Category: Social media

Classroom Travels with Twitter: An Evolution

Most teachers I know have used Twitter in their classes either to communicate with parents, share homework with students, for group study, to research on a topic, crowd source ideas with colleagues, or a myriad of other purposes (click here for more ideas). Ask a Tech Teacher contributor Christian Miraglia, Educational Consultant for T4Edtech, reminds us that how we used it at first is probably not how we use it now:

I Need an Idea, and I Need it Now!

You may remember the JG Wentworth commercial in which frantic customers shout out, “ I need my money, and I need it now!”. I sometimes lacked a plan as a teacher due to an overloaded schedule or mental exhaustion.  “I need a lesson idea, and I need it now!”  Where did I turn? Twitter. The social media platform became a resource when I was running on empty. Twitter as a classroom resource, you ask? Over the past two decades, Twitter has been a mainstay in my instruction. 

How many followers do you have?

I began using Twitter in my classroom soon after its introduction in 2006. I found creative uses for it in my history teaching, even at that time. One group of students created a conversation between Andrew Jackson and the various Native American groups forcibly relocated to the Indian Territory. The discussion was based on the research of primary and secondary documents and was quite creative. Nowadays, there are so many social media platforms that it can be overwhelming to keep track of for teachers. When my students would ask me how many followers I had on my Facebook account and Twitter, I stated I did not know. “Two hundred, three hundred one thousand,” they probed. I would note I had no idea on my Facebook account, but maybe 500 on my Twitter account, and most of them are teachers. 

The Why

My explanation for using Twitter did not resonate with my students, but here it is. I connect with other teachers for purely professional reasons, such as sharing resources, supporting each other, and building a network. Yes, it is nice to have followers, but that translates to more resources. Moreover, I have learned more from my teaching colleagues on Twitter than in any professional development sessions I attended. I cannot count the number of times I was stuck with a lesson, and another teacher teaching the same content would post a Google presentation or file for any teacher to utilize.

Some teachers would post videos of their lessons so that a viewer could see the instruction taking place. What a great resource. I, like many teachers, liked to promote the excellent work taking place in my classroom so other colleagues could view my students’ work. Although students are very much in tune with social media, not necessarily Twitter, it was an excellent chance to see a different approach to the platform. Using Twitter also kept the parents informed of the work that was going on in the classroom, but I soon defaulted to Instagram as most parents were using the platform.

Classroom Use

Another feature of Twitter is forming content groups for teachers where weekly conversations take place on pedagogy, current events, and the use of technology. Using a hashtag with the group’s name would provide access to a wealth of information for teachers seeking some guidance in their teaching practice. My favorites as a history teacher were #sschat #edtechchat and #edchat. A challenging exercise for students using the hashtag concept is to develop a relevant hashtag for a particular event or lesson concept. A teacher may have students tweet answers back to a specific question or summarize a topic using the 280 character limit. This activity requires the students to be creative in using words and characters such as emojis. 

As Twitter moved into its second decade,  templates for fake Twitter accounts for teachers showed up on the internet. Matt Miller, the Ditch That Textbook founder, was instrumental in creating various templates for the classroom. I assigned students to develop a running conversation between historical personalities such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton for a quick formative assessment for one lesson. The assignment followed various readings about the two figures. Utilizing emoji characters for this exercise also enhanced the creative process for the students. 

For social studies teachers, Twitter is a great resource to study news stories and the concept of civic reasoning. The Stanford History Education Group has various resources for assessing the reliability of sources, including Twitter. In an era where much of the information consumed is relegated to characters and lacks considerable depth, this skill has become increasingly important in building civic and digital citizenship. Students can also study the volume of a particular trending hashtag to see how an organization promotes specific events or material. 

Keeping Up

As Twitter evolved to become mainstream social media, my use did. I realized that I had to embrace Twitter for students to be engaged. Demonstrating that using social media tools went beyond the trends and likes became my mission. When the pandemic forced instruction to go remote, Twitter also became more instrumental as teachers clamored for lessons and sought support for the emotional grind of teaching. Moreover, with so many highly charged events taking place in our nation, my students would report the latest updates from various Twitter sources in the middle of class. Then we would proceed to analyze the reliability of the information. Bottom line, keeping up with social media is challenging enough for educators, but it kept me better connected with my students and fellow educators. 

Bio

Christian Miraglia is a recently retired 36 year educator and now Educational Technology Consultant at t4edtech where he also blogs. He can be found on Twitter @T4edtech and on his YouTube Channel Transformative Edtech.

