Search results for 'twitter'

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.

 

Cell Phone Karma, It’s Real

4 Jan

About two years ago, right after my daughter was born, my wife and I managed to escape for a night to a movie, our first one in months. As the previews started I noticed the faint glow of Facebook on a smart phone beneath us. I ignored it at first, but it was distracting in the dark theater. When someone behind us yelled, “turn it off!” I decided to do the same and asked them to turn of the phone. About ten minutes later after the previews, the phone was on again back to Facebook. I had to ask again, got a rude reply, but did not see the phone till after the film. Constantly in social settings more and more people are oblivious to acceptable social norms when it comes to technology. Schools are not addressing the issue as many districts ban the use of phones due to fear of liability. The downside are students who enter the world with covert cell phone skills as they text like ninjas all the while oblivious to the information they have access to through their phones. Additionally, these same students are ill prepared to take jobs at corporations who expect them to be able to use the resources available to problem solve, communicate as to use professionally.

Keep in mind, that we are not only fighting the kids but the kids’ parents: the ones who bought the phones, pay for the phones, expect their kids to answer anytime they call the phones, and any other number of reasons parents want their kids to have a phone. Think about how many times you have students who go to the parking lot to meet a parent during lunch or between classes? Or, a student comes up during class and says, “My mom is here can I go to the office?” even if you have not gotten a call or note from the office stating that someone is here for the student. If you were to ask them, “how do you know your parent is here,” the answer usually revolves around a text. I was getting tired of this behavior, so I knew it was time for a little professional development with cell phones and my students.

My first lesson was when students could have their phones on and off. So, I would ask kids to take out their phones, and done one of two things depending on the lesson:

1. Everyone please take out your cell phone, make sure it is turned off right now as we won’t be using them for a bit. Once your phone is off please put it on the left hand side of your desk so I know you are ready.

2. Everyone please take out your cell phone, make sure it is turned on, and when you are ready please place your phone on the left hand side of your desk.

The left hand side is key as most students are right handed. The motion of reaching across a desk for a phone will be awkward and noticeable, plus it was a visual cue for me to know when kids had their phones and were ready. If students felt more comfortable putting their phones in their bags while they were off, that was fine. However, if the phones were out or not where I expected them to be, the phones were mine.

In the early days I did not do much: some texting, a few surveys, definitely Twitter (fast follow is one of the best inventions ever) which I will touch on later.

One of the most common questions I get is access. When I started this, over half my students had phones, about half could text during school. So, for certain projects students partner up or work in groups. Over time, I have more students with smart phones or the ability to text so that number has gone down over the past two years. As early as 2008 Nielsen reported that over 70% of students had a phone while over 80% had access to a phone. That number has risen significantly.

Smart phones are a game changer. Where I had one or two kids with smart phones I now have over half my class with smart phones. Now, I can have the students do research, look up films, find articles or do basic research as necessary. Some studies I have read estimate that as of December of 2011, over half of all phones that students use are smart phones.

As tech savvy as we think students are, they are not as good at technology as we give most of them credit for. Students are only as good as their needs, and most of their needs occur on Facebook. Basic skills such as searching, analyzing, filtering content, or even recognizing marketing trends are deficient. Much like the old musical number from Bye Bye Birdie – it’s not the phone lines that are tied up but how many text messages one person can send in a minute.

As for AUP’s, I will include one I got from Ron Ippolito – a fellow teacher with an amazing blog – who is doing some great work with phones and other items: AUP Policy. After researching all over, the basics are this: you can have it, you may use it with teacher permission, it’s a privilege to use your phone at school, we are not responsible if your phone is lost or stolen. Keep in mind, phones are a part of the curriculum, they are not the only way to complete the curriculum, therefore phones enhance the learning process but are note required for the learning process.

In the end, my students enjoy have greater access to me via their phones either through texting or through Twitter. I’ve noticed that the level of understanding, respect and responsibility with technology has gone up immensely while the lessons I am able to figure out from basic social skills to applicable career skills is astounding.

Video Time Machine

20 Jul

Living in a media drive age, it would make sense that we, as educators, have access to videos and clips that feature some of the great moments in our history: movies, music, tv, news, sports, games and ads.  To truly understand history in any context is to know what is going on in that time period. There are many ways to set the scene, YouTube is one, though researching all of that video footage takes time; the Library of Congress has some great videos to download via iTunes if you have the time; or how about the vidoes and DVD’s which are delivered with our textbooks (in my case, laser discs and reel to reel – totally up to date on technology here).  Even better, how about a device that let’s kids research or identify the videos that best describe the time period? Enger Video Time Machine, a new app available for the iPhone and iPad that carefully selects videos that best represent the time period they were made. As the site claims, “You can watch over 10,000 handpicked videos from 1860-2011.”

