Posts Tagged With: Social Media

Need Ideas? Just Ask.

My grade 1-3 teachers have been planning for next year and are looking for creative and engaging ways to build a literacy intervention block into the daily schedule. Language Arts and Math would be scheduled every morning and then one teacher would be freed up to work with students that are just not up to par with reading, writing and comprehension. I’m quite impressed with their innovative thinking because in order to make this plan work the others will need to have substantially larger class sizes for Social, Science and other non-core subjects. The literacy intervention teacher would work with multi-grade groups of struggling students throughout the afternoon. In a school where many students find themselves below an acceptable literacy level, I like their thinking.

So when the teachers approached me, asking if I would consult with my PLN for high yield strategies that could be used for this intervention block, I was more than happy to oblige. I sent this Tweet out the next day:

My Tweet

My Twitter PLN, which includes over 3500 followers, has become one of the most important sounding boards in my professional life. By including only individuals who share the same passion for education, I am always learning new things and having my thinking challenged and stretched. Just look at the responses I received from this Tweet.

Capture BCapture CCapture DCapture ECapture FCapture GCapture HCapture ICapture JCapture KCapture LCapture MCapture NCapture OCapture PCapture QCapture RCapture A

Help yourself if there is anything here you can use. ūüôā

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Power of a Single Tweet


Last week a team of three amazing educators from Randolph Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina spent two day at my little school in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. This unlikely relationship has unfolded as the result of the simple Tweet posted above, one that I answered with, “We might be interested”, when it appeared on my Twitter feed four and a half months ago. Shortly after responding to @techgirljenny and forwarding my email address I recieved a message that started out like this:

“My name is Matthew Weber. I am a French teacher at Randolph IB Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. I am emailing you today because something amazing happened to my school recently. Cam Newton, a professional American football player gave my school a donation of $50,000. We can spend this money however we feel best improves the academic environment of our school. Our administration has decided to focus this money on a project to expand the cultural awareness of our students through a partnership with a French-speaking school.”

Here is the full letter from Randolph where you can better understand the full scope of their project and see why it was something that caught my interest as the principal of a French Immersion school in Canada.

In February, after deciding to explore the possibilities of this relationship further, teams from each of our schools met via Skype to brainstorm ways in which our students could start connecting in a meaningful way. In the weeks that followed, blog commenting took place and a Mystery Skype was held using the french language. These engaging activities were a great way for our students to get to know one another and provided our teachers with an opportunity to determine whether or not a long term relationship should be forged.


Grade 6 students taking part in a virtual tour while Randolph Middle School staff look on.

That brings me to this past week where two French as a Second Language (FSL) teachers and a tech specialist from Charlotte made the trip to Southern Alberta to see our school in action first hand, meet with our staff, and plan for next year. While here they took their students on a virtual tour of our school via Skype and some of our students returned the favor. They also visited a number of french classes and spent time with me discussing our schools philosophy around connected learning and 21st century competencies. Our superintendent, @cdsmeaton even joined us when we treated our guests to dinner one evening. All agreed that it was a wonderful experience and we are excited about learning together in the coming year.

To me it’s quite amazing that a public middle school of 1200 students, in a district of 240,000 has partnered with a Catholic Dual Track elementary school of 400 students, in a district of 4500. It’s equally amazing that the distance between the two schools is 3720 kilometers (2312 miles). And it’s even more amazing that this connected learning partnership was born in a single Tweet a few months back.

I wrote this post for those of you who have yet to discover the importance of Twitter and other social media platforms as a powerful way to flatten your walls and engage students in new and exciting ways. I’m reminded once again that it’s not the technology but what you can do with it that counts. Tweet! Tweet!

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Try A Mystery Skype. Here’s Why.

