Staying Connected & Collaborating

School is out for summer (unless of course you are teaching summer school) and you might be finding that you miss those colleagues you normally see day to day. Your normal routine of getting to talk with, share your classroom ideas and success, and bounce ideas off of for some upcoming projects has been put on hold but does it really have to stop. I say no!!!

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Why not check out some virtual options? Tools like Edmodo, Facebook, and Twitter can help you to continue your collegial collaboration, stay connected, and possibly take it a step further. You might even extend your normal summertime routines to include expanding your professional learning with a little lightly structured, informal PD.What’s better…they are free tools and are easy to use.

Edmodo is a great option for setting up a virtual classroom or collaborative sharing space (they call these groups). Everyone in your group will need to create an account (FYI adults are considered Teachers and kids are Students) One person will need to create the Group and then share the Code Edmodo creates with everyone that will be a part of that group. Then let the sharing begin. Resource links and documents are easy to share as well as basic communications. Check out the Edmodo Help page for help getting started or attend a Webinar for more ideas and support. I attended a webinar last week and got a lot of great ideas for not only the teachers that I train but also for schools and organizations that I work with.

Facebook Groups are another option for sharing and learning from others. eMINTS has their own Facebook group where these Networked Teaching & Learning posts are shared but also other resources. Anyone belonging to the group can share on the eMINTS group page as well. Members can add posts, links, share photos/video, conduct polls, and upload files. If your team members already have Facebook accounts and are ready for an group online presence to do these kinds of things, maybe creating a Facebook Group is the answer for you. If you need some help there are very easy steps to follow and you can even set privacy settings to allow only your Friends in your group. Learn more about Facebook Groups from Facebook or from a post from Zac back in August 2011.

Twitter offers an even easy way to connect with no need to create pages or groups on a different website. Basically all that needs to happen is that each person in your collaborative circle needs to have a Twitter account. You each need to share your usernames and “follow” each other. Start by sharing your thoughts, ideas, opinions, resources, tools, and inspirations and watch your Wwitter homepage for what others are sharing back. With Twitter there is no pressure or need to be wordy, chatty, long-winded, etc…all you need are 140 characters. Need some help with Twitter? Check out their support page for basic support and more.

With all of these tools it does take some discipline and conscious effort to be a productive member but as long as everyone shares a little you can all learn a lot.

What are some things you are collaborating on this summer and what tools work for your group?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists for the eMINTS National Center.

HD_Links: Teaching Students How

Train-classroom

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Much of what we teach students at the beginning of the school year consists of simply teaching them how to do things. This week’s list of links will help you access some resources for such activities.

Larry Ferlazzo does a guest post at Education Week Teacher on how to teach your students to listen, probably the most important skill they’ll learn in school. As is typical a Larry Ferlazzo post, there are lots of links to additional resources to help you with this important endeavor.

When using online tools, it’s important to explain what the tools are and how they work. The Common Craft YouTube channel contains a large number of pertinent and timely videos that explain everything from right-clicking to blogs to Google Docs. Also, all of it is done in “plain English.” Check out the fun video they did on surviving Zombies below…

Need to create effective tutorials? Tildee is an online tool that can help you create online tutorials with screenshots for various projects. This might be an excellent resource for that WebQuest you’ve been working on that needs tutorials for the more technical aspects of your project. Click over to EdTech Toolbox‘s site for a more detailed explanation as to how Tildee can help you guide your students through technical tasks.

Whether you use Facebook or not with your students, it’s important to teach them about privacy and safety issues, especially for those students 13 years or older. All Facebook shares an up-to-date list of privacy features every student (and maybe a few teachers) should have in his or her back pocket. (H/T Teach Paperless)

Whatever you plan to do with your students this year, the important thing to remember is that you’ll have to teach them how to do it. A recent study by Robert Marzano suggests that “unassisted discovery learning” is an ineffective instructional approach. However, the same study suggests that “enhanced discovery learning” is very beneficial. Unassisted discovery learning would be an approach where students are given a scenario to study while given very little or no content and no guiding process. An enhanced learning discovery lesson involves preparation and providing guidance along the way. In other words, students perform better with guidance or being taught how a process or tool works. (H/T Larry Ferlazzo)

What are the important “how to’s” you plan to teach students in the early days of the school year? How do you teach your students to follow procedures? What are the best ways to guide students to reach their goals?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

HD_Links: Missouri Senate Bill 54

The big news right now in Missouri is over Senate Bill 54. The bill intends to limit student-teacher contact through social media. However, in this day and age, many teachers use social media to keep in touch and build relationships with their students. The ambiguity of the bill has worried many educators over losing effective communication channels.

Education technologists all over the country are watching the developments in Missouri closely to see what the overflow effect will be in their states.

