Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Task 3: Twitter Chat

My first professional Twitter Chat experience was very brief.  I went to #edteach on April 16, 2013 at 8 p.m., but quickly realized it was designed for pre-service teachers (which I Googled and found out was synonymous with student teachers . . . where have I been?)  It was actually a valuable mistake, however, because they instructed participants how to set up a TweetDeck which I had never done before.  It was a nice, tidy way to view the Tweets.

Then, Jeannette C. sent me a link to Weekly Twitter Chat Schedules from Teachbytes.  I was particularly interested in the #flipclass (flipped classroom teachers) that chats 8-9 p.m. EST on Mondays.  On April 29, I monitored the chat session moderated by @LS_Karl and @lindsaybcole.  Here's @LS_Karl's description:

@lindsaybcole and I are pinch-moderating #flipclass chat tonight: moving towards a paperless classroom. Join us - 8pm EST!

Since I have difficulty multitasking, it was a bit overwhelming to watch the speedy tweets zoom by and to try to sort out which answers went with which questions (not everyone follows directions and writes A2 for Q2).  Most of the participants were high school teachers and college professors, so I didn't have a lot in common with them.  I'll have to find a more suitable group later.

While I was researching educational Twitter Chats, I came across these three tips for teachers new to Twitter by Bill Ferriter.  It has great information, so I thought I'd share some of it on this blog . . . but it does look oddly familiar.  Is this something we already learned about in our ETrainer meetings?  Maybe 11 Tools?  Anyway, if I had learned it before, it hadn't completely sunk in; and it certainly doesn't hurt to have good ideas reinforced.  Here's an excerpt from Bill Ferriter's blog:

"Anyone who has taken the digital leap into the Twitterstream has felt lost and unloved at some point in their early work to use the short messaging service as a learning tool. Having heard that Twitter makes it possible to instantly connect with really bright people, new users expect more than Twitter gives in the first few months — and that simple truth leads to a wasteland of discarded accounts."

 Here's his advice:

1. Spend your early time on Twitter following important educational hashtags. "Searching for the hashtags related to your field — a process facilitated by retired teacher librarian Jerry Blumengarten, who maintains an exhaustive list of educational hashtags on his website — can instantly connect you with a constantly refreshed list of new ideas worth exploring."

2. Persuade colleagues to join Twitter with you.  "The mistake that I’d made was joining Twitter alone and hoping that people would  magically find — and then start networking with — me."  

3. Remember that you build relationships in Twitter one good deed at a time.  "Want a responsive network that offers you just-in-time support and quick answers to important questions? Then start by being responsive and offering quick answers to other people’s important questions! Spend time each day and/or week sifting through the streams of messages being shared by people that you are following and find ways to lend a hand."

* This was a valuable experience.  It was fascinating to see how many teachers use Twitter chats on a consistent basis.
* I will probably do it again when I have more time (summer!)
* I could offer a training on campus through this method, but I think there are other methods that are just as effective (i.e., Edmodo).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Task 2: Develop a PLN

Good Intentions:

I started to develop a PLN back in 2009, when I took SBISD's "23 Things" course.  I located and followed edublogs, subscribed to daily "Diigo in Education" updates, and joined Nings such as Classroom 2.0 Ning and Elementary School 2.0.  I was excited, because teachers from all over the world were sharing brand new ideas and were asking some of the same technology questions I was asking. What tremendous resources! 

Harsh Reality:

Information overload!  It was like when I used to subscribe to Mailbox magazine, which was full of one wonderful idea after another.  I soon had shelves full of magazines and was completely overwhelmed.  I was surrounded by good ideas, but couldn't find any of them easily. 

I am missing two vital ingredients that are needed to make an extensive PLN a success: organizational skills and time.  I have difficulty reviewing and prioritizing incoming information quickly enough to keep its volume manageable.  

Nings?  Don't have time to visit them.

Diigo and edublog updates?  Sigh!  Delete...delete...delete.  Gotta get rid of that "Your mailbox is almost full" message...

Technology publications?  Ha 

I think if I were a full-time tech coach, I could swing it; but as a full-time classroom teacher, I'm doing well to answer all of my email messages by the end of the day . . . and then there are always meetings to attend, lesson plans to write, materials to prepare, and papers to grade.


That being said, I DO understand the importance of establishing a PLN.  Actually, that is the reason I volunteered to be my school's E-Trainer.  It enables me to carve time out of my schedule that can be completely devoted to learning new technology. It frees me from that "Oh, I really ought to be grading that stack of papers!" guilt that is always hanging over my head.  It surrounds me by people who are knowledgeable about technology and who are using it successfully in their classrooms. That is also why I try to attend every technology conference I can possibly attend.

