Saturday, December 28, 2013

Who wants an "APPY HOUR?"

Just before the Winter Break, our district issued iPad airs to any teacher who came to a short training session; where they basically told us to "play" with our new tool. They showed people how to sign up for an apple ID and how to download Apps. Since I have been using my own iPad most of last year and all of this year as a classroom tool, I have more experience with it than most at my school site.

A couple of days later, I met up with a few teachers from my school who wanted to learn or share what they know about the iPads. We called it "Appy Hour". A few days ago, I met up at Starbucks with a another bunch of colleagues. If you couldn't come, here are some resources I showed people there. 

All of these apps were free when I uploaded them to my first iPad- some may have started charging for the current version of the app- hopefully you got some iTunes money from Santa! I remember a conversation I had with one of the administrators in my district about the fact that we had these $500-700 devices and couldn't part with $3 for a useful App. It turned my cheapskate mentality around just a bit.

The list of powerful apps that now comes with your new iPad includes the Apple tools such as Pages, Keynote, iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand, and Numbers. For me, those productivity apps are all good solid programs that I use on my Mac Book Pro. I paid for the iPad versions for my personal device over a year ago. 

I have used all of these Apps below in one way or another in my teaching. I recommend that you explore each of these a little to see if you can use them, too.

Doceri - (Free App on your iPad) - I use this tool at least 2 times per week or more. It controls your computer from a remote location (within wireless distance). It allows you to write on your screen (like an IWB). You can record your presentation and share it. 

You can download a free trial version for your desktop or laptop. 
NOTE: It took me about 3 months of use before I decided it was worth the money and then it took me another 4 months to actually get off my wallet and pay for it. It is WORTH EVERY PENNY I paid. 

I hear there are some other cool features with respect to controlling other devices (speakers etc), but I don't have the hardware for it in my classroom (YET).

Educreations - Create video screencast lessons. You can select a background, upload images and PDFs as well as write text and draw using a stylus or your finger. You can create each slide and then voice record over your slides. Then you share your screencast.  There are also featured lessons sorted by subject area you can link to your lessons. The screencasts are public and published online in Educreations. You can also create a course for your students with your presentations. Educreations

ShowMe -Create video screencast lessons similar to Educreations but you have more color options ($.99 each at the App store)for your text and drawings. There is an active online learning community here as well. 
Lessons from the ShowMe Community

Quizlet- A vocabulary study tool. It is both an App and an online website. I use the online tools to create lists of vocabulary words. I use it to create vocabulary quizzes. The students can use this tool on their smart phones like flash cards and they can play games to help them memorize the content. I have had several students create their own account and use it to help them with vocabulary for other classes. 

Tellagami-An animation tool that I use to introduce a topic, make announcements or give instructions for an activity. I have students use this App for sharing content in their video projects. You can customize the backgrounds, the characters and even voice record the dialogue. It can be shared as a link online and also save it to your camera roll, so that you can go back and add it to another video using iMovie or some other video application.


TooNoisy - A dial to help you manage the volume level in your classroom - Not the best way to use an iPad or iPhone - but it can be good if your classes are doing group work and you are conferencing with students to help students keep the noise level appropriate for the tasks you are doing.

Apps Gone Free - a daily list of Apps that are free. I have found several free apps from connecting with other teachers and from people posting on my Twitter feed when a developer is doing a "free app day". This app gives you access to those apps on a daily basis. 

I love the idea of a"free" app but in a way it comes with a cost. Sometimes the apps have annoying commercials/ads on them. And then my iPad screen was being overrun with too many apps that I never found the time to learn and use. So now I am very PICKY about the free apps I put on my iPad. If it looks like an app I can use, I upload it then if I don't use it within a couple of weeks, I delete it. 

I have the following apps on my iPad and have only looked at them without using them with my students. These are in the category of I know this will be useful at some time in the future- I just need the time to learn how to incorporate it into my teaching, planning, and learning.

Wunderlist- a productivity tool that allows you to generate lists in categories. I generally have used the iPad Note App for my lists- but this looks promising. 
iBrainstorm- Sticky notes can be shared between devices.
PicCollage- an App that allows you to add several of your photos together into a single page. 

Explain Everything-Seems similar to Educreations-though it may be more sophisticated
Cloudart - Upload text to create a word cloud 
Dragon Dictation - a voice recognition application that records your voice and translates it into text
Touchcast but I have never created a video cast with it- LOOKS very interesting! Very high on my to do list
Aurasma is also very cool and on my to-do list. I have played around with it and watched a few auras- but never made one for my self.

