How Can We Help?

The "Fail Whale" made an appearance at the #140conf meetup

It was the last question asked from the audience at the #140conf meetup at the New York Times building yesterday in Manhattan. Just over 70 social media gurus gathered to listen to three members of the NY Times team speak and then a panel of educators (of which I was honored to participate in) moderated by Parentella.com founder Aparna Vashisht.  Liz Pullen, Deven Black and I fielded questions regarding how Twitter was being used by educators for professional development, with students, and as a social networking tool in education.

Here’s a link to the  Ustreamed recording of the panel if you are interested in listening/viewing the discussion that Aparna moderated. I think that many in  the audience were surprised at just how networked teachers CAN be. So I think that when Chris Kieff closed the conversation that evening with “How can we help?” we were right to answer with Donors Choose and to just continue supporting educators as professionals.

What is relevant?

I’ve enjoyed reading the reflections post-Educon2.2. There’s been much food for thought. So much that I couldn’t quite pin point what my big take-away from the weekend was. I had Tweeted on Saturday that “mentoring, leadership and individualized learning” seemed as if they were going to be big themes on Saturday, but when I opened my little notebook today, here’s what I saw:

To who was I referring when I wrote this? Was I writing about the students or the educators? I am not sure. It should absolutely be both. Here are my thoughts from Saturday (Sunday is another post in the works).

Disclaimer: I’m putting this all in my own words and not in the words of the articulate conversation leaders.

Session 1: Subversive PD: Creating a culture of collaboration to bring educators into the 21st Century

Danja Mahoney, Michael Springer, and Beth Knittle got us to talk about how to make professional development not suck. (Please see disclaimer.)

Three shared concepts from this session were:

  1. make sure you have achievable goals
  2. encourage your attendees to leave with something tangeable
  3. plan for time to play

These three facilitators did an excellent job in creating an environment where we truly had a conversation. We talked in our small groups as well as a whole group.

I left the session in agreement with many in the room. The best type of PD is individualized. It’s also the toughest, most time-consuming and most rewarding type as well.

Session 2: Taking the load off a learner’s mind: Cognitive Load Theory in Education

First of all. Chris Craft is an excellent storyteller. Second of all. Chris knows a lot of stuff I don’t know. I want to know more.

Cognitive Load Theory:

(We can design instruction that prevents overload.)

  1. intrinsic – our natural level of load
  2. germane – this is what we want for our students
  3. extraneous – what we don’t want

Chris shared that the goal of learning is to effect a change in long term memory. He spoke briefly about what the brain is capable of remembering (chunking) and of  automaticity. The conversation lent itself nicely to Universal Design for Learning and how to reduce extraneous loads for our students.

Session 3: Improving Professional Development with Online PD

Barbara Treacy and  Chris Champion began this conversation with the question “What can and can’t be taught online?”. I really thought my group would come up with a specific list, but instead we began a wonderful conversation about designing effective professional development. The idea is that with the tools available to us today like Screen-cast-o-matic and Scribd, it’s all about the facilitator and the participants networking and using the resources effectively. Ultimately, we can teach anything online.

So, how do we make it relevant for our students be they children or adults? How do we teach with rigor?

I honestly don’t have the two sentence answer. I don’t think it exists. I’m not even working on coming up with it. I am, however, taking pieces of these three sessions and embedding them into my plans for the upcoming weeks hoping for improvement. There’s always room for that.

Developing Your Personal Learning Network Using Twitter

I realize there are many amazing posts on the merits of using Twitter to develop a PLN. I also realize that there already exists dozens of collections of tools for making the most of Twitter. I also acknowledge that I have already posted on this very same topic. Yet, as I gather the resources for my presentation today at Kean University’s Center for Innovative Education, I feel it appropriate to post them here.

I was asked to present on using Twitter to develop a personal learning network. Here’s the description I provided for the session:

Developing Your Personal Learning Network Using Twitter

With over 14 million people on Twitter, if you haven’t checked it out yet, you just may be missing something. Join us for a presentation on ways Twitter can be harnessed to build a rich and powerful learning community. Whether you are a novice Tweeter or have been Tweeting for some time, you will gain tips and tricks to leverage the potential of this network using resources designed specifically for educators. Come capitalize on the face to face connections within this workshop to further enrich your Twitter experience.

I only have an hour and there’s so much about Twitter that I won’t be able to share because I will want attendees to take advantage of the face-to-face networking time before they go off to develop their online learning networks. I thought I would mention some of the tools and topics I would have liked to discuss here, so that anyone attending still has access to the information – all in one place – and of course to share with my PLN what I feel are valuable resources.

Twitter Memes and Hashtags:

Follow Friday – Each Friday, Twitter users suggests other Tweeters to follow. They end or begin their Tweet with #FollowFriday (An example.)
Teacher Tuesday suggests teachers to follow on Twitter and as the title suggest happens every Tuesday.
EdChat –  Educators pick specific topics to Tweet about and the conversation is archived.
CIE09 – The hashtag for the CIE conference on December 11, 2009

Using Twitter Hashtags – This is a great explanation of what a Hashtag is and how they are used.

Ways to Build your Network:

Twitter4Teachers – An extensive list of educators on Twitter  – categorized by subject area / grade level
Who Should I Follow? – Find new Twitter Friends
Mr.Tweet – Discover great people relevant to your current needs

Searching for Tweets and Twitterers:
Twitter Search – Search by keyword, Hashtag or even Twitter ID
TweetScan – Searches Twitter and allows you to get e-mail updates
Tweetdeck – Group people together and have separate columns for @Replies, DMs, Groups and the public timeline

Cool Twitter Tools:

Tweet Wheel– allows you to visually discover which of your followers know each other.
Top Twitter Friends –  Including a list of your top 20 BFFs and suggestions of Twitterers to follow. 

