District-Wide 30 Day Twitter Challenge

In honor of Connected Educator Month, I will share what I have been meaning to write about for a month now… getting teachers connected on Twitter!

Twitter ChallengeIn August, I led a couple of optional, face-to-face trainings on Twitter for teachers and principals in my district. Most of the resources I used for the trainings can be found on my site. (Hint: TodaysMeet worked out great to have people paste their twitter handles and follow each other during the training!) I know Twitter can be confusing to people at first, so I tried to think of a way that would encourage teachers to further learn about and actually use the powerful networking tool once we left as a group.

I thought a 30 day Twitter challenge would be the perfect way to encourage the use of Twitter and make sure teachers continued to network with teachers in other buildings in the district and with educators outside of our district. I assumed I would be pleased with the results because after all, once you can convince an educator to open their mind to Twitter they’re pretty excited about the sharing going on. I never expected to be as impressed with the connections being made as I was.

To prepare, I did a quick search of the hashtag we used to make sure no one else was using it and compiled a list of challenges for each day in a Google Spreadsheet. Challenges consisted of things like following other educators who teach the same subject, sharing a favorite resource for the classroom, and other quick, easy tasks. At the end of each of the trainings I told the teachers and principals about the challenge and that it would be starting the following week. Once it had begun, I tweeted the challenges each morning and afternoon.

Actually, I have a confession to make. I scheduled all of my challenge tweets ahead of time in Tweetdeck! This helped me make sure I didn’t forget to send it one morning. It was that easy to get started, and it took on a life of its own.  As the challenge progressed, I noticed participants tapering off, which was expected. But as they stopped completing my daily “challenges,” I noticed they kept tweeting on their own and began using Twitter with their students, staff and for their own PLNs… EXACTLY what I hoped would happen! Many teachers joined in on the challenge after it started or created their own Twitter accounts because someone in the challenge encouraged them to participate, and they heard that others were having fun with it. I made a Storify to summarize the challenge and share with others.

To implement your own challenge, here are my suggestions:

  • Lead a face-to-face training first. People feel more brave and willing to step out of their comfort zone when they have a buddy (you!) by their side. This will show them the ropes and get them comfortable following people and sending tweets.
  • Create a list of tasks that are very simple, and will only take seconds to minutes to do. Our to-do lists are already out of control, so no one wants to sign up to do something that’s going to take a long time, every day, for an extended period of time.
  • Tasks should encourage participants to learn a new aspect of Twitter, make new connections or share new resources.
  • Include a task that encourages participants to get their “classroom neighbor” to join, so others who did not attend your initial training can start Tweeting.
  • Include a task that encourages participants to check out a Twitter chat, so they can see the real power in Twitter.
  • Create a list of the tasks each day, so teachers can see what’s coming, complete their task early if needed or go back to catch up. I created my list in a Google Spreadsheet that I shared out by creating a shortened URL with bit.ly (see my challenges here: bit.ly/middie30).
  • Offer prizes for participants and the winners! I also created a certificate of participation for every teacher who participated (even one day).
  • If I do this again, I would probably only do 15 days. I think cutting it in half would seem like less of a commitment, and potentially encourage more people to participate.

Overall, the feedback from teachers was great, and the Superintendent was very happy to hear more of our teachers were joining Twitter! In a training I led yesterday, one of the participants shared a resource she found, “on Twitter” with the rest of the teachers in her department.  I was thrilled to hear that teachers are still actively using Twitter as a part of their own PLN and as a result of this challenge!

How have you encouraged educators to become active on Twitter?

Tech To You Later!
-Katie

5 Edtech Tools in 5 Minutes: Episode 4

In October I started these monthly 5 in 5 episodes to help teachers quickly learn about available tech and web tools they could use in their classrooms.  By no means are these five minute episodes a comprehensive overview of the tools, but it should be enough to let you know what the tool is, what it can do, and if it’s worth your time looking into and learning more about.

5_in_5This episode features the following tools:

  1. TodaysMeet
  2. Cue Prompter
  3. WordPress
  4. Infuse Learning
  5. Storify

For the videos, the Prezis, Diigo links to all the sites featured in the episodes and more, visit my website. If you don’t want to miss another episode, subscribe to the iTunes podcast channel here.

13 Best Multi-Platform EdTech Tools of 2013

13 best edtech tools of 2013It’s the time of year for ‘Best Of 2013’ lists, so I thought I’d create my own.  This list contains the 13 best multi-platform (web, iOS, Android, etc.) apps and sites for the classroom (in my opinion).  Whether you’re a BYOT, 1:1 iPad, 1:1 Chromebook,  1:1 something else, or still convincing the movers and shakers in your building to switch to a BYO or 1:1 program, you’ll be able to use all 13 of these sites with your students!

13: YouTube: With over 6 billion hours of video being watched from the site every month, there is no explanation needed for the video sharing giant.  However, it is worth putting on this list for many reasons.  You can enrich your classroom with TED talks, Kahn academy videos, and much, much more coming from YouTube. Your students can upload and share their own video creations to reach a much broader audience than the 20-30 kids in your class. It goes without saying that YouTube has become a very powerful tool in education.