Here is a good general resource for some educational apps for both teachers and students. I have several of these apps on my iPad already. Some I use more than others. There are also some good links at the bottom for the post for specialty or content related apps. 

iPad Apps 4 School

There is a group of local teachers who have a website called Apps In Class (they call themselves iPad Jedi Masters for Padawan learners). They have a very thorough website in which you can learn some basic iPad things (iPad 101), get some sample lessons or go deeper into apps by Bloom's Taxonomy. You can also follow them on twitter @appsintheclass.

Apps In Class

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Group Projects SUCK! AND they ROCK!

This week my students have been getting ready to review for their end of semester final exams. Instead of assigning reading and worksheets, I posted a study guide online and told them completing it would equate to some extra credit. I decided that we needed to do a group review project instead.

I gave out general directions for creating videos on Friday- they picked their groups, they decided which type of project they would do and they began planning. Over the weekend, I sent an email with information and a work schedule / due dates to all students and to any parents who are signed up for our School Loop account. The following Monday, I handed out a 1 to 5 point scale rubric (with scoring guide) to help them focus on their work. There was a strict timeline, because we are at the end of the semester.  This project was the only thing we were doing in class until Thursday's due date and then Friday we would watch the videos or listen to the music.

Students using video cameras in
my classroom to create a review
Now, I have to pull aside here for a bit and explain some background parameters for the tech used in this project. I have 4 very old Department of Defense cast off desktop computers in my classroom for student use, a Mac desktop for teacher use,  plus my own personal laptop and iPad. Over the years, through a series of grants, I have been able to purchase some equipment such as speakers, flip cameras and memory cards. It is safe to say that my learning environment is definitely BYOD and truly eclectic.

The other thing that sets the stage for this project is some experiences we have already had as a class to create video projects. This year our school has had 2 Saturday School events. It is strictly voluntary on the part of students and teachers. The district needs to get back some of their average daily attendance, so they offer some half day (4 hour block) classes for students to "catch up"or "get ahead. I generally use these days for both. The students spend the first part of the day working on overdue work and then they work on assignments that enrich their learning. I usually have about 20% of my students register and attend on this day. Sometimes the learning activities are lab experiments or crafting projects that I wouldn't normally have time for in a 55 minute period. This year, I had the students build video projects to help us review for upcoming tests. I searched for youtube videos on how to make different kinds of videos and showed them to the students before we started work.
So some of my kids had already had experience with creating video projects with the equipment we have in my class. I depended on those students with experiences in the Saturday setting to help take the lead in this project.

I am sharing about the experience because WE ALL learned so many things from this doing this project. There were some things that went well and some things that were the source of frustration for both me and for my students. Recognizing the good and the evil will help us complete tasks of a similar nature in the future.

