The use of Twitter

As promised…an update on Twitter.

Twitter_Logo_VoltWhen I first started using Twitter I was very apprehensive. I had not previously seen the utility in it for me, but decided to try it out for class as part of my creating a Personal Learning Network. The first week or so was a little awkward. Despite my professor’s suggestions, I was unsure who to follow. There were some suggestions from Twitter, but at the same time they seemed vast and narrow. I felt very lost.

I decided to go with the suggestions I was given to get started and started following a few of the suggested users, along with a few of Twitter Snipmy classmates. Then I added a few organizations that I had wanted to follow, and then some more. Then I found myself adding authors of articles I had read because I enjoyed the article and the resources they suggested and I wanted to have access to more of what they found helpful.

 

Though I am only following 36 users and have only 8 followers myself, it feels like I have done a 180 in how I feel about it. I am not sure what I was expecting, but the best resource that I have found in Twitter is people. Just everyday people, educators, sharing ideas. To me, this resource so much greater than any technological find I could grab from Twitter (though I did find a cool tool that a classmate is using called Vizify, an online all about me tool, but more about that in a bit). Through these people, I can find articles dealing with all sorts of education issues. To me, that is very exciting, and I am quickly learning how easily I can find a trail of new information to follow.

Vizify

Vizify

One of the cool new tools that I have found through Twitter is Vizify. It was one of the resources that we were given as a choice to look into in our technology class, but I had not checked out. I finally noticed it through my Twitter feed. One of my classmates tried it out and Tweeted the link. I checked out what he had done and found it a pretty neat tool. It is like an online All About Me tool. From what I can tell, it is set up kind of like a story web with you at the center, using your social media to help fill in the blanks. My classmate chose to do pages for career, school, and personal. From what I have seen, it is a creative way to visually tell about yourself. This is not something I am sure I will use, but it was certainly an interesting find.

Other Resources

Besides people and some new tools, I have also found certain organizations to be great resources. In my Twittering pursuits, I decided to follow educational and even environmental organizations like PBS and PBS Kids, Smithsonian Channel, Discovery Education, National Geographic, and Wildlife Conservation Society. For me, as a future elementary school teacher, these are great resources for enriching my class and keeping information up-to-date and relevant for my students, and I know that I will use these resources regularly.

Follow Me!

Overall, I am very happy that I chose to try Twitter, and though I am off to a slow start, I can now see its usefulness to me as an educator. I look forward to growing my Personal Learning Network through Twitter and to becoming an active user. If you are an educator, either just starting out or trying to expand your Personal Learning Network and exposure to technology for the classroom, I wholeheartedly recommend giving Twitter a chance. I am so happy that I did. Click here to see my Twitter profile!

Oh the possibilities!

This week we were tasked with trying one of the visualization resources we discussed in our previous class. I decided to give Wordle a try. I had seen products of Wordle before and really liked them, but never knew the tool that created them. I really like that the program pulls out the most often used words and displays them artistically. I think that Wordle will be something I will use often in my classroom.

Below is a visual representation of my last post using Wordle. Here is the link to my Wordle.

Wordle - Blog Post

 

Additionally, I think this could be a great tool for visually showing writers words that they might overuse, and it could even be used with a thesaurus to help expand vocabulary. For example, if I ended up teaching sixth grade, I would have my students run their essays through Wordle to see which words they used most often. After identifying those words, they can either think of other words with similar meanings or use a thesaurus for additional help. By learning to vary word use, they can then learn to vary sentence structure.

Other uses for Wordle could be to find common themes in speeches or other writing. For instance, the speeches made by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. could easily be compared using Wordle. The visual representations created by Wordle make it so easy and saves so much time, allowing the class to focus on the theme, rather than the act of sorting out and matching the common words.

I am excited to use Wordle more in the future!

Teachers learn too!

Each day that we have class, I find myself continually inspired by what we discuss and read. This week we read the article, “The Nuts and Bolts of 21st Century Teaching”. Suffice it to say, the author Shelley Wright truly amazed me; not simply because she decided to change her teaching approach for a particular assignment, but because of how she let herself be challenged to try something new and in doing so found an amazing new teaching strategy.

Ms. Wright decided to take a new approach to teaching her students about the Holocaust. Rather than teach them through lecture like she had previously done, she decided to give them a hands-on, inquiry learning experience and had her students research and curate an exhibit on the Holocaust. Instead of giving instructions on steps to take, Ms. Wright simply gave a timeline of where she wanted her students to be, and then let them take the lead. She helped them come up with the focus by having them write ideas on sticky notes and then had her class group the ideas together into like topics. This gave them a starting point to break into groups for researching, but the rest was up to her students.

