Monday, February 28, 2011

To Tweet or Not To Tweet? By Shirley

To Tweet or not to Tweet, that is the question! Several of my friends and colleagues have recently asked why I find using those 140 characters helpful when I could be sharing, helping and creating with colleagues by other more standard methods. I have many answers, but before I explain I should go back to the beginning of my tech journey.
I attended the November Learning Conference in Boston in 08 and enjoyed the keynote speaker, Ewan McIntosh (whom I had met in Scotland the previous year). He asked all participants to create a Twitter account and tweet during the conference using the hashtag  #NLC08. I didn’t even know what a hashtag was, or to whom I was tweeting, but I gave it a try and here is my first tweet.

Rather embarrassing that I couldn’t even spell sitting correctly. 

That was the end of my tweeting until last summer when I created a class blog and wanted some comments for my students.  I asked the advice of my head of school, Josie Holford, who said I should use Twitter,  so I took the plunge and wrote a quick post.  Almost instantaneously, I received this reply from Ewan McIntosh…

That to me was POWERFUL!  Two years later, no contact with him and hey presto he responded.

I began following people I knew and then followed their followers. That’s when I realized how small the world really is today. My tweeps were also some of the same educators whose blogs I had been following.  Immediately, I had worldwide colleagues who could give me advice, share our ideas, answer my questions, suggest new 2.0 tools and be available 24 hours a day.  I began to participate in chats, read more blogs and find out about great conferences, and workshops all through Twitter.  It didn’t take me long to realize the power of those 140 characters.  My students began to receive many comments about their class blog from around the world and I began to plan a variety of projects with different teachers.

My classroom no longer has no walls as we communicate with other students and teachers from around the globe.  I have demonstrated the use of Twitter with my students by tweeting questions and receiving instantaneous response from a variety of people. My humanities classes Skyped with a great teacher, Kendra Gilmore from Missouri, and we learned a lot about each other as we compared our schools, classes and surroundings.  We have planned to take part in the World Read Aloud day (through Twitter) on March 9th and so far will be hearing some Robert Burns poetry read by Bill Boyd from Ayr in Scotland.

I recently had my first face to face meeting with Katy Gartside, a Twitter colleague from New York City, who gave me a wonderful tour of her school. We are now planning some joint projects on ancient Greece and will be sharing my students’ Ancient Greek Studies Wiki.

So to go back to why I use Twitter ….it is an awesome social media tool for all educators.  Join me on Twitter @8rinaldi.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Google Docs Means Second Chances for Everyone: by Laura

If I could give every teacher one tech tool, it would be to be able to teach "in a Google cloud."  Our school got  "cloud coverage," this year.  It has meant that sharing work student to student and student to teacher is possible with a few clicks.  Here is an example of how Google docs has changed the most straight forward of assignments in my classroom:  reading and responding to a set of questions about a lab or a reading.

The old way:  Students had questions passed out or e-mailed to them.  They wrote answers.  They printed their work and passed it in.  I wrote comments and passed it back.  I addressed any misconceptions revealed by the assignment with the whole class.  And in most cases, that was the end of things.  If a student really didn't seem to understand the work, I might ask them to redo it. 

The new way: Once students write their answers on a Google doc, my interactions become more individualized.  I am not correcting their answers so much as editing and responding with more specific follow-up questions.  I ask almost all my students to take a second try at these questions now.

They get a second chance to show their understanding (and almost all are successful the second time.)  And I get a second chance to target my instruction in an individualized way.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our First Talking the Tech by Shirley and Laura

What did we just do?  We created a new identity called Talking the Tech Walk.  It was easy.  We had a little bit of knowledge and an abundant willingness to learn.  We collaborated, did a little research, and adapted what was available to us to serve our purpose to have a wider voice in the world.

We are two teachers, who have been talking tech with each other for some time now: We want to reach others who are either talking the tech walk in their own classes, or who may be inspired to walk the tech talk if they have a chance to read about how some others are doing so.  Ultimately, our story is about more than tech.  As we have implemented technology into our classes, we have also been thinking anew about learning and teaching.

We hope to hear from others who are on the walk or would like to start the walk so that we can all learn together.