Friday, April 26, 2013

Connecting Educators via Twitter

Throughout the past year Twitter has been mentioned a few different times on this blog.  For example, Jeanne and Kirsten have both described projects where Twitter provided their students an authentic audience.  Twitter can also be used as a tool for your own professional development by connecting you with like-minded educators.

I have actually been a Twitter user since July 2007, but contrary to popular assumptions I do not spend all day on Twitter.  Actually, I probably only average a few times each week and usually I am just quickly posting a resource for others.  For me Twitter is simply a tool for sharing resources and connecting with educators across the globe who share similar interests. I do this through Twitter chats and conference hashtags.

Twitter Chats - Twitter chats are when groups of individuals come together at a scheduled time to discuss a topic through Twitter.  Someone moderates the chat by posting questions with a specific hashtag and participants respond using the same hashtag.  For example, Sunday nights from 8-9pm California educators come together to discuss various topics using the hashtag #caedchat. The conversation that occurs looks like the following.
Moderator: Q1: What tools do you use for hooking students into books? #caedchat
Participant: A1: Google Lit Trips! Check it out #caedchat
Most Twitter chats have four to six questions and take place over the course of an hour.  To participate in a chat all you need to do have a Twitter account and follow the chat's hashtag during the scheduled time via a tool, such as the TweetDeck app for Chrome.  Often a link to the complete transcript of the conversation will be posted at the end of the chat.  There are Twitter chats for nearly every type of educational group you can imagine, such as #1stchat (chat for 1st grade teachers), #mathchat (chat for math teachers), #engchat (chat for English teachers), and #artsed (chat for arts in education).  A dynamic and complete list of most educational chats along with dates and times has been curated by two Pennsyvlania educators. Still confused?  This video does a pretty good job explaining Twitter chats by discussing California Ed Chat.  Check it out.

Conference Hashtags - The second way I use Twitter is through conference hashtags.  This works nearly the same way as a Twitter chat, but takes place over the course of a longer period of time - usually a few weeks before, during, and after the conference.  For example, at CUE this year everyone posted valuable resources they learned at the event with the hashtag #cue13.  This summer at ISTE people will do the same thing with the #iste13 hashtag.  If you are lucky enough to attend the event in person these hashtags are handy for finding the good sessions and connecting with people in person.  However, if you are attending the event virtually the hashtags are useful for finding helpful materials.

So contrary to popular belief Twitter is for more than posting images of what you ate for breakfast.  It is a great tool for connecting with other educators and developing your own collection of instructional tools and resources.  To get started simply complete these three steps
  1. Create a Twitter account and follow me
  2. Install the TweetDeck app for Chrome
  3. Select a Twitter chat from this list to check out.  Note: This Sunday's #caedchat is focused on game-based learning and might be a great one to start with.
Finally, next Thursday's after school workshop (5/2 3:15-5:15pm) will focus on using Twitter and Google+ to  develop your own professional learning network.  If any of this post sounds interesting to you simply create a Twitter account and join us.


Photo: Twitter Bird Sketch by shawncampbell on Flickr

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sometimes you want to show a YouTube video in class or post it on your webpage, but you find that the advertisement that pops up before the video plays or related videos on the YouTube page contain questionable or distracting content.  This tends to happen when the video you are playing is not part of YouTube's Education category, such as a clip from the History Channel or CNN.

In the past the only way to navigate around this problem was to download the video with a tool like Keepvid.  However, earlier today Matt Spiva directed us to another handy resource - is a website that strips out advertising and related videos from YouTube content without having to download the video.  To use you just need to copy and paste the URL of the video you want to show from YouTube and SafeShare will redirect you to a page with the same video minus the advertising and related videos.  For example, below are two videos from ABC News

Take a moment and bookmark this resource.  You will probably find it handy in the future and thanks to Matt for finding it for the rest of us!


Monday, April 22, 2013

iPods Can Help Us Write???

YES, they can! I was going to use this for my Area 3 Writing Project demonstration, but I am too excited about it to keep it to myself. It is still a work in progress, but I love how it is turning out so far!