If you’ve never tried a Mystery Skype with your class, you should. It’s a highly¬†engaging way to build important competencies in your students. A Mystery Skype is just a simple guessing game at first sight, but it’s really so much more. Two classrooms arrange to connect with each other using Skype, and then take turns asking yes/no questions to try to¬†discover each other‚Äôs exact location. It‚Äôs a great way to make an initial connection that¬†may lead to further collaborative learning projects. Our students have participated in several Mystery Skypes this year, all of which¬†have been easily arranged¬†through my Twitter PLN. Here’s one from last month:


Take a look at¬†the jobs students¬†take on¬†during a Mystery Skype. Then look at the competencies they are building and ask yourself why you¬†shouldn’t give this a try.¬†

Greeters say hello and share cool facts about the class without giving away the location. (Leadership, Social Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Global Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Question Askers ask the questions and are the voice of the classroom. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Creativity, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Question Answerers answer the questions after consulting with others. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Think Tank sits in a group and figures out the clues based on the information they receive. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Google Mappers use Google maps to piece together clues and narrow down the location. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Global Awareness, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Atlas Mappers use atlases to assist the Google mappers. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Global Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Clue Keepers work closely with askers and answerers to help guide them in developing questions. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Global Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Runners run from group to group relaying important information. (Collaboration, Leadership, Decision Making, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Photographers take pictures during the call to share at a later date. (Leadership, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Tweeters share real-time play-by-play of the event on a class Twitter account. (Leadership, Critical Thinking, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Videographers take video during the call to share at a later date. (Leadership, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Entertainers share jokes, songs, etc. during a lull in the action. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Closers end the call in a nice manner after one class has guessed the location of the other. (Leadership, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)


Enough said.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Community Engagement, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How Transformation Actually Occurs


Last week I was going about¬†my nightly ritual of checking student Kidblog¬†accounts to moderate and approve any posts or comments that may have been submitted in the past 24 hours. I’ve been doing this since September when we introduced our grade 4-6 students to the concept of blogging, an idea that has been received by the teachers in my school to varying degrees. Some have embraced it with great enthusiasm while others are still trying to figure out exactly how it can support their daily teaching practice. That’s OK. The way I look at it, transformation is a curve, and some move along that curve faster than others. The students, on the other hand, have been highly engaged with blogging from the day we started.

So, while checking the student blogs I was quickly drawn to our recent¬†4DE¬†class posts where 61 comments were awaiting moderation. I thought, “Wow! Where did these come from?” As I started to read (and approve) them I was not able to determine who wrote them, but they were appropriate and appeared to be written by other grade 4 students from somewhere.¬†That’s the beauty of Kidblog. All posts and comments require administrator approval before anyone can see them. This allows us to open¬†our blogging experience to the entire world. It was not until¬†one of the last remaining comments that¬†I was able to determine the source; and this only because the student gave the name of his school. Then the very last¬†submission confirmed who was responsible¬†for¬†having the students comment on our 4DE posts; Mr.¬†Groves. This made my day.

So what does all this have to do with transformation?


Mr. Groves had been the grade 1 teacher¬†at my school for the past year, covering a maternity leave that¬†recently ended. While on our staff,¬†he immersed himself¬†in any capacity building experience that was made available to him. He spent time researching and experimenting with¬†iPad apps, implementing a web-based¬†guided reading program, and delving into the world of Twitter to make connections and improve his professional practice. This culture of ‘failing forward’ at our school enabled Mr. Groves to take the necessary risks which made student learning more relevant. Although individual¬†blogging was a bit advanced for his grade 1 students, he did comment on the older student blogs from time to time and¬†became familiar with the Kidblog program.¬†

At the end of March Mr. Groves left us, but spent only a few days on the substitute¬†teacher list before landing¬†a term position at a cross town school teaching grade 4.¬† And these comments I was approving were coming from his students. He was introducing them to blogging by having them comment on our student’s posts before creating posts of their own. I contacted him right away¬†and thanked him for taking this great tool and introducing it at another school. He shared his class link and¬†told me that¬†other teachers at the school were already approaching him to learn more about blogging with students. (Insert pride here) He’s taking what he learned here and sharing it there. It’s like passing a baton.


Transformation is not an easy process. I’ve often wondered how we will ever make the necessary¬†systemic shift with so many fixed mindsets out there. As school leaders, we can easily get frustrated and lose hope when ideas we perceive as forward-thinking are embraced by few and shunned by many. But then I think of individuals like Mr. Groves and am reminded of how transformation actually occurs. Not usually in large numbers but¬†one individual at a time. Eventually, a critical mass forms and we find ourselves at our destination without even knowing it.