My current PLN:
* I investigate ANY idea passed along to me by my technology mentor, Karen Justl.  She has been guiding me through the massive sea of technology since her days as Frostwood's tech coach.  She knows all of the latest and greatest ideas, and she has never steered me wrong!
* I follow just a few choice sites.  Right now I'm following three Edmodo communities:  Karen's Kollection, EdmodoCon Young Learners, and Frostwood Teachers.  I follow one edublog:  Tammy's Technology Tips for Teachers (which I learned about while hearing Tammy speak at TCEA conferences).
* I get great ideas from other teachers (especially E-Trainers) and try to attend SBISD technology courses during the summer. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Task 1: Ed Tech Audit

While conducting this self-audit, I realized that my major technology focus this school year has been locating and using productivity apps for our new classroom iPads.  I love, love, LOVE having iPads in a primary classroom!  They are quick and efficient and I only spend milliseconds troubleshooting.  

My favorite apps:

1.  ProShow Web

This is a free slideshow/movie creator.  It is like Stupeflix for an iPad.

Pros:  Easily made by students; easy to share and embed; music library; professional-looking; unlimited number of videos

Cons:  Limited to 14 slides (including text slides) w/o upgrade

Here's a link to one of my student's ProShow videos:  

(There's a reason she picked the birthday theme for her matter video; but that is a story for another day.)

2.  Puppet Pals HD

The HD upgrade costs a little, but it is worth every penny.

Pros:  Kids can create and record puppet shows using the app's puppets or by using their own puppets (made by outlining parts of photos).  Easy!  Cute!  Fun!

Cons:  None!  Here's one I made to congratulate my class for winning the much-coveted Health Fitness "Golden Tennis Shoe" award for good behavior.  (The beginning is kind of slow, but it has a dynamic ending!)

3.  Edmodo

Although I used Edmodo more with my 4th grade class (it just has more of an intermediate look and feel), I still rely upon it to provide quick access to links and videos for my second graders.  

4.  Time Lapse/Miniatures/MegaPhoto

Not much educational value (yet), but fun to use and watch!  I'm hoping to come up with good curriculum tie-ins, soon.  I did manage to justify the use of MegaPhoto to illustrate our haikus.

5.  FaceTime

Instead of Skyping, we Face Timed with Theresa Trevino's Rummel Creek 2nd graders.  Great success!  Great potential for future collaboration!

I also like abcNotes, BrainPopJr., Draw&Tell HD (the stencils are fun and I find the music oddly therapeutic), and Solids Elementary.

Apps I'm not completely thrilled with:

QR Reader - This app makes it easy for kids to make and read QR codes, but I'm not real happy with the display window for websites that pop up.  I haven't had a chance to explore other QR apps yet.  There are probably better ones.

Educreations - It is wonderful how you can easily record lessons on it; but I've found it difficult to edit once you have gotten to the end of your presentation.  The kids and I keep accidentally deleting entire lessons when we try to make minor changes.  Now we take screen shots of each page while we go along, just in case we erase the whole lessons.  Frustrating for perfectionists!

App I don't like one bit: 

Skyward - Obviously I am doing something wrong.  It won't ever let me in.

Apps I am about to thoroughly and happily investigate:

Book Creator - You can create eBooks with this app, then start your own ePub with the iBook app!

ZooBurst (3D pop up books), Evernote (for the classroom), iSchoolBox (creating an app for your school!)

Apps I am in the market for:

* An audio app similar to the iTalk app on the iPod Touch (haven't been able to find one that transfers data as easily)

* An easy photo collage app that arranges photos like Picasa used to

* A slide show app that you allows you to move slides horizontally with a scroll bar (like on the SBISD website)

Anybody know of any of these that are available?

My App Goal is to use eBook apps and other productivity apps to help flip some of my lessons. I want to let the students take charge of a lot of their own learning.

Other technology in the classroom:
* I love having a class wiki and will continue to maintain one.
* The students still enjoy using Bighugelabs.com.
* I haven't used MangaHigh as much this year as I did when I taught 4th grade.  I think the 4th grade games are more numerous and they seem to be more fun to play.  The 2nd graders weren't enamored with MangaHigh in September. I'm going to try to reintroduce it after Spring Break.
* I need to spend more time on Google Docs and Stupeflix with the kids.  Since our campus changed locations, it took us a while to get the laptops in good working order.  The iPads took the front stage.
* I need to make Odyssey and Learning.com a regular part of our routine.  I had trouble launching it earlier this year, due to problems getting our laptops up and working.  When the kids eventually did attempt these lessons, they didn't seem to be enjoying them.  It could be because they were actually having to think.  I need to investigate further, to see what the problem is.
At TCEA, I found out how you can project your iPad's screen and sound to your ActivBoard wirelessly!  For $12.99, you can download a program called Reflector to your PC. Go to Reflectorapp.com. When you open the program on your computer, it will allow you to project your iPad's screen wirelessly!  I have only used it about five times, so far.  The last two times there seemed to be some static (black, horizontal bars wiggling across the screen a few times).  It could be because our classrooms are in trailers.