Thursday, February 13, 2014

How to Fly with Twitter Basics

This PD Session focuses on the Basics of Twitter and TweetDeck.  The key word here is BASIC. While there are many fabulous features to share, I have no desire to overwhelm those new to Twitter. So, dive in, try some things out and be sure to use the hashtag #tweet4lps for this session.

You will need a Twitter account before proceeding with this post.  If you have not made an account, please click HERE for a brief tutorial.  Then come back to this post to spread your wings and fly with Twitter.

Here are a few reasons as to why educators need Twitter:
  • Your Twitter PLN (Professional Learning Network) will continually push you to think outside the box and try new things in order to positively impact student learning.
  • In a recent article by University of Phoenix (2014) almost 60% of secondary educators polled believe students educational experiences can be enhanced with the use of social media in the classroom, yet less than 20% of teachers actually use it.
  • Need more? Here are 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom via Teach Hub
With that being said, it is time for you to spread your wings and fly with Twitter so that you can grow as an educator and increase student engagement in the classroom.  

Let's get you started with some of the basics below...

Where are my settings?

Who to follow?

When I joined Twitter I really had no clue as to who to follow or what I was doing. Following is really something you learn by trial and error.  Here are some general things I look for when choosing to follow someone:

  • Do their bios or tweets reveal they are in education or support education?
  • Do they have a following of educators?
  • Does it look like spam? (are there zero tweets, do they have very few followers, does it just feel suspicious?....then don't follow)

Here is a peek at some of my favorite Twitter educators.  They are supportive, collaborative and fill my bucket weekly with inspiring ideas for the classroom! Be certain to click HERE for updates. For now just click on a name below to see bios and to follow!

What about those hashtags?

First you need to know about the hashtag.  The hashtag is essentially the topic of discussion.  These fabulous guys compiled an "Official List of Twitter Chats" @thomascmurray, @cevans5095 and @cybraryman1 click HERE for the list (PLUS add them to your Following List). Here is the same list but I highlighted the chats I participate and/or lurk the caption below the picture:

Click Here for Highlighted Chats
How do I participate or lurk in a chat?

Once you find a chat you are interested in, need to know that there are typically two styles of chats:
  1. "EdCamp" style:  This means a moderator (person leading the chat) will pose 1 question/statement for everyone to weigh in on.
    1. I recommend #sunchat (moderated by @barbarawmadden, @JayhawkTN, @mssackstein, @JamieArmin and me...@differNtiated4u every Sunday morning at 8CST) 
  2. "Q & A" style:  This means a moderator(s) will pose a series of questions throughout the chat.  
    1. The question will appear in the tweet starting with "Q1, Q2, Q3" and so below.
      1. "Q1: What is the purpose of formative assessments? #sblchat"
    2. Those in the chat will tweet a response starting with "A1, A2, A3" and so on
      1. "A1: to keep ur fingers on the pulse of all learners needs #sblchat"

Now, it is up to you if you want to participate or lurk.  Lurking is a great way to begin! Simply follow the chat and "favorite" tweets you like along the way.  Your Twitter account will always save your "Favorites" so that you can reference them at any time in order to respond or re-tweet (RT).

Once you feel you have a hang of a chat, jump right in! You will find that your PLN is VERY SUPPORTIVE.  You may wonder....why are they so supportive of a stranger? Because, like you, they are in the chat to share, learn and grow! Simply let the chat know it's your first time and they will help you out!  To prove how supportive a PLN can be here's what happened the second Marty (@martysnowpaw) saw this session....he immediately tweeted that the #NT2t chat, on Saturday mornings at 8 SCT, "will hold your hands & build your PLN." Be sure to check out this friendly group of educators!

How to Organize & Custom Create Timelines

An awesome tool to organize chat timelines or custom make your own timeline is TweetDeck. So, why in the world would you want to do this? Twitter chats are fast flying conversations. TweetDeck offers a way to capture what you want to see and allows you to scroll back through the chat.  Here is a look at my TweetDeck:

Simple Tips for Organizing Timelines:
  • Have the chat column AND your "notifications" column next to one another.  This allows you to quickly see when someone in the chat is responding to you.
  • Create CUSTOM TIMELINES for your students.  Click HERE for a blog post featuring this tool as well as TAGBOARD (your one stop shop for capturing hashtags across multiple social media sites).
Thank you for stopping by for the PD Session!  It is my hope you found the basics you were looking for in order to fly with Twitter!  For more information, feel free to tweet me, DM (direct message) me or leave a comment on this post.  I will do my best to answer any questions you may have...should I find I don't know the answer, no worries, I will simply ask our Twitter PLN for support!

I have been on Twitter for less than one year...check out my 2013 PLN journey by clicking HERE.

University of Phoenix (2014). K-12 Teachers Uncertain about How to Connect with Students via Social Media, Reveals University of Phoenix Survey. Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Twitter Basics: Hash-brown, Selfie!

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings. 
~Salvador Dali

So, you don’t have a Twitter account and you finally want to join the flock.

