To Tweat or Not to Tweat

So Twitter can have value to learning in the classroom, but how?

We’re studying rocketry and just getting started with blogging and tweeting this year.  I wanted to demonstrate how we could reach out to experts.  So, I asked what questions we had for Astronaut Clay Anderson.  A student was curious about what Zero G feels like.  We tweeted and later that day, students were thrilled to see we had received a tweet back.  One simple exchange.  We had just exchanged a message with an astronaut.

It made me wonder, what about other fields? Meteorology. Zoology. Geology.  How would I find these experts?  Then, I came across a list “100 Scientists on Twitter: Organized by Category.”   What if Twitter is not just a tool to connect with other classrooms, but to connect with experts in the field? Powerful.

So, you might be wondering, how do I get started?

Want to have a classroom chat that kids can have individual accounts in a small, classroom environment? Allow kids to start out with a version of Twitter that is only available in your classroom? Try Twiducate.  At the end of the day, ask every student to tweet what they’ve learned.  Twitter allows you to share with the world, Twiducate allows your kids to share with each other.

Want to work with your kids to develop Social Media Norms?  Have a class discussion about what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate to share.  Build a classroom community where kids support each other.  Whether sending a tweet from a classroom account on Twitter, or an individual account on Twiducate, help students understand that if you wouldn’t shout it in a crowded shopping mall, you shouldn’t share it on social media!  Post the norms.  Watch how kids take ownership in what they’ve decided upon as their norms.

Wondering how you will fit in time to tweet?  You may be thinking, I don’t have time to add one more thing to my classroom.  Ask one kid to take on the role each day or week.  Give him or her a “Media” badge.  Allow him to share what’s happening, 140 at a time.

Thinking about how you will find other classrooms that tweet?  Don’t worry!  I’m building a Twitter list.  Pick one or two to get started with.  You don’t have to follow hundreds of classrooms to get started.  Start small. Chat with a class in Australia or Illinois or your own school.

This is the second in a series of posts on using Twitter in the classroom.  Next up, five ways to use Twitter in the classroom. Our class tweets at @greatdaytolearn. Our Google Doc “Classrooms That Tweet” is growing everyday!  If your class is on Twittter, please add your name! If you’d like to get connected, check out the Twitter list “Classrooms That Tweet!

This post was originally published at Venspired.com September 9, 2012. Blogger and gifted teacher Krissy Venosdale has graciously given permission for us to share her work here on NT&L. Be sure to jump over to Venspired to see what else Krissy is doing with her students.

I Tweat. Therefore, I Learn

I Tweet.
I tweeted one request, “Please share your location and current outdoor temperature with my class today.”   Throughout the day, the tweets poured in from Australia, Sweden, Spain, New Jersey, Brazil, and the list goes on.  As I shared with students, they looked at the temperatures and their questions reminded me that using Twitter as a connection point with the world has true value for learning.

  • Why are some of the temperatures being reported in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit?
  • How do I convert a Celsius temperature to Fahrenheit? Is there a formula for that?
  • Why is it so cold in Australia right now?
  • What time is it in Sweden?
  • They just said “Morning”, what time is it there?
  • Can we put these on a map so we can see how much of the world we covered?
  • How do I pin something on a Google map?

Time zones. Patterns. Data. Metric System. Weather. Google map creation. Geography. Continents. Temperature conversion. Collaboration. The world.  Learning.  From one tweet.

I’m not saying that tweeting automatically equals learning.  But, look what happens when tweeting (or any tech tool!) is used in the classroom to connect.  Real thinking and learning.  The kind where kids deepen their understand of the world around them.

This is the first in a series of posts.  Next?  The day we tweeted an astronaut and he tweeted us back. For real. Our class tweets at @greatdaytolearn. Our Google Doc “Classrooms That Tweet” is growing everyday!  If your class is on Twittter, please add your name! If you’d like to get connected, check out the Twitter list “Classrooms That Tweet!