12: Skype: Has your field trip funding been cut? Bringing in a guest speaker not feasible because of the cost and distance?  Then give Skype a try! Skype has literally removed the walls, roads, mountains and oceans from our classrooms. Your students can now connect, face to face with anyone in the world. Their website has a lot of lesson ideas, volunteer guest speakers, and more.  Check out PD I did with my teachers about Skype here.

11: Evernote: Evernote is like having every notebook you’ve ever created, every idea you’ve jotted down, and every resource you’ve collected with you at all times.  You can share notebooks you’ve created with other people to view or collaborate with you.  You can snip webpages, upload photos and so much more.  Their enterprise has expanded to additional apps to make Evernote even more powerful, and they’re even making hardware now.  Evernote kept me organized as a varsity cheerleading coach. You’ll never run out of uses for Evernote.

10: Linoit: Always coming up with new ideas on the go? Looking for a space where your students can collaborate and brainstorm? Then Linoit may be just what you need!  Linoit is an online bulletin board that you can keep private or share with others to collaborate with you.  You can post stickies, photos, videos, documents and even post to your boards via email. To create a board, you will need an account, but (depending on your settings) you can allow your students to post to the board without an account- one less password to remember! Check out PD I did with my teachers about Linoit here.

9: StudyBlue: These online flashcards will help your students study & produce less paper waste! Based on the flash cards you create, or use from the millions of other sets already uploaded, study blue will quiz you and give you progress reports and feedback.  It syncs with Evernote and you can collaborate and share your set of flash cards with others.

8: NearPod: With all this talk of flipping the classroom, making classrooms student centered as opposed to teacher centered, I think some teachers get the idea that people expect them to remove all lecture from their classrooms.  While I agree with making our teaching more student centered, I think there is still a need in each classroom for some good old lecture sometimes.  NearPod takes those traditional boring, dis-engaged PowerPoint lectures and turns them into a whole new experience for kids.  You control what slide your students see and there are many different activities you can embed in the presentation for formative assessment.

7: TodaysMeet: This backchannel is a great way to answer questions, or better yet, have students answer other students questions (or teachers answer other teachers questions during PD), without interrupting the entire room.  It allows you to continue flowing with your lesson without leaving others behind who may be confused about something.  It has also become a powerful tool used at conferences. There is no app for iOS and Android as of now, but the mobile web version still functions on those devices.

6: InfuseLearning: Talk about a formative assessment revolution! InfuseLearning is similar to Socrative; there are a number of different question types you can use with your students throughout a lesson.  Teachers need an account to create and save their questions ahead of time, but students do not need an account! They simply use an access code to get to your questions. The reason I like InfuseLearning more than Socrative is the draw feature (at least at the time this post was written, Socrative did not have this feature to my knowledge). Once you’re finished with the lesson, you can download students’ responses for immediate feedback on your lesson and their understanding.

5: WordPress: This is a powerful, free, blogging platform with many different privacy settings to keep your students’ thoughts as private or as public as you want them to be.  Blogging is an incredible way for students to practice their writing skills, collaborate with other students, connect to others outside of the building, and really begin to take their writing seriously.  One of the teachers at my school has really done some incredible things with WordPress and class blogs. Even if you’re not ready to take the step to get your students blogging (I promise it’s not as tough as it may seem.  Here are some resources to get you started!), I would highly recommend blogging yourself.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve done, remember what worked & what you need to change this time next year, and share resources and ideas with other educators.  Don’t keep all those great things you’re doing in your class to yourself!

4. WeVideo: This video editor makes it easy for students to upload, edit and share impressive videos.

3: Google Drive: This list would be nothing if it didn’t contain Google Drive and Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations and Forms. The Drive allows you to upload and share documents with anyone in the world.  Docs, Spreadsheets and  Presentations allow your students to create, share and collaborate with others on their work. Group activities, peer editing, and collaborative work takes on a whole new meaning with Google Drive apps.  Forms allow you to create surveys, quizzes, collect contact information and more very easily, and it automatically puts the responses in a Google Spreadsheet to easily analyze the information.  I couldn’t say enough positive things about these innovative tools.  Check out PD I did with my teachers about Google Drive and Apps here.

2. Twitter: Who would have ever thought 140 character thoughts would become such an important part of the education process? Whether you use it with your students or not, you’ve GOT to get on Twitter and start connecting with other educators for yourself! I’ve learned more and gotten more ideas from my PLN on Twitter than any single undergraduate and graduate course or school provided PD session. The real power of Twitter comes from weekly chats, where educators come together on the same day/time every week using a #hashtag. It’s now, it’s immediate, it’s relevant, it’s people who are experiencing the same things as you, it’s easy and it’s free. Read about the PD I put on for my teachers here. For a list of my Twitter resources, click here.

1. Schoology: I picked Schoology as the number one, multi-platform edtech tool because of it’s versatility.  In one place, you can organize your classroom with the easy to use LMS, have online discussions with your students, collect and grade work from students, create and grade with rubrics, give tests & quizzes and receive immediate data about students’ performance, reward students with badges, and SO much more!  I very much prefer Schoology to Edmodo for a number of reasons, click here to read why. Schoology brings a whole new element to your classroom!

So there you go- there’s my top 13 multi-platform edtech tools of 2013 list! What multi-platform tools would you add to the list?

Happy Holidays!

Tech To You Later!
Katie