Twitter for Education

UPDATE: See also my post “How to Make a Class Backchannel”

I know many teachers and are exploring using Twitter as a learning tool, both for themselves and for their students. Administrators are imagining ways it could be helpful for staff development and for communicating with stake-holders. Here’s a visual to help focus the thinking a bit (click through for larger version):

I ran across this Twitter Matrix about a year ago on Mark Sample’s blog and it really helped me clarify my thinking about how I wanted to use Twitter to enhance student learning. I was clear that I didn’t want to use it just to be using it – if it wasn’t going to lead to greater learning, it was just going to be more noise for students.

I’ve been getting good results using Twitter as a backchannel during class, allowing me to engage with students in new ways. Those that aren’t ready to comment out loud during class will frequently post to the backchannel, allowing me a new way to check for understanding. And because they can post questions there that I see in the last few minutes of class, I can answer them before they leave, meaning no student leaves with misunderstandings that embed in their brain before they return the next day.

If you follow the link to Mark’s blog, you’ll notice he believes Twitter acts as a “snark valve” because tweets are “unfiltered, in effect, the same comment somebody might mutter under his or her breath, uncensored, no-holds-barred opining. Yet the students know classmates are following the course hashtag and at the very least that I am listening (and contributing) as well.  The backchannel assumes a Bakhtinian double-voiced discourse — using sarcasm both to show a kind of too-cool-for-school attitude but also to demonstrate that the student is in fact earnestly engaged with the material.”

How will you use Twitter? I hope the matrix leads to creative ideas. And if they do, kindly tweet me @MikeGwaltney, or leave a more lengthy comment here on my blog.

ITSC ’11 Mid-Day 1

First up for me at ITSC was “Digital Storytelling” with presenters Ginny Hoke and Rhiannon Kerr, two great teachers from Lane County here in Oregon.

Ginny and Rhiannon made clear from the start that digital storytelling is “not about technology, it’s about learning”. Specifically, they have found D.S. is great for building skills in:

  • communication (especially for writing and speaking),
  • vocabulary,
  • problem-solving,
  • teamwork, and

D.S. also helps students understand each other and their mutual struggles with school – its a learning and assessment tool with reflection built in! And yes, it’s also creative and fun.

It’s important to note that there’s much more to digital storytelling than giving kids the cameras and time to shoot and edit video. As with most things, the power is in the process – from brainstorming ideas in small groups, to storyboarding and scripting, to researching and working with sources, students are engaged in a challenging activity with equally rewarding results. After walking us through the steps, Ginny treated us to a sample D.S. project, her class’s “Through Our Eyes” video on Lebanon H.S. Alumni who died in the Vietnam War. Powerful stuff.

Because ITSC is a “hands-on” conference, Ginny and Rhiannon didn’t let us get away without proving we’d learned a thing or two. After introducing us to JayCut, an online (browser-based) video editing tool, they put us in groups and gave us 30 minutes to tell some stories about technology in education. Enjoy these samples, and keep in mind, we only had 30 minutes!

http://jaycut.com/sites/all/themes/jaycut/swf/player.swf

ITSC 2011


The latest Education Technology get-together is the big Instructional Technology Strategies Conference being put on by the Organization for Educational Technology & Curriculum (OETC). This conference in Portland, Oregon, Feb. 20-22 features a “who’s who” of ed tech leaders with keynotes by David Zach and Roger Schank, and workshops being led by Alec Couros, Scott Elias, Lucy Gray, Bud Hunt, Tim Lauer, Dean Shareski, Ira Socol, and Jeff Utecht, to name just several.

I’ll be joining my colleague Peter Pappas (@edteck) in LIVE tweeting and blogging the conference Sunday through Tuesday. Follow me on Twitter (@MikeGwaltney), and bookmark or follow the RSS feed for my blog to catch what I’m sharing.

Peter’s blog is Copy/Paste, where he has already posted some great information for following the conference, including this Wiffitti:

http://flash.locamoda.com/wiffiti.com/cloud/cataclysm.swf?id=52689&title=1

Peter and I will coordinate on the sessions we attend, and you can follow our Tweets and blog posts over the 3 days of the conference.

For a little background on the City of Roses hosting the conference, check out Peter’s great Portland Prezi Preview.

See you in PDX this weekend! Be sure to network with us: (thanks to Sacha Chua for this SlideShare!):

Is this the best High School in America?

It’s not my question, it’s The Daily Riff’s.  And it’s probably not the correct question to ask – there are certainly many different ways of doing school that will work well. So, maybe a better question would be “What makes a great school?”

Let this video about High Tech High in San Diego be the conversation starter. Here’s the opening question: “What is it about High Tech’s approach to education that makes it a great school?”

Changing Education Paradigms

This video from Sir Ken Robinson has been kicking around the web for about three weeks. I’ve shared it on Twitter, and with some colleagues and students on campus in L.A., and just about everyone loves it. Why does this resonate so strongly with teachers, most of whom seem to be invested in the existing system? Perhaps it’s our inherent idealism – the hope that we can create the best possible learning for our students. Let’s hope we can convince administrators and policy-makers that it’s possible.

Why Teachers Should be on Twitter

Laura Walker (@mrslwalker) recently posted her 9 reasons why teachers should be on Twitter. Three of them really resonated with me as these are concepts always on my mind, and frequently in conversations with colleagues at my school: collaboration, reflection, and innovation.

I have no doubt that most educators on Twitter would agree with Laura. I wonder though what my colleagues who aren’t on Twitter would say. My question for them: “How do you collaborate, reflect on your practice, and innovate?”

Together we’re better
Twitter can be like a virtual staffroom for me, which I can step into when it suits me: in the queue at the supermarket or waiting for for the kettle to boil. I know that within seconds I can access a stream of links, ideas, opinion and resources from a hand-picked selection of global professionals.
Self-awareness and reflective practice
Excellent teachers reflect on what they are doing in their schools and look at what is going well in order to maintain and develop it, and what needs improvement in order to make it better. Teachers on Twitter share these reflections and both support and challenge each other. Reading about other educators’ experiences has made me question my own practice on a number of occasions, and whilst the resulting changes may only be incremental they are nonetheless important steps in the journey to improvement.
Newsroom and innovation showcase
Twitter helps me stay up to date on news and current affairs, as well as on the latest developments in my areas of interest:  school leadership, technology and languages. By following leading individuals and organisations, Twitter users can stay right at the bleeding edge of innovation and creativity, and literally be among the first to know when a new product is launched, article is published or opinion is voiced.Read more at mrslwalker.com

Collaboration in the Classroom with Google Apps

The tools now available to us make classroom collaboration a snap. If you haven’t considered using Google Docs, you should (how many times have I said that on this blog or Twitter?!).

Here’s another great example of a teacher using Google Apps for Education to empower her students:

Saylor is using Google Apps for Education to create a virtual domain for her students. They can use word processors, spread sheets and graphic tools to create projects which are done entirely online.
The kids can share with a teacher, the kids can share with another student, or they can share with a small group if they’re working together,” Brooks said.
Saylor says what might be the best part is the feedback. Students can go online, view another student’s project and offer comments right there on the web page.

“It’s good to get feedback from people our own age cause they think like we do,” Alex said.

Read more at www.9news.com