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

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)

Chatting the #ffcaedu Way

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On Monday night, my district hosted our first ever twitter chat, run by our fabulous Director of Technology, Salima. For some, it was their first twitter chat to date, others were solely lurkers, more active twitters participants, and several new to chatting but participated. Overall, it was a great learning experience for everyone involved.

Our topic for the evening was technology integration in the 21st century. Here’s a brief summary of our discussion:

Question #1: What technology can you never live without (in the classroom)? Why? Examples?

Question #2: Do you think technology motivates students? Why/why not?

Question #3: How do students benefit when given the opportunity to use technology to create-when technology is in their hands?

Question #4: How do we help students become “ethical citizens” when using technology? Tips? Tricks? Suggestions?

Question #5: Why is twitter a powerful tool for educators? What are the benefits? How has twitter helped you professionally?

As you can see, there was lots of good discussion going on during this chat, and a few things that stood out for me:
1) As teachers highlight their favourite technology tool, the thing they couldn’t live without in the classroom, I always wonder how it’s used. For example, I have a document camera and use it several times a week, but it wouldn’t be a go-to-tool for me. How does another teacher feel that tool is essential for instruction? What am I missing?
Education is a field that is constantly evolving, and now with technology, things seem endless. But the great thing about it is learning is also continual. There’s never a time when teaching should be repetitive, or stagnant. We can always learn from one another, and always improve how we teach or the way we teach.

2) Technology must be used as a tool to enhance learning, support instruction, and allow students to create masterpieces. If it’s used solely to replace a pen and paper, then the motivation and engagement may not always be there. Students need to be excited about their learning. They live in a world where technology is always at their fingertips. We can’t ignore that, but instead need to support it, and teach children that they too can be creative geniuses.
Traveling hand-in-hand with the use of technology, comes digital citizenship. It is key that as teachers we model what it looks like, but also provide students with the knowledge to be responsible digital citizens. Equally as important, is the need to educate parents. Parents need to be on board with this, and speak that same language at home. Parents are just as important role models as teachers, and should be setting that example for their children as well. It’s our job to provide them with the tools necessary for this to happen.

3) Twitter continues to be an extremely powerful tool for educators. Time and time again, every tweeter you talk to will reinforce this. It’s an amazing tool to connect with others around the globe, access experts, be supported in learning, and build a powerful PLN. For those who are “anti-twitter” I would challenge you to try it again. Dedicating some time will prove to be more rewarding than one may think.

Here are a couple resources discussed during our chat:
Book – It’s Complicated
Storify Summary

Why Chat on Twitter?

Over the past school year, twitter has become a great friend of mine. Not only does it allow you to connect with others, but I have found that I have learned an immense amount, mainly through the source of participating in twitter chats. I try to participate in one weekly, sometimes up to three, and sometimes none, but I have found that the more I participate, the more I want to. It’s easy to become addicted. The learning capabilities are endless and it’s an incredible way to “meet” and connect with new educators all over the world.

I thought it would be valuable to highlight the advantages of participating in a twitter chat:

1) Free PD – Twitter chats are free! That’s right, you have the ability to learn from millions of people around the globe: experts and innovative thinkers who will offer you new ideas, things to try, advice, and much more!

2) Learning about new resources – There are always suggestions and resources shared during twitter chats. Whether it’s an app someone couldn’t live without, a website that makes someone’s life easier, or a motivating book someone read, you will always learn about some kind of new resource.

3) Share your ideas – Chats are a great platform for sharing your own knowledge. I know as a teacher, I love collaborating with others. Chats allow you to do this. You are able to bounce ideas off one another, gain suggestions from others, and share what you are an “expert” in. We all have strengths and things to contribute, so why not share them with the world?

4) Have your ideas challenged – Conversely, one is able to have their ideas challenged. It can be easy for teachers to get stuck in the same thoughts or the same way of teaching something. Twitter chats allow your current practice or ideas to be challenged by others. It’s a fabulous learning process!

5) Connect with other educators – The most valuable part of twitter chats is the ability to connect with other educators around the globe. You can be learning with someone that would have never been possible before. Your PLN becomes a resource for help, guidance, advice, and tips. It’s a great way to continue your personal learning journey.

If you’ve never tried out a chat before, I highly recommend that you do. Be a lurker initially, if you want to see how it all works, or take the leap and jump in and share your thoughts. You’ll be surprised about how easy it is. Don’t forget to use a platform like tweetdeck to make your life easier, and always use your hashtag. Once you try it out, I think you’ll be surprised by the ease, accessibility, learning, and fun that you’ll have. Happy tweeting!

Here is a comprehensive list of weekly educational twitter chats.

My district is hosting our first ever twitter chat on Monday. It would be a great first chat to participate in, or a wonderful way to share your own comments about integrating technology in your classroom.

EdCamp YYC Style

On April 21, I attended my first ever EdCamp. Not really knowing what to expect, but hearing the rants and raves about how great edcamps are, I figured it had to be a win-win situation. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed in the least!

