Learning and Leading with Twitter

ISTE Standards for Educators 1 & 2 My latest focus on my journey towards digital education leadership has been focused around the first and second ISTE Standards for Educators. These two standards are about being a learner and being a leader… which through my research, I have learned go perfectly hand in hand.  I was mostly interested in 1b and 2c and how “participating in local and global learning networks” can help to achieve 2c. In our current teaching and learning model of remote education, I have seen the importance of not only starting to use new digital resources and tools, but the critical need to be able to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of these resources. It isn’t impossible, but it is unrealistic for each teacher to spend the time researching and exploring every single digital resource or tech tool that they come across. And this is where those “local and global learning networks” can come into play! This led me to my essential question: Focusing on remote learning… how can educators support each other to help advance understanding and implementation of technological tools. Let’s get started! What is a PLC/PLN/GLC? Whether you call it a “professional learning community”, “professional learning network”, or “global learning community”, we are essentially referring to the same thing; a group of people that come together (physically, or virtually) to discuss ideas, question one another, and further thinking on a specific topic.  Andrew Miller, an Edutopia Blogger, writes about how to create effective PLCs. PLCs (professional learning communities) are groups of educators that come together to collaborate and learn from one another to help improve student engagement and achievement. He states that “a learning team constantly engages in a cycle of learning: analyzing data, setting goals, and learning individually and collaboratively, as well as implementing and adjusting practices to meet the needs of all learners.”  His post “Creating Effective Professional Learning Communities” is a great resource to help get started in PLCs, you can find it here. There are tons of ways to get into PLCs… your school, your district, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and so so many more. I personally was in “PLCs” on my social media accounts without even realizing it!  One of my faves on Facebook is Not So Wimpy Fifth Grade Teachers, an insanely gracious group of teachers who share so many resources and support their fellow teachers like nothing I’ve seen before. (Also not as “professional”, but a learning community nonetheless Fitness for Teachers, a group that give advice and encouragement on how to stay healthy while teaching).  And on Instagram I follow some incredible groups who share resources, provide professional development and give inspiration: Get Your Teach On and Teach Your Heart Out. While all of these are fantastic ways to get hooked up with PLCs, I am on a mission to expand my horizons. Being a millenial – I have been aware of the existence of Twitter for quite some time. I even tried it out when I was in high school… and quickly decided that it wasn’t for me. Fast forward to my teacher prep classes, and it was suggested again for me to make an account to help come up with ideas for lessons… and again I decided I didn’t need a Twitter and that I had a community in my cohort, and that was good enough for me. Well, now a decade after I pushed Twitter to the side, a pandemic hits and teachers’ “traditional” strategies are all out the window as remote learning becomes our “new normal”. Once more, I am walking towards the “Twitter” light – and I LOVE what I see.  Twitter image attribution Flickr user sylviaduckwirth; 50 Of The Best Education Accounts On Twitter Here is some of my original learning: “Hashtag” – an easy way to sift through posts and find ones that are specific to the information that you are looking for “Ed chats”- a set time to log in and collaborate over a set topic Networking – connect with other educators by following them!  Posting – share your findings with the world! Tweetdeck – a website to use with Twitter that allows you to follow hashtags You can also schedule tweets to post! (Thanks to the amazing @mheinema1, Digital Learning Coach Extraordinaire who introduced me to this tool!) Steps to get started Start following users to add to your network! Here are some great handles that I follow that focus on digital education:  Once you have followed some people and are ready, you can get in on the fun! Here are some great hashtags for teaching and learning: Remember, you can just follow others and search hashtags until you are comfortable being part of the conversation. Twitter has the ability to bring teachers from all over the world into one community, to explore and evaluate digital resources and share their findings and success together.  What are your Twitter findings? Drop a comment below! References Goal-Setting for Teachers: 8 Paths for Self-Improvement. (2018, September 24). Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/goal-setting-for-teachers/ ISTE Standards for Educators. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators Miller, A. (2020, January 4). Creating Effective Professional Learning Communities. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/creating-effective-professional-learning-communities Rubin, A. (2020, January 16). How to Build a Teacher PLC in 3 Easy Steps. Retrieved from https://www.weareteachers.com/teacher-plc-steps/ Serviss, J. (2019, November 6). 4 benefits of an active professional learning community. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/professional-development/4-benefits-active-professional-learning-community

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Building and Engaging in Meaningful Professional Learning Communities with Twitter

Inquiry Question: How can educators build and engage in a professional learning community that shares best practices, inspires others with innovative ideas, and supports members in participating in a variety of levels?  Professional learning communities are a vital component to providing educators with professional growth, support, and inspiration. I am always curious to learn from…

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Teachers Coaching Teachers

Share the Love 2 The second standard in ISTE Standards for Educators: Leader requires educators to seek out opportunities to…

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Linking In to Professional Networks for Educators

LinkedIn for Teachers? “LinkedIn is for business people, right?”  That was my first thought as a classroom teacher when considering whether or not to explore the platform. “I guess it’s also for getting a job and I’ll eventually need to change schools,” was my second thought. So, I went ahead and created a LinkedIn account, …

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Evaluation Tools in e-Learning

Since the move to remote learning during this COVID-19 school shutdown, many teachers are finding their social media pages and inboxes full of apps and […]

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Should I Join the Maker Movement?

