Wrapping Up the Twitter Challenge

Who are five people that do your job better than you?  Are you learning from them? (@ideaguy42)

A couple weeks ago I encouraged you to think verbs rather than nouns (another idea from @ideaguy42) when applying educational technology.  The ultimate objective of the Twitter Challenge was not to make you better Twitter users, but to connect you with other educators through using Twitter more effectively.  By the time Twitter is replaced as the “spot where the cool kids hang out,” connection will be even more critical than it is now.  The tool will change, but the networks will simply be facilitated on another communication tool.  One of the most powerful transformations that technology brings is the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Through technology, there are no limits on interacting with the people who do your job better than you.  Why wouldn’t you learn from them?

More from MOREnet 2015

Here are a few more tools I discovered or became reacquainted with during the MOREnet Conference.  Michelle will be sharing some of her favorite finds next week.

Now that Google Classroom creates a calendar for each class, you can share classroom calendars with parents.

  • In Google Calendar, find the class calendar listed under “My Calendars”
  • Click the down arrow to the right of the calendar name
  • Select Share this Calendar from the menu
  • Click Make this Calendar Public and click SAVE
  • On the Calendar home page, select the drop down arrow next to the calendar name and then Calendar Settings
  • Find Calendar Address at the bottom of the page and click the HTML button to the right
  • Share this link with parents in email or newsletters

You can create appointment slots in Google Calendar and invite people to schedule for an appointment slot through Google Calendar.  This could be useful for scheduling conferences or tutoring.

Link Chooser is an  add-on for Google Docs that allows you to quickly add links to documents or folders from your Google Drive into a Google Doc.

If you haven’t discovered this already, you can send forms with pre-filled fields to help ensure students select the correct answers on certain questions.  This could be useful when you use the form for multiple periods and you want to send each class a separate URL with information for that class pre-filled.  If you prefer a video tutorial, check this out.


MOREnet 2015 Take Aways and Reflections

Attending an educational technology conference usually results in an overload of new tools and innovative ways to use familiar tools.  I will share a few of the best finds now–with more to come next week.

Soudnation.com allows students to create their own music from sound samples and loops (there are 700 available).  The free version does not support recording audio, but Soundnation might be useful for students wanting to create their own background tracks for videos.

Chrome Bookmark Manager is an extension that adds some functionality to your bookmarks.  After installing the extension, you still click on the star to bookmark a site.

Google Trends displays current internet trends, but also allows users to search by topic to discover interesting data on interest in the trend over time, regional interest in the trend, and related searches.

Google recently added an Explore Button in the bottom right corner of Google Sheets.  When you click the button, Sheets opens a side panel displaying graphs based on the data contained in the Google Sheet.

Tips for using existing tools more efficiently or effectively

#comments4kids is a hashtag used on Twitter by teachers seeking people outside the school to comment on their students’ writing.  This might be a way to build an authentic audience for your students.  Check out some of the Tweets using this hashtag to get a feel for how it is used.

I attended a session hosted by two teachers (@bmcd25 and @jackiepickett07) who adapted the Six Trait Writing system to video production.  They shared their presentation slides and rubrics on the MOREnet conference site (the resources are linked at the bottom of the page).

Google does not currently offer a desktop publisher (Microsoft Publisher) as part of their apps, but Google Slides can be used as a desktop publisher by setting the page size to 8.5×11. It is much easier to insert and configure text boxes and images in Slides than in Docs.  LucidPress is a great online Desktop Publisher, but this work-around in Slides may be useful in some projects.

One of my favorite parts of conferences is listening to other presenters share their insights into technology integration.  The following reflection question was raised by Bob Dillon (@ideaguy42) and is worth repeating.

When you think about educational technology, do you think about nouns or verbs?

Which is more important . . .

  • Google Hangout or collaborate?
  • Document or create?
  • Kahoot or assess?
  • Chromebook or research?
  • Twitter or connect?
  • LucidPress or design?

If we focus on the nouns (web tools and devices) we center instruction on the tools, and we have to change the nouns often as websites are shut down or replaced and devices become outdated.  When we focus on the verbs (skills and outcomes), our instructional focus is student centered and the nouns become secondary–they are the strategies we use to support students as they practice and master the verbs.


#FOProud Twitter Challenge Kick-Off

Monday marks the beginning of the #FOProud Twitter Challenge.  The 15 day challenge runs October 5-23 (Monday through Friday) and will offer a variety of short Twitter challenges for beginning, intermediate, and advanced Twitter users.  Challenges (and links to helpful resources) will be Tweeted daily by @gilmorega at 7:00 am, and daily challenges will be included in Robbie’s daily email. (A complete list of the challenges is available here.)  This voluntary activity is designed to build collaboration and community across the entire district by using the district hashtag #FOProud in all Tweets associated with the challenge.  By following #FOProud during the course of the challenge, you will have the opportunity to engage in a district-wide conversation and connect with other Fort Osage educators.