CONFESSION TIME: I made some major organizational mistakes in the original implementation of the assignment. Below is a list of things to consider...
  • Team Size- Groups should be 2 or 3 people ONLY.  I originally felt like more people would help save time in the development and preparation stages, but groups of 4 or 5 were less productive because no one could decide what to DO and so less got DONE.
  • Project Type-Assign only 1 or 2 video modes that can be used by the students to complete their projects. I had 5 or 6 different choices (stop motion/photo montage, music video, claymation, paperslide, Draw My Life, live action) and that meant that students had a hard time helping others in different groups because they were focused on their own TYPE of technology for the project. I usually capitalize on student experts during most learning activities in my class and this time they couldn't help each other as much to finalize their projects because so many different types of videos were being produced.
  • "How To..."Videos- Take the time to show those Youtube tutorials during class, so that mistakes like using a regular pencil and lined paper on a paper slide are prevented. I thought that the inexperienced students would go look up those videos on their own- I even suggested it. But many of them went forward with my general description rather than do the research themselves. The details of "how to..." create the project got consumed in making sure the content was accurate. 
  • Streamline the Collection-I told students to send me the link to their finished/published videos using my School Loop email.  That was a BIG MISTAKE! Now my inbox is littered with questions, 55 or 60 hyperlinks, and regular school business emails all mixed together. Talk about confusion for the last 2 days of the project! In addition, some students sent links to my gmail account and to my regular district outlook email address. It took me 3 hours just to figure out where all these assignments ended up. Some students even sent me their project in various pieces hooking up their camera to my laptop- for me to splice together. What a mess! I ended up creating a google form to help me curate and keep track of all the videos and where they are at. That made them easier to grade and prepare for showing to the classes. I have still not seen them all, because I have not accessed every link from every email that was sent. Next time the students will send their work directly to to a google form, then I can just click on the links.
  • Student Samples-The students are really excited to see their work! However, DO not show student created videos to the class until YOU are ready. I had several student projects with audio or video problems. Even though content was course appropriate, it was difficult to watch, from the technical standpoint. Remember, we are all novices at this thing- so some reduction in video or audio quality is to be expected. Thank goodness the videos were limited to 3 and a half to 4 minutes. But that can feel like a life time of frustration or embarrassment to the group whose video is having problems and a lifetime of boredom for the observers. By third period, I figured out that I couldn't show every single project during class mainly due to technical difficulties. I had to explain to students who want to see everyone's work that there were technical difficulties that made projects difficult to see or hear. 
  • Group Progress- My students got to choose their team mates. I advised them to pick people they could trust- but also that they might want to go outside of their normal social circles to create a more diverse work atmosphere. Some students followed my advice, but they neglected to get contact information from their team mates. That also meant that they might not have similar schedules to complete work outside of class time. I didn't allow for single outliers and unfortunately not everyone wanted to work with a team. Some people were absent, also making it difficult for teams to complete some portions of the project. Next time, I may give them a card or a form to help them exchange information more efficiently and be more productive outside of class time.
So you might be wondering if I did ANYTHING correctly on this project. Here are the things I am most proud of...
  • Communication- I notified the students and parents about the project using a group email, which prevented some problems. I heard back from a number of parents about planned absences, appointments and questions when teams were scheduled to be working together. It helped everyone be aware of the expectations which created an open line of communication so that when there were problems, people already felt they could come get my assistance. When a few parents shared their concerns, they felt like I listened and were happy with my suggestions.  
  • Excitement- Students were really excited to push the envelope with the technology. I did not give a lot of instruction on how to use the technology in the classroom. Since it was a BYOD activity with some in class support, I told them if they couldn't figure it out, I would help them. I made suggestions for aps to use and they gave me some ideas back. Many students took this project and ran with it to create some really decent video products. They learned independently to operate their equipment or they used mine and learned from that as well.
  • Evaluation- I created a google form for each day to help students evaluate their day's work and plan for the days ahead. I was able to discuss with groups when there were issues with partners or if they were having a problem with tech or content information.
  • Purpose- Students already had enough content information to help them create decent review products for themselves and for others. It means they learned the information or knew where to find it to help them create more informative videos, but also allow for some creative license in the creation of the video. I broke the content into smaller chunks so that students could focus on one topic within a unit of study. 
My students didn't have to just complete worksheets or do book work to prepare for their finals. They did not have to review old tests and make corrections during class time (they came after school if they wanted to do this). They got a chance to review an important part of the content in a fun and energetic format. And now after the project is over, they can watch each other's work for more review sessions. The other day, I posted a DiVA Awards (Diver Video Academy Awards), selecting the best 2 or 3 videos from each topic in the content.

Here are links to just a few of my favorites Remember these are student created and therefore somewhat amature-ish. They are pretty short- between 2 and 4 minutes each. 


Please leave me a comment to help me figure out other things I could do the next time I decide to jump in and do a project like this. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Passion for Teaching and Learning (and Coaching?)

The building in which I teach.
I have many passions.  Let's be clear, I am not a romantic person by nature, but my sense of excitement for my work rules the many decisions I make for my personal life as well as where I am going in my practice as an educator and as a student. I am passionate about teaching and learning!

I am passionate about my school. I love the school where I work. I feel so fortunate to work among colleagues who are innovative and as excited about teaching and learning as I am. It is a great environment that encourages forward thinking and fosters originality. Our administrative team supports our efforts by recognizing our creativity and allowing us to pursue ideas and initiatives that benefit students in areas of academic achievement and personal growth.

I am passionate about using technology as a tool for teaching. My district is going through a technology revolution. There is a huge cultural change happening among the leaders in our schools and at the main office. There are many teachers who have taken informal leadership roles in this paradigm shift. Last year's inception of the district committee for Technology For Instruction was a huge step on the march toward increasing the use of technology as a vehicle on the pathway to learning all kinds of content. I volunteered to be on this committee because I believe it is one that has an impact on how teachers prepare for the way students are now learning.

