Students, the Twitter-verse and Me

Here was my vision.

Students would create an informational website with a white paper on their issue. They’d create a series of ads and flyers (using Canva) for both on-line and off-line ads to be distributed via a Twitter feed. They’d use Twitter and the ads to draw audiences to their websites, seek feed back on the concerns of the community, and then ultimately write a problem-solving proposal shaped on the feedback from the community. I’ll be posting later about how I rolled all of this out to students along with the resources I used. I was inspired to this vision after reading about such a sequence in Understanding and Creating Digital Texts: An Activity-Based Approach (Beach, Anson, Breuch & Reynolds 2014) and a parallel sequence of activities from the Michigan State University FYC. [If you would like to see my launch event for the project, you can see it here.] Although this is not the only reading I did. Both Troy Hicks (@hickstro), posts at Movingwriters , and the good folks at KQED Mindshift have pushed my thinking about writing, social media, audience and the use of Twitter. 

Laying the Foundation for Twitter.

So, really, this is the first in a series of posts about using social media, particularly Twitter, as a way to help students think about digital citizenship, to create academic and professional profiles using social media, as a tool for research, connection, and a new resource to bring us to texts to use as mentor texts, analysis and evaluation.

One step I took before building any materials, was to check in with my principal, who also actively tweets (@vtenney3) to make sure I had his support in this endeavor, and in my weekly email blast to parents, I let them know that we were going to use Twitter as part of the course.

Unfortunately, one thing I didn’t do, and I don’t know if it would have made a difference, was to check in the the IT department to make sure that Twitter was unlocked (as it should have been). On the planned roll-out day, my first period students couldn’t access Twitter through their network accounts. I pushed things off for a week to make sure after the filters had been changed, students could access.

Roll-out and Procedure

On the day I rolled out to students, I started with them reading an article, “Why Every Personal Brand Deserves and Early Start,” which had come to my attention through reading George Couros’ (@gcouros) newsletter. Students got links to the articles in a Schoology update and then had to comment on the articles. Here is a snapshot to give you a sense of the tenor of the overall response from students: 

student-responses

Several student responses to the launch article. 

So, I created a Schoology page with ISTE standards and my own learning objectives for why would be using this social media tool. The page provided students with the details I wanted them to use.

schoology-page-twitter

My Schoology resource page for my students. I wanted the use of social media to capture and focus their attention, and I also wanted to make sure I had formal purpose to our work as justification to administration and community.

 

For the first Tweets, I used the weekly KQED Mindshift “Do Now” questions. To help us all connect, I used a hashtag (#kpedz103). Using the hashtag allowed me to discuss the formal purpose of using hashtags as a way of search for conversations appropriate to research, as well as to help them aggregate their own research. 

As you can see, I most of what I did here was synthesized from a number of different sources and resources. Like what I was asking my students to do, I was using Twitter, links to followed Tweeters to aggregate information and put it together. I also had to employ a number of tools and resources to get this all to work.

At this point, students knew how to write a tweet, follow, re-tweet, search hashtags, and use a hashtag to help link tweets around a central idea.

We went on to start to use Twitter as a research tool. Students would need to find organizations that created content, research, writing, blogging about an issue that they were studying. We used a Gale publication and database on their issue, which provided a list of organizations to contact. I instructed them to see if these organizations maintained Twitter feeds and to follow them.

Where I’m headed…

Working from there, we will return to the Twitter feeds in the next day to evaluate the sources and the kinds of information these sources were providing to us through the Twitter links.

The next part of this, about source evaluation and teaching students to think about how Tweets are making arguments will be coming soon.

I started this post describing a vision I was working towards in my English 103 class that would bring in real-world writing, distribution of this writing, and working with audiences to shape writing products. Teaching Twitter as a tool became the first step in making this vision reality for my students.

Infographics: One Genre with Multiple Uses in the Writing Classroom

A year ago, I wrote a blog on my first foray into having students create infographics in one of my courses, and the benefits of those texts as part of synthesizing sources before writing longer, source-based essays.

A year later, I’m back in and kicking it to the next level. Since then, I’m coming back having done some further reading and work on teaching this text. In terms of research to prepare for this, here’s what I read:

In these sources, the authors put forth a convincing case for the power of using infographics for their malleability to a variety of writing situations and purposes. I would highly recommend them, and I say this as I am quickly shredding my copies from overuse.

Back to English 101:

For several weeks, students are reading and watching sources on food systems in the United States in preparation for writing an essay with the purpose of informing. I use the infographic as one step in a process–it brings students to synthesize their sources around a focused topic.

Returning to this assignment for the second year, I made several upgrades to the assignment. First, students would ultimately produce these digitally. Second, I used our LMS, Schoology, to create a page of resources and suggested process for my students.

On this page, I included a mentor study with accompanying texts, Youtube videos on design principles and using PowerPoint to create these texts, as well as links to other free web tools for designing. The page breaks the creation of the infographic into (suggested) discrete steps, with check-in points at each stage so I could monitor student progress. I made a significant design change to this page, which I’ll discuss later.

screenshot-2016-12-15-at-12-16-51-pm

My Schoology page for Infographics

 

We spent a little less than a week working through the creation of these texts. Here are some of the products:

infographics

illegal-immigration-

101obesity-101

Moving on:

I was pretty pleased with the assignment, the process I laid out, the resources students were accessing to help them.

I decided to assign this as a task in my elective, Media Maker, as one part of an unit on the Role of Technology in education. Students had already written blogs on their ideas of the value of on-line classes and coursework, engaged in creating various media texts on this subject. However, I wanted them to keep going, and to have them re-purpose their largely text-based writing into new a new form. The infographic would push them to think about how to convey information visually.

