Plan Now for a Year of Social Success


Welcome back to school in Ontario.  Today’s the big day for most.  I decided to drag out this old “Post from the Past”.  It goes back to the start of the school year in 2012.  I thought that it was good advice then and I am equally as convinced that it’s just as good or better advice today.  I’m not sure that I would change it much if I was writing it today.  One of the things that comes to mind might be to include a class Instagram account in addition to the Twitter account.

It’s funny; having written this so long ago – I can actually put faces and names to the social media activities described in the post.  Can you?

Are you one of them?  If so, why not take a moment and share in the comments exactly what it means to you and how you do it.


Labour Day!

The last day before getting back at it. Flash forward 9 months and the school year will be just about over but you’ll be scrambling for content for the yearbook and/or end of the year assembly. A little planning now could make that so easy and social media is the answer.

All that is will take is a Twitter account and a blog. Done properly, all the pieces will just fall into place.

First Step – Grab that Hashtag
Hashtags are Twitter’s way to tag or follow a conversation. Before your students even cross the threshold into your classroom, decide on your class’ hashtag. #MySchoolG5R3 or whatever will uniquely identify your classroom. This is the basis for retrieving all the data that you’ll create. (Do a quick search for your proposed hashtag now, before using it, to make sure that it’s not in use by someone else.)

At any point in the future, a simple Twitter search http://search.twitter.com where you enter your hashtag will bring back all of your content. Share the search with your students, with their parents, with your school, with your principal, with anyone who might have a vested interest in your classroom.

Second Step – Use that Hashtag
But, where’s the content? This is typically the stumbling block for many well-intentioned plans. It takes time to come up with content. Suggestion – crowd source it with your students. They’ve been in class all day long – at the end of the day, do a little wrap up before they head home. It might be questions like:

  • What was the neatest thing we did today?
  • Who was our classroom guest today?
  • What are we excited about for tomorrow?
  • What books did we read today?
  • ….

Any of a myriad of questions that elicit any thoughts on the day will do! Just as long as they can be summarized in 140 characters or less. Then, post it to Twitter. It could be from you or the class scribe for the day or the tech helpers or …

But the key is to make it positive and upbeat. In YOUR classroom, of course, it will be the best of the positive and upbeat!

This daily positive message will make it home before your students.

Third Step – Blog it!
If you’re not a daily blogger, that’s OK. How about being a weekly blogger? Friday night, Saturday morning – create a blog post. Don’t worry about writer’s block. You’ve got at least five pieces of inspiration already. Just do the Twitter search for your classroom hashtag, copy the results, and paste them into a blog post. It’s a leisurely reflective 10-15 minutes to expand on your student crowd sourced raw material. Post it and the week is in the bag. Do you have any pictures or a video to support the Twitter messages? Stick them into the blog post and they won’t get lost or crumpled like they might in the file folder in the top draw of the filing cabinet.

Fourth Step – You’re a Genius
There are always times you need good news stories and you’ve got them all in one spot!

Parent conferencing? You can lead it; students can lead it; Twitter can lead it; your Blog can lead it.

End of the year celebrations? Piece of cake. You’ve been celebrating and reflecting on the great things that happened all year-long. There’s no need for deep memory searching or looking for that elusive piece of information. It’s all there in your blog! Pull the pieces together and you’re good to go.

A year’s worth of successes is a good thing. Crowd sourcing them from grass-roots 140 characters at a time leverages the technology and makes a big task easy.

And, next summer when you look back over everything – you’ll be fully justified in saying “That was quite a year”.

All the best to my teacher readers for a successful 2012-2013 school year.

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Olympic Resources


The Sochi Olympics are on!

There have been some interesting Olympic activities over the weekend.  The Opening Ceremonies were so interesting and of course, hockey has been wonderful to watch.  The most painful to watch for me has been the moguls.

In a post “Look for it” in January, I had shared that the Canadian Olympic Committee would be posting and updating classroom resources for use throughout the games.

They have come through as promised.

Whether you’re looking for ways to dress up your classroom or looking for ideas for fitness and well-being, the site has you covered.  In particular, download and print the Teacher’s Guide for ideas.

I particularly enjoyed the section dealing with individual athlete profiles.  Given the Gold-Silver finish of the Dufour-Lapointe sisters on the weekend, it certainly was compulsory research to find out made them so successful.  Having students create their own Olympic profile modelled after this would be interesting.