Using different applications to teach content.
I am passionate about learning. There is new equipment coming to our classrooms. I get to learn new skills with some new tools. Since I have some experience with incorporating the use of teach tools into my curriculum, I have committed to make my room a demonstration classroom to help teachers at my school to decide which version of the learning apparatus we will choose for our departments. Teachers will need help integrating the new technology into their lessons. Recently, a new position became available in our district for an instructional coach with expertise in technology. The job would integrate professional development and the use of technology to help train teachers.

Seeing the "aha" moment during a lab activity.
So here is my conundrum. I love the challenge of using tools that can enhance the content that I teach. I love working with students every day to help them understand the life science around them.  My incredible school and students are such an important part of my world. However, the opportunity to assist so many teachers and help them feel comfortable with the new devices in their hands is a powerful lure. My long term professional goals include working with other teachers to improve instruction. I feel like I am being drawn down two separate pathways.

How can I have my cake and eat it, too? People I trust have advised me to apply for the tech coach job. I am pretty sure I have the skills I need to do a good job, though I also know I still have so much to learn. Here's the thing, I really love what I am doing in my classroom right now. The problem is that I am really afraid of jumping in and never being able to return to my students. There is also this real fear that this opportunity to meet my career goals will pass me by and leave me behind. So how do I do both things at the same time?

Can I be effective as a teacher and as a technology teacher leader? Perhaps I can propose a combination position to the powers that be. My schedule would be that of a part time teacher and a part time instructional coach.  If I stay in the newly equipped classroom, I will be learning new skills for the lessons I present to my students. I can help show other teachers how the content could be enhanced by the technology. Since I would continue as a classroom teacher, I would be immersed in the day to day practical aspects of the implementation of the coming transitions.

This chance could be the occasion in my career to be a passionate teacher, an avid learner as well as a technology coach.

Many of you have recently had a similar experience. What model for professional development and tech training does your district use? Have you made the transition to being a technology teacher on special assignment in your district? What are the best things about the job? What are the challenges? What are your ideas?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Best First Day of School Ever!

Preparing for the first day of school has always been difficult. I want my students to know a little bit about me as a person, I want them to like my class, but my psychological need for rules and structure makes it difficult for a fun experience.

Philosophically, I believe it is important to begin as you want to proceed. About 18 years ago, I changed our first day to include a collaborative “get up out of your seat” activity that incorporated a “scavenger” hunt that had students going around the room in teams, finding information for a worksheet that included the expectations for behavior, required materials and how assignments would be done. I wanted the students to know that this class would be different (and hopefully more fun) in terms of process, but that I still follow rules and regulations. For the last few years, I quite frankly was bored by that activity and had wanted to change it up, but until this year, I had not found a suitable alternative.

It took me a total of about an hour and a half before the first day of school to assemble all the supplies I would need for the first day. And it was worth every single second of prep time! When students arrived, I had their box of materials on the desk and a note on the board not to touch them until I gave specific instructions. I greeted each student at the door with a “Welcome” and a handshake (it’s a habit I use all year long) and a reminder to read the board in the front of the room. I used some drama and greeted the class several times with a loud or soft “good morning!” and expecting a similar greeting in return.

To start off the actual lesson, I said, “Please find the neon markers in your box and choose one that you like.” Students are quietly saying things like “These are cool”, “Which color do you want?”
Next, in a quiet, casual voice I directed them to write their name and period directly on the table. Their response was louder, at this point. “You mean on the desk? There’s no paper. Shouldn’t there be paper? I can write on the desk?? I have never been told to write on a desk before!” 
Next, I said, “Take out a container of play dough and roll it around on your desk to make sure it is soft.” Some students are pretty freaked out by this time, because many of them have not played with play dough in school since the first grade. 
"Your job is to create something with the play dough that represents something about who you are.” You cannot imagine (or maybe you can) how loud the noise level is by this time. I repeated the instructions and then told them that I was going to finish doing roll and check some things on my desk and then I would be coming around to check on their progress individually.

The timing was pretty good on this activity. I got around to speak to each and every student and find out a little about everyone, using the play dough sculpture as a prompt for discussion. I told each one a little about myself, related to the conversation, so we could begin to find some commonality. I have several inexpensive digital cameras and I directed one person in each work group to take pictures of the sculptures, including the name of the person in the photo. So I now have a record (and a momento) for each student that attended the first day of school in my class.