For discovering many more Twitter tools:

Top Twitter Tools for 2009
Twitter Fan Wiki

I know there are so many more tools and resources out there. Many folks in my PLN have created screencasts and video tutorials on how to use these tools and on the merits of using Twitter. They are all in my Social Bookmarks at http://delicious.com/lthumann/twitter or http://www.diigo.com/user/lthumann/twitter. I also bookmark anything related to Twitter to the Diigo Twitter Freaks Group.

Sweet Searching with Google

There are so many search tools available in Google that this past August when I presented at the Google Teacher Academy in Boulder, Colorado, I named my presentation “Google Search: At A Mile A Minute”. I spoke as fast as I could and showed as much as I could in the 30 minutes I was allotted.

But, I have to tell you that it’s tough to stay on top of all the options that Google comes out with for Search. It is worth the effort though.

Today at the monthly NJECC meeting, Samantha Morra, Sarah Rolle, Liz Bagish and I will be presenting part 1 of a 2 part series on Google Apps to our organization. We are all Google Certified Teachers, so we divided up the topics we wanted to cover and I chose Google Search.

This is the list of Search features I’ll be demonstrating and why I chose these specifically. (Bear in mind that I only have about 25 minutes.)

Google Show Options – We’ll be talking about addressing all learners and looking in information in different formats.

Wonder Wheel

Timeline

Also along these lines we’ll look at Google Squared.

I’d also like the group to know that their schools can import their entire libraries into Google Books and what information they can see about each book there. I’ll focus on:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Searching the Book
  3. Popular Passages
  4. Book Reviews
  5. References from other Books
  6. References from Scholarly Works

This will lead nicely into Scholar Search which we’ll touch on briefly. (Well, everything will be brief, right?)

We’ll cover that Google Scholar searches:

  • Reputable articles
  • Journals
  • Books

We’ll also make clear that Google Scholar does not search:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Blogs
  • Popular websites

I wanted to show the NEW Google Image Swirl and I will when I show everyone some advanced Image Search strategies including Similar Images, usage rights and searching by color, picture size and style.

We’ll look at Insights for Search and what the trending topics are for New Jersey for the last 30 days. We’ll talk about how students can compare this information to other parts of the U.S. and other countries.

Lastly, we’ll make sure that people know how to be alerted to any information that is important to them using Google Alerts. I will demonstrate to benefit of Google Alerts and suggest them for your school, district, people you know (like relatives), yourself and topics you are interested in.

I’m hoping everyone is able to learn a few new search techniques. Everyone has their own style, so not every tool I show them will necessarily meet their needs or the needs of the students in their classrooms. And I know I’m leaving so many great search tools out. But I only have 25 minutes. 🙂

Do You Have a Handout for That?

I recently spoke at a conference where the anticipated attendance was 16,000. There were 30 laptops set up with 60 seats and then overflow seating for another 40 people. I gave 5 presentations over 2 days. I didn’t know before I got there how many people I was going to see and now that I’m home, I still don’t know. But I can tell you that at least 10 people asked me if I had a handout I could give them. There were also many attendees that commented about it. I was grateful to see this Tweet from NJ educator Brian McLaughlin.

brian

I think sometimes as educators, we are accustomed to getting everything on paper. But what really happens to it? We stick it in a folder, we throw it away, or it gets lost in a an ever-growing pile of papers collecting on our desk.

Here are some tools that I’ve been using and have seem some other educators use to share information and resources during presentations and professional development sessions:

Google Docs
Click on Share — Publish as Webpage and Google Docs will assign you a unique public URL (link) for your document. You still will be the only one that has rights to edit your Google Doc, unless you invite Collaborators, but you can use this feature to share a digital agenda, list of links, or anything that you would have printed out in the past. Here’s a sample… http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddn2z86w_3dn2hs4fj

http://www.scribd.com/
On Scribd, you can upload a Word or PDF file and they will convert it into a web document. This way your attendees have access to it on their computers. All you have to do is share the URL  with them. Here’s a sample…http://www.scribd.com/doc/17245218/Discovery-Education-Whats-New-2009

Wikis
http://www.wikispaces.com/
http://sites.google.com
http://pbworks.com/
Wikis will allow you to embed more than one type of content on them. Like I did for my presentations at the NJEA Convention, I included links to websites, embedded videos and gadgets to PollEverywhere and Slideshare. These are pieces of information you really can’t print out. Here’s a sample… http://njea-tis-09.wikispaces.com/shoestring-did-you-say-that-was-free

Glogster
Glogster advertises itself as “a creative, dynamic, and innovative digital outlet that captures learner’s excitement for online creations, keeps learners engaged in course content, and makes teaching and learning more fun.” This is great, but to summarize, it allows us to provide our attendees (whether they are students or educators) with a digital resource rather than a printed one. Here’s a sample… http://udltechtoolkit.wikispaces.com/

Wallwisher
Wallwisher defines itself as a “web page where people actually post messages.” The great part about this is that you don’t need an account with Wallwisher in order to post a note on a Wall. So you can have the folks in your session contribute ideas or links to the wall and then save the URL to refer back to. There’s no need to print out anything during the workshop and run and go make copies as they’ll always have access to the information. Here’s a sample… http://wallwisher.com/wall/techforum09

Do you have any tools you are using with your students or in professional development to eliminate unnecessary handouts and to increase productivity? Please share them!