If you’re looking for a way to track the efforts of Canadians at the Olympics, this is definitely the place to go.

Hour of Code Resources


As I noted in yesterday’s post, I hope that classrooms continue to incorporate coding into learning activities.  There are so many benefits and anyone with any kind of crystal ball can only see that the importance of being able to take control of one’s sure isn’t going to decrease.

To aid the cause, I have created a Pearltree of Resource for the Hour of Code.  There have been so many blog posts, newspaper articles, and class pages devoted for the advocation and sharing of successes.

I tried to focus on just the classroom room resources that one could use.  There were many developed and I’m not naive enough to say that this is the definitive list.  However, I am bold enough to say that this is a great place to start!

coding

You can access the Pearltree here.  Alternatively, I created a Learnist board with the same materials.

If you know of a resource that should be included, please let me know the resource.  I’d be happy to add it.

Playing with nkwiry


Brian Aspinall has done it again!

Brian is rapidly gaining fame as creating free, incredibly student friendly web resources.  The hallmark of his products are ease of signup for teachers who just create a class and the students just use the class.  No collection of student information of any kind is done and no student email is required to use the service.  Too often, concerns about student information are enough to scuttle technology in the classroom plans.  That won’t happen here.

His latest production is called nkwiry.  nkwiry is a very classroom friendly social bookmark curating service.  There are many similar services on the web but they do require some involved account creation and then a bit of work (read explaining grown up sevices to students and the frustration therein) to get started before you can enjoy some success.

Using nkwiry is as simple as the three images below.

  • teacher creates a single account for the class;
  • students are added to the class;
  • students login with the class code and begin sharing.

Brian originally created nkwiry to supplement the inquiry process in the new Social Studies curriculum.

However, as a classroom teacher, you’re not locked into just Social Studies.  Your starter classroom curation looks like this.

Of course, you can add/remove subjects or topics as needed.  Adding a link to any category looks pretty familiar if you’ve used any of the popular bookmarking services.

The only thing that appears missing at this point would be creating tags for the bookmarks.  Perhaps in an upcoming release?

It’s as functional as that.  While the big services may have more features, Brian’s design is specifically for the elementary classroom and provides “just enough” features to do the job.

My first reaction was that this has potential far beyond the single classroom.  Instead, if you’re doing a project with another school, consider adding both sets of students into your classroom.  All that’s needed is the class name and student code.  Perhaps you’re blogging or creating online presentations with another class. nkwiry easily lets you create a functional list summary of all of the participants.

If you’re looking for a simplified interface for curating resources and aren’t interested in having your students wade their way through the features of the current big services, nkwiry may be “just enough” to help you get the job done.

By way of declaration, Brian was a student of mine at the Faculty of Education.  Regardless, I am a fan of his approach to creating simplified tools for the classroom with a minimum of registration and respect for student information.  You can read an interview that I did with Brian here.

If you like what you’re seeing, make sure you check out his other products, all free and specifically written for the classroom.

And, if you are attending the Western RCAC Symposium this Thursday in London, drop by and meet Brian.  He’s presenting in the morning about how he introduces his students to coding.  Maybe we’ll find out that his students actually wrote this?

Classroom Management Challenge


Yesterday, I read and shared this article.  “15 creative & respectful ways to quiet a class.”  It’s packed with great ideas and is a good read.  The best advice appears at the bottom.

Remember there is no “magic bullet” what will get all students’ attention all of the time. Don’t get frustrated! Constantly having to refocus your class is a normal part of teaching. Take a deep breath, smile, and and keep encouraging your students. You can do this! And please, share your favorite tips for guiding students to quiet down in the comments!

My Twitter friend Linda Aragoni was all over this in a heartbeat.

She’s got a point.  I know that when I used to sing a song for my Grade 12s, that would increase the noise as they tried to drown me out.  Back and forth, she suggested…

And even offered to help.

How’s that for a challenge?  So, to you middle or secondary school teachers or college/university professors, how do you quiet a class?

I’ll start with a couple of things that I found worked for me in Computer Science classes.

