My Love Affair with Twitter

6 months ago I hated twitter… I have resisted it’s appeal for 99% of its 10 year existence. ( by the way, Happy 10th birthday Twitter!) The French song by Stromae- Carmen, summed up my criticism nicely.

I now realize that the song recounts the pitfalls of an uninformed approach to twitter,and certainly the dangers of an unguided use of any social media platform. Much like the song suggests, I thought it was an unhealthy tool for shameless self-promotion,used by the famous, to become more famous and the rich to become richer… I scoffed at it’s educational potential. I believed it caused its users to base their self worth and importance on their number of followers and that it reduced life to a popularity contest. I now realize it was a superficial understanding and that it has a much larger potential.

Several years ago, after hearing several colleagues jump onto the bandwagon, I decided to check it out. I created an account, I followed a few people and several news outlets. At first it was lackluster on my end, but I thought it was an interesting way to get real time news updates. I appreciated that it allowed for access to social movements such as the Arab Spring, the Idle No More movement and real time access to critical news such as social protests and natural disasters happening around the world. I never posted anything and used it only to consume news. It was great for that, I thought, but not much else. 140 characters allows for very little.

During previous professional developments I could not be sold on the idea of Twitter, and continued my criticism and fight against social media in general. A fight I was sure to lose. My students would not choose my methods of learning over theirs. Earlier this year, after reading and hearing George Couros extol the virtues of Twitter, I decided to invest some time, improve my profile and get to networking. At the very least, I thought it would help me understand my enemy.  

Investing time in Twitter caused a veil to be lifted from my eyes. A new world and a new language appeared before me.  I realized that many of the elements of technological literacy used by my junior high school students were a part of Twitter. From hashtags to embedded codes, from net citizenship to networking, from SMS to apps, Twitter summed up the framework for this new language; the language of social media.

Having had my head in the sand for so long, it was a steep learning curve but one that has helped me love and get excited about teaching and connecting with students again. One that has allowed me to share, encourage, ask questions, find inspiration and perhaps inspire. One that has allowed me to reconnect with students at a time where I thought humanity was doomed.

It took George Couros to show me the positive side of Twitter. His advice allowed me to maximize and enhance the use of my smartphone all the while interacting with students through this powerful device and creating genuinely engaging teachable moments about digital footprints and online ethics. I couldn’t believe I had only been using my smartphone to send the odd text message for all these years!

To learn about Twitter was to become more technologically literate at the least. At best, it summed up and made use of the most recent and important developments in social media and technology from the past 10 years. It allowed me to speak and experiment with this new language. It also meant free professional development anytime, anywhere. The upside seemed appetizing, so I dug in.

The criticism of Twitter is still strong among my colleagues, but I now I believe resistance is futile. We can struggle against it, or we can embrace the change. While living as a monk in Thailand, I was told that when facing the winds of change, it was better to bend like a flexible blade of grass then to stand rigid as a tall tree in the field of life, as the tree could too easily break or be uprooted. In this instance, in this battle, I felt the wind pulling at my roots. I now choose to be flexible. My focus has changed from opposer to embracer.  

As a teacher in 2016, in a globalized world, one where communication takes place as much online as it does offline, perhaps increasingly the former, Twitter has become a force to be reckoned with. And I now stand ready for the reckoning. The wave is washing ashore, our students were born in an era of high speed internet, smartphones and speaking a language and using tools that were becoming unfamiliar to me. Their future will involve this language whether I speak it or not, whether I like it or not.

Furthering my interest in this phenomenon, I followed a student’s invitation to join Instagram. Much like Twitter, it has been a big eye opener as well. I have seen it live as a kind of Jr. Twitter. Or a Twitter for kids. Its format is simpler, and perhaps focuses on photography and visual arts which adds to its appeal for younger users. Both platforms have allowed me to reconnect with students, on a level I did not think possible.  It has shrunk the generation gap that I was experiencing years before. It has given me a voice with younger learners and I do not regret moving towards this integration. School can be cool and fun and new and enticing again. Even at my age. All you need is a smartphone. Students love teaching me how to use it.

During our last session with George Couros, I was excited to see that many concepts I had learned through Twitter would be transferable and would integrate nicely with another love of mine:  blogs….

The learning continues…

And in the words of my favorite rapper:“Le combat continue….”

Thank you George.    Thank you #winnipegsdItll.    Thank you Twitter.