Or, you have an account, but are afraid to leave the nest AKA you have no idea what to Tweet or who to follow, so you avoid the flock.

Maybe you are a frequent Twitter flyer, but need help organizing the nest.

You may be wondering, why would I need Twitter in my classroom? In the words of George Couros, "If you are an educator and not using Twitter, you are becoming illiterate."  While a bold statement, let me explain further.  Our world has and always will function through media.  Flyers transformed to newspapers, pamphlets transformed to magazines, newspaper reporters morphed into TV reporting and then media hit the Internet.  Any kind of information one can seek can be found online.  

Even the Internet, while at first limited to government agencies and the tech gurus developing networking systems, has grown leaps and bounds. The first common thread through all of these information sharing platforms is technology. The second commonality is rapid change of the technology; from the reveal of the TV early in the 20th century to the Internet toward the end of the century.  Since the birth of the Internet, this too has changed and continues to change at warp speed. All forms of media mentioned above can now be found in an instant by Googling and using hashtags.

At this point if you find yourself wondering, what's a hashtag? Take a look at this Esurance are not alone!

Even the selfie has transformed!  It is time you do too.

Want to fly your coop? Sign up for a Twitter account with a few simple steps:

Click HERE for more on How To Fly with Twitter!
From the basics of Twitter to integrating TweetDeck, from lurking in the chats to sharing with followers...these Twitter basics will help you increase student engagement as well as expand your PLN.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Tech Lesson Inspired By Student Voice

This post is great for any content that wants to fully engage students in discovery and application of process for understanding. Bookmark this post, click on the hyperlinks, dig into some ideas and get ready for high levels of student engagement!

At the end of class I announced our next lesson would use hashtags. Class ended with a buzz as students wondered what in the world I would be doing with my own hashtag.  One girl stayed after class and said, "Hey Mrs. Stephens, I have to show you this website called Tagboard.  I just used it for a church event and we posted pictures to it from any social media site using a specific hashtag.  Tagboard will collect all posts across the social media sites and put them in one spot."

She looked up at me beaming with excitement that she could share this knowledge with a teacher.  I looked back at her giving her the same beaming smile she was giving me and I said, "That is absolutely awesome and I'm going to use it!"

So here is a look at what transpired...

Pique Student Interest with Technology
If you thought class ended with a buzz the day before, this will certainly fan the flame for your lesson.

Embed Prior Skills with Current Skills to discover New Skills
Have a rockin' lesson ready to go! This activity encouraged students to:
  • Examine and re-create prior process/skill set using cell phones to snap pictures of work.
  • Examine and re-create current process/skill set using cell phones to snap pictures of work.
  • Discover and attempt a new process related to prior knowledge using cell phones again.

The second students saw the images of cameras on their worksheet they forgot they were looking at a worksheet!

Any content that teaches process/skill set can create something similar to the lesson above (math, science, FACS, foreign languages, Industrial Arts, Fine Arts, Visual Arts...and the list goes on!)

Responsible Release of Learning
Every time you have a lesson which integrates technology is a perfect time for a mini-lesson on digital citizenship.  Talk with students about only posting pictures that relate to the hashtag emphasizing the importance of self-representation within a professional educational platform.

Bring awareness to students as to how you will capture what they post.  I suggest using a different hashtag for each hour (#spflipped4u1 = hour 1, #spflipped4u4 = hour 2 and so on).  Also, use Tweetdeck to create custom timelines to save posts via Twitter (just in case you want to Storify later). Don't forget, Tagboard will collect ALL postings to any social media site using your custom hashtags.  In short, what they post will be seen AND documented which is why it is imperative you take the time to make digital citizenship a part of your tech lessons.  

Foster Cooperative Learning, Bear Witness & Capture It
Cooperative learning groups will allow students to analyze, synthesize, discover and show off what they know and can do with the learning target(s).  It is your job to be the fly on the wall! Walk around, watch, listen! When needed provide some probing questions for groups that find they are stuck with the process, but for heavens sakes don't give them the answers! Carefully crafted questions will cause students to dig deeper and discover the answers on their own.

Finally, remember to capture it! Project the Tagboard the entire hour for students to see their work in progress.  This also allows them to see the work of others to either help them with process and/or allows them to help others with process.  You can later embed your hashtags from Tagboard in your class website for quick anticipatory sets, think-pair-share discussions and so on.

Capture it with your own camera/cell and take pictures from every hour! Trust me you are going to want pictures of these awesome learning moments!

Capture it with paper/pencil because you are going to want to write down what you hear! In the words of a student, "High five Mrs. Stephens, this was an awesome lesson!" Yes, indeed these words were uttered for learning direct, indirect, and double object pronouns!

All of this greatness started with a student who said, "Mrs. Stephens, I have to show you this website..." 

I can't wait to show her this post to show her what an impact she has made on educators!  It is truly amazing how student voice can positively transform they way we teach.

This lesson is a strong reminder that...

While this is a post to share a fun lesson, it is more importantly a post to emphasize the value of student voice in your classroom.  Involve them in your lesson planning! Tap their brains for ideas! Let them guide you! Choose to grow as a teacher because of the feedback they give you!