EdCamp #FOProud will take place next Monday, Oct. 12.  Please brainstorm potential conversation topics and consider facilitating a session.  Remember that facilitating does not mean creating a presentation or being the expert.

Connected Educators Month: Building a PLN with Twitter

If you are wondering what all the hype surrounding Twitter means to you as a teacher, I encourage you to consider participating in the district-wide Twitter challenge beginning on October 5.  Take a look at this infographic and this blog post for a few ways educators are using Twitter to connect with other teachers.  As we encourage our students to make connections outside of OTMS and Fort Osage, consider using Twitter as a tool that can help you reach educators beyond our district, state, or country.  By participating in our #FOProud Twitter Challenge, you will have an opportunity to explore Twitter along with other OTMS and Fort Osage educators.  If you have used Twitter in the past, this will be an opportunity to gain some new Twitter skills and make some new connections.  If you would like a sneak peek, the daily challenges are listed here.  

Mid-Continent Public Library Resources

Mid-Continent Public Library is making an intentional effort to collaborate with teachers by providing quality classroom-appropriate content and educating teachers in the use of this content.  The first step in this process was creating teacher accounts for any educator who expressed interest in using Mid-Continent resources.  These teacher accounts allow educators to display and use any digital content provided by Mid-Continent within the classroom (OTMS teacher accounts do not allow for the checkout of printed materials).  If you do not have a Mid-Continent teacher account, contact Felicia Akins at fakins@fortosge.net for assistance in applying.  Students were also given the opportunity to create accounts.  Just because many students took advantage of this offer does not necessarily mean that they remember their library number or even know the location of their library card. The easiest remedy for lost cards (or for students who never applied for a card) is displaying your teacher account number in a permanent place in your room.  Students can login to Mid-Continent using your teacher account number and access the content during your class without wasting time associated with locating their own account number.  If students have access to their account number and wifi at home, they can access all off the resources available through Mid-Continent while off campus.

I will list a few resources available through Mid-Continent, but all of their online resources are accessible through their website.  There is also printed material containing summaries of their online resources available in the OTMS library. (Descriptions are taken directly from the Mid-Continent website.)

World Book Online contains easy-to-understand encyclopedia articles, as well as links to related websites and magazine articles. An atlas is also included. Entries incorporate sounds, pictures, videos, and animations to make the information come alive. This resource is great for students of all ages.  (Fort Osage no longer subscribes to World Book Online because it is now available through Mid-Continent.)

Live Homework Help connects students with expert tutors for live, one-on-one help with homework assignments. Use Live Homework Help from your home computer or inside the Library to complete your homework assignments and improve your grades. Available seven days a week for English and Spanish-speaking students in grades K-12 from noon to midnight. In addition, the Skills Center is open 24/7 and offers thousands of worksheets, tutorials, study guides, practice tests, and more.

The WriteTutor Writing Center’s Live Tutor service is open from noon to midnight, seven days a week, and offers one-on-one online assistance in English and en Español. Students can get real-time help on reports, essays, and papers. Adults get real-time help with writing resumes and cover letters, polishing business letters and proposals, and proofreading papers and essays. Tutors explain the writing and proofreading process.

Access Video provides instant access to world-class documentaries, award-winning educational films, and helpful instructional videos covering a wide range of subjects, such as business, career planning, health, history, travel, and more. Access Video videos can be viewed on PCs, Macs, iPads, and other Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Encyclopedia Britannica: Search or browse the encyclopedia alphabetically or by subject to find in-depth articles, related websites, video clips, and more. Check out the world atlas, timelines, year in review, and the spotlight archive with exhibits on dinosaurs, thunderstorms, the Titanic, and more.

Announcing the #FOProud Twitter Challenge

Fort Osage is celebrating Connected Educators Month with a district-wide Twitter Challenge.  The 15 day challenge runs October 5-23 (Monday through Friday) and will offer a variety of short Twitter challenges for beginning, intermediate, and advanced Twitter users.  Tasks range from setting up an account for beginners,* to investigating Twitter chats for advanced users. Challenges (and links to helpful resources) will be Tweeted daily at 7:00 AM by @gilmorega, and a complete list of the challenges are available from the EdTech Coaches.  This voluntary activity is designed to build collaboration and community across the entire district by using the district hashtag #FOProud in all Tweets associated with the challenge.  By following #FOProud during the course of the challenge, participants will have the opportunity to engage in a district-wide conversation and connect with other Fort Osage educators.  