And the Learning Sciences Behind Them What is a MakerSpace? Makerspaces have been a hot fad in the educational world for the past couple of years. What are they all about and are they worth our time and money? What do the learning sciences tell us about makerspaces? Jennifer Gonzalez, the author of the popular blog Cult of Pedagogy, interviewed John Spencer on his expertise in makerspaces. Spencer has co-authored two books, Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student, and Empower: What Happens When Students Own their Learning. When asked to explain what a makerspace was Spencer (2018) said: I see a makerspace as simply a space designed and dedicated to hands-on creativity and the key thing here is they’re actually making something. Creativity is sometimes idea generation, it’s sometimes problem-solving. But (in) a makerspace, you’re actually going to create some kind of product. John Spencer He goes on to explain it could be a digital product (green screen video, coding algorithm, iMovie, etc.) or a physical product which could be as broad as using cardboard and duct tape, to 3-d printing a design. Spencer also notes that makerspaces can look very different from classroom to classroom or school to school. Sometimes schools set up a defined makerspace area with the tools and materials students need. Or perhaps the school has a roving makerspace cart. Othertimes classroom teachers will set up their own “tinker” area in their classrooms. There is no one right way to do makerspaces – the emphasis should be on allowing students the opportunity to create.  The Neuroscience Behind Makerspaces What’s Happening In Our Brains When We Learn Brain research has shown us that when we acquire new information there is an actual change in the makeup of our brains. We have billions of neurons that add new pathways when we learn. According to The Science of Learning Part 2: How the Brain Learns, these pathways, or dendrites, are strengthened by repeated use by developing a thick fatty coating (Envision, 2015). The thicker the dendrite, the faster it passes signals in your brain. And your existing dendrites can grow more dendrites, just like a tree sprouting twigs from an existing branch (Envision, 2015). You may have heard the phrase: “The neurons that fire together, wire together.” This means that the more you activate and use those neurons, the stronger they will become. Just like when learning to play an instrument or riding a bike. It’s hard at first, but the more you practice the easier it gets. This scientifically proves that “practice makes perfect”! (Envision, 2015).  Learning Through Play The front part of the brain is called the prefrontal cortex and is responsible for executive function.  Like we discussed above, the neurons here are strengthened by repeated use. In an article titled The Brain Science of Making, Conn McQuinn explains that when children have unstructured playtime they can practice making decisions, testing hypotheses, evaluating results, and using other types of executive function skills (2018). McQuinn states that if we over-structure children’s lives and school experiences they lose the opportunity to learn how to self-direct (2018). This is why makerspaces are so important. They can have self-directed exploration and discovery. They can learn from their mistakes and express themselves creatively. By allowing them to tinker they can develop important executive function skills.  Hands-On Learning is Essential Your brain thinks your hands are the most important part of your body. When explaining the picture below, McQuinn (2018) states:  This little critter is called the homunculus. It is a physical representation of how many motor neurons you have in your brain for different body parts. When you see how gigantic the hands are, it tells us that as far as our brain is concerned they are by far the most important part of our body. Conn McQuinn No wonder students love to explore, play, and create things with their hands. A makerspace is the perfect place for students to design, build, test, and modify their own creations.  Learning Should Be Fun The hippocampus is a special part of your brain that helps form long-term memories. It is part of the larger limbic system which controls your emotions. “This is a critical point because it underscores that learning and memory formation are emotional events” (McQuinn, 2018). The take away: learning should be fun! Neuroscience shows us that students will learn better if they are having a good time, and what better way to do that then allows our students to experiment, tinker, and play in a makerspace. Having a Growth Mindset “I love making mistakes!” – said no one ever Makerspaces are centered on learning from your mistakes. During my time teaching, I noticed that students these days don’t like to fail. In fact, they avoid failure at all costs and immediately ask for help when they reach a roadblock. I frequently complained to my colleagues that my students were SO needy! Makerspaces provide a safe environment where we can encourage our students to experiment and make mistakes. We can teach what it means to have a growth mindset and how to “fail forward” – the idea that we can learn from our failures and use that knowledge to try out another solution. Teachers can even join in the fun, get their hands dirty, create something new, and model what it looks like to make mistakes and learn from them.  