If you decide to use this idea for one of your lessons please share in the comments below! Each time you share a positive comment, I will share it with the student who fanned the flame.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Is Your Rubric Hitting the Mark?

In recent years learning objectives have also been coined learning targets (LTs). One can easily Google image search LTs and find everything from student target evaluations to pedagogical taxonomy targets. All of these targets are unique ways in which teachers can unwrap instruction so that students can clearly see their levels of performance in relation to the LTs.

In a recent #sunchat discussion about rubrics I had an idea to turn the traditional box rubric into a circle.  After multiple attempts to create the perfect rubric I realized I was missing the mark.

Even the best of teachers can get caught up in the creative components of a project which ultimately leads students astray from the intended learning target.  In short, a rubric should not be about teachers creating the ultimate project for students to attempt. More so, a rubric should be about students creating the ultimate project to show off what they know and can do. Therefore, this post is not a "how to" for creating rubrics, but more so an evaluation process to ensure your rubrics are hitting the mark.

The draw back to traditional grading rubrics is the assumption that all students have received the same instruction. Therefore, all students should be equipped with equal understanding when beginning a project. Thanks to Rick Wormeli we know that teaching and learning in a one size fits all model results in many students missing the mark.

We must keep this in mind when creating grading rubrics in order to effectively measure what all students know and are able to do.  While the point of a project is for all students to demonstrate understanding of the same learning target(s); we must take care in how we ask students to perform.

Here is a performance learning target I made (you can use mine or make your own) using action verbs from both the Depth of Knowledge and Taxonomy charts. Notice that all verbs represented are focused on what students can do not what they are not capable of doing.

Traditional rubrics are designed in boxes and are typically made for students ready to perform at higher levels of understanding.  I simply placed a box over the learning target above to capture the higher level performance zones.  Let's take a closer look at the levels of readiness we capture when using traditional rubrics.

The key complaint I have with traditional rubrics is that they are set up to show you (the teacher) what you already know....students capable of higher level activities will perform within the box and students that are still on the outer edges of the performance learning target will rarely hit the mark.

Traditional rubrics actually include a category emphasizing what students do not know and cannot do.  There are even learning targets out there that include space for students that "lack understanding". Why do we do this? Why do we include space on any rubric or any learning target emphasizing what students don't know?

If I have my fingers on the pulse of student learning, I can tell you before even beginning the project which students will hit the mark in the box and which students will not.  Letting the out of the box students proceed with any project without adequate support sets them up for failure.

Saul Mcleod (2010) wrote the following in his article Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD):

"Vgostsky believed that when a student is at the ZPD for a particular task, providing the appropriate assistance will give the student enough of a 'boost' to achieve the task."

In order to change the face of traditional rubrics, teachers must assess the purpose of the project.  I believe all projects should be two-fold:  1) for students to successfully reach beyond what they thought themselves capable and 2) for students to show off what they know and are able to do.

This means, gone are the days of assigning a student project so that you can get caught up on grading, organizing or whatever other task that takes you away from supporting student learning.  During any project it is your job to give students a "boost."  It is imperative to take into account student levels of readiness and provide the tools and appropriate support for students to hit the mark.  There is no down time for teachers that are dedicated to student growth.

Clearly you are a teacher dedicated to student growth or you would not be reading an educational blog post!  Therefore, I'm certain you already have fabulous projects in place for your learning targets. All I want to do is offer you suggestions as to how and bring the learning target within reach of all students. Here are a few ideas for defining learning targets and fine tuning your current grading rubrics:
  • Select verbs from the Depth of Knowledge and/or Taxonomy Wheel to clearly define (in student friendly language) what students should be able to know and do for each level within the box.
  • Use performance learning targets (such as figure 1) for students to place marks as to where they think they are in terms of hitting the mark.  Student self-evaluation, student voice and student teacher conversations are essential for student growth.
  • Students that are out of the box (on the outer edges of the learning target) will benefit from scaffolded practice and support such as:
    • learning workshops while other students proceed with the project
    • one on one support
    • flipped videos emphasizing rules, procedures and/or skill sets with in class practice and teacher support
  • Once students are on the edge of or within the boxed target zones students should mark the place on the target they are aiming for
    • they should challenge themselves to aim closer to center than where they currently are, but not so far out that it becomes impossible to hit the mark
  • Students within or on the edge of the boxed target zones can now proceed with the project in mixed ability groups in order to provide peer support
When we disregard levels of readiness, we are asking all students to aim at the learning target from the same distance. Rick Wormeli emphasizes that fair is not always equal. This means we must meet each student at his/her level of readiness by moving the learning target within reach of each student. Moving the target will allow students to either reach proficiency and/or aim for the bullseye by pushing themselves above and beyond.

So go ahead and keep creating rubrics within a box....just make certain all students have the appropriate tools, aiming distance and support in order to hit the mark.

McLeod, Saul (2010) Zone of Proximal Development. Simply Psychology. 
           Retrieved from