Monday, November 19, 2012

A new kind of netiquette!

As students, we have learned over the years that when we walk into a classroom the teacher expects us to come in quietly, sit down and wait for instructions. At least it’s an understood concept, doesn’t mean students actually do it! We also know what we expect as teachers. There is a decorum in a face to face classroom that we have grown accustomed to. We wait for all of our students to enter and get quiet before beginning a discussion and starting the daily lesson. We call on students who raise their hands, compliment them when they get the correct answer, and encourage them when they are incorrect. We can even tell who does not participate in class and who does. So how can we replicated the face to face etiquette with online learning classroom? How can we tell if our students are the shy ones in the back of the class or they are just procrastinators, waiting for the last moment to post to the discussion board or hand in an assignment. How do we know that a student is really understanding the material just because he/she replies to everyone's posts and asks tons of questions. It is very hard to gauge these physical and personal ques from students that you would normally get from a face-to -face interaction. 

There is a certain level of etiquette that needs to be redefined in an online environment. In fact, it’s not really etiquette but more so it should be policy. Schools and online educators publicize the policies for online “Netiquette” describing both appropriate email etiquette and appropriate posting to discussion forums. However, they should also create policy for both educators and students alike to guide them in creating a warm and positive learning environment. Some examples include introducing yourself at the beginning of class and giving all students an opportunity to make intros. You should use names when addressing responses to students and try to comment on personal things they have mentioned. Refer to good comments made by other students and be visible in the classroom.

Having policies is important. The relaxed nature of an online or blended learning environment may cause a student to use a relaxed manner when communicating with other peers as well as his/her teacher. But certain fundamental concepts of a classroom still apply. Respect for your fellow classmates and teacher, punctuality, and positive responses are a few. Following basic netiquette for online courses for both teacher and student alike can facilitate a creative and collaborative learning experience that could be just as effective, if not more, as a face to face traditional classroom. 

The central importance of clear and frequent communication among students and teacher will naturally allow for relationships to manifest and thus allow the teacher to really get to know the students where they can tell if they are the eager beaver or the shy one in the back.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

3-2-1 Takeoff!!! The 1:1 iPad Pilot Program Begins!

This past summer, our team of Head of School, principals, IT members and teachers spent countless of hours researching, testing, playing, and learning about iPads in schools and how our school, Brauser Maimonides Academy could jump on the mobile device in education bandwagon. The first hurdle was winning the Administration over. There number one concern was cost and overall benefit. Where are we going to get the money to pay for tablets for all of our Middle School students? Can we ask parents to buy one for their child? What are the students going to be doing with the iPads in class? Lot’s of worrisome questions and concerns came over them. After a generous contribution to support an iPad program at our school and research supporting the benefits of ipads in the classroom, the next hurdle was the teachers. OK teachers, here is an iPad, use it in the classroom to help motivate, collaborate, and integrate technology into your curriculum. Huh? Sitting in the room with 20 Middle School teachers after just giving them an iPad to take home for the summer was a glimpse into how all adults view technology today. Some had never used one before and took some time to figure it out. Others thought it was so awesome and started to download their favorite free iPad apps almost immediately. A couple sat in the corner with a look at disgust thinking “ I am a good teacher, I don’t need or want this thing in my classroom.” An of course, those few educators looked at me with a gleam in their eyes saying “It’s about time!”. Thankfully, after months of “alone time” with their iPads, a full week of iPad in the classroom training at teacher orientation and finally, 2 weeks of iPad classroom experience. Our school can proudly say that our Middle School teachers are 21st century educators! Wow! The excitement and creativity that our educators embraced has transformed their teaching and our students learning. Needless to say that our students have welcomed the iPads into their school day just like the first time a young child is given a crayon and paper to draw a picture! It was so natural for these digital kids to embrace the iPad as an extension of their mind! After initial training sessions on what to “really” do with the iPad in class, for example, note taking and recording homework assignments, and two weeks of school, I don’t think these students can ever go back to the way things were again! The students seem to have a happier aura about them in the classroom. There have been many incidents after only two weeks of teachers sharing stories with me of their success in the classroom and with an individual student who has begun to excel, finally, with the use of the iPad. If this is just the first 2 weeks, I can’t wait for the rest of the year!
After administrators, teachers, students, the final group, the biggest challenge was our parent body. “Are you giving my child total and unlimited access to the internet?” “This is going to be a complete distraction, the kids are going to play games all day long!” “I just don’t see how this toy will help my child in school” After two weeks of school with just a couple of lengthy parent emails communicating their concern about texting and emailing and just one or two positive comments. It was Back to School night. My hands shivered, my knees shook, my forehead was drenched! We had prepared a short presentation addressing only a few key features to our iPad pilot program. What do we want to accomplish during this time. How we want to accomplish it and how this will help our student. We mentioned the few areas of concern that parents were thinking, texting, internet firewalls, and classroom supervision. And then there was silence. The parents did a walk through to their middle schoolers classrooms with their child’s ipad in tow. From class to class, teacher to teacher they were shown by example, how it is to be a kid with an iPad at BMA. Let’s just say that the overall impression from the parents was more positive and thankful then we could have anticipated.
It has been an amazing feeling of achievement for our school in this short period of time and this feeling will inspire us to move forward with our pilot program until we are no longer piloting but soaring!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