This post was originally published at Venspired.com September 8, 2012. Blogger and gifted teacher Krissy Venosdale has graciously given permission for us to share her work here on NT&L. Be sure to jump over to Venspired to see what else Krissy is doing with her students.

Tuesday’s Tool: KidBlog.org

If it wasn’t already obvious, I am a huge proponent of blogging, especially in the classroom. There is no other online tool that provides space to be thoughtful and reflective while also including the audience in the discussion. Add to these communicative properties in blogging the ability to link to related resources, embed multimedia, and revise as often as necessary. What you have is a powerful online tool that only gets better with age.

Blogging is a big part of my perspective on my work and life. I blog here, but I also blog for my community and for fun. I find the interactions and dialogue that happens on my blogs are invaluable to my growth as a lifelong learner. This is why I encourage teachers every school year to start their own blogs and to even get their students involved in these blogging projects. When teachers started their own blogs or assigned their students to submit posts or comments to these blogs, I felt my promotion of the medium was successful.

Then, I read Krissy Venosdale’s post on blogging. Krissy recently came to the realization that her students didn’t have their own blogs even though they often blogged on her classroom space. It’s a simple observation but rather insightful. Just as we try to provide some ownership for our students in the classroom in the form of determining classroom norms or providing more choice in the form of student-led inquiry, to not give each student his or her own blog goes against this philosophy. After all, students take more ownership and pride in their learning when they are able to take some ownership in the learning environment.

Krissy, never one to make proclamations without providing some solutions, suggested that Kidblog.org is a suitable tool for giving kids their own blogs. KidBlog is a safe space where email addresses are not required. The results for Krissy and her students was apparent:

My kids are writing.  They are excited.  They have a forum.  A place to voice their opinions. A place to reflect.  A place that is theirs.  It’s really, really theirs.    Now they are learning.  The etiquette of blogging.  The power of getting your message out for others to see.  The importance of polishing writing before you publish.   The excitement of engaging in discussion comments.  Their writing is no longer stuffed in the back of desks or at the bottom of bookbags.

Isn’t that what we want from our students? Isn’t this how excitement for learning translates in the 21st century?

Now, not only will I encourage my teachers to blog, but I will promote students writing on their own blogs as a way to go further with a tool that has enormous learning potential.

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

Thursday’s Tip: What about the kids who already know it?

Space Shuttle EndeavourThis question, “What about the kids who already know it?” might just be the MOST asked and MOST unanswered question in our schools today.  Of course, in a class of low readers, medium readers, and high readers, and all of those in between, this question is going to come up.  While we’re trying to throw a life-preserver to our struggling students help them meet grade level expectations, our high kids wait.  Whether your school has Response to Intervention (RtI), PLC (Personal Learning Communities), enrichment, or other programs designed to help meet ALL kids needs, this question is likely (hopefully!)  asked at one point or another.   So, what do the kids who ‘already know it’ need?  One thing is for sure.  They don’t need more reading, more stapling papers, or more watering plants.  But, they do need more…..

Projects: Not stapled worksheets, nor definitions to copy.  Real, authentic opportunities to solve problems, design, create, and apply their learning.  Afterall, they already know the gradelevel curriculum, so give them a chance to use what they know.  Example: Ask them to investigate a problem in the school and devise a plan to solve.  Math could get involved with measurement, analyzing data, adding up costs, or even creating graphs.

Mentors: Search in your community for people willing to come into your school and talk with kids about careers and future plans.  If you have a fifth grader who already knows the entire science curriculum why not let him or her meet with a mentor scientist and plan an experiment to carry out.

Independent Study: Let students design a project to research and carry out.  They pick the topic, design the project, create a timeline, and carry out the project.  Best of all?  They are highly motivated because it’s a project they chose to do.

Philanthropy: Let students research a world issue, choose a charity, and then design a philanthropy project to carry out.  Just planning the project will be a major learning activity, but the problem solving and creativity required to carry out a successful fund-raising activity will be the icing on the cake.