The day began with coffee and networking in the morning. It’s always nice to finally put a face to a twitter “avatar.” We continued into the gym for our keynote speaker, Sharon Friesen, who gave a wonderful discussion on the new Inspiring Ed document, and the need to move towards student based learning, but not the “fluffy” inquiry-based learning type. From there, the day was divided into four different sessions that participates could attend. These were the sessions I attended and a brief blurb of the incredible knowledge shared:

1) Apps in the Classroom: Due to the fact that our group was so large, we broke apart into grade level groups to discuss the types of apps or tools that we are either using as teachers or with our students. We had a great discussion about what’s working, the challenges with tech/wifi, but the biggest things that I took away were two resources to use in the classroom.
a. PuppetPals2 app – If you’ve used tellagami or sock puppets, this is an app very similar to those, except new and improved, I would say. You can choose the basic free version, but if you upgrade the variety of characters and scenes as well as the ability to place your own head onto characters’ bodies is allowed. I haven’t tried it yet with my students, but can definitely foresee high levels of engagement and a lot fun! Download it, if you haven’t already!

b. Tikatok Website – An online tool to allow students to create their own digital stories. You can initially sign up for a free trial, but once that expires, costs $19/year for the basic version, then jumps up to $99 for the next membership. Regardless, the projects that the students can make are fantastic! Check it out.

2) Genius Hour: This topic, again, has been something that I’ve done a lot of research looking into but haven’t seen it hands on in a classroom. It was a privilege to see a class example, the incredible things the students were creating, and the positive feedback from the teacher. Here are a few tips that the facilitator suggested:
a. Introduce the concept to students by posing the question, “What have you always wanted to learn about or do, but never had the chance to?” Then show them this video to get them thinking.

b. Steer students away from a “research” type project but more towards what are you planning on creating. You want to be looking at the process through the entire project.
c. Meet with students frequently during class genius hour times to discuss what level of blooms they’re at, and how to help them move among the levels. Where can they improve? Where do they need help?
d. A final project could be a Ted talk, whereby students describe how they felt at the beginning of the project, what the process was like, and share their final project if there is one.

Within our busy class times as teachers, giving students “free” time can be a scary idea. What subject do you pull the time from? Is it really important? After seeing the example projects and these students’ ted talks it was incredible to see how enthusiastic they were about their learning. What else could you want as a teacher?

The facilitator showed this little video to prove the point of the need for genius hour and no time constraints on learning.

3) Coding: Again, this is another hot topic that I know little about and wanted to learn more. We had a small group of teachers in this session, but I was still given a good amount of information on coding and the place for it in the classroom. There were a couple of ideas that were given in this session that really sunk the message in and the value of coding in the classroom:

Here are more resources that can be used to help with coding in your classroom:
Cayly Dixon Presentation
Scratch
MindCraft Edu
Lego Mindstorms
Makey Makey
IFTTT – If this, then that
Apps for Teaching Coding

4) GAFE: We currently aren’t using Google Apps in my school system, but I feel it’s still important to learn about all tech related concepts, regardless of if they are the ones your school adopts or not. This session was filled with effective ideas for using Google Apps, and how seamless they can work within a classroom environment. Here are a few links provided during the session:
Ninja Program
5 Google Demo Slams Worth Watching
GAFE Facilitator Document

After this amazing learning and collaborative day, and reflecting on my experience during this past week, it was obvious to me why an edcamp style PD works. Here’s my summary why:
1) It’s free! There’s nothing teachers love more than free things!
2) Choosing topics the day of = engagement! We’re always looking for engagement in our students, yet we are just like them. When we have choice about what we want to learn we’re more likely to be active participants, and interact, collaborate, and share our ideas with others.
3) Teacher Expertise! There’s nothing better than learning from a fellow teacher. Someone who is in the classroom, experiencing what you’re experiencing, and at your level. Sharing the great things happening in your school and classroom offers an incredible amount of empowerment to teachers.

If you haven’t been to an edcamp before, I highly recommend you do, and if you have continue to explore them. This is a great movement, and I believe that if we continue towards this edcamp model for all types of PD the benefits are endless!

Zite: A Magazine That Reads Your Mind

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A few months ago, I was introduce to the app called Zite, which is deemed as an intellectual magazine. I didn’t do much with it until the last couple of weeks, and intellectual may in fact be an understatement to describe the capabilities of this program.

When you initially sign up, you choose five areas that interest you. I focused on technology and teaching, and those related topics. It provides you with an extensive list of articles that you may be interested in reading. Some were ok, some I had no interest in, and others were perfect. As you read articles you can like/dislike them, or choose which sources you would like to see more or less of. You can share the links with social media sites, or import into other platforms like Evernote. The more you use it, the more it gets to know you, and the more relevant the articles become. Sometimes I feel it really can read my mind!

As an educator I always want to be in the know, or want to read things that I’m interested in and passionate about, but finding the time and sifting through online articles or sources can be a tedious task. This app removes all the angst and several times throughout the day provides articles for your reading pleasure. If you haven’t given Zite the chance, do so. It’s free and you’ll thoroughly enjoy it’s intellectual abilities!