Whether or not you are a person of faith, this prayer is a great metaphor of our work as transformative educators. Creating the Church of Tomorrow. Keep going.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Just “Cover” Curriculum

In our province the English Language Arts curriculum is loaded with numerous outcomes at every grade level. While looking through these outcomes last week my attention was drawn to the concept of  clarifying and extending thoughts and ideas, which is included throughout the K Р9 Program of Study. In grade 5, for example, students are expected to be able to clarify and extend by:

1. seeking others’ viewpoints to build on personal responses and understanding

2. combining ideas by using talk, notes, and personal writing to explore relationships among their own ideas and those of others, and

3. extending understanding by searching for further ideas and information from others.

Not only are teachers expected to “cover” these (and all other) prescribed outcomes, today we are wanting them to do it in such a way that 21st century competencies are being built at the same time.¬† I blogged about the difficulty with this earlier. What follows is a simple yet innovative¬†example of how these outcomes are being met through competency based learning.

Earlier this year our grade 5s connected with Mrs. Gray’s grade 5 class in Canton, Michigan through our school Twitter¬†account.¬†We¬†got to know each other¬†by tweeting our daily experiences and commenting on blog posts as both classes used Kigblog. Shortly thereafter a Skype visit was set up and the students were able to introduce temselves face-to-face. The level of engagement throughout these experiences was extremely high but¬†the curricular component¬†was missing.

Our current project, I believe, takes care of that. We are writing a story together using a Google Doc. Our students came up with a title and wrote the first part of the story. That alone was an exercise in creativity, collaboration, digital literacy, and problem solving. We then sent the link to Canton, where they edited and illustrated our writing, then extended the story by a couple of paragraphs. They have now returned it to us and the students are highly engaged in illustrating and writing again. This is what I call authentic literacy, calling upon students to utilize higher order thinking skills and build important competencies they will need in the future. Here is a link to the shared story as it currently exists.

I think we have effectively addressed the outcomes listed above, and made them relevant to the students. A number of these learning opportunities are out there for our students. As teachers, we just have to go looking for them.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kids Want to Cover Our School.

This year a very keen intern teacher has started a global justice club at my school. I love the idea because it gives the students an opportunity to build the important 21st century competency of Cultural, Global and Environmental¬†Awareness, which I have¬†blogged about earlier. The thought of my students developing a better¬†perspective on¬†global issues¬†makes me down right proud. And when nearly 40 grade 3-6 students showed up¬†at the first gathering I was reminded how young people today are more globally connected than ever.¬†My thoughts were that¬†maybe they’d come up with some¬†really good elementary school¬†projects such as recycling plastics or raising money for a¬†3rd world foster child. Perhaps they could even write letters to peace keepers or maybe¬†explore global warming. Yea right. Not a chance.

Many of them had already been following the Kony¬†2012 story and¬†discussion quickly turned to how they could get involved. By the end of the meeting a powerful wave of concern¬†had formed and the students were ready to make a difference.¬†The next day they started¬†hanging¬†posters and¬†distributing bracelets, bringing awareness to other students. They also asked permission to fundraise (which I gave them), selling various trinkets and small bags of candy. Many club members have even shared¬†their thoughts¬†by blogging and here’s¬†Taila’s post¬†and¬† Jessica’s post. The most impressive¬†part of all this¬†is that the students are taking the lead in everything, with the teacher simply guiding them¬†and supporting their efforts.Their big event is scheduled for this coming Friday, April 20th. On that day the actual Kony 2012 campaign is planning an event called “Cover the Night” and our global justice club has decided to “Cover the School.” Club members will meet after school on Thursday and plaster our school with posters. They want to bring awareness to our entire school community¬†about what Kony is doing. Reluctantly, I have even¬†agreed to¬†them inviting the local press. Have I allowed this to get out of control? Is this something that is better left to junior high and high school students. Maybe it’s not the best idea for an elementary school to get involved at all.¬†¬†Or perhaps I¬†should be limiting the type of content that can be explored by clubs in my school.

But maybe these are the experiences we should be exposing our students to. After all, they researched Kony themselves, developed opinions, and then were moved to action. They are inquiring, leading in their learning, collaborating, practicing digital citizenship, and becoming more culturally and globally aware. Am I off base here? What do you think?

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Difficult Struggle of Letting Go

I recently read this post by Will Richardson where he described the bold 21st century transformation of a Nevada charter school as one “…not fully understanding the shift to self-directed, personal learning that technology and the Web support.” He went on to describe true transformation being something that shifts the balance of power to the learner. I fully agree with Mr. Richardson and have recently completed action research on this very topic. I also blogged about student-directed learning a few weeks back.