No money? No problem? You can still integrate technology!

At the beginning of my edtech adventure, technology integration sounded like something I would have to go to my administration and beg for tens of thousands of dollars to get anything done. (Don’t get me wrong, I still want and iPad lab!) But as I did further research and after completing the YUSP certificate in Educational Technology, I found out ways of integrating technology and 21st century skills with the resources that I already had. Which meant that I did not have to beg for money! I did however have to ask for time, support and an opportunity to move the school closer to the digital age than the year before. We built a new MS Windows computer lab about 3 years ago. That was an expensive project and the administrators felt that this was a huge step into digital times.  We used the lab to focus on teaching students the Microsoft environment and basic Internet skills. What a treat it was for a student to use Powerpoint and give a presentation in class. How dreadful it was for a students to have to type their book report on MS Word (or was it mom that typed it?). Part of my job was to get them all comfortable with computers and then kick it up! As my knowledge base was growing, I was able to share ideas with the administration and educators at my school about how we can incorporate some really cool Web 2.0 tools into their already existing curriculum. How about instead of Powerpoint, let’s try Prezi. Instead of MS Word, let’s try Google Docs, and instead of saving conversation for class time, use Edmodo and extend the conversation outside the classroom! Don’t worry folks, it won’t cost extra! One tool at a time, our teachers and administration began using Web 2.0 tools for their daily tasks and to liven up some outdated lessons. Before you know it, the schools forms were converted to Google forms that our parents were filling out. Teachers were using ClassDojo for behavior management and BitStrips for Judaic lessons!

Of course, we are far from our goals but at least we are on the right path. The key to getting there is continual support by the administration, constant professional opportunities for our teachers and, yes, money! Thankfully, we have outgrown our 25 computer Windows PC lab. There are not enough school hours in the day for all of our classes to get time on. It’s time for us to incorporate a mobile iPad for our elementary school and an iPad program for our MS. We need to be able to utilize apps for the classroom to help with student organization, learning and differentiation. This is going to be a very big expense for our school but I believe that we have already justified to the administrators that our students and teachers are ready for the challenge and that we are thirsty for more educational technology!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Keeping up with Web 2.0 Tools

Web 2.0 is about revolutionary new ways of creating, collaborating, editing and sharing user-generated content online. It's also about ease of use. There's no need to download, and teachers and students can master many of these tools in minutes. Technology has never been easier or more accessible to everyone. The Web 2.0 tools directory Go2web20  publishes over 3,000 services and uploads more everyday. EduTecher, founded by Adam Bellow, boasts a library of over 1500 tools that he keeps up to date on a regular basis. With technology tools and services on the rise, particularly in the field of education, can someone please tell me how I am supposed to keep up with all of these tools!!! Technology is changing at such a rapid rate that it is difficult for educators to keep up with the latest digital tools.