So, the next time you pre-test your students before a unit and have a small group or even one student that “already knows it,” provide them a new opportunity. Don’t hold them back while the others are trying to catch up. Let them go, challenge them, and give them a chance to experience the important struggle that leads to learning.  Then, suddenly that group known as “the kids who already know it” will be just like everybody else.  They will be learning, too.

This post was simultaneously published at TeacherFactory.com. Blogger and gifted teacher Krissy Venosdale has graciously given permission for us to share her work here on NT&L. Be sure to jump over to Teacher Factory to see what else Krissy is doing with her students.

HD_Links: Classroom Management

Central School classroom, interior, with students and teacher, Auburn, October 29, 1909

Click for source.

As the fall moves along, students become comfortable with their new classrooms, teachers, and schedules. Teachers, lulled into asleep by a relatively easy start to the school year, begin to let norms and procedures to slip. The result is a sudden influx in disruptive behavior. This causes teachers to revisit their classroom management. Sometimes it’s just a matter of needing a change and other times it’s a moment to get back to basics.

For those looking for classroom management answers in the middle of October, we have a list of resources for you to check out…

Alfie Kohn is a leading expert in behavior management and educational policy. His website is loaded with excerpts from his many books on these subjects. Order his books from his site or simply follow him on Twitter for some insight into what research says about child development and behavior.

At Teacher Reboot Camp, guest author Alexander Marchuk proposes that the answer to managing behavior (among other factors) is to search out new ways to involve parents. Instead of simply blaming parents, Marchuk offers examples of how increased parental involvement has resulted in better student performance and behavior. When we look for management solutions, we often look at the student and our own teaching practices, but we forget the power that involved parents hold.

David Altshuler wonders if a student’s behavior is more likely tied to the richness of curriculum than to other factors within the student. This post is mostly intended for parents, but it provides a good framework for teachers to assess their curriculum and instructional practices. Are we engaging students enough to hold their interest so that they don’t act out?

NT&L favorite Larry Ferlazzo offers a couple of good resources for answering the classroom management question. On the Classroom Q&A blog for Education Week, Larry gives several valuable tips for addressing disruptive or “unpredictable” student behaviors. This is extremely valuable as every management system breaks down now and again. We need strategies to deal with such behaviors immediately.

The second piece from Larry is on his Website of the Day… blog. Here, he points to an article on how Steve Jobs changed his management style in order to allow his company to thrive. Jobs relinquished some control in order to involve his subordinates. Maybe giving up some of your own control will allow students to become more involved in how their classroom community functions effectively.

NT&L contributor Krissy Venosdale has an interesting post on rewarding gifted students. Although not specifically about classroom management, it addresses the idea that teaching is about addressing individual needs, not seeing how many races can be won or hoops can be cleared. We all know that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that students can’t attend to academics until their basic needs are met.What needs do disruptive students have? How can we address those needs so that they can concentrate on learning?

How do you manage your classroom so that students can learn in your classroom? What are you doing to readjust your management to meet evolving student needs? How are the norms holding up that you established with your students?

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

Friday 4ALL: What I Learned on my Summer “Vacation”

This has been the craziest summer I have ever had.  I did a couple of presentations, went to SpaceCamp, visited the White House, saw the final shuttle launch, traveled with my family, and through it all have been continuing my doctoral coursework. I think I literally blinked and it’s over.  I’m ready though.  A new year is here.  I’m thinking of ways to make this the best school year ever.  I don’t want to take any of my summer experiences for granted, nor have them be a waste of time.  Each one of them taught me something.  As I start the year, I’m thinking about how to make it a great one.   So, what did I learn on my summer vacation?

IMG_8447

1.) Final Shuttle Launch:  “Teach this year like it’s going to be your last.” Watching the final launch and the final landing of the space shuttle taught me to teach this year like this is it.  Don’t wait to take that risk and try something new.  Just go for it.  Don’t wait for opportunities to come your way, find them.