I find the best way to ease anxiety over such issues is to learn as much as possible about them as possible. To help you decipher the new law, here a few links that you may find hel

pful.

How does SB54 affect your teaching practices this fall? What is your district doing in preparation for writing policy that aligns with SB54? What are some ways in which you plan to work around SB54 that still keep you in compliance? Are you using Facebook Groups?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tool: Facebook Groups

With Missouri Senate Bill 54 causing a lot of worry all across our state, it’s important for teachers to know the options out there that still allow us to connect with students via social media. Facebook friending has been under the gun as the communication this allows seems to be at odds with the new law. Luckily, there is a way around this conundrum that still utilizes Facebook: Facebook Groups.

A public group on Facebook provides an open forum where students and teachers can easily interact using their current Facebook profiles. There is the wall where discussions and posts can occur. Links, videos, and pictures can also be posted. There is even a poll function where a teacher can check for understanding or gather student preferences.

Along the right-hand side of the group page, one can find several other tools that can make a group rather interactive. There is a chat function that makes it possible for the entire group to chat synchronously with other group members. Documents for group collaboration can be created. Events can be created for deadlines or special occasions.  The events also contain their own wall for posts and sharing resources.

The advantage of the groups is the transparency it allows. A group can be made public, providing access to parents and administrators, making it compliant with SB54. If privacy is a concern, the group can be made private, but a teacher would need to invite parents and administrators in order to remain compliant. Another option could be to require students to use pseudonyms, which many tech-savvy teens do anyway.

An important thing to remember about Facebook use in general is that users must be 13 to have a Facebook profile. So, if you teach any students under 13, they can’t participate on Facebook. An alternative way to use Facebook with younger students is to create a parent group for the purpose of improving parent-teacher contact.

How have you used Facebook Groups with your students and/or parents? What are your concerns with using Facebook Groups in regards to SB54? What are other ways you can see Facebook Groups would be useful in your classroom?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: Supporting Self-Directedness

Self-Directed – “Directed or guided by oneself, especially as an independent agent”

When you think about it, we all want to be self-directed.  We want the ability and freedom to guide ourselves; to make choices based on a sound thought process, and the independence to tailor learning, thinking, and life to our own style and needs.   Being teachers, we also strive to achieve that same ability and desire in our students.  We want them to be self-directed with their thoughts, learning, and life.  Our biggest obstacle is: How do we achieve self-directedness in ourselves and our students?  As we first focus on ourselves for this post, there are several ways to move towards becoming self-directed.  With summer here, we can take some time and explore possible avenues to help meet that goal.


We might consider the development of our own Personal Learning Network (PLN) through blogs, wikis, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks.  We can choose the ones that allow us to develop skills, learn about new technologies, explore teaching strategies, see a variety of perspectives, and learn about educational issues affecting not only ourselves but the world.  A variety of tools and media allows us to develop a PLN that fits our individual learning styles as well as connect to the global education community where we can gain and share new learning.

Another way to move towards becoming a self-directed individual is through the organization of our thought process.  We have discussed in previous posts ways to reflect and plan.  We can implement these skills in almost any situation and in everything we do.  We can ask ourselves questions to develop a plan, and then once the event is over, reflect on ways to continue or improve what we did. This can include the setting of goals and monitoring the follow through of those goals.   As we take these pieces of planning and reflecting and internalize the process, we move ourselves closer to becoming a more self-directed person.

So some questions that could support you in becoming more self-directed that you might want to consider are:

  • What goals might you have for yourself in becoming self-directed?
  • What might be some strategies you can use to develop your ability to be self-directed?
  • What learning styles and preferences in yourself do you need to consider in becoming self-directed?

Taking the steps in becoming more self-directed may seem small but can have a powerful impact on how we approach and handle life.  As the Australian song reminds us – “From little things, big things grow” – Paul Kelly

Carmen Marty, Terri Brines, & Brooke Higgins are eMINTS Instructional Specialists and Cognitive Coaching/eMINTS Agency Trainers. For more information about Cognitive Coaching and related seminars visit the eMINTS National Center events page.

mathplourde (Photographer). (2007). My PLN Banner. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/mathplourde/4618916837/

Tuesday’s Tool: I Published My Own Newspaper

Ok, I am probably pushing it just a bit when I say “I published My Own Newspaper”. What I should say is that paper.li created a “newspaper” based on the people that I follow on Twitter and what they have recently tweeted. It took only a few minutes after I logged in using my Twitter account.

The HigginsB Daily

When I open my Paper.li newspaper, The HigginsB Daily, I can easily scan the front page and see headlines from the day. Each “article” is  based on the information my PLN is interested in that they have shared on Twitter. With one click, I can be reading the web content shared by the people I follow. Every article includes a small image and the username of the person that submitted that tweet so that I know who the information was shared by. The paper also includes a hashtag (#), photos, and multimedia sections and my running Twitter feed.