My students can write. They can write a topic sentence followed by 3 detail sentences and 3 supporting detail sentences...and last but not least, the conclusion sentence. BUT...details. Those minute details that can make such a difference when a person reads the paper. It is not unusual for the primary students to forget those details. I use to teach a direct lesson on just writing a detailed sentence - stressing the importance of how details can make a difference. I followed it up with a modelled writing where I would write with lots of detail on a topic. Still, it just was not sinking in for my firsties. THEN...I was sitting in a ELA Cadre meeting. The Cadre meeting consists of teachers from elementary to high school. A fabulous English teacher named Kirsten Spall was talking about how she was wanting to incorporate technology to help her high school students with the editing process. Ding! Ding! That is when the lightbulb went off, and I knew Kirsten had given me a great idea. So much of the ideas and inspiration I get come from other teachers. So, using the inspiration Kirsten gave me, I thought about how I could incorporate the use of the iPod Touch and writing with my firsties. Here it goes...

For the past month or so, we have been conducting quite a few science experiments. Typically, I would break the kids up into small groups (between 4-5 students per group). Each group would have one iPod Touch to share. They assign a videographer and the other group members are in charge of explaining and conducting the experiment. Using the video app on the iPod, the group records their experiment. I have posted some of their experiments in previous posts on my class blog: Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn In 1st Grade! Here is one of our videos on the Rainbow Experiment:

After recording their videos, the groups sit on the rug and replay their video. Then, each student goes back to his/her desk and starts to write down the "How-To" or explanation of the experiment. They always have a chart with the key words to refer to for spelling. Once they have written out their explanation, this is where it typically stops. They usually did not "see" the areas where their writing needed more explanation or detail. BUT NOT anymore!!! Now, I have the students go back and view the video again. The second viewing of the video has done so much to help them realize how important details are. YAHOO!!! Without any prompting from me, the students are able to revise their work. Writing with detail has improved. I am a happy happy teacher. :-)

Now, I want to see how I can transfer this to writing in the other content areas. From their own "Ah-ha!" moments during science, some of my students are able to see the connection of the importance of details. My next mission is to find a way to carry it out into math...probably with their written explanation for math problems. With the shift to the Common Core Standards and the push for our kids to write and explain their thinking, I believe the iPod can help us make that transition a little smoother, more engaging, and definitely more fun!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What the Flip?

When I first heard the term “flipping the classroom,” I thought it was a magical pedagogical phenomenon. I asked myself, “What does this term mean? What does this look like in the classroom? Am I the only teacher who doesn’t know about this magical flipping thing?” So, a year ago, I set out to uncover the mystery of flipping the classroom.  In a nutshell, the information I found at the time involved teachers using videos as homework and class time as review to delve further into student understanding. Over the course of the school year, I have heard many teachers inquire about flipping their classrooms and wanting information about it.  Often, their questions seems like they are asking for a magical, secret formula that will transform their teaching overnight. I have often had the impression that some people think that learning how to flip your classroom is akin to going behind the gates of Willy Wonka’s factory. Oh, how I wish for such a magical formula.

In my quest for this magic formula, I attended a few educational technology conference sessions about flipped classrooms. I was sure to come up with the exact recipe for success to transform my teaching. One particular session at the Annual CUE conference provided the epiphany I was seeking. The session was by Ramsey Musallam who is well known for his innovative way of using flipped teaching in his chemistry classes. I went into the session expecting a magical formula and came out without one. Sounds bad, right? But, it was actually beyond amazing. Through his session and classroom examples, I learned that there is no one formula for success with flipping your classroom. It is really a mindset—one where your goal is how to get your students to think for themselves. His session made me realize that I was bored with my own teaching and if I was bored the kids must be bored. I felt free to try something totally different. Even with Ramsay’s phrase of “discovery is messy,” I was undaunted.

I returned from CUE and switched up my science teaching. Instead of my formulaic notes, hands on labs and then a test, I flipped it around. We were beginning our study of water and erosion so I gave each group a tub of sand and pebbles and we went outside and they “played” with sand. Not exactly. I told them to build a mountain and pour water on it and watch happened. They did this over and over again and they were transformed back into the toddlers they once were. I heard “oohs” and “look at that” and “let’s see what happens” as they all got messy with sand and discovery. I didn’t have to directly instruct them on what happens to water as it moves over land since they saw it first hand.

Over the next two days, I had them create a Comic Life comic about a leaf or a twig’s journey down a river to the ocean. Over two days, every student was engaged in telling the story of what their twig or leaf observed as it moved down river to the ocean. They found pictures to match their text and told the story in the first person as if they were a really smart twig or leaf. As they worked I was able to walk around and read their comics and assess their understanding. They were proud and excited to discuss their journey. In three days, we accomplished a much deeper level of thinking and creating than we normally would have with my traditional instruction.  So, is this “flipping the classroom” or is it just a matter of semantics? For me, flipping the classroom means the freedom to change things up to increase student engagement.

