Looking for Skype partners

The Supervisor of Technology from Montclair Public Schools contacted me earlier this week looking for ways to spark interest in collaborations with the students in Watchung Science and Technology Elementary School. The Principal of the schools, Peter Turnamian, had reached out to her regarding a project they were working on. (The school serves 460 students in grades K-5.  Their primary language is English.)

The question the students are looking to discuss via Skype is “How are we all connected?”  The primary objective for this project is to increase cultural awareness for students.

We know we have the following invaluable Skype resources:

But if you are interested in kick-starting this discussion, please fill out the following form so that someone from Watchung Science and Technology Elementary School can contact you directly.

Please click on the form to complete it.
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BLC10 25 Ed Tech Leaders To Follow

Whether your PLN is overflowing or just starting to grow, this list may help you to refine your network to best suit your learning needs. Today I will be sharing the slidedeck with some folks at BLC10.

These leaders will challenge your assumptions, answer your questions and make you think. If you are not sure where to look for the right people, or you just want to learn about some fresh voices.  These ed-tech leaders write blogs, maintain wikis, UStream their keynotes and publish their podcasts. You can find them all over the cloud. (This list will not include any of the presenters at BLC10 as attendees can meet them face-to-face.)

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.

Online Communities for Students

I’ve been working with a group of high school teachers that have very little technology available to them. They each have a tablet computer and a projector and that’s pretty much it. There are no other computers in the room and there are no wireless laptops or laptop carts available to bring in for the students to use. We’ve built our time together on making the most of the one computer classroom. So, as I blogged about in the beginning of the year we focus on using the tablet PC as a presentation tool, a productivity tool, and a tool for the students to use during small group activities and even during whole group instruction.

The more time we spend together, the more this small group of teachers sees how their students would benefit from using technology on a regular basis. They have begun using web 2.0 applications that the students can access from home so that they are incorporating technology into their curriculum – more – just not really in their physical classroom. So the questions of building virtual learning communities for students has come up. I even Tweeted about the other day. Here are the responses I received:

kyteacher @lthumann Either Ning or Edmodo. We use both, depending on the assignment.

Taml17 @lthumann Depending on what types of comm and how much, I might look at a wiki first.

khokanson @lthumann we are having GREAT success with ning at my school as digital portfolios HOWEVER monitoring is KEY!!!!

MagistraM @lthumann most of my colleagues in FL dept have gone with Ning for flexibility and broad potential.

keisawilliams @lthumann Is it around a project? Or do you want something more Twitter-like?

courosa @lthumann that’s what I’m using.

jepcke @lthumann What age students? What type of communication? Ongoing? Community building? For a project/unit?

kristenswanson @lthumann Depends on the purpose and the size of the group…. ;0 Maybe NING, maybe Edmodo, maybe a plain ‘old wiki… ;0

Dsalvucci @lthumann Edmodo.com does not require email addresses to join, easy to use and very secure.

keisawilliams @lthumann Have you seen Twiducate? I haven’t tried it yet. http://www.twiducate.com/

kyteacher @lthumann Then I would recommend Edmodo.

keisawilliams @lthumann Take a look at Kidblog too http://www.ncs-tech.org/?p=4726

sharnon007 @lthumann u can petition ning to remove ads if used for ed w/kids

amandacdykes @lthumann what about edumodo (sp?) I just know ning is blocked at my school.

beacantor @lthumann have you looked at nicenet.org? A bit rudimentary, but very easy to set up and monitor.

keisawilliams @lthumann Using the SMC technically and pedagogically http://socialmediaclassroom.com/index.php/using-the-smc Have the tchr watch this vid.

kmulford @lthumann: Edmodo, hands down.

lesreilly @lthumann Curious as to what you went w/ as far as student comm. Nigh or basic blog or wiki or maybe google group? What feedback did U get?

nsharoff @lthumann – I would suggest Moodle (FREE) for MS teacher & students

digitalmaverick @lthumann Moodle has an incredibly supportive community – try @iusher for brilliant examples of its use in many schools

kmulford @lthumann: Edmodo is like Facebook for the classroom. The interface is appealing to kids, yet it is “protected” and much safer.

kmulford @lthumann We have “reluctant learners” who don’t do any homework, but WILL spend time on Edmodo talking to classmates and teachers.

urselle @lthumann How about Edmodo, Google Docs, Hotchalk for students to communicate. Ning is very easy, though.

Bear in mind that many of these Tweets are in response to my responses to their questions. You can certainly go back and view my responses at http://twitter.com/lthumann, but the crux of what I was Tweeting was that the teacher wanted the ability to moderate, has no e-mail addresses for his students and I originally was researching for a middle school teacher who I will be seeing next week, but I remembered that I would be seeing a high school teacher who also wanted to pursue building an online community with his students.

