Posts Tagged With: Twitter

Sunday Morning Asynchronous Learning

This quick post is intended to highlight the power of Twitter as a way to draw a diverse group of passionate educators together around an educational topic.

This morning, just before 9 a.m. a teacher in our district posted the following Tweet:

Within seconds educators throughout our District joined the conversation in a wonderful asynchronous learning session that lasted more than an hour.

Asynchronous Learning

From Wikipedia,
Asynchronous learning is a student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people.

This is the beauty of Twitter and other forms of social media. These platforms allow individuals to join in when they want, where they want, and how they want. The reason for sharing this particular conversation is to demonstrate the diversity of individuals who have an interest in the topic of “Play.” This was our group this morning:

Trevor Prichard – High School teacher involved in Long Term Athletic Development

Danielle Dressaire – Grade 1 teacher in a rural school

Sue Miller – Pre-Kindergarten Instructor

Chantelle Napier – Early Learning Lead Teacher

Collin Dillon – High School Math and Physical Education Teacher

Greg Miller – Assistant Superintendent with the District

Tim Bedley – Co-founder of Global School Play Day

I often tell others they are missing out on an amazing professional conversation if they haven’t yet discovered Twitter. Click the Storify link below to see an example of what I’m talking about. You can also follow our District hashtag at #GPCSD.

Storify on Play.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Learning Goes Viral

This past Friday was my districts second Collab Day of the year. That’s right, Collab Day. That’s ourimages common language here – we refer to the district-wide professional development day as a Collab Day. It’s important to have a common language around professional learning in a district, don’t you think? I like that language because it suggests that whatever it is we are doing, we are doing it together as a team. Our focus for  Collab Days this year is Differentiated Instruction and I want to share the process we are using to make it successful in our district.

  • We have a wonderful lead teacher, Annette Rouleau, who eats, drinks and sleeps DI, and on any given day throughout the year is working side-by-side with teachers in their classrooms. That’s where it starts for us; with an innovative, relational, and credible teacher supporting her colleagues as they experiment with new approaches.
  • Each of our schools have a DI rep who attend sessions with our lead teacher throughout the year.
  • In the month leading up to each Collab Day our lead teacher takes school principals through an engaging presentation on DI, building their capacity and providing them with a template presentation that can be used if they wish, but they are certainly encouraged to make it their own and to put it into the context of their own school.
  • The lead teacher also works with the school DI reps for a day to prepare them for the presentation.
  • On the Collab Day, the school principal and DI rep work as a team to deliver the presentation in a way that works best for them and their teachers. This takes place in the morning and provides teachers with a base of knowledge that will assist them in moving forward with planning DI strategies in their classrooms.
  • The afternoon is more teacher driven. Teams of teachers work on developing instructional strategies that will be applied to their practice in the coming days. They will come back to the next Collab Day ready to share the challenges and successes they experienced when applying their new learning to their daily practice.
  • This cycle continues throughout the year.

It’s a great balance between a top down and bottom up approach to teacher PD. Not only do our teachers receive a high level of instruction from knowledgeable peers, they also have a great deal of autonomy in deciding where to place their focus in the afternoon. Although I’ve only been in the district for a few months, I’m witnessing high levels of teacher engagement which is transferring to innovative learning experiences for students.

To make things even better, this month it was suggested that a back channel be set up so learning could be shared throughout the district in real-time. Our Twitter hashtag (#GPCSD) was used to stream Tweets from across the district and I was quite amazed at the result. Both experienced and brand new Tweeps flooded the airways and by the end of the day we had a wonderful accounting of all that had taken place. One might even say our learning went viral that day.

Well done #GPCSD.

Here’s the archive:

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

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.

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

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

Observations on ETMOOC Week 1 – People, Processes and Stuff

For a few years now I have been following the annual Horizon Report.

The internationally recognized New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report is a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe. In the 2011 report “personal learning environments” was expected to be 4 to 5 years away from adoption into the mainstream and in the 2012 report, 2 to 3 years away. Interestingly enough, in the 2010 report there is no mention of personal learning environments at all.

The report describes personal learning environments as something that “supports self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization.” It goes on to say that “while the concept of PLEs is still fairly fluid, it is clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person.”