As the principal of an elementary school I am reminded every day how difficult it is for teachers to let go of control of the learning process. Moving from being the distributer of content to the guider of learning is not that easy for teachers who were trained to ‘deliver curriculum.’ This shift is even harder to understand for elementary school teachers who work with the youngest of our students.

Two weeks ago I found myself in a position where I experienced first hand this struggle of handing over control to the student. As an administrator who teaches grade 4 library I was quite happy with the new experiences I had been exposing my students to. Early in the year I introduced them to our library Twitter account and in turn they were given an opportunity to compose Tweets and respond to other ones. After that I got them blogging through a Kidblog account and write books reviews with our Destiny Quest software, allowing them to share their views beyond the walls of our school. Blogging helped us to connect with a wonderful grade 4 class from Wellford, South Carolina and a face-to-face Skype visit was arranged shortly thereafter. Epals were set up and our students started ongoing conversations with their new global friends. I was on a roll, feeling that through the use of these Web 2.0 tools my students were starting to take charge of their own learning.

Mrs. Witherspoon, the teacher of the class in South Carolina was interested in giving the ePals an opportunity to visit by setting up individual Skype sessions so I jumped at the opportunity and my students started preparing questions in anticipation. Under the watchful eyes of adults at both ends the first two visits went off without a hitch. The level of engagement was amazing and the students themselves led through the entire experience.

Now to my struggle. The next ePal Skype session was arranged between Makayla from our school and Chandra from theirs. On the day it was scheduled I didn’t realize until 45 minutes before it was to start that Makayla was home, not feeling well. I decided to make a quick call to see if Makayla’s mom would consider bringing her to school for the Skype call then take her back home. She informed me that Makayla was upset that she would not be able to Skype with her ePal but was not able to come to the school. She did however suggest that Makayla participate in the Skype call from home as she has her own account. It was then that I experienced first hand this struggle with letting go. Up until now I was directly involved in the learning that came from Twitter, Kidblog and Skype. This was different. I would have to trust that Makayla would be responsible and represent our school appropriately. I would have to trust that she knew what she was doing. I would have to step aside and let my student take charge of this learning experience for herself. It was at that moment that I clearly understood why this shift is so difficult. I decided to let it happen.

In spite of the uncertainty, the uncomfortable feelings, and loss of control I encourage every teacher to take that first step and let it happen. Our students are ready.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who’s Teaching Who?

I’ve been noticing some interesting happenings around my school this year. The long-standing relationship between teachers and


students is starting to change. In a slow way and in small amounts it seems as though there is starting to form a notion that the teacher is not the only source of wisdom, knowledge and information around here. As I walk through the school observing teaching and learning it is not uncommon to see student as teacher and teacher as learner.¬†I believe this is because as teachers risk new approaches they look to these digital natives who have a whole different level of comfort with 21st century learning. Here are a few examples of what I’ve witnessed:

  1. Our grade 2 students were learning about a cool new App called Phototangler. I watched as the teacher started explaining how to use it, step by step. Within seconds students were getting ahead of the teacher so she changed gears and just let them play. They soon started showing her parts of the App that she had not figured out herself.
  2. One class was learning about Twitter. The teacher had recently set up a Twitter account herself and was using the school library account @stmarylibrary to show the students how to connect with others. One particular student was very knowledgeable about Twitter and the teacher allowed her to control the smart board and show the class how it worked. The student explained all about follows, hashtags, and chats and in the end the teacher asked even more questions than the students.
  3. A couple of weeks ago I sent the link to our grade 6 blogs¬†out to my PLN¬†to assist the students in receiving some quality comments. I’ve been very impressed with their posts¬†and wanted to share them with others. Low and behold, a college professor from New York¬†¬†@SocialAcademic¬†responded to my Tweet, suggesting that perhaps our students could motivate hers to start blogging.¬†In the following days many of her students¬†submitted wonderful comments on our grade 6 blogs.¬†Many of them, we hope, will start blogging as well. 11 year olds showing college students how it’s done. Wow!
  4. Aren from grade 6 has become our resident iPad expert. He knows and understands settings and configurations better than any adult on staff. Whenever we are experiencing a glitch with the iPads he either already knows how to fix it or he figures it out. Of course, our division techie is a bit leery about this. lol       