I am learning quickly that when you teach technology or coordinate technology for your school, “keeping up” is part of your job. As educators, we need to rise to the challenge of providing our students with the technology tools they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond.  I have looked around at some blogs and wikispaces to see how other educators keep up with the tools and the common response is that the only way to stay afloat is to be organized. And the only way to be organized is to use Web 2.0 tools! Some examples include, bookmarking sites of interest in Delicious or saving lists in Diigo. Using RSS feeds and using a personalized page like iGoogle or  Netvibes with different categories. Checking Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis is a must in the educational technology world. Once you spend enough time social networking and developing your PLN you will start to recognize leaders in Web 2.0 and follow or like them as well as review their blogs. You may also want to become a member of ISTE forums and Technology educator sites like Discovery Education, Edudemic, and TeachersFirst.

Technology is advancing by leaps and bounds these days and keeping up can be a challenge. But it’s important that teachers find the most effective ways to keep students engaged and interested in learning. It’s also important for educators to teach our students life-long lessons of learning, research, organization and how to “keep up.” It seems, though, that perhaps our students might end up teaching us how to keep up!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Can't wait for an iPad Revolution in my classroom!

I just reviewed a videocast session at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2011 conference in Philadelphia called The iPad Revolution: Innovative Learning in the Classroom. Woah am I blown away! Camilla Gagliolo of Arlington Public Schools showed many examples of students ranging from Kindergarten through elementary school and special needs students using IPad’s in the classroom. She gave the talk with such enthusiasm that made me eager to pay attention throughout the entire one hour lecture. The iPads gave these students the ability to think differently and think deeper about a subject matter that their teacher had just presented. It was amazing and exciting to watch video footage of the students in action. My own school is just getting on the iPad bandwagon. We are so close in getting a mobile cart of 20 machines for our teachers to share. I know it’s not enough but it’s better than nothing! From the video, it seems that the most obvious reason for mobile devices in the classroom is the ease of implementing differentiated instruction. Every single student can be using a different app to cater to their specific interest or need.  Apps can also be used by small groups of students who can then discuss what they learned as well as collaborate on a task together. For example, in a Language Arts lesson, one group can be using an app for spelling (Spell it Rite), a word scrambler (scrambler 2) or a third app called Word Work. Then they can all switch! The final result is that each students builds their spelling and vocabulary skills in a fun interactive way without getting bored or frustrated.

The most fascinating concept that I went away with is that students showed a very small learning curve when using the iPad for the very first time as evident by the adorable and intelligent special needs child shown just learning to use the device. In the first iPad lesson, the little boy was enamored by the device, touching every icon and sliding this way and that. It was thrilling to see the excitement he had for the new toy. Only 2 weeks later, you saw the same boy totally focussed and answering every question on the interactive game correctly. You should have seen the smile on his face beaming with confidence. That smile is worth 1,000 iPads!

With the boom of ebooks and curriculum textbook companies rushing to create ebooks from their paper books for use on mobile devices, I can see huge financial benefits to iPads. At this rate, between ItunesU, iBooks and other ebook apps, it’s going to be possible for students not to have to carry a backpack to school any longer! Schools will also be able to keep up with their textbook purchases and updates.  In addition to textbook information, applications like TED Talks and Kahn Academy will allow students easy access to other resources beyond standard books. They will have access to podcasts, videos etc. that will enhance their learning and make them deeper learners. One TED talk showed a lecture by an ebook author who published an ebook with text, photos, video and voice, all interactive within one book. Amazing progress! To take it one step further, students on the video were able to create ebooks of their very own to publish and share with classmates and their parents. We can create a generation of writers and better communicators than the generation before us.