When they got stuck, she intervened very little and instead guided them to find the answer. And when they needed inspiration to get them over the transition from researching to composition, she showed them a video to inspire them. I found the following statement from the article very poignant, “Inquiry learning is not a familiar experience for them. Instead, by grade 10, my students have learned that if they wait long enough, they will be rescued. Not anymore.” I actually found this to be the crux of her entire lesson and one of the most important skills she taught them – that no one is going to hold their hand through life.

Some of the technology she used in her class were applications we have looked at like Delicious and Google Docs. She showed easy applications of these programs in her classroom. I particularly liked that she introduced them naturally and in a way that fit with what the needs of the assignment were. This was very fitting to her goal of making the assignment something that was relevant and timely for her students.

Though the story of her students working their way through this assignment was inspiring on its own, what got me most was her story. Through this journey, Ms. Wright found herself more engaged and excited about this project because her students were. She had started a brand new project unsure of where it would lead, and ended up learning alongside her students. To me, that is at the heart of teaching, and that is most inspiring about this whole story. I ended up following Ms. Wright on Twitter (@wrightsroom), and in her feed found a tweet with two very amazing videos that gave me chills. Here is the link.

http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/06/two-inspirational-videos-for-teachers.html

I am going to keep this article in mind so that when I am a teacher I can be reminded to take chances in trying new approaches with my students.

One small step….

Now that we have been in this class for a couple of weeks, I feel like I am beginning to build my own cache of ideas for integrating technology into the classroom, and I have even been able to find some ways to practice applying what we have learned into my Sunday school classroom.

Though we may not have Smartboards or projectors at the ready, I have been trying to apply what I can into my Sunday school classroom, and in doing so, I am finding it is changing the way I look for resources. For example,  I just found a great video that I can use for a lesson on the travels of St. Paul. Previously, I might have handed out maps to look at with the different routes, but now when we do this lesson in two weeks, we will watch a video that gives both the travel routes and the timeline. I think watching the video will help them to better understand the relation between time and travel, and will allow more time for the follow-up activity. I also think that they will enjoy watching a video more than simply looking at the printed maps. And as much as I love maps, I do recognize that for my students, it is the difference between using this:

And watching this:

Although I love the map, the video somehow seems more interactive.

Of course, when looking for either the map or the video, I had to consider accuracy. With so much information available online, it is evermore important to confirm accuracy of information. While the video above may not be the most accurate in terms of naming every city or town that St. Paul visited on his travels, it names the major ones and gives a general timeline which shows that the travel happened over the course of years, rather than days or weeks, which is what I was looking for.

Being sure of accuracy is very important though. In fact, in looking for this video I found another video map on the Byzantine Empire, which looks great, but does have a few inaccuracies when checked against the The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History.

 

Depending on how I would want to use it, however, those inaccuracies might not actually impact the lesson I planned, especially if I was simply trying to impress on my students that the empire changed quite a bit over a thousand years. If I wanted something a bit more accurate, however, I could also look through YouTube Teacher instead…or create my own.

I cannot wait to try out more ways to integrate technology into the classroom. Although I might be starting out slowly by only showing a YouTube video of a time-elapsed map, it is still a first step to actively using technology in my lessons.

Most importantly, I feel like my approach to determining how I will present material has already begun to change. That is not to say that I will not ever hand out a map again. In fact, we will probably paper maps as part of the follow-up activity. But, I have definitely realized the utility in these resources and have already found ways in which their application is not only appropriate, but a better approach to what I would have traditionally used.

Overall, I think that learning about and practicing using these new resources will help me to become an elementary school teacher who is very comfortable with technology.

Also, thank you so much to BlackHawk Church for making the video I will be using!

Being Social

This week we were asked to explore new social media platforms to expand our networking experiences so that we can begin building a network of resources. Since I already use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family and Pinterest for finding project ideas of all kinds, I decided to join a social networking site that I had until now been avoiding. This week I joined Twitter.

Capturefacebook_logoI had been previously avoiding Twitter simply because I felt Facebook was enough for me to over-share with people I knew and did not think I needed another platform that would allow me to over-share with the world. It was not until the video we saw in class that outlined specific ways in which I could use Twitter to network with fellow educators that my mind was changed. I want to be able to follow other educators’ feeds to find new techniques to use in the classroom and I hope that as I learn new techniques that I can be likewise helpful to others too. This will help me to connect professionally with other educators with whom I could collaborate and from whom learn. I do not particularly plan to use Twitter for personal endeavors, but then again I did not think I would have a Twitter account, so….

When cTwitter_Logo_Voltreating my Twitter account I decided to go with something easy and made my Twitter handle @kchykirda. I look forward to expanding my horizons and giving Twitter a chance. Updates on this new adventure to come soon.