thoughts, ideas, news and so much more as we followed the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

We discussed how we would use Twitter but of course my students asked the question, “What will we do with all we share?”  I already had the answer to their question, it of course was in the plan.  I told them the we would tell a story of Team Canada at the Olympic Games using Storify.  The questions rolled in. “What’s Storify?”  With a brief explanation and a tour of a few Storify’s my students quickly understood what we would be doing with all of their Tweets, feelings, and shares from the time we spent following and cheering for Team Canada during the games.

The result, a few examples…

https://storify.com/Hadia7A/canadian-2014-olympic-hockey-teams

https://storify.com/Harjas7A/canada-mens-hockey

https://storify.com/Azmat7A/canada-at-the-sochi-olympics

https://storify.com/harpriya7a/canada-vs-usa-in-the-2014-sochi-winter-olympics

Each of my students Storified their Olympics, the events, the athletes and the memories that they were left as we followed the 17 days of Olympics.  Their work displayed just what #Storify could do to support the use of #socialmedia in the classroom.

Twitter and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

I wanted to hit the ground running, and what better way than to use the fast-paced social media platform, “Twitter”.  It is “a free microblogging service founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone. At its heart are 140-character bursts of information called tweets. Users can include links to other content in their tweets, and broadcasts can be public or private” (Mashable).

We as a class were setting out to follow our Canadian Olympic athletes as the competed in 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.  Students would learn to celebrate with the athletes, fellow Canadians and any others following the Olympics, 140 characters or less at a time.  We spent some time discussing the 140-character limitation in preparation for our two weeks of “tweeting” during the games.  The most common questions were,

  • What if we can’t say what we want in 140-characters?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Who will see what we are posting?

These led to some excellent discussions between those who had previously used Twitter.  They were able to share the strategies they had used to met the 140-character limit (short forms, symbols, elimination of vowels, URL shorteners).  A few already a part of the Twitterverse shared their knowledge of (@) handles (@_PhilYoung) and (#) hashtags (#treelineps #peel21st #wearewinter).  I added to the discussion the purpose behind our Tweeting and of course an answer to the question of, who will see what we are posting/tweeting?

Our purpose, to be active participants in the global community in a positive way.  To build a sense of nationalism amongst the class.  To build enthusiasm for athletics.  And eventually, at the culmination of the games, to learn how to curate (using Storify) stories of the Olympic games that we tweeted, retweeted, and followed.

Who will see what we are posting…why those who follow us, of course.  Our followers are our audience.  But of course, most of my Ss had few followers, few beyond their peers, and our class Twitter @YoungTreeline7s  So I was asked, “If our peers are the only ones who can see what we are posting than what is the point?” and “How can we get other people to see what we are saying?”  Again, as a user, I knew that the simple answer was “We need to acquire a following!” to which I was asked, “How?”  The answer to this was far more difficult and to be honest I did not have a straight answer for them.  What I could say was that,

  • it is all about what you have to share
  • who you share with (the @ handles linked in your tweets)
  • its about the # hashtags you use and others follow

So, we would be using, @Sochi2014 @CDNOlympicTeam #WeAreWinter and of course any twitter account for the Canadian athletes we would follow and support.

The outcome…

First Some Important Review

Although we have been using Edmodo (A social-media-like learning environment) since the beginning of the school, it was important that we spend some time reviewing our policy for appropriate use of online learning tools before acting on the plan of #itsallaboutsocialmediathisterm.  Over the past several years Treeline Public School has played host to many Tech Tours from schools throughout the Peel District School Board who were setting out on their BYOD journey.  One of the HOT questions coming from visiting staff was always, “What do you do when X “not such a good thing” happens?”  And to be honest, our BYOD learning environment had an unbelievably clean record for the first year and a half or so and my response often was “We have not had such an occurrence to date”.  Since then, X has happened a few times.  Some situations more severe than others, as such when introducing anything new that involves online sharing, collaboration or interaction we start out by reviewing our policy regarding appropriate use of online learning tools.

We also recall,

 Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 12.15.16 AM

 

to reinforce that our contributions to online communities need to be positive, meaningful and tied to our learning expectations.  Few reminders have been given this year because my students have a firm understanding that our use of devices, related tools and online environments are a privilege for the who will leave behind a positive “digital footprint” for themselves.

 

Prezi – A New Take on Digital Presentations

For years I have created my own and adapted Powerpoint presentations of others for the various subjects that I have taught at the Grade 6, 7 and 8 level at Treeline Public School.  My teaching has thrived on the communication of information through technology.  For the first few years of my career the sophistication of that technology meant that I was using the traditional overhead projector.

Old School Projector

Then the LCD projector became a more cost effective purchase for schools to make and I found myself using Powerpoint to communicate knowledge to my students, a tool that I had not used all that often in the first few years of my career.  The link between my computer and the LCD projector streamlined my teaching practices.  It also allowed my practices to be simplified especially when I was teaching the same subject on rotary to four different classes.  Overhead sheets no longer had to be wiped clean as one class left and the other arrived.

The next evolution in Digital Presentation was Prezi, the “zooming” presentation tool.  I cannot say for sure where I came upon Prezi but as my memory serves it was from a presentation given by one of our board ITRT’s (Instructional Technology Resource Teacher), Tina Zita.  That staff meeting presentation opened my eyes to an all new means of communicating information to my students.  For the past year or so things have been different, presentations are no longer linear, they now zoom and zip along a self-chosen path created within the information that I have to share.

A Replacement for Peel’s MyClass

For years’ the PDSB MyClass sites have been the innovate means to digitally share with students, an agenda, calendar, class notes, assignment outlines and any digital resource that one had available to them.  Our MyClass sites only supported unidirectional communication, that is from teacher to students.  This has worked for the last few years, as traffic on my MyClass has indicated.  However, the evolving needs of students and thoughts of “flipping” my class forced my hand.  I needed to search out a means for a more collaborative environment for student learning beyond the classroom.  The search began and a google search provided quite literally thousands of results, however, one stood out, “Edmodo“.

Edmodo, visually it looks much like the Facebook of years past.  It is clean, with a multi-pane layout.  Groups that are created are displayed in a list on the left below the Teacher/Student profile picture, the centre pane was a “feed” of everything shared and on the right hand side are notifications and some what seems to be lesser important details.

Beyond, it visual appeal, setup couldn’t be more simplified.  Create your account, add some details to your profile and then begin creating your classes.  Class creation itself was a snap, a name for the class “8A”, a click and a class code was generated.

From there it was all in the hands, well fingertips of the students.  After a 40-minute discussion with my class about my thoughts of switching from the Peel MyClass and showcase of “Edmodo” the students were super-excited, well as much as they could in the first week back to school after their 2-month summer holiday.  What seemed to have them most excited was the fact that they were being given the opportunity to use something that seemed to be Facebook, a social media tool that their parents were not all that fond of.

The showcase of Edmodo and its features was actually only a small fraction of that 40-minute introduction, the main focus was the discussion around appropriate behaviour and responsible use of the site.  The were quite receptive of my expectations, especially the one which stated that they would need to show positive involvement in our online classroom

I guess we will see how this change works out.

Learning About Learning

by Donna Miller Fry (@fryed)

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