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Which Are You?

28 Aug

I had something interesting happen to me that I have not seen in a long time, a person actually went out of their way to tell me I was not good at something. In this day and age where teenage bravado is only matched by anyone’s desire to share or overshare whatever they are thinking whenever they are thinking it,  I’m still amazed at how far someone will go out of their way to put others down.  I got an email the other day that read, “Hey Guess What” in the subject line with the message of “Your videos are really bad.” I was a bit shocked. More so because these were not my videos, these were my students’ videos; and much like an overprotective parent, I was ready for battle. Then I was a reminded of a great poem I was exposed to a few years ago, and I asked myself, which are you, a builder or a wrecker?  Continue reading

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Keeping in Touch with your Students

5 Jun

With any new technology, it inevitably takes me about a year to get anything under control and integrated in my classroom. When it comes to communication, I feel pretty good about my system: utilizing Twitter and Twitter fast follow, making my Google Voice number available for my students to text me if they need anything, using my blog to update information, and sharing handouts via Google Docs. This worked for me for three years, was a lot of work, but was very reliable. However, I recently came across some new online resources that can make my communication even better.

Remind101 is a great texting service that is free for teachers. For any designated group, you get a unique phone number that kids can text. Kids are then prompted to reply with their name so you can see all fo the individuals who are logged into your account. This way, I know exactly who is accessing the texts I send out. I see a lot of freedom with this software. First, I can create multiple groups – one for each class to start. As an activity director, I see creating a group for the school, possibly for parents, for my freshman mentors as well as my leadership students. I can send secret messages such as “If you get this message report to the cafe’. The first five people there get a free shirt”, or “Mentors, give every freshman in your group a high five.”  This allows me access to students on the one item they are pretty much guaranteed to have on them at any time of the day. What’s more, remind101 allows you to schedule text messages so they can go out any time you want. I can time messages to appear at the start of class, end of class, passing period, after school or before school. I use Hootsuite for all of my Twitter updates. Now, while I will still use Twitter, I see Remind101 taking on a whole side of communication as it has the potential to reach a much wider audience.

My next new favorite is Wiggio. Someone mentioned this at a conference I was just at, and I filed it away as Wiggio was described as a mass texting application. When I logged in to the account, I learned it was so much more, the features are abundant.  I was able to enter my students’ email addresses and names right off the bat and invite them to the site. Keep in mind, this site is private, so only myself and my students can see this information. Students can also add cell phone numbers and they have the option of getting sms updates without anyone in the group seeing their number (same for me, the teacher). In Wiggio, I can invite people to meetings, establish groups with smaller members of the main group, assign tasks (and set reminders via email or sms), share documents or even create them directly on the site. I can also share links, important as we are using a lot of items from other sites like Google Docs or Evernote; or there may be a video I would like them to watch before coming to class.

As an activities director, I am noticing more and more that my students are walking a fine line between being organized with a binder and being organized with their phone. In general, teens are disorganized with both except for a select few that teachers often refer to as their favorites. With Wiggio, I see the ability to communicate beyond just the planning sheets or post-it notes on the wall that declare something as being “do”, “doing”, or “done”. I like that it can text kids reminders, I am a big believer that if it has to do with a student’s cell phone they are more likely to do it than when they have to remember to look at a calendar. Every time I add a task, meeting, document or other item it appears in a calendar on the site and color codes it so we can differentiate between the items. I pull it up and on any given day I can see if something was done, not done or is due soon. This I can put up daily for the class to see so I know if we are on task.

Lastly, I like that in Wiggio I can create a chatroom for the kids to discuss items far away from Facebook. I like Facebook, it’s a good tool, but too many times the conversations get out of control and too many times we have read something about teacher/student interaction on Facebook. So, let’s keep it in the class here. I also enjoy the ability to set-up to do lists, and my new favorite, my ability to take a poll. We sometimes spend so much time in class discussing issues – most of which I feel is a waste of time in that it wastes class time. A quick poll online can solve a lot of those issues.

While I will still be using Twitter, Google Voice and Facebook to communicate, I will be adding Wiggio and Remind101. My philosophy with communication, hit kids where they are at. I use all of these services because I have a great chance of finding all of my students on some level. Now, I don’t always post the same content to each site, but I do post to each site as needed. I am excited at the possibilities these apps offer to my teaching and I look forward to seeing how they integrate with my classroom management style. What are your thoughts?

YouTube You can Use

17 Mar

In building classroom community you can do very well by creating a shared experience. If you are daring, it’s a trip to the Tolerance Museum or listening to a speaker. An ice breaker, game, or a rock,paper or scissors tournament is another way to have your kids find a common ground to connect. I recently came across a new one that I would not have ever thought of that my students love, Just Dance. While looking at a video on YouTube, my kids asked if we look up the song “Take on Me” from Just Dance 3. Within five minutes I had thirty leadership students dancing to the 80’s classic; they were laughing, smiling and having a great time.