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What’s Your Next Presentation

17 Jun

When I first started teaching eight years ago, I was so excited to finally get to use PowerPoint, no writing on the chalk board – yes, I had a chalk board – for my students. Fifty slides later, I still cringe when I hear the break glass sound effect, I knew I was off to a bad start. I had a great technology and no idea how to use. With a lot of practice, collaboration and seeing other professional examples I was able to begin creating some amazing PowerPoints. Eventually I also branched off into Keynote and finally Prezi. In the end, it was not about the presentation, but the content that drove what I was presenting to students.

People will disagree – I’ve noticed that in a Mac and PC world – but in my mind Keynote and PowerPoint are relatively the same. They are both slide/presentation programs where you can create your notes: bullets, pictures, movies, graphs and charts. I do feel that KeyNote is more sophisticated, you have more options and your ability to export into many formats has me enjoying that app a bit more.

When I first started using Keynote I was a bit overwhelmed with too much choice. I was confused on where to go, what to add and how much. I was reminded of my days when I started on PowerPoint and had too much going on – the emphasis was on the show and not the information. Over time, presentations became better, succinct and I was able to get creative. I still had one problem, both PowerPoint and Keynote are very linear – you start at point A and end at Point B. Creatively, while I had more options with Keynote, I was still restricted to a straight across format, I wanted something a little more free form.

Enter Prezi, Prezi. I liked how Prezi gave me a space, and I was allowed to create. I can upload my own pictures, video and create text however I like it. I can add shapes, I can adjust the orientation so presentation zooms in, out, up down or any direction I choose. This is great for my students as it can challenge their thinking, put the focus on the content and deliver in a manner that is not necessarily linear. At the same time, I can embed my presentations – fully interactive – on my class blog or via Twitter. I know I can do this, to a degree, with Slideshare on my PowerPoints or Keynotes, buy my students desire something much more highly interactive.

On a closing note, Prezi is not perfect. While they have a viewer app on iPad and iTouch, they viewer does not support certain image types like SWF or even certain video types. So, I just use my computer in those instances. Whatever your choice in presentation tool, keep it concise, make it fun, and doing use too many breaking glass sound effects.

A sample Prezi on Storytelling
Sample Prezi

My first Prezi, still some work to do, but a good start My first Prezi

iPad App Awareness

14 Jun

I recently had a great opportunity to participate in an iPad institute at the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Moving past the basic commands like zooming in on text, copy and paste, or adding and removing apps, it is the sharing of apps and their use that I find the most helpful. I’ve been on iPad for about two years, but I am amazed at what I can continue to learn with a little insight. So, with good intentions, here is the beginning of my list of favorite iPad apps.

1. iBooks: In the beginning I did not like this app at all, I was all about the Kindle. However, over time, I found that iBooks had features that Kindle and other apps did not. Most books we read in English can be found online as PDF’s or in iBooks as free downloads, for example, The Scarlet Letter. On the iPad or in an iTouch, kids can highlight and annotate text directly in iBooks. I can assign a chapter in class, have kids annotate where they have questions, make connections or analyze a plot point or character interaction. Then, either at the end of class or the next day, I can choose a device at random and place it under my document camera. As a class, we can view the notes, offer feedback and see what other comments students may have made or could have made. Lastly, check out the CK-12 Foundation, they have many free textbooks for download in iBooks.

2. Qwiki: whatever you want to learn in your area or someplace you are traveling, there is Qwiki. A great app to learn about a region or just to see what is going on in your area. You could also research an area that has to do with a book or subject you are currently studying. The app offers video and text and is highly engaging.

3. Flipboard: this app allows you to interact with news sources and social media sites online just like they are a magazine. Flipboard is a news aggregator that goes out on the web and pulls information via an RSS feed and brings the information to you. Not sure what an RSS feed is or how it works, don’t worry, just think of the publications you like to read like O Magazine, Ted Talks, CNN and such. You just tell Flipboard you like those information sources and it brings you the information for free. You can also tell Flipboard to access your social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. As an assignment, give your students a current event assignment to research or have them compare news stories from different media outlets like Huffington Post or Fox News.

4. Inkling: Many text books companies are going digital, and Inkling is helping to make that possible. The App is free, and many of the text books that are offered have free chapters for you to use and experiment with in your classroom prior to purchasing.