So now I find myself in ETMOOC, a 12 week long Massive Open Online Course with a focus on Technology & Media, along with hundreds of other early adopters who I assume are, like me, looking for ways to continue on their lifelong journey of learning. This has been an amazing week and I thank the conspirators for their foresight and leadership. Although it takes innovative, divergent thinkers like yourselves to get something as big as this off the ground, I’m sure your intentions will be realized as our MOOC takes on a life of its own.gg53965385[1]

Some of my observations from this past week:

The People – Wow! What a learning experience it was for me to view all the ETMOOC introductions. I was both humbled and reinforced every day as I saw what was put out there for all to see. Everything from simple blog posts to intricate multi-media presentations were used to introduce ourselves to our new community. Through these introductions alone, the learning had already begun in full force. The one thing that stood out for me was how far we’ve come with our attitude toward online safety and sharing of personal information. People openly depicted names and images of homes, work places, colleagues, and loved ones. Just a few short years ago we as a society were so much more careful about our digital footprint.

The Processes – I really liked how the introductory sessions were accessible through both Blackboard Collaborate and a Twitter Chat (and were repeated for those who missed or were from different time zones). I participated in both and came away with a sense of being part of something important. @courosa and @cogdog moderated these sessions and did a great job of reminding us why we are here. I’m already thinking the “C” in MOOC stands more for community and less for course. The blog hub and G+ community will also serve as great platforms to communicate and build relationships. I noticed that someone suggested we stick to one social media platform to keep things simpler. Personally, I like the varied approach. It forces me to broaden my skills. It will be interesting to see where most of the interaction takes place. I have one final thought in this area. Thank you for keeping Friday, Saturday and Sunday off the schedule.

The Stuff – Theres a lot of really good stuff being shared already. How many multi media presentation tools have you added to your “I have to learn that” list after intro week? We saw iMovie, Vimeo, YouTube, Voki, Tagxedo, PhotoPeach, Glogster, and Go! Animate just to name a few. Also, the introductions to Twitter, Blogging and Social Curation were perfectly placed in this first week. In my opinion a wonderful example of relevant scaffolding of learning. Many will benefit going forward as a result of those presentations.

One week in and I’m not regretting my decision to join ETMOOC. And if what I am hearing from others on Twitter, Blogs and G+ is any indication, the Horizon Report has probably got it right.

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our Next Engaging Project

It’s amazing how being a connected educator can lead to learning experiences that one may never have imagined in the past. Roy Fernandez is the principal of St. Henry School in Toronto. I met Roy for the first time on February 17, 2012 when he left this comment on my blog:

I’m a principal at a school in Toronto and while I’m not a technophobe, I’m not a technophile either. Have been learning in the last month about blogs, twitter accounts, etc. I recently added a link to your blog to mine as part of an assignment we were asked to do. Your post today about tweets was VERY topical as I am very unsure how to use the tweeting on a daily basis. Will start following as soon as I remember my twitter password! One big question I have is how have you encouraged parents to follow. I have more board people following me than parents so I’m not sure how to get those numbers up. My blog is Have a good weekend ahead.

the-ripple-effect[1]Shortly there after we connected via email, which began a professional (and to some degree personal) relationship that has seen us sharing best practices and bouncing many ideas off of one another along the way. We have managed to collaborate through Twitter, blogs , text, email, Google Docs, telephone, and Skype. It did not take me long to realize that, in Roy, I had gained a colleague who was as eager and passionate as I was about moving his school along the challenging road of education reform. Although we have never met in person, Roy and I have been introduced to each others wives and children on Skype and have gotten to know a few things about one another away from our professional lives. I think the personal piece enhances the professional piece.

Anyway, together we have initiated some engaging collaboration and for me personally, my instructional leadership has been greatly enhanced. We certainly learn from one another but perhaps the greatest benefit of our working relationship is that, as we think of new approaches, we are able to enlist teachers and students from each of our schools to join us. I think I speak for both Roy and I when I say that building teacher and student capacity is the most important part of our work together. A good example of this capacity building took place last June when our grade 5 classes participated in a Mystery Skype for the first time. Roy and I took care of some of the logistical work but our teachers and students planned and carried out the project. I’m not sure if I had ever seen my grade 5s more engaged.

