Sunday, May 31, 2009

MSSD Tech Fair: Keeping Current - Growing Your PLN

Personal Learning Networks are virtual spaces that employ aspects of social networking and blogging. They allow us to connect with others in our field and learn with and from them. They provide a safe and convenient place to ask questions whether we're in the information stage of gathering new ideas or in the implementation phase of new methods. PLN's allow people to keep up with current happenings in their fields.

To start growing your PLN there are a few handy tools to set in place.
  1. Google Account and iGoogle Homepage
  2. Twitter Account
  3. Diigo Account
  4. Subscribe to blogs
  5. Ning Community (Classroom 2.0)
Sue Waters has a terrific set of instructions on her Grow Yourself Wikispace. We'll be using this wiki for a majority of our activities today.

Step 1
In order to subscribe to blogs you have to set up some sort of way to view updates in a convenient location. We'll do that by creating a gmail and iGoogle Account. You can take it one step further by signing up for Google Reader at a later date.

After you have set up your iGoogle Account, visit a few of these blogs and add them to your iGoogle homepage. By no means are these the only blogs to follow, they represent a small sampling so you can a feel for subscribing to them.
Cool Cat Teacher
Always Learning
You'll be able to follow any blog you visit by subscribing to the RSS feed.

Step 2
Set up a Twitter Account. Follow these simple directions. When you create your account name, make it personal. Mine is lisettecasey. This lets others easily find and relate to me. Edit your profile and put information in describing who you are and what you do. This helps others to see what you may have in common. Once you've set up a twitter account you'll need to find people to follow. View my recent post for some terrific tools to accomplish this effeciently. To learn more about other tools to utilize Twitter check out this wikispace.

Step 3
Set up and use social bookmarking like Diigo. Join groups (EdTechTalk, Discovery Network, Science Teachers to name a few) and enjoy the many benefits of a global community. I use the same username as in Twitter to make life easy.

Then start off your mornings with a dose of growing your PLN.

Exactly what does my Personal Learning Network (PLN) look like? Here’s a sample of how I spend the first half hour of every morning learning before I go to work:
  1. Check my email.
  2. Check in with Twitter and Classroom 2.0 to see what people are saying, blogging, what websites are being referenced, or what webinars may be available later in the day.
  3. Visit interesting bookmarks shared through the Diigo groups I belong.
  4. Check Facebook to see what friends and relatives, some personal some professional, are up to this day. (I can do this through TweetDeck - a Twitter platform)
  5. I’ll check my school and student email. (Students use a unique email to access me.)
  6. I’ll check my blog to see if I need to respond to anyone or perhaps I’ll add a new post.
  7. I’ll review the new posts of the many blogs I follow.
  8. Whatever new comes my way that day, I’ll click and check it out.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Using Twitter and Finding People to Follow

People are always asking me why and how they should use Twitter. They've read about Twitter in the news and don't see anything worthwhile about learning what Brittany Spears or Oprah Winfrey are doing. To everyone I reply, "There is so much more."

Twitter helps grow your personal learning network. Personal learning networks are virtual spaces that employ aspects of social networking and blogging. They allow us to connect with others in our field and learn with and from them. They provide a safe and convenient place to ask questions whether we're in the information stage of gathering new ideas or in the implementation phase of new methods. Sue Waters does a nice job of detailing how to grow your PLN on her PLN Yourself Wiki.

Once you've created a Twitter account you'll need to find people to follow. There a few easy sites that help you do this very efficiently.

Mr. Tweet helps you identify relevant followers on Twitter, providing the reader with a glance at each person's profile and latest tweets.

Twellow works like yellow pages and allows you to find people to follow by occupation.

Twitter4Teachers is a wiki that lists teachers by content. It's a great resource all in one place. You'll even be able to add your name to the list if you join the wiki.

You can always do a simple Twitter Search to find people tweeting about a subject of interest. If you like what they have to say, start to follow them. I recently did this with the latest shuttle mission and ended up following one of the astronauts, Mike Massimino, while he was in space.

