Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is a Twitter #chat?

One of my new favorite activities on Twitter are joining in on some of the smaller Twitter chats that take place each week. I am good friends with Steven Anderson and Mary Beth Hertz, two of the founders of the granddaddy of all educational chats, #edchat. I was lucky enough to spend a few days with them and other members of my PLN in Estes Park before ISTE last summer. They showed me first hand how a chat happens on Twitter. (Correction: #edchat was founded by Shelly Terrell, Tom Whitby, and Steve. Mary Beth, who actively participates, was not a founder of #edchat . Thank you CybraryMan1 for helping me get the facts straight.)

First of all the organizers must decide on a hashtag. A hashtag is the # sign that is used in front of some letters (#edchat). Then they decide on what day of the week and hour of the day they what the chat to occur (#edchat occurs on Tuesdays at 7:00 pm EST in the US). By the way chats are usually scheduled to last an hour, but you don't have to arrive on time or stay the entire time.

The organizers will usually set up a poll listing four or five topics for the upcoming chat. They tweet out the poll information and interested people on Twitter can cast a vote for the topic of their choice. When the poll closes the winning topic is the one that the #edchat (or other chats) will focus on that week. Everyone who wants to be a part of the chat must put that hashtag somewhere in their update. There are usually several moderators for each chat who help keep everyone on track by stating the topic at the beginning of the hour, asking guiding questions during the chat, and generally keeping the conversation flowing.

Okay, now what? Well if you use a Twitter client like TweetDeck or TweetGrid you can set up a column which will search the Twitter stream for the hashtag you are following and put all those tweets in the column for you. It makes it easier to follow the discussion. Well, that's what Steve and MaryBeth told me and I tried it, but I was definitely overwhelmed. There can be tweets coming in from over 1,000 people during #edchat and I find it difficult to keep up.

That is why I like the smaller educational chats that are popping up. Two of my favorites are #elemchat and #4thchat. #elemchat occurs on Saturdays at 5:00 EST for elementary educators or interested parties, and #4thchat occurs on Mondays at 8:00 EST for primarily 4th grade teachers, but all are welcome. Again the moderators usually put out a poll to determine the topic for the upcoming week. I am one of the moderators for #4thchat along with Jeanne McQueen (the founder of #4thchat), Nancy Carroll, and Justin Stortz. Jeanne launched #4thchat on March 21, 2011 with the topic Brain Breaks. Archives of the chats can be found on the 4thchat wiki.

What Does That Mean?

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time trying to keep up with all the acronyms being bantered about on Twitter. Most of us have learned about RT (retweet-send someone's tweet out again), DM (direct message-send a tweet to just one person), PLN (personal learning network) and ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education). Since I wasn't into texting when I joined Twitter, I remember when I didn't know what LOL (laughing out loud), IMHO (in my humble opinion) or TIA (thanks in advance) meant. I actually asked on Twitter what LOL meant. Well, I guess I made more than one person LOL and I think I made a couple even ROFL (roll on the floor laughing). But, hey, at least I learned.

Since that time I've always asked when I don't know what an acronym means. Yes, I might make someone else roll their eyes or snicker under their breath when they see my tweet asking, but at least I will know what is being said.

When I blog I always write out the words for things like personal learning network the first time I use it, followed by the letters in parentheses (PLN), so that my reader will know what I'm talking about. My good friend, Beth Still, wrote a great blog post reminding us to spell out what we mean if we want to be understood.

I remember last summer reading a tweet from a member of my PLN that said, "I'm going OTG to spend more time with DH and DD." I had to DM (direct message) her and ask what she meant. Translation: I'm going off the grid (Twitter and other social media sites) to spend more time with dear husband and dear daughter.

Here is one of the responses I got when I asked my PLN on Twitter for some acronyms to help newbies. Funny thing is, I didn't know any of them. (LOL)

Just last week I told a member of my PLN to DM me and I would share the code to our LMS with her. She quickly tweeted back asking what an LMS is? And so she should. I answered her by explaining that an LMS is a learning management system. This occurred during an #edchat (educational chat) on Twitter and it is easy to talk in acronyms because you only have 140 characters to deliver your message. (I'll talk more about #edchats next time.)