Paper.li is a web 2.0 tool that “organizes links shared on Twitter and Facebook into an easy to read newspaper-style format.” There is another website, The Tweeted Times, that creates a personalized newspaper in the same way but what makes Paper.li so nice is how it organizes and categorizes the content.

Cool features: users can read anyone’s Paper.li newspaper from anyone that has created one or they can create a paper based on other Twitter or Facebook users. Paper.li newspapers can be set to update daily or even more frequently depending on user preferences, and Paper.li sends an email each day letting users know that there is new news to read.

Some downsides: there is a bit of advertising. The people at Paper.li have to get paid somehow :). Also, Paper.li can’t filter the content on the page since they are simply aggregating content based on who the user follows. Depending on what PLN members share, there may be some questionable content. Users should test the site before using it with students.

Teachers, classrooms or individual students could create their own newspapers daily, weekly, or whenever and stay up to date with current events based on the “news” from their PLN.

OwlDesk on YouTube has a video, Social Media Tool: PaperLi, that quickly overviews how the tool works.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Thursday’s Tip: Facebook in the Classroom

Yesterday, we shared some thought-provoking links in our “HD_Links” feature. One of those links was to a school district’s Facebook policies. Facebook is thought to be a decidedly-noneducational diversion among our social media choices. However, to make schooling relevant to our students and families, we have to meet them where they are. Our students (and their parents) are on Facebook.

According to the Council Bluffs Community School District Guidelines for Facebook™ as a Parent Communication Tool, here are a few ways you can use Facebook in your classroom:

  • Status updates are an example of authentic writing opportunities, a key component of learning to write with a purpose and for an audience.
  • We all want more parental involvement. Facebook provides many tools for making classroom communication easy and seamless.
  • In addition to opening up avenues of communication, Facebook users have the ability to invite other users with event invitations.
  • With pictures, links, and notes, it’s even easier for teachers to share exemplary student work.

Additionally, here are some other educational uses for Facebook:

  • Different classes can be organized using the new groups feature. Additionally, this new tool allows collaborative documents.
  • Discussion forums are available in the older groups allow for discussions to take place outside of the public wall.
  • Students could create fake or imaginary Facebook profiles for historical or literary figures.
  • The new group chat function would allow for students and teachers to have a discussion without being in the same room. Imagine the opportunities during the many snow days we’ve had this winter.

What are some other ways you could imagine using Facebook in your classroom?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

HD Links: Must Reads Online

Here are five links you should read right now!

  • “Let Kids Rule the School” (New York Times) – A unique program in western Massachusetts combined both struggling and high-achieving students in a program they design. What emerges is an authentic and student-centered learning experience that holds students responsible for their own education.
  • “Whiteboard hardware battles, what do they mean?” (Education, Teaching, Technology) – A blogger senses the ever-escalating “arms race” between interactive white board manufacturers and points out what’s missing: a new pedagogical approach.
  • “You Can Now Embed Corkboard Me” (Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…) – One of the great collaborative tools for brainstorming is now embeddable. Corkboard Me is a collaborative tool that works as a virtual corkboard, perfect for brainstorming. Now that it is embeddable, users can place a corkboard on their website, blog, or classroom portal.
  • “Tools to Go Paperless” (Teach Paperless) – Teach Paperless is a blog dedicated to reducing our dependancy on paper in schools. This post simply lists many of the great ways one can go paperless in their own facilitation.
  • Council Bluffs Community School District Guidelines for Facebook™ as a Parent Communication Tool – Normally, district policy is not the most intriguing example of reading material. However, this document outlines ways in which one district has found justification for Facebook use in the classroom.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

    Thursday’s Tip: Top-10 Ways to Use Social Media in the Classroom

    Created at Wordle.

    For this week’s tip, we’re bringing you a list of top-10 ways you can use social media in your classroom.

    10. Social bookmarks like Delicious (still around), EverNote, and Diigo are great ways for groups of students researching a topic to gather and organize their resources. You can set up an account for an entire class, a small group, or one for individuals who share and follow their peers’ research.

    9. As mentioned earlier this week, there are many new uses for YouTube (and other social video sharing sites like Vimeo). Channels can be created. Response videos and creative annotation and tagging can add another interactive level to the video sharing process.

    8. Google Reader (H/T Brooke Higgins) can be a great way for teachers and students to follow particular resources as well as share in a community. A teacher can create a bundle of important resources to which he wants his students to subscribe. There is also the share feature where students and teachers could share interesting articles or blog posts they find in their own readings. The comment and search functions can also come in handy with Google Reader.