2.) White House: “Accept that there are things you cannot change, and stop complaining about them.” As I listened to President Obama answers questions from all over the world, I realized how many problems and issues there really are in our country.  There are things everyday in our world, and schools, that we cannot change.  But, we have full control over ourselves.  This year I’m going to seek to learn and improve myself.  It’s really the only thing you have full control over, right?

3.) Space Camp: Set your alarm everyday to get up an inspire kids.” It doesn’t matter WHAT is on your lesson plan if you you’re not there to inspire kids.  Find out what they love to learn about, support them, mentor them, help them.  Provide experiences where they can struggle and help them find their way.

4.) Doctoral Studies: “Be open, be honest, be authentic.” After ten years in education, and lots and lots of classes, I’m having authentic discussions about ‘change’ with some amazing people in my cohort and realizing that change IS possible.  But, it’s not going to happen without difficult discussions. It’s not going to be some magic-wand experience where everything gets better.  It’s going to take some open, real dialogue.  So, don’t be afraid of it, embrace it, listen to others, share your thoughts, and make a difference.

5.) Twitter: “Never underestimate the power of collaboration.” People you’ve never met are willing to help you.  Learn to rely on others when you need to, and more importantly, learn to be there for others when they need you.  Share. Collaborate.  Truly collaborate.  Open your door to the teachers you work with and open your door to the global community on Twitter.

6.) Blogging: ”Keep learning…forever.” Stop. Think. Reflect. Repeat. Learn something.

7.) Reading. “Education is about Passion.”  I read the book “Passion Driven Classroom” in June.  I’m still thinking about it and what it means.  I ‘m going to have discussions with my students in the fall about their passions.  It’s also about embracing your own passions and sharing them with students.  Telling kids about your hobbies just might inspire them to share theirs.  Don’t overlook the value of learning what kids truly love to learn about.  The passion driven classroom is one in which kids LEARN.

8.) Traveling with Family:  ”I love my family.”  They support me.  They make me laugh. They are the reason I keep going.

I also learned that my dog loves pickles and was once again reminded that I truly love my job.  I’m pretty sure those things have no relation to each other, but I also know that I am excited to make this the best school year ever.

What did you learn this summer?

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original post August 2, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.

Thursday’s Tip: Proof of Learning

GEAR BinderI’ve been thinking about this for some time.  But, you know how it is, there are things you think about doing in your class and things you ACTUALLY do and sometimes, those two things are separate.  I’m jumping in this year.  I see my students one day per week for our pull-out gifted program.  We study things in the news, we learn about things we care about, and sometimes, topics and questions literally just blow down in front of us like a leaf did last year which led to a study of the veins in the leaves.  Our studies… I define the objectives in my plan book. We set learning targets.  I ask them to set goals.  What’s missing?  The record of what IS learned.  Sure, I assess in lots of ways: walking around, observing, collecting projects, watching presentations.  What is missing?  The very record that could hold the key to it all: the record of THEIR thoughts.  I’m not talking about grades. In fact, I’m talking about the opposite of grades… authentic, meaningful assessment.   Enter the GEAR binder.

G: Goal-setting: No matter the topic, students set their goals. What do YOU want to learn about?

E: Engage: Engage and involve yourself in the learning. Reading, notes, projects, ideas, thoughts, photos, new words learned, questions thought of.  A literal record of engagement. How are you learning it?

A: Assess: Along the way, answers to questions asked by the teacher, questions asked by the student, proof that learning IS occurring. What did you learn?

R: Reflect: When it’s all said and done, what does this ALL mean?  We have to ask student to tie their learning to REAL life.  We have to allow them a chance to explore the connections, develop new thoughts, and plan for future studies, projects, and learning.  What do you think? (Connections, New Thoughts, Questions, Ideas)

Right now, these binders are just empty spaces with three rings.  In a few weeks? I am hopeful they will be filled with a student learning plan, a goal planning sheet, a parent comment log, a list of classroom research resources…. and more.  Possibilities? Scanning portions for a digital component.  Photographs of projects. Learning style survey results.  Student feedback from classmates. Independent self-managed projects. A living portfolio. Most of all?  They will be filled with proof… proof of learning.