I'd love to hear about some of the times you were left scratching your head and saying, "What does that mean?"

Others tweeting answers about acronyms @katiechoudhary, @jdornberg, @derrallg, and @marsacat.

(Cross posted on Tweachers.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are You Ready for a Smackdown AzTEA WOW Participants

On Saturday, April 30 I'll be presenting at the first AzTEA WOW Virtual Technology Conference, thanks to Peggy George. As part of the fun, Peggy is holding a smackdown. For those of you who are not familiar with that term let me explain. A smackdown is where participants have 2 or 3 minutes to demo a favorite tool or web-based app. It is fast and fun and you come away from one with new toys to try out. Here is my smackdown entry - AnswerGarden.

What is you favorite Web 2.0 tool?... at

The reason I like this tool is its no fuss attitude - no sign up, no email, no complications. Just type in a question, share the link on your favorite social media site, or grab the embed code and put it on your blog or wiki, like I did here. As people type their answers, they show up in the box. The more times a particular answer is given the larger the word appears (sort of like in a Wordle). It's so easy that my fourth graders love to include them in their blog posts. See an example here and here.

If they have time for me to do a second one I'll demo Wondersaid

made on Wondersay - Animate text with style

Here is another one made by someone else.

made on Wondersay - Animate text with style

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A New Kind of Awards Ceremony

A tweet held me to this blog post by The Bearded Teacher (aka Timothy Patrick Monreal). I had never visited his bog before but found a strong connection as I read his post …But Awards Feel So Good. I left this comment for him and then decided to write my own post about award ceremonies.
"As I was reading your post an idea come to me. Why not have students create awards for themselves? Let each student reflect on who (s)he has been as a learner during the year and design an award that is suitable. Have each student write a short blurb about why the award is being given, collect all the awards and blurbs, and use them at the awards ceremony."

I had a flashback to high school and our National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. I remember sitting in one of the rows in my high school auditorium and hoping that I would be one of the inductees. The way it worked in our school was a student who was already a member would walk down a row and then stop and put the NHS collar on the newly inducted member. I can remember the feelings I felt on that day as clearly as if they were happening to me right now. And that was some 40 years ago. I was nervous. I had my fingers tightly crossed. I kept a silly smile plastered on my face. Twice a member from our NHS walked down my row and I was thinking, “Yes, I am going to be picked!”

Well, needless to say, I wasn’t picked and I was devastated. I silently shed tears as the rest of the induction ceremony took place. Funny thing is, while I truly believed I was worthy, my grades were not of the standard that would have let me be inducted into the National Honor Society at my school or any other.

Please understand I’m not totally against organizations like the NHS, I am just sharing how deeply I was impacted by an awards ceremony and how vividly I remember how I felt that day, forty years ago. I spent several weeks after that ceremony in a funk. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t study, and I kept telling myself I was not worthy. It was something I truly had wanted, and I had been denied.

Now suppose I had attended a school where every student received an award, but no one else decided on those awards. Each student had to figure out on his/her own what award should be bestowed on him/her.

Had I attended a high school where the awards process was handled like that, I would have had to take a very honest look at myself and think about my own learning. What was it that I truly excelled in? What had I done that would merit an award? I probably would have focused on one project I did in biology lab on fruit fly genetics, or maybe I would have given myself a “Stick to It Award” for completing a knitting project for my art class. But wait – should there be any award presented at all? Shouldn’t my intrinsic satisfaction will a job well done, have been enough? I wish I could say, “Yes, I know I did a good job, and that is the only award I need!” But unfortunately I was raised in a culture where … Awards Feel So Good.

As we approach the end of another school year and the end-of-the-year awards ceremonies, what are your thoughts on awards?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Am I Preparing My Students Properly?

Today is the Saturday after my 4th graders completed LEAP testing week. It is my least favorite week of the year. I came home everyday totally exhausted and frustrated by what I observed happening during this high-stakes, high-stress testing week. I saw some of my students who are nervous, anxious, and sometimes just downright angry. Most did well and proceeded through the week with all the enthusiasm of facing a root canal. But I also saw several of my students who suffered a complete meltdown during testing. It seems inhuman to make 10 year olds go into "testing lockdown" for about four hours each day.