M Stéphane Gautron

Enseignant – École Sacré-Coeur

cluster 1965

Innovation in the Classroom

Over the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about innovation and what that looks like in a classroom.  Initially, when I was invited to attend the ITLL meetings and realized what this acronym stood for, I thought someone must have made a mistake asking me to participate. Why would a teacher like me, who often assigns students to assist with classroom technology, be a good technology leader?  It wasn’t until George Curous made the comment “teachers  don’t have to be experts at everything” which made me realize that it’s okay to learn from my students.  In fact, when I reflect back on my 15 years of teaching , it has most definitely been the experiences with my students that I have been most insightful and taught me more about teaching.  My students have taught me that not everybody learns the same way and I have to give them the opportunities to learn the way that benefits them the most.  I’ve also learned that developing relationships with my students better helps me identify and understand their needs.

Another question that has really resonated is whether my children or I would want to be in my class? After thinking about this, I reflected on my school experiences and about the kind of teachers that made a positive impact on me as a learner and a person.  There are two teachers that I recall influencing my learning, and it was mainly due to how they took genuine interest in connecting with me and encouraged me to strive to achieve my best, which demonstrated their belief in my abilities. These teachers were also innovative and attempted to connect the classroom objectives to real life. In one of the classrooms, I recall learning about community by creating our own classroom town. This was almost 29 years ago, but it’s one of the few classroom experiences I remember enjoying and learning from.

I believe that throughout my career, I have discovered some innovative ways to connect with and teach my students, however, the last few months of professional development, collaboration and reflection has encouraged me to view things from a different perspective.  It has also made me think about what type of classroom experiences I would want for my own children. Overall, I want them to be excited to learn, engaged in their learning and empowered to voice their opinions and ask questions.  I look forward to learning and implementing new and innovative ideas to move myself and students forward.

Carrie Brown

Literacy Support Teacher

Dufferin School

It’s Better Late than Never…

Just like this entry (a little late)…Innovation may come much later in a teacher’s day-to-day practice. Although there are, of course, many teachers who are innovative, there is always room for growth. As educators, we are always learning; and as learners we need to apply new things to facilitate and engage our minds to new horizons.

Upon sharing my learning with other colleagues, many of them have asked, “Does innovation mean technology?” The answer is no. George Couros says it best, stating that “Technology can accelerate or amplify innovation, but the technology is not the innovation. The thinking is.”

Yes, technology can help the learning process and yes, it is definitely a helpful tool, but innovation is the journey we take to get to the results. Answers to the hows and whys are beneficial to the learning process, which I believe, fosters growth.

Recently, I’ve shared a short Ted-Talk video clip with our staff members at one of our lunch and learn meetings about “Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders” by Kayla Delzer. This short, yet inspiring clip, shared several inspirational insights into her world of teaching and values. “What is right for kids, is right.”  And she is RIGHT.  Our students, our kids, live in the 21st century…we must teach like we are too. We need to adapt, create, integrate, communicate, differentiate, engage, motivate, inspire, construct, and collaborate.

…and Twitter might just be a starting point.

I’ll admit, joining the Twitter world was quite daunting…didn’t crack the egg until a month or so after joining…but it was a starting point. And from there I’ve learned a lot.

I wouldn’t have found this video if it wasn’t for Twitter. I probably wouldn’t have tried SeeSaw, Quizizz or EDPuzzle if it wasn’t for Twitter either. I’ve explored hashtags and currently follow inspiring people that provide a mini-PD session at my fingertips.  Social media is not going away, so let’s learn to work with it and teach our students about digital citizenship where they can create a positive (and significant) digital footprint.…before it’s too late. 

Maria Manzano,

Grade 5/6 Teacher,
Dufferin School,
Cluster 2010

My Favourite Digital Tools

My Favourite Digital Tools

In my last post I mentioned that as a millennial I am quick to adopt any tool regardless of whether it meets any personal or educational outcomes. I am the one who searches for ‘lifehacks’. Most of these tools, apps, and technologies come and go, but some remain useful to me everyday. Here is a list that I have found helpful. In some cases, the connection to education may be a bit loose, but in making my life easier/more organized/flow better, these tools help me focus on my most important instructional goals. 

 Evernote

Evernote, a cloud-based note-taking application, is where I store EVERYTHING from my life. It flexibly works with different formats and filetypes, and it synchronizes across platforms. In it I store resources, assessments, sheet music, music files, business cards, presentations, media and lesson plans. You can search for notes by any contained text, and email documents to the program using an Evernote-specific email address (E.g. joshwinestock.9471942@m.evernote.com). 

 A few ways it has helped me teach:

-Until it’s time to print and distribute, all of my resources are paperless.

-I can play media files straight from the application (including those I needed throughout the winter concert).

-It stores my report card comment bank.

-All of my blog subscriptions (including My ITLL Blog) are sent to my evernote email address, keeping my real inbox clear.

– For our drama performance THIS week, a colleague of mine created a note where she placed music files throughout the script so she could easily read the script and launch the music at the same time. 

I recommend partnering Evernote with Scannable – a high quality scanner for your phone.