There are so many wonderful advantages to using mobile devices including iPads in the classroom that I think it trumps any disadvantages. Of course, the number one obstacle is expense. iPads are an expensive investment for a small school like mine but it seems that the only way to educate digital students is to join the digital revolution that is going on right before our eyes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Talk to the Wiki!

A wiki is a webpage that (permitted) members can collectively add to or change. The benefit of wikipedia is that it is an “open-source” document and has the potential to be current and up-to-date.

There are so many uses for wikis in the classroom and as part of a subject and teachers curriculum from writing, collaboration and resource usefulness. I would like to focus on the value of out-of-class online discussions as part of a classroom component. Using Wikispaces as a discussion and forum tool allows educators to engage students in a text-based dialogue between the teacher and students as well as the students with each other. This tool can facilitate a meaningful learning dialogue amongst students who would normally not be creating such dialogue, if any, in the classroom face to face with their peers. A discussion tool like wiki also helps develop students‘ written communication skills  which is an added benefit to a language arts or reading teacher, for example. Wikis are a great way to document changes made in the writing process. During the editing and revising stages, you could have students do peer reviews on each others work and offer comments and suggestions for improvements or clarifications. Discussion forums allow time and space for educators and students to articulate their thoughts, ideas and opinions clearly and thoughtfully when engaging in classroom related dialogue. Sometimes people get their second wind in the evening. What a better time to share your ideas and thoughts to your peers or teacher then when you are “on!” In addition, with the onset of digital and mobile tools like social networking and smart phone texting, students are practically raised communicating online to their peers, we might as well take advantage of that environment and bring it into the classroom. Wikis also allow us the flexibility to engage with any and all students. The shy ones, the class clowns, the intellectuals whenever and however its suits the needs of the class and in a way to get the best of each student.

Discussion forums like those available on Wikispaces are an exceptionally useful tool for getting students more involved in curriculum and creates a sense of equality and commonality among the students in the classroom.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A virtual world takes “real” time to learn

Second Life is a 3D virtual world where people can create avatars and communicate with other people in the Second Life world. Avatars can simulate almost any real-life actions. It is basically a game taken to the next level. It’s can be used in education for online role-playing games which teaches analytical skills, team building, and problem solving techniques.  There are over a half a million acres of virtual lands and users can interact with people from around the world and visit any location or historical landmark. Teachers can teach their students about the world and its inhabitants through a virtual world of information. The students can voice chat or text chat with others and they can participate in a virtual world of learning. Students can learn firsthand how science, math and literature are used in the real world and they can gain knowledge while having fun. Virtual worlds can have a positive impact in the classroom.

That being said, there is one big disadvantage that I see when introducing a virtual world like Second Life. The extensive amount of time it takes not only to get comfortable enough with the tool but also to use it efficiently.  It takes so much more time than average web tools to learn and train students how to use properly and safely. First, the system requirements needed to run Second Life are pretty specific. You need to run it on a decent video driver for it to work well. My brand new laptop didn’t cut it!

Secondly, once you login, it takes a while to get situated and get your bearings. You need figure out where you are and where you are going and how to interact with people along the way. You need to find some purpose in your adventure or you will find yourself lost hours and hours later. Second Life allows you to meet people that you would not normally meet in person. You can expand your PLN but you can also meet people that may not enhance your learning experience. Since it’s in real-time, you need to excuse yourself from a room. There seems to be a little more etiquette involved in Second life than with Facebook or Twitter. You might be stuck in a sticky situation!  Maybe you had some fun and you were in a zone, but did you accomplish anything or did you waste time? We all need to keep up with our emails, social networking sites, blogs, meetings etc. Do we really have time to learn a new world when we barely have enough time to figure out the world we live in today? Do we have time in our classrooms and curriculum to introduce a new world to our students when we struggle to teach them about the basics of this world barely integrating  technology into it. Unless you are very proficient in Second Life or have very techno-savvy students, be cautious of the amount  time you spend on teaching and learning in virtual environments. You may lose sight on what you wan to accomplish!