If the box above doesn’t work, try this link:

http://eepurl.com/chNlYb

@T4Edtech #edtech


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Tech Tip ##113: Backup Your Blog

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: Backup Your Blog

Category: Maintenance, Social Media, Writing, Problem-solving

Q: I’m paranoid of losing my documents so I back them up to an external drive, a flash drive, and in the cloud. My blog–it’s become an important cog in my PLN. If it blew up, I’d be lost. What do I do about backing it up?

world backup dayA: If you use WordPress, it’s easy; they provide a native tool for that. Here’s what you do:

  • Go to Tools>Export.
  • Select the bubble for ‘all’.
  • It’ll back document files up as an XML file (you don’t have to understand what that is. Just know it’s the file that will save you if Wordpress crashes).
  • Save that backup file somewhere safe in case you need it. Preferably where your Cloud automatic backup will grab it (assuming you have one of those. If you use Carbonite, you do).
  • Do this once a month–or a week if you’re active.

This will backup posts, pages, comments, categories, and tags. For the entirety of the blog–similar to an image where you can restore the entire website–you’ll need an external service. My Wordpress.org blog is hosted by GoDaddy. Part of that service is a backup of the blog. It’s worth it to me to pay a bit extra for that function.

World Backup Day just passed. Mark your calendar for next year, March 31st, and be sure to perform all backups–your blog and everything else–on that day.

Sign up for a new tip each week or buy the entire 169 Real-world Ways to Put Tech into Your Classroom.

What’s your favorite tech tip in your classroom? Share it in the comments below.

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What’s all the buzz about Messenger Kids?

When preteen kids see parents and older siblings thumbing away at social media accounts, they want to do it. They don’t understand when told they are too young. There have been a few efforts to extend social communication tools to younger kids but mostly, kids don’t like them so end up on apps designed for teens or adults, like Snapchat or Instagram.

Until the iconic Facebook platform came up with what they call Messenger Kids.

What is Messenger Kids

Messenger Kids is a free video calling and messaging app designed for kids under thirteen to connect with others from their tablet or smartphone. These are the kids who love digitally chatting on parent cellphones (or other digital devices) but aren’t old enough for the nuances and maturity required of popular 13+ messaging platforms. Messenger Kids provides them with a safe, free environment to chat with friends who have moved away, stay in touch with family who doesn’t live nearby, and get questions answered by parents they aren’t with at the moment.

Here’s what it’s not. First and foremost:

Messenger Kids is not a social media app. It is a messaging app.

Here’s a peak into the app:

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professional learning network

Social Media Trends you Need to Be Aware of this School Year

Have you heard of the wildly-popular Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, dramatizing a teenager’s thirteen reasons for committing suicide? Though it warns watchers about what can cause teens to take their lives, to everyone’s surprise, suicides in that age group went up by 30% in the immediate months following the release.

No one knows why a movie dramatizing teen suicide increased them but it did shine a bright light on the problem of teenagers, gossip, culture, and ultimately social media. Here are two statistics that may shock you:

95% of teens have access to a smartphone

45% of teens say they are online “almost constantly”

Do they have time for anything else? And what are they doing with all that time?

I can’t help with the first question but the second one, I know. I dug into the research — anecdotal and statistical — to find out which social media platforms have so engrossed teens that they barely want to sleep, eat, or watch TV (too much TV — now there’s a quaint problem). Why the mix of anecdotal and statistics? Because teen interests change on a whim. What was hot (like Facebook and Twitter) one year is no more. As a result, I used quantitative data balanced against anecdotal experience.

Let me start by confirming: Yes, the news that kids are no longer in love with Facebook seems to be true. They still use it but precipitously less each year and the number of teen users is behind many other popular social media platforms (like YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat). Kids have their own methods of chatting, staying up to date, and sharing media with friends, ones that their parents didn’t introduce them to.

Before I share what’s trending among teens, I need to remind readers that most require users to be 13+ to create an account (that’s High School age). But no one verifies that nor does it prevent adults from signing up and then turning access over to the child. It’s the honor system, which works or doesn’t.

Here are the top social media trends kids now use in alphabetic order:

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Make your LMS a social learning platform

Vivek Singh, education professional and contributor to Ask a Tech Teacher, has some interesting ideas on using your native LMS as a social learning platform.  He has some great thoughts on breakout rooms, discussion forums, virtual reality, and gamifying lessons. I know you’ll enjoy their thoughts:

Earliest forms of learning, dating back to the stone-age, involved storyboarding one’s experiences on rocks. These photo-stories would prove as a valuable resource for generations to come. Education, thus, has its roots in the earliest social interactions. One of the fundamental qualities that ensured our survival is collaboration through knowledge sharing, imitation and behavior modeling.