Some students finished their sculptures before others and I just told them to introduce themselves to the peers around them and show off their work a little. Near the end of the period, I went around and sprayed some cedar and sage cleanser on each of the desks and had the students clean their workspace with shop rags so that the next class coming in would have no idea what was coming when they arrived. I reminded them that their experience was probably not repeatable in other classes. I made it clear as I told them “What happens in Mrs. Diver’s class, stays in Mrs. Diver’s class!” Writing on the desks is forbidden elsewhere. Playing with play dough is just generally not done anywhere but early elementary school.

I got my ideas for this first day from a nexus of sources. I read “Teach Like A PIRATE” by Dave Burgess- a must read for any teacher who wants to create a learning adventure in which kids will gladly want to participate. The play dough sculpture is his first day activity. I heard about the use of neon expo markers from someone at a Discovery Educator's Network workshop I attended at the beginning of summer. I learned about the archival use of digital cameras from a CUE session I attended back in the spring. Here are the links to these awesome resources:
Dave Burgess
DEN- Community
Computer Using Educators

The synergistic effect of these blended activities created a huge positive impact for the first day of school. My students walked away with a fun experience and looking forward to coming back the next day. There was all kinds of animated chatter about the sculptures and neon markers on the way out the door. Better yet, I had a great time! I was so excited when the day was over, I couldn’t sleep in just reviewing what had happened. I actually spoke to EVERY SINGLE student the first day of school. In 24 years of teaching, I have never done that. 

I would have to say it was my BEST FIRST DAY EVER!  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Confessions of a First Time Presenter

Confessions of a First time Presenter

My Local Experience
In a way, I am really NOT a novice staff development presenter.   I started teaching in 1989, so I have been presenting to students for 24 years. I have been presenting to my LOCAL peers for a little over two thirds of that time.  I started as a volunteer teaching basic first aid to coaches and teachers at my school. I have been doing local staff development ever since.  I have presented about subjects ranging from Beginning  Microsoft Office Applications to using our subscription to Discovery Education to Flipping the Classroom using Doceri.  But until this summer, I have never presented outside of my school or district. I have always been told that people liked my presentations, both to my face and anonymously in post session surveys.
The Rock Star Mark
In July 2012, 4 teachers from our staff went to a program called CUE Rock Star Tech Camp. At the start of each day, the faculty showed us what they were teaching us in a slide show called a “shred session”. The CUE staff described their course in a humorous and irreverent (to each other) way. The overall model they use for this 3-day camp is presenters teach during 2 sessions of 2 hours each of the days. There is lots of scheduled “free” time in between and after the learning sessions for networking, socializing and going deeper into the topics that were presented. The beauty of the 2-hour session is that it gives the learner time to create materials and lessons that can be incorporated into classroom right away. 
Last summer’s Rock Star Camp left an indelible mark on my psyche.  Jon Corippo (creator of CUERockStar) says that the Rock Star events are leadership development camps. He says, “You guys are the Rock Stars. You all have so much to share” The video link on the CUE Rock Star web page about the shirtless dancing guy resonated with me about being a lone nut connecting with others to create a movement. 
I have been kicking around the idea of presenting outside of my local learning community for several years.  After so much experience in my local pond, I thought I would jump in and try making some bigger ripples. I applied in the spring 2013 to present at the summer CUE Rock Star Solana Beach Tech Camp. My proposal was accepted, so I was excited and nervous all at the same time.
It’s Show Time – Day 1
I arrived at Skyline Elementary in Solana Beach  a little early to set my room up and get over to the multipurpose room for the shred session. I was pumped and nervous and really wanted to make a good first impression. This was the moment I had been planning for most of the summer. My first shred slides were very simple compared to the slides of other presenters.  Their mini talks were calm and poised and I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.  I wonder now whether any of the others were novice presenters, like me.
I was a bit underwhelmed when I only had 3 people in my first session about using Google forms. They all got some Google forms started and we had a great discussions and learning experience despite the small numbers. My second session was even smaller with just a single person attending. She and I had a great one to one tutoring. Since she was a new administrator, she could see how using Google forms could help her manage meetings and information and share with the folks in her office.
With such small numbers in attendance for my first time as a presenter, I felt very self-conscious. Here’s the mental noise I was making…”Maybe I really need to stay in my district where they know me. Maybe I did something wrong in my shred session. There were a hundred people at this conference and I couldn’t manage to snag even 4% for my event. What is wrong with me?” I had to shake myself out of that funk and I even got a little teary eyed that afternoon when talking to my roommate Jen Roberts about it.
It’s Show Time – Day 2
The next day I did a more interesting Google Slide for my shred and that resulted in the same numbers for my morning presentation on Bring Your Own Devices. Our morning session was more of a discussion about whether or not we SHOULD encourage BYOD and how we could get around district policies without openly rebelling. Unfortunately, NO ONE showed up to my second round. Here was the conversation I had that afternoon in my head… “You finally got up the nerve to step out and do something that you had been thinking of doing for years and you couldn’t get anyone to buy what you are selling!” I was angry and hurt because I felt like I had nothing to show for all my anxiety and preparation. And yes, I did cry a little harder that afternoon when talking with Jen and Shannon Applegate about my sessions. I was ready to pack it up and go home right then and there. However, I decided that I had made a commitment and that my third day topic was one that I could share with credibility and people would be able to create screencasts and use them in their own practice with students.
So that afternoon before dinner, I reworked my shred session and made a video screencast about how you can “Flip” instruction.  Later, I went and had a cheery dinner and a glass of porter with the other presenters. A conversation I had with one of them that evening was enlightening and encouraging. Vicky Sedgewick told me that several of the other people are well known in the San Diego Area and their sessions were full of local participants. Additionally, those who were not local were well known in the twitterfeed and had many followers among the group of learners. I was willing to believe her, since the alternative was such an emotional drain and a huge slam to my self-confidence as an educator.
It’s Show Time – Day 3
I wanted to make sure I generated more enthusiasm for what I had to present, so my third and final shred session was much more interesting. It was pretty cool considering I was tucked away in the back of the room when my video screencast aired on the screen. I even got a bantering comment from Will Kimbley about being able to present even when I am not in the room, to which I promptly replied, “I AM here and I heard that!” My sessions were still not packed, but I had 4 people for the first session and 5 the second. For both sessions there was some really good philosophical dialogue and my participants were able to create something practical for their teaching. Ultimately, for my last day, I had more people come to my sessions than both of the previous days combined. It was a more successful day for my psyche.
I know it sounds like I am worried more about quantity rather than quality of interaction. Nothing could be further from the truth! I wasn’t really looking to pack the house. Seriously though, I would have been more satisfied (and probably a little less self pitying) had I experienced similar numbers each of the three days.
Now What?
So you must be asking yourself; “Is she ever going to try presenting outside the district again?” I am just not sure. I will continue to present at my school and in my district, since I am the Staff Development Chair and a very active member of the district Technology Supporting Instruction committee. I am already scheduled to co-present about using Twitter as a professional development tool.  So I am not giving up entirely.  I know that I need to at least consider being a presenter again since it gave me a great opportunity to learn from and share my skills with a different audience.  I connected at a different level from my Rock Star colleagues, so that factor alone might make it worth it. Honestly though, I have not decided whether I can stand the anxiety again.  As I continue to reflect on my Solana Beach CUERockstar experience, I will have to decide to apply again next year or to just attend to absorb what I can as a participant rather than as a leader in the wider arena.