For your reference, the Discovery Educator Network Leadership Council, a group of volunteer educators who assist other educators in beginning their own journey into the virtual world, share tips for those starting out and setting them on the right path to begin their own explorations in the virtual world. Also EDTECH Island is located in Second Life, and is a free resource for all teachers and offers a variety of spaces for educational events and teaching, a sandbox, and an informational center.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Using Jing to Teach the Teacher!

I have been using Jing for several months now. I encountered the product out of frustration with my non tech-savvy co-workers. One of the most frequent technical issues that our new or techno-phobic teachers encounter is basic account information, access to student gradebooks, and posting student reports using the Edline student information system. I answer the same questions over and over. Some of the educators understand me, and some of them don’t. Sometimes, I have a hard time seeing the problem from their point of view. It’s one of my professional (and personal) issues regarding patience. I don’t understand “Edline is not working” or “No one can see my reports - its broken”. After I look into the problem and try to explain the steps to them, and they still don’t get it, I am just as frustrated as they are. We don’t seem to speak the same language! But now that I have Jing....we do!

Jing is basically a screen sharing tool. It allows you to capture anything on your computer screen either as a still image or as a video up to 5 minutes long. It is an excellent tool for narrating and sharing what is on your screen. Screen capture tools allow you to make a narrated video showing how to do something on a computer. It records your mouse, and everything you click on and show on your screen. Once you’re done recording, it will automatically upload your video to Screencast – where you can store up to 2 GB of storage, and access direct links and embedding code for your videos.
When the teacher tells me that they would like to change their password or forgot their password. I forward them a link to the Jing “movie” I created showing them exactly what to do. They can watch it once, many times as they want! If a teacher would like to add certain fields to their gradebook reports to parents, I forward them a Jing video that shows them exactly what to do. Now when that still fails, at least we both can speak in the same language. I can better understand what they did and what didn’t work and they can understand me, with my techno language and all. This trick has helped me solve the work-related issue of having to explain over and over again to your users how your library systems work. It’s a great compromise!

There are many more possible uses of Jing that I would like to provide our Educators as part of general technical support and professional development:

  • Create a wide variety of training videos for all areas of our School Information System and online activities required by their supervisors
  • Record presentations on how to use certain tech tools in their classrooms
  • Record presentations on what technology tools can be helpful for different projects/grades/subject matters.
You can download a free version of Jing at

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Speak Your Language

As an educator,don’t you ever wonder if your students are actually listening to you or if they understand the message that you are trying to convey? Do you speak their language? Do they speak yours? Well thanks to Edmodo, a free and safe social network for K12 education, you can all speak the same language! is a free (yes, I am repeating that again!), secure, social learning platform for teachers, students, schools and districts.

Using Edmodo teachers can create a microblogging network for their classes. Edmodo allows teachers to create a group specifically for their students and exclude those not invited to the group. It provides teachers with a place to post assignment reminders, build an event calendar, and post messages to the group. But most importantly, it reaches students the way they reach out to their peers. We all know that a majority of our students use social networking platforms like Facebook or Myspace to connect with friends and also make new friends. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media across a typical day. It’s amazing that parents and teachers can get a word in! As the digitl world expands and envelopes more of our time and more of our students world, educators must connect to their students in that world, on their wavelength.

In Edmodo, teachers have the opportunity to send messages to their students — individually, in groups or as a class — as well as post assignments and additional materials. Students can have discussions about anything they're working on and not only get feedback from peers, but from teachers who are constantly tuned in and reading what their students are chatting about. Because of their feedback, the Edmodo service has evolved so that teachers can connect with each other, notify students of overdue homework, award badges for merits like good attendance, and provide constant assessments even after class is over. In return, students respond to their teachers more positively, and become more engaged in the class itself. The bottom line is completing the work, understanding the content and being successful during testing. Edmodo, and social networking in general, is a way to take the class and teacher/student relationship to the level of understanding of today’s kids.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

“Class, put your pencils away”