However, in this class, students got quickly lost in the steps laid out on my Schoology page. Quick fix: I turned each step into an assignment in Schoology, with something concrete to submit. I also added one element to the student assignment. Because we’re a class that functions completely digitally, we created survey questions, and used student’s social media to distribute the questions, collect responses, and create drafts of the graphics in Google Slides.

What I’m seeing in working with infographics as a student-produced text is that we can use them at any part of a writing process. They can be a formative tool used to synthesize information before turned to more in-depth, formal essays. Or, we can really see them as a valid summative assessment tool that students produce at the end of research, or a way for students to repurpose or re-genre their work.

 

 

NYSCATE 2016–What I’ll Be Up to…

Going into NYSCATE for the third time, I’m complete primed for an in-depth learning experience where I learn far more than I can ever use. In my first two years, I left my opening sessions with more technology to explore than I knew what to do with.

As much as this is about the technology, I don’t want to lose sight of what it’s really: building that PLN, and finding ways to make what I do with students better. I hopefully with  walk away with more stuff for PBL, collaboration, modification and redefinition in SAMR.

So, I’m super-charging my devices, making sure my mobile hot-spot can get me past some funky, convention center WiFi, and ready to use this time effectively. Here’s some of the sessions I hope to hit.

Sunday:

I’m registered for the hands-on session on Top Tech.

12:30 Sessions:

Blending, Flipping, Mixing

Digcit Certification

Formative Assessment

Participatory Learning

Collaboration Across Districts

Students Videos & Animation

1:00 Google Expedition Open House

1:45 Sessions:

Symbaloo

Guiding Students on Inquiry

3:00 Sessions:

Access to Text

Creativity & Design Thinking

Game-based Learning

Monday

8:00 Sessions:

Breakout Edu

Flip Blended Inquiry with Google Forms

Interactive Inquiries

Paper Extinction and the rise of E-Portfolios

10:45

App Smack Down

Google Classroom Worksheets

3:45

Editing Video on a Chromebook

Blogging 101

Tuesday

8:00

Google Apps Tips & Tricks

App Smackdown

Classroom Makerspace

Additional Features of Drive and Docs

Multi-course classroom

10:30

Breakout Edu

Tools for the Modern Classroom

11:00

Genius Hour PBL

Google Sites with 2 Bald Dudes

 

Flipping-Out Teachers

Last year, as part of a School Improvement Planning Team (SIPT) Subcommittee on Online Instruction, we’ve worked on developing a plan to get all teachers practicing online instruction. It was a great experience. Below I discuss some of the things we did and what I might do in the future to improve upon them.

1. Defining a Belief Statement to drive actions of the committee, and eventually faculty. There are lots of good ones on line to use as springboards for your discussion and as models for crafting your own.

2. Working to define what actually constitutes online instruction. Do we mean conducting online research, submitting assignments to a shared folder, using Google forms to give quizzes, using Edmodo or some other LMS or CMS. These are conversations that have to be had. Each community will have their own definition of

3. Invite union representation. We had a such a person early on in our process. It was necessary that we established on-line learning as an enhancement of the classroom experience in which teachers were vital to facilitating learning, and not a replacement of teachers. However, encourage continued union representation. Once the union is sure the goal isn’t to replace teachers, they should continue to be part of the process of developing meetings, PD, and as another conduit of information for the committee.

4. We conducted a survey to gauge teacher comfort, skill-level, and current implementation. It showed what we predicted–teachers at all places and levels. Not so helpful. We found that some people know technology and some don’t. Don’t survey if you think you can reliably predict what people will say.

After we did the above, we wanted to accomplish the following:

  • Flip a facculty meeting.
  • Build faculty skills to bring proficiency in online instruction skills to 100%. We wanted to use a gamfied system to train people in the digital technology skills and hardware they’d need to create on-line coursework. We have laid the foundation for this, but haven’t implemented it yet. It’s sitting in limbo right now.

Here’s what I learned:

Everything will take more time than you think. Planning our flipped faculty meeting took weeks. We had to plan a discussion. Find a topic. Set questions. Establish the rooms and the groups we’d use. We had to train facilitators. We had a dozen people involved.

As part of this, we attempted to use WordPress as a discussion platform. Good idea, but epic fail. Sites crashed and comments didn’t show up fast enough. Our tech-weary faculty gave up quick.

Don’t bite off too much, and keep expecatations low. When I teach, I’m all for plunging in and going for it, and seeing what happens. In doing so, I’ve done a lot with platforms like Edmodo and Canvas. I’ve done great on-line synchronous and a-synchronous discussions. I love the experimentation, adventure and challenge of this stuff. Just because I love it, didn’t mean some of my peers would. The more I talked to people, I found that in terms of online environments, email might be the farthest reaches of someone’s frontier. Online documents, cloud storage…for some this might as well be Greek, to use a well-worn cliche.

Doubt is part of the process and doesn’t mean that it’s bad. While our flipped faculty meeting bit it, I don’t think that it was all bad. We had some exposure to the possibilities of these kinds of meetings= and a kind of platform that we might use for flipped meetings. We also had faculty see how our facilitators worked around tech issues that emerge in the middle of a plan. Tech in the classroom will never be fool proof and there will be problems. Teachers have to figure out how to be flexible and go. Teachers did this before digital technology, they should bring those same skills forward into computer labs.

 

Web 2.0

Our spring professional development day. Just attended a great workshop on Web 2.0 run by our librarian. See the link below to see some of the best sites out there for creation and collaboration in the classroom. This stuff is not just old learning repackaged in a technological format, but ways to get us working with our students to create new products. I can’t wait to try some of this out. Beyond the link to these new applications, Eric, our librarian runs a great blog and currates an excellent Friday series of podcasts.

http://calibrary.edublogs.org/sandbox/web-2-0-apps/