Twitter handles of the people I mentioned in the text above
Jon Corippo @jcorripo
Jen Roberts @jenroberts1
Shannon Applegate @shannonapplegat
Vicky Sedgewick @visionsbyvicky 
Will Kimbley @willkimbley

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's all the HYPE about the Twitterverse?

I have been FaceBooking for several years, so I understand the whole social network phenomenon. I keep track of many personal and some professional contacts there. I upload pictures of things going on in my world. I even played some of the games associated with Facebook. But TWITTER? Isn't that for famous people, rock stars, and pro athletes? I mean, I just felt like I had no use for anything Twitter in my cyber space. I was not "that person." I could not see the benefit of adding another social network to my already busy schedule. Okay, so I suppose I should just openly admit it; It took me a WHOLE YEAR to finally do the "twitter thing" after I was introduced to it as a professional development tool. I guess I'm a slow learner <sigh>.

In the summer of 2012, during the CUE Rock Star Tech Camp-Central Coast, I reluctantly created an account. I used it during the 3 day camp and that was pretty much all for a couple of weeks. Some of the people I followed from Day 1 are very active, but I was still not sold. I didn't like the "Hashtag" thing- it's a pound sign or number sign for goodness' sake! I thought 140 characters was very restrictive- I want to say things in a bigger way. I also wasn't impressed by the pace of the chats I witnessed. It was either way too fast with too many people talking or way to slow. I had moderated for an AOL tutoring chat room and Science Q/A site for several years that seemed more complete and understandable. I didn't like the idea that I could not see the entire conversation unless I was specifically searching the blasted hashtag. None of my face to face colleagues were using Twitter, so I just couldn't see the need.