Use Google Forms for Online Quizzes

As a computer teacher, I see students for a very short period of time, about 30 minutes a week per class. I have to get alot done, talk really fast and hope that the students understand what I am saying and teaching them. Since technology tools is one of my areas of instruction, a large chunk of my lesson plans include a wide variety of Google Apps for middle school students and sometimes 5th grade. They received school Gmail accounts (younger grades don’t have them yet) and are familiar with the Gmail system. My goal as a computer teacher is not only to expose the students to 21st century skills and tools but also to make sure that they know basic core computer skills, for example, word processing, presentations and spreadsheets. Regardless of my love of Google docs, I value and teach Microsoft Office applications including Word, PowerPoint and Excel. They are not as glamorous as some of the web tools that have comparable features but nonetheless, I think there is great value in them for instruction purposes. The downfall is that sometimes my students tune me out! They say “Mrs. Shekhter, I use Microsoft all the time, I know this already!” “True, you do know how to use it in general,” I say to them, “But do you know how to create a header and footer in Word, how to create and manipulate formulas in Excel and how to embed movies and animate in PowerPoint?” That’s when I hear “Huh?”. So in order to liven things up, after I show them how to use a specialized feature in these “boring” applications, I like to liven things up (and make sure they are listening!) with an online quiz using Google Forms!

Google Forms is a component of Google Docs, which is a free, web-based suite of tools for managing various kinds of files including text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. With Google Forms, you can create a set of questions and invite students to respond to those questions, either through e-mail or on a web page. Google forms support various types of questions: text, paragraph, multiple-choice, lists, check boxes, scale, and grid. It’s just a matter inputting your questions and determining if the student should give a free response or select from choices that you offer them. You can use Google Forms in class to have students answer questions alone or in small working groups, to facilitate in-class discussion of the answers clearing up an confusion, and also to increase interactivity among the students and engage all students even the shy, quiet ones.

A Google form can be emailed to students via Gmail as a quiz/test or embedded on the class web site. All the while the responses are collected and fed into a spreadsheet, which can then be used to manipulate the data and also used as a Gradebook. Google Forms give instructors the ability to assess how well students understand learning materials and to uncover student misconceptions, which helps instructors steer students to higher-level understanding. It’s so easy to generate a quiz and even easier for students to take them online, that you won’t want to see another hand-written quiz again!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Digital Learning Day 2012 - a cool tool experience!

As an educator who is passionate about the potential for the effective use of technology in schools, I was excited to participate in the first-ever Digital Learning Day campaign held on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. My goal in preparing for that day was to encourage all of the grade K-8 teachers to try at least one new technology-related thing in their classroom. I am proud to say, that the day was a success!!!

Here are some examples of some of the cool tools I was involved in teaching in my own computer class on DLD.
Grade K-1- Created a their very own animated cartoon using the IPAD app Toontastic. They were able to select how many scenes they wanted, what the background looked like, the characters, the music and the animation. They were also able to record their own voices for the characters. Once we were done, we uploaded our cartoon to the Toontastic Toontube to share. It was alot of fun, very creative, and a great introduction on working collaboratively.

Grade 2- With the help of the Social Studies teacher, we used the SMART board response system which is a set of response clickers for use with the interactive whiteboard in the classroom. The teacher created a 10 question quiz for the students who just learned a social studies lesson on early Americans. They got a real kick out of the “remote controls” and kept talking into them as though they were cell phones. After getting used to them, we went through each question with time for each student to response with a multiple choice or T/F answer. Once the whole class completed the quiz, each student was able to see what they got wrong instantaneously. the teacher also went through each question to assess how the class understood the concept. What a great feedback tool!

Grade 3 - With the help of the general studies teacher, we introduce LiveBinders to her class with the hope that the students would be able to understand how to organize their resources in a logical and easily accessible way.The topic for the livebinder was online audio read alouds. In the computer lab, each student went on to the read aloud livebinder and “read” different audio stories. Then they compared with their neighbor in the lab and offered suggestions on good stories to listen to. It got very exciting in the class especially since some of the read alouds were read by some pretty famous people!