Continue reading

My First iBook

6 Mar

My first few years of teaching, I developed a theory that if I wrote a book by my fourth year I would be famous and have a film made after me (think any major Hollywood film done after a teacher). Cheesy jokes aside, with iAuthor, I knew I had a chance to create an iBook with all of my research and experiments in education and technology. Doing a lot of technology presentations, I wanted to share what I had created as well as show off what this application could do for interactive books.  Continue reading

Roll Away Your Stone

5 Mar

Having just returned from CADA (California Association of Directors of Activities), I want to recap one of the more important themes I try to drive home with technology: social and emotional intelligence is one of the most important things we can teach. It’s not new, as activity directors we address this every day through our project planning, group communication/interaction, and mass communication with the campus. Jamie Casap – Google Education Evangelist – said it best last year during his keynote when he said, “If kids are getting hit by cars, we don’t ban automobiles. We teach kids how to cross the street.” With technology, we do the opposite, constantly banning that which wold make a great teaching tool. Continue reading

Google Voice Again

7 Jan

I started texting for the same reason most guys do anything, I met a girl. After a date one night I got a text the next day saying she had a nice time and enjoy our evening out. I texted back, warily, because I knew this exchange was costing me about thirty cents as I did not have a text plan. Five hundred texts later, I knew it was time to look into a texting plan. Continue reading

Fast Follow is more than Following Fast

5 Jan

I’m always impressed with people who feel that teenagers are the tech savvy generation. Keep in mind that teens are very good at texting and Facebook, but not much beyond that (in most cases). When I first started using cell phones in the classroom, I knew that texting was the key. However, I did not want to individually text 150 students. So, in a moment of inspiration, I started using Twitter with my students. After four days and only one student signing up I was in a jam. I took a chance on Twitter Fast Follow, a service Twitter offers that allows someone to follow a person on Twitter without even creating an account. It took me two days to get 80% of my students signed up with Twitter.

Fast follow is simple, send a text to 40404 with the phrase “Follow (username)”. For example, I had the kids text 40404 with the words “Follow Soethengclass”. This was a great way to do informal surveys, send out information, connect with kids and make myself available for questions or help.

The first thing I did to get student involvement was start some give-a-way projects. For example, I would tweet out that the first five people who replied to a tweet would get a prize. The next day, I gave out at least one king sized candy bar in each class. My goal, to create interaction in social media. I wanted the students to know they could reach out to me and to pay attention to the tweets going out.

In class, I started backing off the amount of writing the kids had to do, especially during discussions. We spent a lot of time going over class discussions and the expectations for class discussions, and I would have a student keep track on the board of the main points that we would go over. Then, at the end of class, I would take a picture with my iPhone and tweet it out to my students. Their job, make a copy for their notes. My goal, one tweet a day as I knew if I could get my text or tweet to show up on a student’s phone I could make them think about me or class. Anytime a student thinks about my class outside of school is a good thing.

Now, the evidence that supports using Twitter. About two years back I had a conversation with another teacher by the name of Corey Bess. Corey did what I did not, research. You can read Corey’s blog to get more specific info, but I will boil it down. Corey created two identitcal sets of students: grades, race, socioeconomic, and class size. At the end of one year, he found that his students who used twitter socred- overall – 8 percent better on their final grade than those who did not. This number grew significantly over the course of year as students who used Twitter scored almost 10 percent better on standardized tests than those who did not use Twitter. That gap grew over the course of the year. Corey did the same thing I did, one tweet a day. And the tweets can be specific like “HW tonight on page 29, make sure you read the paragraph first,” to the casual, “Happy Friday, remember to wear your Orange and Blue.”

I started using my Twitter for various purposes. I would do spirit updates, pictures, assignments for that day in class, or motivational items like “do your best today.” Over time, I found my students were very happy to contact me via Twitter and ask questions on assignments. In the past year, I have seen my students who use Twitter increase by fifty percent. While I used to have to explain Twitter, I am finding that less and less as kids are jumping on board and following each other or their favorite celebrities. Additionally, with only 140 characters, Twitter forces students to be concise with their communications. At the same time, the Twitter community frowns on abbreviations and misspelling, so a lot of the text speak that kids use is fairly non existent in the Twitter-verse.

One other passionate educator I know who uses fast follow is Ron Ippolito. Ron and I have had some great discussions on fast follow. On of those discussions involved using fast follow as part of a school Twitter account. Now, you have a free way to communicate with parents via text or Twitter. Granted, there are a lot of text services out there, but I don’t know too many that are free. Twitter is a great way to have a conversation with your students, parents or staff. It’s a great way to stay connected and gives your community one more option in getting their information or contacting you. That’s a great lesson in customer service for your students to take to their professional lives.