Well, it is now behind us and we have five weeks of school left in this school year. Now the fun begins! I have so many great projects planned from now till the end of school. Don't get me wrong, my students have participated in some great projects throughout this school year, but for the last several weeks we have concentrated on "test prep". I have been questioned by my students several times during these last few weeks as to when we will get back to doing "fun projects".

I am reflecting on how I've done in preparing my students for their future.

I discovered this Prezi from Ashley Azzopardi who is currently studying to be a primary teacher at ACU, in Sydney, Australia

My goal this year was to teach my 21st century learners in a 21st century way. I teach in a school with an 85% free and reduce lunch population made up of about 1/3 white, 1/3 African-American, and 1/3 Hispanic students. Yes, I have a very extensive set of grade level expectations that I must cover in my social studies and math classes. I am responsible to collect a weekly assessment from each of my 75 students as well as a participation grade. My students have outperformed other 4th graders in our district on each of the five interval assessments we took during the year. But that's not how I'm measuring my success.

I'm reflecting on how well I met their needs as learners in the 21st century.

This year my students have blogged, made glogs, used Edmodo as their learning platform, and Skyped with classes across the country and in Canada. They have taught other classes about Marid Gras and backchanneled during a guest speaker presentation with our buddy class in Kansas. They have received over 1,500 comments from around the globe on their blogs thanks to my being introduced to the hashtag #comments4kids on Twitter. They have commented on the blogs of other students around the world. They begin most days chatting with each other on Edmodo. I post their assignments to Edmodo and they turn them in when they are completed. I have gotten to know them better as individuals as they post questions and responses to each other on Edmodo. They love being able to use a social media type website in the classroom. They share a netbook with another student and use websites I've bookmarked on a Symbaloo webmix each day to practice lessons they've been introduced to through the use of our IWB. They've collaborated with other students in online projects and one even won a Glogster challenge hosted by another student in another state.

But is it enough?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Presented Virtually at InnovatED

Thursday evening marked a new milestone for me. I did two presentations via Skype for the InnoveatED conference held in Memphis, Tennessee. InnovatEd was a blended conference with both in person and virtual presenters. I heard about this opportunity from Cindy Brock on Twitter and quickly signed up to present. She accepted both of my proposals and added me to the wiki she and her co-workers put together for the event.

As fate would have it my laptop got a virus Wednesday night and I was scared that I wouldn't have it to do my presentations. I relaxed when I remembered that my presentations were on Google sites, so I could access them from any computer. So I brought my school laptop home with me. I felt so geeky because I had both computers running and was logged onto the uStream channels so I could watch the other presenters.

At actually 5:40 my Skype started ringing (I love that sound) and I went live to a room full of educators in Memphis and to anyone who happened to be on the uStream channel. During my first presentation I used the screen sharing feature on Skype to show my slideshow on lessons I've learned and best practices I've developed while using Web 2.0 tools with my 4th graders. Twenty minutes later I was done with the first one. Wow, that 20 minutes went fast, but I managed to get through the presentation right on time.

I presented again in the same room at 6:00 so I just stayed online. Education with Edmodo was what I presented next. I love using Edmodo with my students and I know I was bubbling over with excitement. I had set up an Edmoodo group for the educators attending InnovatED and invited them to set up a free account and join the group. Seven of them did immediately. I finished just in the nick of time again. Phew, how time flies when you are having fun.

Above is a photo Philip Cummings sent me via Twitter to show me what the room I was presenting to looked liked.

I even got to fill in for a virtual presenter who didn't answer her Skype call. When I saw that they were missing someone, I tweeted and IMed on Skype that I would gladly fill in if they wanted me to. Richard Cumminghan acknowledged my offer and I quickly pulled up Symbaloo and shared how I am using it both personally and with my students. I felt like such a seasoned presenter to be able to do a presentation on the spur on the moment like that.

I was excited to have had a great experience using Skype to present. I really handled the tech part of it with ease. Of course I was following the hashtag on Twitter and got some great feedback. Thanks to everyone who worked on putting this conference together. I appreciate being able to participant both as a presenter and an attendee.