These digital natives that come to us every day are simply not wired the way we were¬†as students.¬† We didn’t do much problem solving, decision-making, or leading in our own learning. ¬†Those skills weren’t seen as important because when we left school and went to work most of us expected to be told what to do. ¬†This is no longer the case. In today’s world there is more scope for autonomy and decision-making and our students are naturally put together this way.¬† We need to be sharing learning with our students, not just delivering it to them.¬†I am happy to see that things appear to be moving in this direction.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teachers – Invite Them and They Will Tweet

For some time now I’ve been preaching to my teachers about the benefits of Twitter. Since¬†opening my own¬†account¬†in May 2011 I would say that I’ve grown more as an educator than in the previous 20 years. The personalized learning offered through a quality PLN is second to none when it comes to relevant professional growth. I know this, but¬†have often wondered if¬†those I work with feel the same way. On more than one occasion in the past, I’ve felt the rolling of eyes while¬†sharing¬†my latest Twitter gold nugget with whoever is ready and willing to listen.

When two teachers approached me a few days back¬†to ask if I would consider¬†hosting an “Introduction to Twitter” supper session, I must say I was a bit reluctant.¬†Hesitant to act on the request,¬†I told¬†them we would probably be the only one’s there, but decided to give it a try, and on February 7th I fired off the following email:

“Good Morning Everyone,

A few of you have asked me about the possibility of having a session to learn more about how to use Twitter. In my opinion, there are many benefits of having your own Twitter account or one for your class. If interested, I would like to invite you to a sharing and learning session Thursday, February 16th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in our school library. I will provide great food and a babysitter if needed. Let me know if you are interested.”

I was surprised to hear back from a couple of teachers later that day and could not have imagined that the numbers would continue to grow. The next morning a couple more committed to attending and by the end of that day we were at 20.  One by one, almost every teacher on staff took up the offer to attend the session Рon their own time. I was reminded of the importance of inviting rather than forcing when it comes to new learning experiences.
This evening we met. We set up Twitter accounts, followed great educators, and were introduced to hashtags, retweets and favorites. We learned, laughed and ate together. It was a powerful collaborative experience.  I am proud to introduce these great educators. Please consider giving them a follow.  @arlenewilliams9 @TedGross2 @BKindergarten @WingerterL @CrystalLothian @ANemecek
@ERodzinyak @AnnieGreeno @MeganRSLP @lisemccormack @CorkyKovach @millers6 @kimyearous
@EAMunroe @DoddiMatz @HeideeW @TheresaMead @JordanGroves2 @KBouch8 @cdsmeaton    
Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Let Go of Control Through Twitter

I set up this Twitter account (@stmarylibrary) last August and have been using it to share the wonderful activities that take place at my school every day.  This has allowed me to make many connections with teachers, classrooms and organizations who see the value in this incredible form of communication and collaboration.  During the first part of the school year I planned to involve my students more directly in the Twitter experience but had not gotten around to it.  I think I was a bit reluctant to give them control of what would flow in and out of our Twitter feed.  I wanted to make sure there was some real educational value in the process. 

Over the Christmas break I spent some time looking at many of the wonderful classrooms around the world we are currently following and was amazed to see the ways teachers and their students are using Twitter to enhance the learning experience.  I figured we could start simple and then let things grow from there.

Well today I watched as two grade 4 students¬†were introduced to tweeting for the first time.¬† The first thing I noticed was the ease and comfort with which they navigated an interface they¬†had never seen before.¬†¬†After all, they are digital natives.¬† Then, it took no time at all for each of them to decide what to¬†tweet.¬† They both asked our followers to visit their blog, which they had been working on all year,¬†and leave a comment.¬† They were over the moon when, in about¬†one minute, a¬†grade 4 teacher¬†from South Carolina¬†responded; and then¬†a grade 7 student¬†from Essex, Ontario.¬† As you can imagine, the engagement level was pretty high at that moment.¬† I can’t believe I waited this long to let this go.¬† Starting tomorrow my students will be doing a lot of tweeting.¬† The possibilities are endless.

If you have any ideas for gr. 4, 5, and 6 Twitter activities please share.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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