Who Knew 9 Year Olds Would Love to Tweet?

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For the past year I have solidly become an addict of twitter to build a professional network, and have experienced first hand the great abilities of it, the connections one can make, and the endless learning that is present. This year I decided to create a twitter account for my class, as a way for my students to share their learning and make learning “real.”

As I took on this endeavor of tweeting for the first time today I was amazed with the level of engagement and excitement in my students and thought I would share a little advice and observations that I saw in my class:

The Process: I opened our class twitter account on the smartboard, gave a quick low-down on what twitter is and our account, and then began to explain how to tweet. For our first tweet, I wanted the students to work together in their groups to collectively figure out how they would decide what to tweet and come up with a precise 140 character phrase. I provided them with this tweet form as a way to organize their thoughts.
It was great to watch them working together, debating the “best” way to say something, erasing their sentence when they realized they missed a word, and observing the general excitement among them.

Once each group had a finalized idea of what they would share, they came up to my class computer and typed out their tweet together. Most of them didn’t know how to make the hashtag (#) symbol, but besides that it was relatively painless. Their faces beamed as they watched in real-time, their tweets appear on the smartboard. It was like they were performing magic!

Where to go from here? My plan from here on is to start small with a “tweet of a day,” which will occur at morning and lunch recess, and the end of the day. I want the students to use their tweets as a way to reflect on the things that they have learned and also to share exciting things that are happening in their school life. I have left the sheets out for the students to use whenever they would like, on their own, with a partner, or in a group.

I initially questioned how to get my students excited about twitter and the idea of tweeting, but as I began talking to them about it, it became apparent to me that I didn’t need to at all. Kids love using technology! They love to teach their parents about it, love using the tools their older siblings use, and love things that are current in society. Why not allow the classroom to be the platform where all these tools can come to life and students can experience learning in a whole new way?

Please follow our classroom @mspetleysclass

The Best Teachers Teach from the Heart

Family orientation is one of my favourite days of work. Besides the fact that I sometimes feel like a monotonous robot, I love meeting my new class for the year. I love seeing students on their “best behaviour,” watching them interact with their parents, the sense of self that they exude, and the instant first impression that’s provided. But despite all that is happening, I often think about what it would be like to be a student again. The first meeting, the nerves, the unknown.

Regardless of age, our students are kids. They need attention, boundaries, to learn lessons, and to be loved. Each student has an amazing gift to share. They all have their quirks (just as us teachers do!), their challenges, their strengths, and their blossoming personalities. As teachers, we need to unpack all of these, understand our students, and build those strong relationships with them. Despite all that needs to be learned in a school year, the most important thing is learning who our students are. If we do not provide an environment structured around trust, respect, and care how can any form of learning be possible?

As each and every one of us begins our year, remember that sometimes we need to put the curriculum, our great units and engaging lessons aside, because if we don’t have the students’ hearts, we won’t be able to teach them.

Hook Your Students Through Video App Smashing

I am always looking for new ways to “hook” students and make them excited about learning a new topic or unit. As the school year is coming closer to beginning, my colleague and I were brainstorming ideas about how to introduce Spanish class. At our school, when students enter grade four, it’s their first year of taking Spanish, which in itself is exciting enough. Normally, I show a little powerpoint, but thought this year creating a video would be more intriguing.

I used four apps to make the video, which initially took about two hours, but I’m hoping over time will become less. I’m sure the students could have made it much quicker than I did! Here are the apps I used:

1) Tellagami: This is a free app that allows you to design your background and character, and record up to 30 secs of either your voice or text. It is very user friendly! This app was used at the last scene in my video.

2) Puppet Pals 2: The version I used is free, so is limited to selective scenes, characters, and props, but it is optional to upgrade. This app allows users to choose a scene and character, and manipulate the character’s moves throughout the scenery, while simultaneously recording your voice.

3) Explain Everything: This app is $2.99, but well worth the price. I was able to import my previously created videos, and add specific props/pictures that I wasn’t able to add in the other apps. This app is capable of doing so much more than I used it for, so definitely challenge your students with this one.

4) iMovie: The price for this app is $4.99, or free to new iPad users (I believe this is free as a package on all the new iPad 5s). Through this app, I compiled all of my clips to make one coherent and fluid movie.

From this video, it’s clear that I am an amateur, but through making it, I came to the realization that the capabilities with app smashing and the abilities of our tech-savvy students, is a recipe for greatness!

So You Want to Integrate Technology Into Your Lessons?

As part of my master’s program, I had a group task that had to tackle an aspect of design based learning. My group decided to create a lesson planning template, which teachers could use to find ways to integrate technology into their lessons in meaningful and engaging ways. We wanted it to be teacher friendly, and easy to use.

We first created a flow chart, in which teachers could ask themselves questions about ways in which they could revise a previous lesson. For parts 2/4 of the chart, within the lesson template, we developed specific questions which teachers could ask themselves and reflect upon. For part 6 of the chart, we then developed a technology toolbox that could help to guide teachers in choosing an appropriate technology tool. As teachers become more efficient and discover new tools, then can continue to add to their own technology toolbox.

Here is an example of what a revised lesson could look like.

We designed this in hopes of helping teachers to find easy, manageable, and meaningful ways to integrate technology into their lessons. Feel free to share, and challenge yourself and your staff to continue to use technology to engage students!

A link to our presentation.

Credits to Project: WAKE up! (Wun Yeung, Andrea Spinner, Kris Hopkins, Erin Petley)