“Making” in the Grade 4 Classroom

One day, while perusing the world of twitter, I came across a post from @Makerspaces_com about kits for making these creatures called Bristolbots. The kits to purchase contained all the supplies necessary, but having the teacher lifestyle, were out of my price range. I decided to put the message out to world and asked if anyone in Calgary would be willing to donate to purchase the kits for my grade 4 class. I also tagged Nenshi, who promoted retweeted, and within a few hours I had a response!
After some back and forth messaging with an employee, an organization in Calgary, the ISA Calgary board, generously donated money to purchase the kits. I was beyond ecstatic and anticipating how my students would react.
On November 2, 2017, my students eagerly listened as I informed them that they would have an opportunity to create a small, robotic creature called a bristolbot. This would be our first ever, real “maker” time in class, with motors and batteries. As I passed out the supplies, the buzz of the excitement was impossible to ignore. Quickly, my students began exploring their materials and collaboratively they each constructed their own bristolbot.
Once their bristolbots were successfully working, they practiced modifying and altering them to see how changes would affect their movement. They raced one another, had them do “dance moves”, and enjoyed understanding why one change would make their bristolbot behave a certain way. They finished with their bristolbots creating a piece of art!

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This was a very rewarding experience for both my students and myself. This was their first opportunity to be involved in a maker space, and to really understand how classroom skills and knowledge could help them in the real world. From a teacher’s perspective, every student was engaged, problem solving, and working together to create. They persevered when things didn’t go according to their plan, and supported one another along the way. As I watched and interacted with my students, not only did I see their excitement, but their constant affirmation with comments like “this is the best day ever” brought a smile to my face. I never imagined that from a simple tweet my students would be able to partake in an unforgettable experience.

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Here are some of my students reflections.
Bristolbot Reflections

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What’s Your Summer Learning Plan?

It’s hard to think of summer when I awoke to large, fluffy snow flakes accumulating quickly on the ground this morning. And yes, it is May 3. Whether you’re staying in town, going on a traveling expedition, or spending time with your family and friends, it seems as educators we always find ways to integrate some kind of learning into our lives. Although summer is consider a break or holiday, teachers still find the time to do what they do best: learn!

Continuing with my own learning, I joined the vibrant twitter #satchatwc chat this morning focusing on summer goals and learning plans. Below I’ve summarized our discussion:

Question #1: Summer provides a great opportunity for us to focus on our own new learning. What’s on top of your list to learn this summer?

Question #2: What learning opportunities are you making available for staff this summer? Share topics and any innovative practices.

Question #3: Share your recommendations – What book and/or blogger do you think is a “must read” for the rest of us? Why?

Question #4: How about for our students? What are you doing or what do recommend to keep students engaged in learning this summer?

Question #5: What would an ideal day of learning look like for you this summer?

The last question asked about non-educational plans for the summer and of course many answers consisted of spending time with family members. The great ideas in this chat made me think about what my summer plan is. What do I want to learn this summer and how do I want to grow? This will be the first summer in years, that I won’t be traveling to an exotic place, and as much as that aches me, instead I am embarking on a new journey of starting my masters. Continuing and expanding my learning is something I’ve always wanted to do, but hadn’t the time. Having to be in town for my sister’s wedding and family visits seemed like the perfect opportunity. A great balance of educational and fun!

Regardless of if you have plans, or are trying to build some now, I challenge you to do something for yourself. Take control of your own learning and follow the path you desire. You may be surprised with where it leads you.

Social Media and the Modern Day Teacher

Within the last year, social media has consumed many parts of my life. I always used it as an outlet to connect with family and friends around the world, mainly for personal purposes. However, this year I have found my use increasing because of professional reasons. Twitter has been an incredible source for growth, knowledge, and professional development. The weekly chats, quick answers and help, and amount of knowledge out in the twitter world has helped me grow more professionally than in my many years prior.

I use twitter for professional purposes only and have found it to be incredibly meaningful, but obviously it can be used for both professional and personal. Should there be a distinction between the two? Is it important to have separate accounts? What would be the reasoning for this? I always remember the phrase that someone said to me once, “If you can’t say it in front of your students, perhaps you shouldn’t be saying it at all.” So what would be the purpose for having separate accounts? Is there something to hide, or is it for privacy reasons? Aren’t educators allowed to have a life outside of work as well? Some good questions to consider and think about.

Tonight’s #edtechchat focused primarily on this: social media for the teacher and in the classroom. It’s interesting to note the various opinions, ideas, and reasons for them. Although there was much more discussed and shared, here’s a quick summary:

Question #1: Do you separate what networks you use based on professional vs personal use? Why/Why not?

Question #2: What are your district policies regarding blogging/social media in the classroom? What’s the impact?

Question #3: Does your district have policies regarding blogging/social media outside the classroom or for personal use? Helpful or not?

Question #4: Should you separate your personal and professional lives on social media/blogging? Why/Why not?

Question #5: Has social media ever caused a problem for you or someone in your district? If so, how?

Question #6: Has tonight’s #edtechchat discussion made you rethink your use of social media (professional or personal)?

After this chat there were a couple things that came to my mind. First, the use of social media, whether as an educator, with your students, or in the classroom will have ups and downs. Unexpected things might happen, but how you deal with them is key. Those are your “teachable” moments and cannot be ignored. Educating students, teachers, and parents about digital citizenship and leaving a footprint behind is crucial and essential. Second, sometimes district policies can be frustrating and challenging. Social media allows for numerous possibilities, but when the media consistently focuses on the negative or “bad” things that happen, it can be challenging for a district to move forward. Just remember that there will always be schools more advanced and embracing social media, as well as schools with strict policies. Change happens slowly, but when it does, you need to be ready for it!