    7. The new Groups on Facebook make it even easier to communicate with students and parents without having to give up privacy via friending. There are many more privacy safeguards for the new Groups, but there are also several new features that make Groups more community-friendly. Now, when comments are made on the new Groups’ walls, that same content shows up on every member’s feed and sends a notification. This insures that every member sees all the wall posts. Also, there is a group chat that allows more than one participant at a time, great for online class discussion. Documents, pictures, videos, links, and events can all be managed in one place.

    6. Teachers and schools often complain about the cost of out-dated textbooks that don’t match student needs as closely as they should or are limiting in their scope. A great way to combat this is to write our own textbooks using wikis. Not only could a wiki be used to display a teacher’s notes, but there are multimedia capabilities as well as commenting options. Even better, students can be involved in writing their own textbooks. A wiki-created text could be revised and edited from year to year without the cost of a new textbook series eating up valuable space in a school’s budget since wikis are often free or very cheap for premium, ad-free packages. Oh, and there’s a wiki out there with directions for writing a textbook.

    3.-5. Google Docs provide several great options for collaborative classroom work. Here are three:

    • Google Docs has its own presentation feature, much like PowerPoint. In fact PPT files can be uploaded to Google Docs and converted to an online presentation. Students working from different computers or locations can easily contribute to the same presentation. When presented to the class, students can chat during the presentation and the discussion shows up on a side panel.
    • Collaborative writing has never been easier than with Google Docs. Using the word processing feature, students can contribute to the same document, insert comments, chat about the direction of the document, and access older drafts. Plus, the document can easily be converted to a PDF or website.
    • Data collection and online tests quizzes are easier now with the addition of Google Forms to the Docs suite. A form can be set up to gather any data (surveys, quizzes, blog submissions ;) ) and it’s all gathered in a tidy spreadsheet that can be easily converted to charts and graphs. Plus, multiple users can gain access to the results, as with any Google Doc.

    2. Photo sharing sites such as Picasa and Flickr offer great opportunities not only for sharing and commenting on one another’s images, but also several other useful features. Tagging and/or annotation images is a great way to demonstrate understanding and to encourage contributions. Both offer some editing features and allow video uploads.

    1. Blogs. Well, what else would you expect from a blog? Blogs are a tremendously underused social media tool. Collaborative writing, online publishing, interactivity between readers and writers, easy to manipulate HTML code with multiple options for embedding media… The possibilities for blogs is endless. Plus, blogs can be used alongside many of the tools already mentioned above.

    How do you use social media in your classroom? Feel free to comment below or link back to this post.

    Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

    HD Links: Social Media

    It’s Social Media Week here at Networked Teaching & Learning. All week long, we’re bringing you resources and ideas for bringing social media into your schools. Today, we focus on some resource links that can help make that happen.

    One of the major obstacles for improving social media use in our schools is the lack of information out there about what social media is and what are the tools we can use. Edudemic provides the “Ultimate Teachers Guide to Social Media” in the form of an easy to read and navigate e-book. All the major tools are covered as well as resources for getting the most out of social media in your classroom.

    Another obstacle is providing the right argument for social media’s use in our schools. Teach Paperless makes the case using the human voice as a metaphor for social media. How can students learn without their voice? The same can be asked of 21st century learners.

    A second argument is made over at Mashable where adman Josh Rose demonstrates how social media is bringing back the old-fashioned values of our grandparents. Because of social media, we know about each other and are part of a more-informed community. That sounds like a great way to build community within a classroom and online.

    Some teachers are leery of using social media sites such as Facebook with our private lives suddenly becoming public. Students also need to be aware of this change in society due to the public nature of social media. Mashable has ten suggestions for keeping one’s Facebook account as private as possible.

    Of course, Facebook isn’t the only online forum about which we should be concerned. Bobbi L. Newman, a.k.a. Librarian By Day, has a fantastic post on monitoring one’s personal brand. This is is important for both teachers and students. Controlling your online brand can market you as a leader in education or at least eliminate the chances that online content meant to be private becomes very public.

    If you’re looking for a tool to manage all this social media (aside from your web browser), look no further than TweetDeck. TweetDeck allows users to monitor multiple accounts on various social networking sites. I use TweetDeck to manage several Twitter accounts, my Facebook account, and several groups and pages also on Facebook. There are several versions of Tweetdeck available for desktops, handheld devices (including smart phones), as well as a Chrome plugin. For an example of how TweetDeck can be used in the classroom, check out this video of a college course where Twitter and TweetDeck are utilized to take classroom conversation to another level.

    Hopefully, these links will help you see the value of social media in our schools. What are some ways you are using social media to enhance teaching and learning at your school?

    Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.