Hopefully, by now you can see how valuable a makerspace can be. “They align powerfully with what neuroscience tells us about how the brain works!” (McQuinn, 2018). If you are interested in setting up your own makerspace or levying for one at your school, check out these resources below. How to Get Started Starting a School Makerspace from Scratch  What is the Point of a Makerspace? Makerspace Master Course by John Spencer Create a Makerspace in a Week  The Kickstart Guide to Making GREAT Makerspaces Check Out These Awesome Makerspaces In Action! Lindsey Own (@Lindseyown) at @EvergreenBIGLab Krissy Venosdate (@krissyvenosdale) Project Makerspace (@ProjMakerspace) at ML Public Library Makerspace 3D Printing and Makerspaces One tool you will want to consider having in your makerspace is a 3D printer. It is a great tool that allows students to design, problem-solve, and end up with a product to show for their hard work.  What is a 3D Printer and How Does It Work?  Here’s another video to watch with your elementary school kids if you’re wanting to teach them about 3D printing 3D objects are created by a process called additive manufacturing, where the material is laid down layer by layer to create a larger design In order to know what to print, you must give the 3D printer a plan or graphic model to follow. These designs can be created by using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. There are various free online CAD platforms that are easy for beginners to use, such as TinkerCAD and Sketchup (McFadden, 2019). What Materials Would You Need to 3D Print? 3D printer CAD design software Filament, a.ka. printing material. Two common filaments are Polylactic Acid (PLA) which is made from a variety of natural sources including sugar, corn starch, or sugar cane. It is biodegradable and safe to breathe in. Another frequently used filament for 3-d printing is Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) which is oil-based. It is extremely strong and is used to make a lot of children’s toys. You can buy both of these filaments on Amazon (3D Insider, chapter 6).  Why You Should Consider Having a 3D Printer In Your Makerspace Students can go straight from concept ideas or digital models to 3D printed models Students can solve real-world problems with their designs  It is a great way to work through the design process with your students  Helps develop creative and critical thinking skills It gives your students the opportunity to be innovative   Challenges To Consider The learning curve can be steep when using CAD software or a 3D printer,  but don’t let that scare you off. It’s a great opportunity to learn alongside your students and model having a growth mindset.  Do your research and buy the right printer. There are a lot out there to choose from and you want to find the right fit. If possible, find someone who has experience 3D printing at your school so they can walk you through the process and give you tips and tricks. Be prepared to frequently troubleshoot problems when learning. Think about sustainability. Before buying this piece of technology, think through how your school will be able to afford the upkeep and cost of supplies.  Use your printer with purpose. Carefully integrate the use of the 3D printer with your current curriculum. The learning sciences show us that students learn better when there is a connection with the real world and they can demonstrate their knowledge in a practical way. Resources 3D Insider. (n.d.). Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing. Retrieved from https://3dinsider.com/3d-printing-guide/ Gonzalez, J. (2018, May 20).What Is the Point of a Makerspace? Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/makerspace/ Graves, C. (2015, July 16). Starting a School Makerspace From Scratch. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/starting-school-makerspace-from-scratch-colleen-graves  Lynch, M. (2019, June 27). What Teachers Must Know About the Neuroscience of Edtech Learning. Retrieved from https://www.thetechedvocate.org/what-teachers-must-know-about-the-neuroscience-of-edtech-learning/  Mashable. (2014, May 8). What Is 3D Printing and How Does It Work? | Mashable Explains [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx0Z6LplaMU McFadden, C. (2019, November 23). How Exactly Does 3D Printing Work? Interesting Engineering. Retrieved from https://interestingengineering.com/how-exactly-does-3d-printing-work McQuinn, C. (2018, September 25). The Brain Science of Making. Retrieved from https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=brain-science-of-making  National Geographic Kids. (2018, November 5). How 3D Printers Work | How Things Work with Kamri Noel [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlvK6DLwCz4  The Science of Learning Part 2: How the Brain Learns. (2015, September 15th). Envision. Retrieved from https://www.envisionexperience.com/blog/the-science-of-learning-how-the-brain-learns