So on to the title of this blog entry, Our Next Engaging Project. As I write this post our grade 6s are using this wonder book exemplar to brainstorm “I wonder…” questions for teams of students to research and answer. They will then be expected to improve and refine their answers using this better answer self assessment tool. Both of these instructional tools were shared with me by Roy awhile back. At our end, we are familiar with Google Docs so will set that part up. The garde 6 teachers, Ms. Poulin and Mrs. Mabin are taking charge of the project. Think of all the authentic literacy taking place here. These are the steps we hope to follow:

  1. The two classes will meet at an agreed upon time via Google Docs to brainstorm a list of “I wonder…” questions. Do we want a theme for these questions or just leave it wide open? We decided to leave it wide open.
  2. Each “I wonder…” question will be offered to teams of students at the other school for consideration.
  3. Schools will take turns offering “I wonder…” questions until all teams from each school are partnered up.
  4. Teams will work independently to answer the questions by using all resources available. (Internet, local experts, library books, etc.)
  5. Students will then use the “Better Answer” strategy to create a finished product. Should be a paragraph or so.
  6. With finished products in hand, classes will meet at an agreed upon time via Skype to present answers to one another. Skype will begin with a virtual handshake. (I’ll explain later)
  7. Each “I wonder…” answer will be presented to the other class, first by one school and then by the other.
  8. All students will use a teacher created scoring rubric to peer assess the team from the other school. (We’ll need to create that rubric)
  9. Schools can forward the completed peer assessments to the other school. (Electronically or perhaps via snail mail?)

We would never have been able to provide our students with this type of authentic engagement had we not reached out to one another in the first place. As I reflect on how far this relationship has come, I think of the analogy of the rock being tossed into the middle of the quiet pond. The ripple effect is enormous.

Check out Roy Fernandez’s blog here

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, 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

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 – on 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

Skype With Students – It’s A No Brainer

This past week we connected a laptop to the Smartboard in our library and my grade 4 students participated in a Skype call for the first time, engaging in a wonderful dialogue with Ms. Witherspoon’s grade 4s from South Carolina.  After this wonderful experience two things became very clear to me.  First of all, skyping with other classes is easy.  Secondly, lending itself to the development of a varirty of important 21st century competencies, skyping with students is a no brainer.

Since opening a Twitter account for our school last August (@stmarylibrary)  I’ve noticed that most classrooms use their account to engage others.  Educators who have figured this out, mostly use Twitter for one of two reasons.  Either to direct followers to their blogs and other student created work or to arrange more full engagement through Skype.  As a matter of fact, this is exactly how we met.  After following one another for a few weeks we began to reply to the interesting happenings each school was posting.  Through these posts and replies we decided to introduce our students through Skype.    

Our Skype visit with @spoonsclass was not strategically planned out by any stretch of the imagination, but the conversation provided for some amazing learning.  For starters, our schools are two time zones apart and a quick look at Google Earth gave them some much needed perspective, seeing that South Carolina was about a 38 hour drive from our home in Southern Alberta.  After sharing a little bit about each of our schools the questions started.  At first, the students were mostly interested in snow, class pets, and the length of recess.  At that point there were no set curricular outcomes being met but the level of engagement was extremely high and inappropriate behavior was nonexistant.  In the middle of the question and answer period we found out that one of their students was celebrating a birthday and our class spontaneously broke into song.  Then the students proudly shared their countries of origin as both schools are highly multi-cultural.  We learned that some of our students come from the same countries.  As our Blackfoot students from the Blood Indian Reservation introduced themselves the @spoonsclass students informed us that they recently studied the Plains Indians in their Social Studies classes.  It was very interesting to find out that students from the South Eastern part of America study the history of our First Nations students.  The teachers agreed that there were some great possibilities for future learning activities.  Before saying goodbye our students agreed to leave comments on each others blog posts and become e-pals.  We can’t wait for our next Skype visit.

If you are interested in giving Skype a try check out Skype in the ClassroomIt’s a no brainer.

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

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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