*This challenge is focused on teachers using personal Twitter accounts for professional development, sharing resources, and Tweeting celebrations.  Any Twitter accounts set up to represent Fort Osage (building, department, organization, or classroom) should be approved through Stephanie Smith using the Social Media Approval Form.

Transformation Through Collaboration: Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is another video conferencing tool with many of the same features of Skype, but Hangouts is built into our Google accounts (faculty) and does require a separate user profile.  Hangouts will work with the webcam and microphone on a Chromebook (Skype will not work on a Chromebook) or on a desktop computer using a webcam and microphone.  Google Hangouts is currently disabled for OTMS Students, but it can be temporarily enabled for a project with a few days notice.

Google Hangouts in Education is a Google+ Community where educators can learn about Hangouts in the classroom and connect with other educators who want to use Hangouts in their classroom.

Google Connected Classrooms matches teachers with virtual field trip opportunities.  Connections are made through their  Google+ Community.  Submit a request to join the community, and click the join community link on the Google+ Community page.

Mystery Hangout “is a social game played with two groups of students. It’s a mix of Battleship and 20 questions.”  When you join the Google+ Community, you can propose a Mystery Hangout or connect with a teacher who has proposed a Mystery Hangout.  More information on Mystery Hangouts is listed here.

Several other resources on Google Hangouts are listed here.

Transformation Through Collaboration: Skype

I introduced the following tools for finding collaborative projects using Skype last spring, but I wanted to remind you of these tools as you are planning for this year.  There are similar sites for Google Hangout, which I will cover next week.  As you explore and consider collaborative projects, remember to start small and work to more complex collaborative tasks as you and your students become more comfortable communication outside of the classroom.  The easiest way to start collaborative projects is to work with teachers outside the district that you already know.  By utilizing your established relationships,  you can focus on the task of connecting your classrooms.  The resources I am sharing serve as communication networks where you can find other educators and classrooms looking to connect through online communication tools.

If you would like Skype installed on your SMARTboard computer, please submit a work order or let me know.  Skype also has iOS and Android mobile apps.   (Skype will not run on Chromebooks.)  You can create a free Skype account on the web without installing the program.

Skype is the Classroom is probably the best place to begin looking for connections through Skype.  You will need a Skype account to sign in. (You can also sign in with a facebook or Twitter account, but if you are going to use Skype, you will eventually need a Skype account.  Plus, when you use your Skype account, it eliminates potential confusion caused when you use a Twitter account for Skype in the Classroom and a Skype account when actually using Skype.)  After logging in, you can search for projects or other teachers by keyword, subject, and age group.  You can also register to participate in Mystery Skype.

The Skype An Author Network lists several authors who are willing to Skype with readers.  Many authors are willing to host 15-20 minute free Skype sessions with students who have read one of their books.  Details are listed for each author including contact information, presentation topics, and rates for longer Skype sessions.

50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom is a blog post that lists projects that other educators have conducted through Skype along with more resources for using Skype.

Transforming Through Collaboration

Rather than start with a completely new set of goals this year, I prefer to continue to build on the achievements of last year.  One of our major district-wide objectives last year was using technology to transform teaching and learning; at the end of the year I began talking about transforming teaching and learning through collaboration.  A few teachers immediately began the process of forming connections with classrooms outside of OTMS and taking the first steps to establish relationships with other educators and classrooms that would impact the learning in both classrooms.  As you begin making plans for this school year, think about how you could connect yourself with other educators and classrooms.

As you start thinking about collaborative projects, start small and work to more complex collaborative tasks as you and your students become comfortable with the process.  In their book, Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, Lindsay and Davis describe a Taxonomy of Global Connection with five levels of progressing collaboration (54-56).  Each level represents more complex tasks and student independence.  I’ve listed the levels below and details on each level can be found here.

  1. Interconnection Within Your Own Classroom
  2. Interconnection With the School or Geographic Area
  3. Managed Global Connections
  4. Student-to-Student Connections with Teacher Management
  5. Student-to-Student Connections with Student Management

I shared several collaborative tools at the end of last year, and I plan to share them again in the coming weeks.  But before we begin talking about tools, take some time to explore how collaboration can impact the learning of your students.  THE Journal just published an article titled “6 Ways Videoconferencing Is Expanding the Classroom” that may spark some ideas as you continue thinking about connecting yourself and your students with learners around the world.