Followupthen (Followupthen.com)

Followupthen is an email reminder program that lets you send reminder emails to yourself or someone else at specified times. Sending an email to the addressthursday@followupthen.com will bring the email back to you on Thursday. Everyweekday7am@followupthen.com will bring a recurring email back to you at 7am every workday.

How I used this application: Our school sends out a weekly bulletin for staff called Monday morning jazz. The optimal time for me to read it is every morning at 8:45am. I don’t want to print it or leave it in inbox where I will forget it, so I send it to the email address everyweekday845am@followupthen.com.

Microsoft Sway (Sway.com)

I was introduced to this presentation application when the WSD sent out an email newsletter using it in September or October. Sway is a highly intuitive online presentation application (similar to Prezi). Teachers can create lesson plans online for students to access at home. Students can create presentations at home and link them to their teachers. In addition to lesson plans, I use Sway to hold all of my choir lyrics (http://bit.ly/1rmfWyy)

Planboard (Planboardapp.com)

I haven’t been using this application much in the past school year. This application, created by chalk.com, is an online planning notebook. You can include links and media throughout your lesson plan. Chalk also hosts Markboard, a site to record classroom assessments.

Other applications I find helpful:

1. Say it Mail it (iPhone) – take audio notes and immediately mail it to yourself or (bonus points) to your Evernote account.

2. The Email game (online) – quickly move through email.

3. Workflow (iphone/ipad) – Create apps within this app.

4. WolframAlpha (everywhere)-  Find and compare anything quantifiable on the internet.

5. Substitute Alert (iPhone)- Notifications to your phone for Aesop jobs (for all the substitute teachers out there).

6. Duolingo (everywhere)- Language learning app.

7. Dropbox (everywhere) – Filesharing

8. Figure by Propellerhead (iPhone/Ipad) – Music fun!

9. Quick Graph  – my favourite graphing app

Josh Winestock

Music/Math Support

Tyndall Park School

ITLL Blog Post

Sigh.  I’ve had a really hard time writing this blog post.  And I can’t truly say why.  If you meet me in person I am not shy to speak my mind nor am I afraid of asking questions or admitting what I don’t understand.  But for some reason I have started four ‘posts’ that I feel unsatisfied with and later discard before sending them on to Shauna.

Why is this so hard for me!?!

I guess part of what I am struggling with is my own indecisive reaction to our PD.  At times I feel that what I do and the practices I use really align with the Innovators Mindset.  Inquiry based learning, AFL, student centred practices, collaborative teaching, reflection (for myself and students), technologically infused instruction and more permeate my planning and teaching.  Does all of it happen all day every day?  Well no.  But my decisions as an educator are planned and based with all of the above in mind.

One thing that I have heard and learned and felt reaffirmed about is the need to constantly be striving to do more and do better as a teacher.  My personal philosophy values trying new things and challenging myself and my students in a variety of ways.  I have a hard time when I meet a colleague that teaches the same content the same way every year.

But I also recoil at the idea of creating a ‘digital footprint’.  Try googling me… there isn’t much out there and that is the way I like it.  I feel that most social media is a black hole and I am not convinced that the benefits of creating a social network online are worth the loss of privacy and the need to constantly (CONSTANTLY) live my life through the lens of being a teacher.  In the same way that I am a mom, and I will always be a mom, it is not the only way to define my existence.  Furthermore, I don’t think that the lack of a ‘digital footprint’ should impact my qualifications as a conscientious and innovative educator.  While others are tweeting and blogging to improve their practice I may be reading or researching.  I may be speaking with my colleagues and peers or simply reflecting on what has and has not worked.  Information found online is not necessarily any better or worse than information found elsewhere.  Difference is simply difference.

Having said all this I wish to stress that I really value the conflict and thought that has been inspired by the PD provided by WSD and George Couros.  Anytime that I am (and we as teachers are) asked to think critically about purpose and methodology is a good thing.  I believe it is what keeps me inspired and innovative, I think it is integral to providing best practices in my classroom.  However, as a free thinking, well-educated and opinionated person I guess it is my right to adopt what I choose from the learning experiences provided to me.  What I take from this has been and will be positive, I’m just not sure what it will look like.

Jilll Joanette
Grade 2/3 Teacher
Principal Sparling School
Cluster 2010

ITLL Weekly Challenge

In the spirit of one of our learning intents of the ITLL Initiative… to build community and shared understanding... I couldn’t help but be excited when I received this email from Sheila Seafoot one of our learning leaders from Lord Roberts.

I just had a thought….do you think it would be possible to have a weekly “challenge” for teachers to take part in? I’m thinking that teachers could sign up if they want to participate, then, every week, there would be a challenge for them to try and tweet about. For example, week one could be to try the following “instant challenge”: (insert challenge here”. They would fit it into the week and tweet about something great (or not) that came out of it. Week two might be to “participate in a Twitter Chat” with a small list of #s to choose from (ie #1stchat). Maybe a challenge might be to do another blog, or to try out coding……”.