Grade 4 - It’s always fun to try something new in the computer lab so I decided to make rock stars out of the students with the IPAD Garageband app. It was a small class of about 8 students. After giving a brif tutorial of the program, the students just took and and got creative! Each student had an opportunity to chose a musical instrument and play some “tunes”. They also had an option of recording their own song. Only 2 students actually had any musical background but after combining all 8 chords into one song, the students heard music to their ears! They were very proud of their music so they shared it on Itunes! The ultimate in collaborative work!

Grade 5 - We had a little fun with Google Maps in this class! My first assignment was to go to Google Maps and search for their own house. The I asked them to go to street view and show me a picture of their actual front door, their neighbor and their street. They had a blast finding their own homes and showing their friends. Some students who lived in gated communities were disspointed because their street view map was just not working for them. Other students were even trying to help out. After some time, we realized that one of the features of living in a gated community is that no one has access to your house image on Google maps!

The students and teachers really took the premise of Digital Learning Day to the next level. There was so much excitement in the air that resonated to the parents and administration. DLD got students motivated to incorporate technology into their schoolwork and it gave our teachers the confidence to use technology in their classroom! It was a win-win for all!

Check out what else happened on Digital Learning Day at .

Also, check out the podcast on how I used these tools on DLD @ BMA

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Go to strangers

Social Networking in the Classroom with Twitter Using GroupTweet

Most middle school and many elementary students are already networking online, so why not teach them how to do it right? After all, elementary schools have the unique opportunity to introduce kids to social networking before they stumble upon the pitfalls of web-based socializing themselves.A great way to introduce elementary age students to social networking is through a school-based network. These controlled environments allow schools to limit access and monitor use. School-based networks don’t collect personal information or preferences for marketing purposes, and there’s no entry for uninvited guests. Twitter is a hugely popular social network for the public. But how can we use it in the classroom safely but still teach the essence of its collaborative and interactive features?


GroupTweet can be set up where your classroom has a single Twitter account that can be updated by all the students as well as the teachers. It's a great way to centralize the classroom discussion under a single Twitter timeline. If you want to break up the class into different groups you can also create a new account for each group, mark it "Protected" and then activate it with Teachers can send direct messages to the group account and the messages will be converted into Tweets for only the Group's followers to see. In addition, GroupTweet allows for the creation of anonymous accounts as well. This may be usefule if the students need to communicate with a public twitter account or group as a resource for a lesson or project without using student names.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blog Shmog!

So how do I get techno-nervous teachers at my school to read my blog, write their own blogs and encourage their students to write one too? It seems that in order to ease them into this phenomena of blogs and their promise of expanding ones creativity, writing and collaboration skills, I might need to disguise it as journaling. Langauage Arts and Reading specialists will love that! Right? How do I convince them that their students are thirsty for the knowledge they want to share but not the same way that they themselves obtained it? These kids are 21st century students and are adapting to a digital world that they are eager to learn from. Adam Bellow of said at the 2011 ISTE conference “Every teacher has a right to live in a cave. However, they do not have the right to drag their students in with them.”I don’t think that some teachers live in a cave....but maybe an outdated wood panelled apartment! Blog Shmog!

I think the best way to expose them to the latest and greatest collaborative environment of blogging is to show them how blogs can benefit them  personally with a hands-on professional development opportunity. Or maybe a screencast of me explaining it or even skyping from their own home! Might as well throw it all at them at once! I want my fellow educators to see up close and personal that creating a blog and populating it with information to share is as easy as Word processing. In addition, I think that if I involve one enthusiastic teacher and class in a classroom blog pilot program, I will have substantial evidence to show how fabulous it can work for them and how their students will jump on the idea. Showing them successful teacher blogs online will also encourage them like Kathy Schrocks blog with her amazing ideas on tech infusion in schools and Tammy Worcester with her creativity  and genius tech ideas and lessons for all grades. If blogs area already out there for them to use, how can they refuse!