  1. Consider your expectations.  In my Computer Science classes, I didn’t have the traditional “solve three problems” and then hand them in.  The programming requirements was actually a continuum of things that ran from mid-September until mid-June.  When a student had a problem to be assessed, they just called me over and we looked at it together on their computer.  More often than not, this resulted in students getting to class early, loading their program and asking me to mark it;  (added bonus – no marathon marking sessions…)
  2. Give the students ownership of the society curriculum requirement…instead of me providing examples of computers in society, students were encouraged to bring in their own stories or to talk and assess a current teachnology issue – even how computers might have been portrayed on a television show from the previous evening.  Students do have respect for each other when they own the floor.  As blogged previously, students got to show off their research with bulletin boards as well.

Having said all that, I’ll admit that my Computer Science classes were among the noisiest going but I like to think it was good noise.  There’s nothing better than students working/arguing in groups all the while on topic.  Having said that, there were days when I wished for a magic potion.

So, gentle reader in the older classes, please consider sharing your tips in the comments below.  Linda has promised to promote your wisdom.

 

Too Noisy


Under the category of “I dunno about that”, comes the “Too Noisy” app.

With a slider to control the sound threshold, the concept is to set a suitable noise level for the classroom and let the app monitor what’s happening.  Once the noise level exceeds the threshold, you’re alerted.

Now, how do I test this?

It’s shortly after 5am at dougpete labs, my wife and dog are sleeping, and the only sound that I can hear is from the cardinal outside welcoming the sun and the news on television.  You’ll see from the time on the screen captures that I took the high road and didn’t do the testing until they were up.

I set a much higher threshold and gently increased the volume on the television until I did set off the alarm.

Then quickly turned it down before I got into too much trouble!

My first two reactions were:

  1. I could just picture a few of my former students who would view this as a challenge to see if they could make the alarm go off;
  2. In the computer science classroom where collaboration is so important, I’d actually be disappointed if the noise level wasn’t high.  It’s the sound of great ideas and arguing over algorithm development.

Do we need an app for this?  What do you think?  Does it have a place in your classroom?

 

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to Friday, friends, and to a quick summary of some of the things happening this week from Ontario Educators.

Revisiting a Philosophy of Education

Not many people speak publically of their philosophy of education.  At times, it may run counter to the stated direction of their employer or the latest government initiative.  Brenda Sherry takes the time to go totally public with her thoughts.  It’s a good read about her thoughts of schools, classrooms, teaching, and students.  The benefit of doing this is to make sure that everything that you do is true to your ideals.  I had a superintendent once who encouraged us to write our philosophy and to carry it everywhere we went.  In my case, it was folded into the front cover of my Franklin Binder.  His advice, and it’s still good to this day, is that when you reach a point where you need to make a decision, re-read your philosophy and see if it fits.  The logic served me well in a number of instances.

Learning Beyond Grades

I love this idea but just can’t imagine the logistics of doing this.  Tracy’s thought involved inviting parents into the classroom and throwing the whole nine yards of assessment at them.  “What if we took this grading backlash as an opportunity to invite and share with parents all the innovative and creative ways teachers are facilitating learning in the classroom? We could show parents what we mean by 21st century learning skills, show them inquiry based learning, anchor charts, outcome expectations, a level 4 rubric, collaborative and project based learning, demonstrate what creative/critical thinking and problem solving learning looks like, what self-reflection and evaluation looks like, tech savvy classrooms, the flipped classroom, classrooms that Skype with other students around the world, show them all the different formative and summative assessments used, whatever they may be.”

Would parents then want to be part of the conversation or would they run away from the classroom screaming?

Resources for Compass For Success Presentation

Mark Carbone shares his recent presentation given to the Compass for Success organization.  You miss some things not having Mark’s insights and comments as he goes along but the slides give the gist of his presentation.  He doesn’t give any indication as to how it was received.  Next time I’m with Mark, I hope that I remember to ask him!

Classroom Tadpoles Live Stream

Science comes alive in Kristen Wideen’s classroom.  The wonderment of life continues as students can check into their classroom while at home!  What a great opportunity!

Damned Statistics & Digital Meta-cognitive Opportunities


Tim King takes a look at Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics (or at least the educational equivalent)

He does ask an important question.  Are we looking at all of the possible data?  If not, why not?

Please support these great bloggers by visiting their websites and viewing their entire posts (and video).  You can check out all of the great content produced by Ontario Edubloggers by visiting the LiveBinder here.  http://livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=52544  If you are an Ontario Educational Blogger and your blog isn’t there, please consider completing the form so that you can be added.

Thanks for visiting.  Have a terrific Friday and a great weekend.