Little has changed in today’s space-age. We inadvertently learn from our daily social interactions, with most of our informal learning happens through online sources of information. For example, YouTube, social media, news websites, even self-help videos/blogs which are present in every possible genre. This way of learning is attributed to the advent of the internet which has impacted the adoption of online learning software to facilitate formal education. LMSs are now being accepted as one of the ways to learn smartly.  Taking note of the importance of social learning, some LMSs have begun to add features to promote social learning, for those students who are studying online. Learning Management System features that support social interactions amongst students, enhance the learning outcomes for any given online module or course.

What makes your LMS a social learning platform?

Features and activities that enable collaboration among learners could be implemented in the form of chat-boxes, discussion forums, live interactive sessions supporting real-time data sharing capabilities, and many more. Here are some critical features that can essentially leverage an LMS to become social in the true sense.

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summer learning

How to Blend Learning with Play for a Kid-friendly Summer

summer learningWith summer fast approaching all over the Northern Hemisphere, kids are eager for time away from teachers, textbooks, and To-do lists. In Ireland, Italy, Greece, Russia, and other Eurasian nations, summer vacation lasts about three months. In Australia, Britain, The Netherlands, Canada, and Germany, it’s six to eight weeks. American students get roughly ten weeks.

While kids celebrate, teachers and parents worry students will lose their academic edge. It turns out that concern is valid. Statistics say over the summer, kids lose over two months of math skills, two months of reading skills, and one month of overall learning. Efforts to prevent summer learning loss propel often-unpopular year-round school initiatives and all manner of summer school and summer camps that focus on cerebral topics.

Worry no more. The cure is much simpler: Disguise learning as play. Using the websites below, kids will think they’re playing games while actually engaging in the leading [mostly] free games and simulations in the education field.

A note: some must be downloaded and a few purchased, so the link provided might take you to a website that provides access rather than play.

General

Here are two gamified options that can be tweaked to address any topic:

  • Digital Breakouts — Players of all ages use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles that ultimately enable them to achieve a goal. Digital Breakouts are an update to the traditional and popular webquests that have students explore the web as they gather content in a particular field — history, math, literacy, or others. A great collection of free, ready-made digital breakouts can be found over at Tom’s Digital Breakouts. These don’t have to be played online; for a fee, students can play unplugged.
  • Flash cards — apps like the free Brainscape provide topical flash cards kids can memorize in between the rest of summer stuff. You might even provide badges for the lists students finish.

Financial Literacy

Summer is a great time to learn topics that require dedicated periods of time — like a financial literacy program. These are important for high schoolers, but often not required for graduation. That means many students transition to that almost-adult point in their life where they need to understand credit cards, bank accounts, paying bills, and other financial concepts but have no real knowledge of how these work.

Here are a few sites that gamify financial literacy topics and can be completed over the summer:

  • Banzai – online free comprehensive financial literacy program
  • You are here – kids learn to be smart consumers

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International Blog Delurking Week–Get Involved!

Believe it or not, there is an International Blog Delurking Week that traditionally takes place in the first full week of January. It’s an opportunity for bloggers to find out who quietly reads their blog without commenting. As Melissa the founder of this event says:

“…there is a huge discrepancy between the number of readers in actuality and the number of readers I actually know are reading. Or a tongue-twister like that.”

Yep, I noticed I missed that week. I was still getting the year started! But Melissa also says you can run it anytime you want so I’m taking advantage of that codicil.

OK, another yep–comments are always closed on this blog. So here’s what I’d love you to do:

If you do, you’ll probably find one of us over at your social media, checking things out in your corner of the tech ed world. We love a good road trip!

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social media and teens

How to Teach Social Media Safety

All teachers agree that digital citizenship is essential knowledge for students whether they’re going onto college or a career, yet when I ask who in their school teaches it, they always shrug. Someone, but not them…

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Amy Williams, has four bottom line issues that any teacher can cover and as many as possible at each grade level should:

social mediaEducators have always had the challenging task of teaching our children reading, writing and arithmetic, among many other subjects. But, as times change, so should the curriculum taught in our schools. These days, teachers should introduce students to the world of social media so they can begin to develop the skills they need to live a safe digital life. How can these skills be taught? Follow these tips:

Follow the “WWGS” rule.

Kids often feel freer to taunt or bully someone online because they feel protected behind the computer or smartphone screen. But, the many news stories about teens committing suicide after being cyberbullied show that words can hurt—even when they’re being spoken through a screen. That’s why educators should teach children digital etiquette, starting with the “What Would Grandma Say?” or “WWGS” rule. Before posting anything online, think how your grandmother would feel about you saying it. This helps your students understand the need to filter what they say.

Nothing is private.

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