Here’s the list of possible community building tools that I was able to put together thanks to my Twitter network:

  • Moodle – “Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites.”
  • Ning – Ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks
  • Edmodo – “A private social platform for teachers and students to share ideas, files, events and assignments.”
  • Twiducate – A free resource for educators for teachers and students to continue their learning outside the classroom.
  • Hotchalk – HotChalk provides a free online learning management system, a library of free and premium digital content, and a portal into today’s educational landscape with innovative articles and the latest news
  • Google Docs – Safely store, organize, share and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations online
  • Blog – “is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog)
  • Wiki – is a website that allows the the editing of any number of web pages via a web browser There are typically multiple editors on a wiki site. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki)
  • Google Group – Groups provides a method for true communication and collaboration with group members
  • Nicenet.org – Nicenet is a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to providing free services to the Internet community. Nicenet’s primary offering, the Internet Classroom Assistant is designed to address the pedagogical needs and limited resources of teachers and their students.
  • Kidblog – Kidblog.org is designed for elementary and middle school teachers who want to provide each student with their own, unique blog.

When I met with the High School (science) teacher on Tuesday I told him that I had a plethora of ideas for him but that he needed to be clear as to what the objectives of an online community for his students were. This is what he laid out:

  1. A place for the teacher to house resources and documents from class
  2. An alternative way for students to submit assignments. (Currently many of them e-mail them to him.)
  3. A place for students to communicate with each other in a supportive manner with regards to course content.

Well, this was a start. I was happy to demonstrate some tools that would fit these three objectives knowing the teacher was clear as to what he was trying to accomplish. But our last hurdle was going to be the district filter. So immediately we were able to eliminate several of the online applications listed in the Tweets above.

Our ultimate decision was to sign up one of his classes on Edmodo. Edmodo appealed to this teacher and met his objectives. Fortunately, Edmodo was not blocked by the district’s filter (yet…) and the bonus was that it came highly recommended from my PLN.  Edmodo seemed to be our best choice.

It will be interesting to see the objectives from the middle school teacher next week to see if we select the same tool.

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.

7 Steps to a Twitter MakeOver

TwitterMakeover

If this visual looks familiar to you then you are
either in need of a Twitter Makeover or know someone who is.

There are ten items that people might look at when they check out your Twitter page to decide if they want to include you in their personal learning network (PLN).

1. Don’t go with the default Twitter background. I’m not saying you have to go and upload a background from Twitterbackgrounds.com, but at the very least, click on the Settings button at the top, right corner of your Twitter window. Once you are in Settings, click on the Design tab and then select from one of the preset Themes. Click “save changes” and you will have a nice new background for your Twitter home page.

2. We know the Twitter bird is cute and that it comes in several different colors, but nothing says you are a Twitter newbie more than the Twitter default avatar. All you need to do is have a picture saved somewhere. It can be on your hard drive, it can be on your shared drive or a thumb drive. It can even be on a photo CD. You just need a picture of SOMETHING. Then click on the Settings button at the top, right corner of your Twitter window. Once you are in Settings, click on the Picture tab and then click on the Browse button. Locate the picture that you want to use and then click the Open button. Click Save and you are all set with a personalized avatar.

3. What goes under your name in the top, right-hand corner on your Twitter page, is your location. You need to let folks know where you are. What country is a great start. The more specific you are, the better. To fill out your location, go back to the Settings page and look about half-way down for the Location slot. You will answer the question “Where in the world are you?”.

4. Underneath your location will be your “one line bio”. This is so important as this is going to be where you will indicate that you are an educator. If you do not fill this information out, most educators will not follow you. Actually, most educators are looking to see in what area of education you teach. Be as specific as you can. To fill out your “one line bio” go back to the Settings page and look about half-way down. Twitter allows you up to 160 characters for this.

5. Tweet something interesting. Are you looking to develop a reciprocal relationship or are you looking to lurk? If you are looking to lurk, you can actually just use Twitter Search and you don’t have to sign up for a Twitter account. But if you are looking to develop a PLN in the Twitterverse, then you have to start contributing. Tweeting that you are “sitting in a workshop” or “trying out Twitter” isn’t really a productive contribution. You might want to consider Tweeting something that you have recently bookmarked or seen someone else Tweet. Also, you can Tweet the URL to a website that you have used with your students or colleagues and say why you used it.

6. Find people to follow. The people that you follow tells a lot about what you are interested in. Your potential Followers may scan the list to get an idea of what you are interested in. Consider using the following sites to help you find other educators to follow:

7. Don’t protect your updates. If you do this, potential followers can’t see who you are.  This is what you look like to them and as someone new to Twitter it says you are not looking to be a part of a reciprocal relationship.

protectedWell, I was going to write up a list of 10 steps, but it turns out it only takes 7. I met with most of the teachers from the Center‘s 21st Century Learning Initiative for a second time this past week after having them use Twitter and Diigo for about a month and decided that we would do “Twitter Makeovers” on many of them. What a great group of educators willing to try new tools to learn and share!!