5. Shakespeare in Bits Romeo and Juliet: a great app for teaching about the Bard (the lite version is free). This app is great in that it offers definitions in the text, video and audio for student involvement. Students can also access character bios or a character relationship chart to see how the different characters in the play are related.

6. iTunes U: There are literally thousands of podcasts from various colleges and universities across the globe. There are also great resources from high school teachers in just about any subject you are looking for. Find some podcasts you like or have your students go out and search for podcasts they feel will enhance the learning experience for the specific subject you are working on in class. What a great way to get the kids thinking critically about the subject matter and and making connections to different media. Also, check the podcasts carefully as many come with downloadable written content as supplements to the audio/video podcast. don’t forget about the Khan Academy, thousands of videos on multiple subjects to for kids to access, practice and learn at their own rate.

7. Skype: a great tool to connect with classes, students or professionals anywhere in the globe. Check out education.Skype.com for a list of classes looking to have a conversation. This is a great way to practice language with native speakers or learn about other cultures. If calling a school in another country is too much, why not Skype with a class across the hall or another school in town for some great collaboration.

8. Dragon Dictation: a great app to practice speaking. Dictation software has come a long way the last few years and continues to improve. Dragon is great in that students can record what they say and have it transcribed directly on the iPad or iTouch. This is great practice for language learners or anyone preparing to do a presentation or speech.

9. Evernote: By far one of my favorite apps for note taking. You can organize notes by unit and create notebooks, great for research as students collect sources, and you can add pictures, links screen shots, video and audio right in the note. Notes and notebooks are easily shared between parties. Since Evernote is stored on the cloud, wherever you have wireless access and you have the Evernote app/software installed, your notes will be there. For more on Evernote, you can check out my previous post here https://soberandsaucy.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/my-top-10-uses-with-evernote/

10. Evernote Peek: fairly new and a great companion to Evernote, Evernote Peek is a flash card tool for the iPad. It takes advantage of your magnetic cover, so you can see the clue, but you have to figure out the answer. The title of your note in Evernote is the clue, the subject area is your answer. So, in Evernote, create a notebook for whatever you want to study: anatomy vocab, math formulas, literary characters … anything worth memorizing.

11. Dropbox: One of the best way to store large files on the cloud rather than your iPad. Memory is at a premium, so store those files on your Dropbox account and not your iPad. Dropbox is also a great way to share files with others: handouts, videos, pictures, or anything else.

12. Library of Congress: what a great way to give kids an opportunities to evaluate and research using primary source documents. This app offers high resolution examples of many historical documents not usually accessible to the public.

These are the few of the apps I have been playing with over the last few days. I have many more to review and share and I’m excited to see what I can do with them. If you have any apps you like to use please feel free to share. I will be adding more over the next few days and beyond.

Cruise Control

21 May

I’m a cruise control driver.  With a forty-five minute drive, I like to get on the freeway, set my speed and go.  It’s a these time my mind tends to wander, I can prepare for the day on the way to work or reflect on my day as I drive home.  It’s a great time for me to decompress, relax, or get ready for what lies ahead.  However, I’m often impeded as I have to share the road with many other drivers.  The most frustrating, the drivers in the passing lane who are not passing anyone.  Remember, I’m using my cruise control, so I’m not speeding up or slowing down, slamming on brakes or randomly accelerating.  So, when I begin to come up on a car that does not yield, and I’m forced to slow down, or in some cases go around, I get a little frustrated as I have to engage my brake.  I feel the same way about education.  When I get in my room I can teach some amazing things and am able to go a long way to motivate and inspire my students.  Unfortunately, bureaucracy and outdated policy are often my roadblocks on the passing lane to properly prepare my students for the world beyond high school.

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The Next Big Thing

7 Apr

Just a few days ago I heard my daughter banging her hair brush on a metal bowl on our kitchen island.  After a bit I was annoyed, so when I looked down to see what she was doing and tell her to stop I noticed she had stopped hitting the bowl and slowly started hitting the island – which is made of wood – instead.  Then she started hitting the bowl again, then up to the glass casserole dishes, then back to the island and back to the bowl.  She looked up to me smiling as if to say, “look what I figured out.” For me it was amazing as I got to see a real life education lab right in front of me; my daughter, testing out a theory, finding a solution and feeling proud of her discovery.  Continue reading

Taking Notes in the Digital Age

17 Mar

My note taking preferences have changed over the years.  My favorite ways of interacting with speakers and lectures is to use Evernote and Twitter.  I like being able to save, share, and then re-live the topic that was discussed.  I love the interactivity of the note-taking and the power it gives me to go back and research the topic as I lived through it at the time.  Now, how do I convince my students there is a benefit to this process? Continue reading