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacherTweeterphotographer….. and that’s just her day job.Original post August 17, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.

HD_Links: Five Websites to Inspire Your Students

I’m sharing five of my favorite tools for the classroom to inspire kids to get creative. Check them out!

1. Aviary: This site can really do it all!  Photos can be edited instantly online and saved right back to your hard drive!  You can create music with it.  There is even a design option that allows you to draw!  I think this is one of those sites that could come in handy in almost any project.  Imagine if students are making a digital story and one member of the group is the “Musician” and gets to design the music?  Or, if they are working on a poster for an Earth Day project and they take their own photos outside of your school and edit them in the classroom.  I love Aviary most because it’s one of those sites that is ready to use.  There is not much to read or figure it… it’s just click and get creative! Perfect for the classroom. :)

2.  Wonderopolis This site gives kids LOTS to think about.  There is a brand new “Wonder” posted everyday.  You will learn things here you didn’t even realize you wanted to know.  It’s a great site for kids with writer’s block or kids who just love to learn…and really…what kid doesn’t love to learn?  I would bookmark this one on your classroom website and let kids visit whenever they’d like.  It can inspire them to learn about new things and think more creatively about everything they study!

3.  Cartoonster & Fluxtime:   Cartoonster has several tutorials that take kids step by step through the artistic process of creating a cartoon.  It will teach them about the simple act of making a flip book, adding perspective to drawings, and how to spruce up a cartoon.  Fluxtime is another site that they can use to draw and create their own animation!   Making an animation could be a wonderful way to summarize a book, demonstrate cause and effect, make a public service announcement for a cause that students have researched, or just to create a story!

4. Incredible Art Department: I spent just a few minutes at this site, and with a couple of clicks, there are tons of links to explore.  Beware of Google Ads cleverly placed around the pages, but the content here is wonderful.  I visited a site to make a Jackson Pollock of my own.  When the Pollock page loads, it’s white, click around to throw paint – okay, it’s EVEN fun for the teachers. :) .  I also discovered a Van Gogh project I think I know a few students would love.  There are lots of project ideas organized and I  found a list of tons of creative art sites for kids.

5. Glogster.edu: Glogster is a great tool for getting students in the creative mode. It has tons of fun, flashy moving graphics, colorful designs, and the ability to put music, video, and voice audio right onto your page.  You can create a digital poster that can be published for the world to see or kept private for your classroom only.  Text and links can also be added.  It would be a fun way to make a ‘book report’ or use as a place for gathering research for a collaborative project.

Hope one of these fits right into your classroom…. now I’m going to go finish my Jackson Pollock painting…   Afterall, it is summer.     If you have any favorite tools, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about them! :)

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original post August 2, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.

Monday Message: Guest Blogger – Krissy Venosdale

We are excited to announce this week’s Networked Teaching & Learning blog will be hosted by guest blogger, Krissy Venosdale. Krissy has been a teacher for more than 10 years, she’s a veteran eMINTS teacher, and now teaches 3-6 gifted education in Hillsboro, MO. She writes at the Teachfactory.com blog sharing her creative ideas, projects she works on, and her beliefs about teaching, learning, and so much more. Krissy’s main passion is teaching and her students. She hosts their classroom website, A Great Day to Learn. The site is the hub for everything happening with her students including projects they participate in and even ones she hosts.

The poster above is just one example of her creativity at work. Krissy creates lots of classroom posters and decorations using Photoshop (another one of her hobbies). She shares some posters through her blog and publishes them on Flickr under the Creative Commons license allowing anyone to download and print them for classroom use for FREE.

On top of all of this, Krissy is a wife and mother who enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and photography.

We thank Krissy for all that she is sharing this week and look forward to other guest bloggers in the future. If you are interested in being a guest blogger on the Networked Teaching & Learning, please submit your ideas here.