So I only used the network off and on until I attended my Fellowship at the Siemens/Discovery STEM Institute at the end of the summer. I had made several professional contacts with the other fellows that week.  As a way to help us get to know one another, Discovery made trading cards and posters of our Twitter account profile page and it showed mine with only 11 followers and 15 tweets. <redfaced with shame>. From their posters, I could see that most of the other 50 teachers were far more active on Twitter. I would check my account from time to time, but I still didn't recognize the power of Twitter until several months ago.

Whenever I looked at my Twitter account after that, I read the posts of some of the people I admire professionally (Will Kimbley, Jen Roberts, Hall Davidson, Alice Keeler, Jon Corippo, Ramsey Musallum, Jon Bergmann). I opened some of their links to blogs and articles that seemed interesting. I sometimes added a person who made comments on my favorite people. I generally felt like I had nothing to contribute. I was lurking and observing some of those CUE contacts early last spring (2013), when I noticed them tweeting about a chat that sounded interesting. So the next Sunday night, I checked out #caedchat. This is where my big conversion took place!

Once I learned how to "follow" the chat and the protocols for answering the questions that were being discussed, I really got involved and the hour just flew by. So many great ideas were flying on my screen that night. I bookmarked several great web sites and articles to read. My professional learning network had just gotten much bigger.  That was it! I WAS HOOKED! I finally saw the need in my practice for the Twitterverse!

After that first experience, I have regularly connected with that same chat and got wind of several others that have rocked my world. I found that people who participated in the Twitter discussions for professional purposes were polite, supportive, knowledgeable and positive. The moderators of some of the chats usually create an archive of the discussion and post it to one of their websites, so if it goes too fast or if I miss the chat altogether, I can review what happened. To make it seem more real, you can even send direct messages through Twitter or you can meet with your tweeps. When I went to the CUE 2013 Conference in Palm Springs, I was able to meet several of the people that I follow face to face. There was even a #caedchat "meet up" at a nearby hotel lounge on one of the afternoons during the conference. What a cool bunch of folks!

After a whole year of having a Twitter account, I finally set up a way to read my Twitterfeed in an organized way (using TweetDeck). I have been avidly connecting with and following more and more people in our profession. I attend and participate in several weekly chats. I have been involved in a book study and a couple of virtual conferences. I got to learn about Google Hangouts because I got involved with a chat about Google tools. Several months ago, I watched with baited breath with many of my friends when Google announced the next group of  Google Teacher Academy candidates going to Chicago. I am eagerly awaiting the next opportunity for the next Google Teacher Academy. A couple of months ago, I found out about a UC Curriculum Integration Institute through one of my friends on Twitter. I applied along with my friend and colleague and we were accepted as course developers for a d - level science and engineering course for our school. That's a big deal!

I have included hashtags for some of the best twitter chats that I have participated in below in the post script. I realize that there are fewer hours in my day than the possible chats in which I would like to participate.

PS: My favorite Twitter chats include
#caedchat (Sunday 8 PM Pacific Time)
#tlap (Monday 6 PM Pacific Time)
#flipclass (Tuesday 4 PM Pacific Time)
#profchat (Tuesday 5 PM Pacific Time)
#satchatwc (Saturday 7:30 AM Pacific Time)

Check out this Google Doc with a schedule of MANY Twitter chats organized by day of the week. This list was compiled by @thomascmurray & @cevans5095  with continuous help from @cybraryman1

Twitter Chat List

Summer professional development has always been one of my major goals. Last summer, 2013, my learning was completely under the influence of the Twitterverse. When school started again in August, I had many new resources and applications that I can use in my teaching. I even created a different twitter handle in which I have been tweeting out pictures of class activities and news  from my classroom. I have lots of students, school organizations and parents who follow me there (@mrskdiver)

Even if you are not a big fan of Social Media in general, Twitter has a great place in the professional lives of teachers (and probably many other career pathways). I have found some of my voice as an educator and as a colleague through this powerful medium. The collective resources of my Twitter PLN is so vast, I can hardly begin scratch the surface.