Since that lesson, I have continued to front-load student exploration of concepts and get messy with discovery. All of this has made me think more of my own parents’ education and the schooling that happened in the one-room schoolhouses of long ago. I thought about how in my parents’ schooling, especially through 8th grade, they never had homework. Their homework was usually household chores and playing outside. Both of my parents are smart, resourceful, and great critical thinkers. They didn’t have PowerPoint notes or YouTube videos to teach them. Instead, they used the world around them in their neighborhood to extend their learning. When I was a child, I remember going to my mom’s childhood home in the summers and making mud pies and playing in the dirt for hours just like my mom had as a child. I was learning about soil and erosion the same way she had. I was just being a kid and kids are natural explorers of the world around them. Why don’t I tap into that more? I have begun to question whether that worksheet homework is a valid replacement to playing and creating.

So, even though I wish I could say there’s a magical method called “flipping your classroom” that makes your teaching life fabulous, it simply isn’t true. The truth is that you are free to change how you do things, especially at our charter school. Maybe it involves assigning a brief video for homework to then discuss in class or maybe it involves front-loading a lab or conceptual discussion. Regardless of the semantics, flipping your classroom really translates to flipping your own way of thinking about your teaching.

Feel free to flip it. It’s fun.

Jeanne Feeney

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Publishing for an Authentic Audience - Twitter & the World!

This semester my Technology class had the opportunity to work with the California Emergency Management Agency's (CalEMA) Crisis Communications and Public Affairs Department to create emergency preparedness videos. We were lucky to have their media specialist, Brad Alexander, come out and do a presentation on the importance of emergency preparedness and what CalEMA does in emergencies. Brad also worked with my students on how to shoot their videos with their audience in mind and to focus their ideas and their shots. He worked with each group to fine tune their ideas and encouraged them to be creative in their approach. His invaluable mentoring was inspiring and the students were so excited to get started on making their preparedness videos knowing their finished product would be posted on the CalEMA website for the public to view. The students self-selected their groups and emergency preparedness ideas: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, or fires. The students knew their audience was all Californians of any age and their goal was to teach the importance of being prepared for an emergency.

As the students began their planning, I asked NCS freshmen, Alex Greenlee, to come in to work with my students on planning their shots. My students were familiar with Alex’s brilliant filmmaking already and were so excited to have his help. Alex patiently worked with each group and helped them fine tune their ideas and gave them great advice on how to achieve their goals through effective shots. At any other school this type of mentoring would be impossible, but Alex’s teachers were happy to allow him out of class to mentor my students. His assistance was beneficial to my students but also to him. He is a great teacher and gave my students advice that I could not give.

With the pre-planning done, the scriptwriting began. The students all automatically used Google Docs to collaborate on their “screenplay” for their video. They carefully planned out their shots and what they would say as well as their voiceovers. They worked on this outside of class as well so they could begin filming. Most filming was done outside of class after school and on the weekends and the students all used their own devices. Editing was all done on our classroom computers. Many students came in before school and at lunch to record their voiceovers for their movies. Once the videos were done and uploaded to, all classes viewed them and scored them on a Google form. After viewing them, a few groups re-did some of their scenes to make them more audible. We submitted our videos to Brad at CalEMA for their review.

This past week during my 3rd period class I received a tweet from CalEMA about one of the videos:

This tweet was about a fire preparedness video that two of my 3rd period students had made. These two students happened to be very quiet and shy and so I quietly went over with the tweet open on my phone and shared it with each of them. Their smiles were ear to ear and they were glowing! These two had gone to the trouble of re-working their audio after viewing their video in class and realized it needed to be clearer. They never complained or asked for extra time or help. So when they saw that their video was being tweeted about, they knew their hard work had paid off. Thousands of people will see their video because of this tweet! I was thrilled for them since I knew their creative fire preparedness movie would help everyone.

As a teacher, I always enjoy watching my students create engaging videos whatever the educational content. This year, the part that motivated my students even more was having an authentic audience to publish their videos to. Our emergency preparedness video project was a good example of real world learning, mentoring, collaboration, problem solving and creating media for a wider audience. Thanks to everyone involved, it was a huge success! You can view the videos here:
Enjoy and always be prepared!

Jeanne Feeney