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Ideas for Evaluating Digital Technology Resources and Sharing What You Learn With Others

For the second module in my course this quarter at school we are focusing on the ISTE Educator Standards 1 and 2. These standards focus on how teachers and educators can take the plethora of digital technology tools and resources … Continue reading

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Using Flipgrid for Collaboration in a time of Remote Learning

ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, wrote a set of standards specifically for educators to help them achieve academic and technological empowerment. The last quarter of my Digital Education Leadership program had us focusing on the ISTE standards for students. This quarter the shift is from focusing on the student standards to focusing on the standards that educators should meet. The fourth educator standard is titled “collaborator”. ISTE Educator #4: Collaborator What a time to be focusing on collaboration and specifically concerning digital education! The model for our day to day schooling has been flipped on its head, and is forcing educators around the world to become more technologically savvy on a whim. This “remote learning” can be quite challenging without the tools for student and teacher collaboration.  When my class was shifted from in-person learning to teaching a group of 24-5th grade students through a screen, I needed to up my tech game… not only did I need to collaborate with my team on a more efficient basis, but I also needed to find safe and effective means of collaboration for my students.  When researching teacher collaboration, I found myself reading articles on schoology.com.  Lauren Davis wrote an article titled “Teacher Collaboration: How to Approach It In 2020”. Davis writes about the importance of teacher collaboration leading to the sharing of student learning responsibility. Where one teacher can make some change, a group of teachers can make a world of change! One important effect of teacher collaboration is more creative lesson plans. This piece drew me in – especially during this “remote learning” era. Not only do I want to have more creative lesson plans, I am now being called to work more creatively just to create those plans! Another vital part of teacher collaboration is less isolation. Which also, is crucial to address in these times.  If you’d like to read more, you can find the article here. This piece led me to the realization that I needed to look at the ways I was already collaborating, and how I could improve my collaborative methods.  What I was already using: Teacher collaboration –  For most of our teaming we used the apps in Google Drive. It has a range of applications that are all available through the internet! You can create documents (Google Docs), spreadsheets (Google Sheets), presentations (Google Slides/Jamboard), and many more. All of these are available to collaborate with others instantaneously!  Find all the G Suite apps for education here: link. While Google Drive has some amazing programs that are easily accessible to many at once (or on their own time), it is still challenging to collaborate in a quick way – the way that you could if your team was in person working together on their docs. Once schools were closed, we needed to find a way to talk to one another while working. Like many other school districts, this led us to Zoom.  Zoom is a video conferencing tool. Most of the features are available with the free version, however as an educator. It enables my team to connect to one another remotely. I immediately fell in love with the idea of video conferencing – it is an effective and efficient way to collaborate with my teammates remotely!  Interested in Zoom? Here’s the link. While Zoom is a great way to meet with people – others have to be available at the same time to talk to each other. With many families having to work around one anothers schedules, not all students are able (or willing) to all meet at one time to sit and watch a lesson be taught through a video conference.  Teacher and student collaboration –  Zoom is still working in my class as a check in strategy, but to teach my students, I needed to find another tool. This led me to Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a website that allows you to create video responses to topics, other videos, or questions. All of the videos are saved within a “grid” that is created by an educator. This website provides a safe way to create, edit, and post videos of their classmates and teachers! My favorite part; a preloaded topic that supports students in making an introductory video! How I am going to use it:  Post instructional math videos for students to watch and have students create a reaction video solving math problems Post read alouds with accompanying comprehension strategy lessons and have students represent their learning with comp. strategy practices through a video Have students create check in videos (virtual show and tell, teach your teacher a skill, student storytelling, etc) Have students create videos with their own ideas of collaboration methods using Flipgrid! Want to learn about all the awesome ways to use Flipgrid for remote learning? Here’s the website. While one app won’t solve our remote learning shortfalls, researching and taking the chance on new educational technology can help us work towards bettering our collaboration.  References: Bristol, J. (2019, June 24). Google Drive Review for Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/google-drive ISTE Standards for Educators. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators Powers, M. (2020, April 13). Flipgrid Review for Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/flipgrid Schoology. (n.d.). Teacher Collaboration: How to Approach It In 2020. Retrieved from https://www.schoology.com/blog/teacher-collaboration Tewalt, A. (2020, March 13). Remote Learning with Flipgrid. Retrieved from https://blog.flipgrid.com/news/remotelearning

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Technology Standards and Tools for Teachers

Learning Standards for Teachers? One of the more unique aspects of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards is the creation of not just teaching standards, but instructional standards that apply to teachers themselves.  My initial reaction when I first heard this was probably similar to many educators: why? I have enough on …

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Cultivating Collaboration and Authentic Learning Experiences with Screencastify

Inquiry Question: How can educators collaborate with students and leverage their expertise to improve their instructional practices to benefit future learners? ISTE Educator Standard 4’s second indicator, focuses on the ideas of collaboration and co-learning with students. In researching my inquiry question for this module, I began exploring how educators can cultivate collaboration with their…

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