I suggest you give it a real attempt. Look in on a chat or search a book you have been reading to see if others are tweeting about it. Best of all- look up people in the eduverse whom you admire, follow them and see what they are talking about. You may find that you have something to learn and something to share. See you in the #twitterverse @kathleendiver

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Traditions, Transformations and Transitions

Practicing lab skills during Cal Poly Summer Institute 2010
Over my 24 years as a teacher, I have made it my habit to recharge in the summer. I am not talking about going on vacation to rest - I do that too; but I try to find real professional and mental battery boosting events. Each summer, I find a conference or workshop and go to "camp" to learn something new and interesting in my field. Some of these programs have been content specific - focused on teaching my science curriculum. Others have been pedagogy related -designing lessons to enhance the curriculum I teach to making it more interesting and accessible for all students. Since I have done this almost every summer since entering the teaching profession, I suppose it is what you would say a tradition.

Last year, I had 3 career changing experiences in the spring and summer. First, I signed up for the Computer Using Educator Annual Conference in Palm Springs in March of 2012.  Most of the courses I took were awesome. I brought home several ideas to infuse into my teaching for the following Monday. Of particular use in my practice were "50 Ways to Use Discovery Education" and a discussion of Flipped Instruction by Catlin Tucker. There was also a cool app "slam" session in which several presenters got up in front of the crowd and gave a 6 to 8 minute mini-lesson on a favorite app. Though I did not yet have an iPhone or iPad, I was open to learning how those tools could be useful to my practice.

There were a couple of sessions that were particularly important - not as much for their content as for the networking opportunities that I would make from them. The most astounding of those was with a guy named Jon Corippo - An Apple Distinguished Educator who was teaching us how to make Chuck Norris Style Presentations using Apple Devices. I cannot describe adequately how energetic and engaging he is as a presenter. I attended 2 of his workshops, just so I could replicate some of that energy for my own classroom. From the discussion of his practice and what his school does, I felt like I'd "drunk the koolaid" with respect to technology in my classroom.  After learning about the one to one program at his school and the technology academy they start with at the beginning of the year, I thought to myself, "I'll have some of that, please!" He mentioned a summer conference called CUE Rock Star Tech Camp.

Next, I traveled to Solvang, CA for the CUE Rock Star summer 3 day professional development. My head is STILL SPINNING from what I learned there. Things started with late sessions lasting about 2 hours, a 2 hour lunch (provided by the workshop) and another 2 hour session in the afternoon.  The begin late and end early with long lunches in between to increase the networking possibilities among participants. Rock Star faculty encouraged us to create a twitter account to start a back channel conversation and to further those connections. They also demonstrated how to use some apps for polling and for managing "student" participation for the large group. It was a light hearted atmosphere that helped us feel connected to each other and to the presenters. It really was a dynamic way bring some new components into my practice.

The sessions were well designed. Each class that I attended was of a practical nature. The focus of each course was using some area of technology, Google docs, Sketch-up, creating and editing PDF forms, and even creating movies for flipped lessons. The staff introduced the process for just a few minutes to get us started and the participants used the applications while the teacher circulated among the students to coach and help learn more about the applications we were using. I had several classes that allowed me to build and prepare some new activities for my classes for when we returned to school in August.

Motion Machine at Discovery Headquarters
My third transformative experience happened during the last week of the summer. I was accepted as a 2012 Discovery Siemens STEM fellow. Our focus was increasing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math for all students at various levels in public and private education. Fifty teachers from all over the United States came together in the Discovery Channel's headquarters at One Discovery Place in Silver Spring, Maryland.

2012 Discovery Siemens STEM Fellows
During the week, we had special presentations by people such as Reed Timmer, Hall Davidson, and Lodge McCammon. We learned to use Edmodo and Discovery Education's new Science Techbook. We networked with educators and scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, College Board, and NASA. We even visited the White house and had an hour long meeting with officials in the US Department of Education. I got to write a computer program (on my own) that could be used to turn on and off LED lights and sounds on a computer card. While this experience was less about the day to day journey I take with my students, my confidence with technology and my willingness to experiment increased so that I feel more positive about the work I do with my computer, my iPad and my camera.

Throughout this school year, I used many of the skills and web based tools I found during my experiences. I processed what I learned during these "summer camps" to use in my curriculum. It was exciting to incorporate common tools such as cell phones into my lessons. My skills as a presenter have been transformed as I continue to practice using different technologies within the scope of the content area that I teach. The transition to using more technology to enhance how my students learn or how they interact with each other and me about their learning continues to be a focus for my work.

To continue with my traditional summer activity, I will be attending 2 summer workshops this year to learn more and practice these important technical skills. However, this year, I have added something new to my agenda. I will be a faculty member at one of the summer CUE Rock Star sessions, so I can share my enthusiasm for using technology in communicating and demonstrating what we have been learning.