Finally, once you arrive at a person you'd like to follow, see who they follow. You'll never know who you might end up connecting with. Start with me if you'd like. This is the beauty of Twitter. Twitter is a global community sharing common interests and ideas of which you can instantly belong.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Science Inquiry to Technology

I'm in the process of finishing up a terrific course at Colorado College about Scientific Inquiry as it relates to Physical Science. The course offered tidbits of information regarding Physics, Reading in the Content Area, Assessment, and Scientific Inquiry. In addition, I was very fortunate to have Dr. Steve Getty from BSCS join me in my classroom for a week of hands-on, authentic scientific inquiry as he field tested new curriculum for 8th graders.

As I leave the science classroom for a position in educational technology next year, I couldn't help but reflect how I would take these lessons and experiences with me to my new position. Next year holds new challenges for me. After 16 years of teaching Science I will shift to teaching Educational Technology. I’ll have the opportunity to design new curriculum and will keep the models of inquiry at the forefront in this design. Part of my responsibilities will be to work with classroom teachers directly involving the integration of technology. I see implementation of the 5E Model during this integration as a key piece to keeping technology relevant and authentic to students. By involving students in engaging activities that can serve as meaningful preassessments, I will be able to gather pertinent information relating to student skill sets related to technology. By integrating these engaging activities toward academic disciplines, technology will be able to enhance the learning in the core classrooms. My ability to communicate with teachers regarding formative assessments within these phases will be essential to the implementation of true technology integration. Various activities emphasizing technology applications can be used as explorations into both content area instruction and technology application.

I'm so excited and fortunate to have a new, open door in front of me.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Glutton

Every now and then you come across a website that might revolutionize the way someone thinks regarding the teaching of reading. Book Glutton did just that for me last week when it was shared in one of my Diigo groups.

Book Glutton (it's free, by the way) hosts a range of book titles from all genres online. How many times have you wished students could write comments or notes directly in a textbook? Book Glutton allows for the user to leave comments and view other comments easily. Immediately I began to imagine the classroom possibilities. Students could join a class reading group and host book chats while they read. This website puts a new twist on the meaning of literature circles and could just about be my all time favorite Web 2.0 site, at least for today.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Invitation to the Future

Recently a friend sent a letter she had received from her San Antonio Superintendent regarding technology in schools. It's quite an invitation to the future. I'm fortunate to work in a district that supports and encourages the use of technology in the classroom but this directive tops the cake. Hats off to Richard Middleton.

Dear Friend,

We cannot ignore the fact that today's students learn much differently than we did as children. They live in a world of computers, smart phones, video sharing and instant messaging. And they will have all of those going simultaneously while doing their homework. Using technology in ways that keep our students engaged will help ensure their success in school and beyond. For that reason, North East ISD is in the process of bringing more technology into every classroom across the district.

We know that issues arise any time we deploy new media tools, and that there is a learning curve associated with the evolution of any new system. Our support staff is committed to adapt with the changes and resolve problems as quickly as possible. All of us must also make a commitment to adapt.

We envision many changes in the future of education, such as the replacement of printed textbooks with electronic versions, more distance learning opportunities and an increased use of hand-held educational devices. To be prepared for that future, we must build a strong foundation today.

First, educators need access to professional development opportunities to effectively integrate technology as a teaching and learning tool. The district strives to help teachers build their instructional technology capacity with support, training and tools. Teacher laptops, ceiling mounted projectors, teacher Web sites, SMART Boards and wireless connectivity are just a few tools being used right now in our district.

Second, we must stay current. Technology is always evolving, and we must constantly ask ourselves how we can better reach our students and parents. Your input is vital in this process. I would like to hear from you about what methods are working successfully as well as what tools we should consider using that we haven't as of yet.

For example, how much should we take advantage of social media outlets? We know about the benefits. Instant communications like Twitter allow us to be our own media outlet. Wikis and blogs let us develop specific messages and elicit immediate feedback from a student, staff or community audience. Podcasts also keep us connected with our community and facilitate learning. Do these tools also have drawbacks or limitations? What are they?

Our use of technology offers fantastic potential for improved customer service, classroom instruction and efficiency. It also brings dangers for our students and teachers, such as cyber bullying, online predators and increased potential for cheating. E-mail me your thoughts about the pros and cons of integrating technology into the classroom and how technology will change instruction over the next five years.

Working together, we can accomplish great things. Thank you for your commitment to innovation and staying current in this technological age.

Have a great week.

Richard Middleton