What a great idea! One most certainly worth giving a try! If the weekly challenge works for you and your students …great! If not check back next Monday for a new one. No need to sign up…. just participate if and when the weekly challenge works for you. Be sure to leave a comment on this blog post during the week letting us know how the challenge went with your learners. Or Tweet something about the weekly challenge  to #winnipegSDITLL.

This week’s challenge is to try an Instant Challenge, of your choice,  with your students and let us know how it goes.  There were a variety of resources shared on the links on the Hub from last week’s session, or check out this amazing document shared this week by another ITLL. Awesome find, Genevieve! The resource can be found here.

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We look forward to continued sharing and learning together!

 

Session Two Blog Reflection

After my time with George in March I was able to reflect on my practice as an educator.  I read the second chapter and was drawn to the points about having empathy for our students in how they learn best.  “Do the learning experiences you create mimic the type of learning you expect to engage in?” (p.39)  “Is there a better way?” (p. 42)  Since the beginning of the school year I have really been pushing myself to change my math practice to create more hands on learning.  Not just hands on learning in terms of having math materials on shelves but allowing the students to make their own discoveries around a main topic.  I have been allowing groups of students to visit a math centre based around a question posted i.e. “What can you discover about capacity?”  I had various containers, paper, pencils and materials such as water, beans and cotton balls laid out for them to discover with.  During this time I would have the others students working independently while I could listen to the conversations that were going on at the math centre and record what I was hearing.  At the end of math I would invite some of those students to share what they discovered at the math centre that day with the rest of the class.  The student’s were so engaged in their conversations and were excited to share what they discovered with the class.

I think I am moving in the right direction in terms of the innovator’s mindset.  I want my students to have more than just worksheet experiences in math and sitting at the carpet and me telling them how to solve math facts.  If I go back to decision that made me change my practice, it probably was from my own experience as a new mom, what would I want from my own daughter’s early years teacher?  A teacher who believed in play based learning with hands on experiences or a teacher who was old fashioned in her teaching style?  The first one would appeal to me more as a mom.  I’m excited to see what else I can come up with for my math practice in the classroom.  I’m sure George’s book and the conversations we will have during these sessions will inspire me with more ideas.  Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 11.52.35 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 11.52.22 AM

Shannon McMurtry

Grade 1 Teacher

Grosvenor School

Cluster 1996

A Learning Journey

Reflection on March 23rd,  just after the first ITLL session:

Positive energy and optimism!  George Couros empowered a room full of teachers from the moment the day started, and the energy stayed high all day.  I’ve been in this same Room 106 so many times in my career but this was brand new – bigger than I could have anticipated, even after reading “The Innovator’s Mindset.”  I’m grateful to participate in #WinnipegSDITLL with this amazing, open-minded, and eager group of teachers.  It’s also refreshing to shed my reluctance to come on-board with social media after feeling restrained and annoyed by it.   I not only started tweeting, I gained followers today! There’s so much power in numbers, most of these tweeters were strangers and they’re suddenly important to me.  We share values and interests – we all want to empower our students – and we can help each other find answers to questions and inspire each other with ideas.  I’ll be testing this out.  I am invigorated and feeling ready for whatever any naysayers might throw my way, because I know my already strong powers as a learner and a teacher are growing, and becoming stronger as I think with artistry about what I am doing.  This isn’t just sustainable; it will grow and evolve as opportunities are created.  I’ll be starting with Google docs and forms and will explore the potential of these with my students and with colleagues.  I’m already considering possibilities for Family Studies and Guidance, and am keen to use them and offer them as tools for my inquiry learners.  I wonder how students’ll expand my understanding with their experimentation, and hope their freedom and playfulness with technology will stimulate creativity.

Over the last few weeks:

It’s been both inspiring and overwhelming.  I’ve connected to educators from all over the continent.  I’ve surveyed students on their social media journeys and we’ve wondered how to smooth out this bumpy transition from no personal electronic devices in the classroom to learning with them. My students are young mothers with a multitude of demands on them and they struggle to stay on course. Despite best intentions, some claim it’s too easy to waste time while others easily started integrating smart phones into their learning. One of my students complained that despite building prioritizing skills for inquiry, social media distractions grow bigger along with project challenges.  If an obstacle appears it’s always a relief to ignore the problem and have a completely unrelated connection and conversation on social media.  If anyone has a kind solution I’d love to hear about it. I have so much to learn! I have to remind myself that it’s one step at a time – go narrow and deep. This journey has not been the smooth sailing I’ve envisioned, but I feel like I’m in good company and I anticipate great things on the horizon.

Lois Friesen

Adolescent Parent Centre (WAEC program)

Cluster 1871