Here are a few resources gathered from the chat:

9 Essential Social Media Tips for Educators
Teachers Owning Their Learning
Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private
6 Most Outrageous Social Media Mistakes by Teachers
3 Mistakes That Parents Make With Technology and Online Safety

Tech Tools for the Classroom

Tonight, I participated in a fantastic chat on twitter, #6thchat, and was bombarded with an overflow of new tech ideas and tools that could be used in the classroom with students. Although I haven’t had too much time to experiment with them yet, I thought I’d share the sites and information that was offered through this chat. A big thanks to Cary Harrod, Bryan Devine, Christine, B Buck, Josie Crawford, and Holly Sattler for sharing your insights and knowledge with me.

Here are some of the websites, platforms, and tools to try out!

Biblionasium
This is a reading social networking site for students to use, to share the books they’ve read, recommend books to others, learn what others have read, keep a log of the books read, and enjoy interacting about books in a safe environment.

Schoology
A great site for teachers and students. Teachers are able to create live chats with students, grade assignments, provide immediate and live feedback, and connect with others, while students can interact with each other and students all over the world, submit assignments, take practice quizzes, and communicate with each other.
This platform reminds me a lot of Edmodo. At a first glance, it appears that it has similar functions.

Weebly
This looks like a simple, step-by-step way for teachers and students to create their own websites/blogs.

Google Forms
A plethora of templates that you can use to check for student knowledge and understanding. This would work great as exit slips for concepts.

Newsela
Current events and non-fiction reading tools at your fingertips! This website offers a variety of reading levels of non-fiction articles to students. Great way to enhance reading comprehension and skills.

Math and Blogs
An excellent source and blog on how to use blogs in the math classroom.

An excellent visual of Cary Harrod’s District Endorsed Software. I think every district should have a visual like this!

Symbaloo
Personal homescreen page for students to add in their favourite and most visited websites. They no longer have to type in web addresses, but instead simply click on the symbol/link to access the site. An excellent way to organize important school information.

An incredible video on a 7th grader’s personal learning environment. Something to aspire to!

Excellent article on the Toolbelt Theory.

Teaching in the days of technology requires that teachers stay with the current fads, but also puts teachers back into that role of being a student. I find that I am constantly trying new things and experimenting with technology tools. It’s a great way to relate to students and supply them with safe options to communicate and share their ideas and knowledge with others. Twitter has been such a great networking tool for me to share with others, try to things, and learn about technology tools that I didn’t even know existed. I am always indebted to my wonderful PLN! Thank you all for helping me stay informed.

Can Teachers Connect Through a Tweet?

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Recently, my district has become actively involved in using twitter. We are encouraging our staff to use it for professional development and as a way to connect with other educators all over the world. On Friday, I was asked to give a little introduction about twitter to the teachers at my school and provide any tips to get them started with using it.

As I began to think about what I would say and how I would encourage teachers to use twitter, the thing that stuck in my mind was how you can connect to others and the ways you can post and receive answer to questions with a click of a button. As a means to prove my point I tweeted out and asked the twitter world for tips for a new tweeter, and here are some of the answers I received:

I was blown away by the responses that I received, the tips people offered, and the resources and links they shared, and I thought I should pass along this information to others as well. Thank you everyone!

It does not matter how you plan on using twitter, the frequency, or the dedication to it, but the best advice I can give is to try it out, actively use it, be yourself, and enjoy the many people you will be able to connect with! It’s a great opportunity if you jump into it.

(If you want to see more responses check out #ffcaedu)

Welcome to the World of Twitter

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I joined twitter a year ago, lurked around, and abandoned the idea of yet another social media site to maintain. However, in the last few months I delved deeper to understanding what twitter was all about and the immense abilities to connect, learn from, and share ideas with educators all over the world. The capabilities of this site are endless, and although at times I am overwhelmed when I see the never-ending role of tweets that I have missed, I continue to believe that it is an excellent resource for professional development when used in a meaningful way.

Recently, I have surrounded myself with a plethora of educators who are new to twitter and I thought I could offer some personal advise for tips and tricks to navigate through the world of tweeting.

Your Profile Page:
1) Use your real name. There is no need to create a new one.
2) Nobody wants to see a picture of an egg, so please, put a picture of yourself. It does not have to be a glamour shot, but having a picture removes that sense of mystery and uncertainty about an individual.
3) In your bio, provide information about what you teach. Be specific as this will connect you to more educators like yourself. Also, share something personal; things you like to do, hobbies, etc…
4) Unless you have a strong reason to, keep your profile unlocked. Twitter is a public domain and allowing people to read and share your tweets is a great way to connect with individuals you could have otherwise missed.

Tips:
1) Dedicate at least thirty minutes a day to explore, tweet, and connect with others. The best way to gather a following is to tweet, tweet, tweet!
2) Follow individuals who interest you. Think about the things you are interested in, or the areas where you would like to develop more.
3) If you find a person who either follows a lot of people, or has a lot of followers, look at their profiles. I guarantee you that you will be able to find people to connect with.
4) Retweet all you would like, but also remember to create your own ideas. Remember that people want to learn from you as well, so share the great things that you are learning or doing in your classroom.
5) Be concise! You only have 140 characters so your tweets should be clear and to the point.
6) Use #hashtags! This will also help you to connect and put your ideas, comments, or questions out to the twitter world.
7) Remember whatever you tweet you should feel comfortable saying in front of a student. You are responsible for creating your digital footprint!

Here are some other resources to check out:
10 steps to becoming a twitter master video.
What should a networked educational leader tweet about?
60 dos and don’ts for Twitter newbies.
10 ways teachers can use twitter for professional development.
Essential dos and don’ts for twitter users.