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.