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I am sure Mrs. Renaud would have stumbled upon Twitter on her own in short time.  In fact I am pretty sure she had an account and maybe just wasn’t using it yet.  I am not going to take credit where it is not due, ie. it was not I that made her “Tweet”.  After all she is correct in saying that it “is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the world of education.”  So as the Eastwood Parent Involvement Committee Chair person I expected her, sooner or later, to engage with the various accounts that our school had to offer.  Why then aren’t all parents grabbing this same opportunity, this chance, to keep their ears on the tracks and their eyes on the horizon while their children fly by on the high velocity train we are calling the education system today.  That is to say that many schools are catching that train.  Others may be slow off the platform while still others are sitting at the station waiting for the bus.  Nevertheless, the realm of social media and content creation in my context is a realm of learning, connecting, creating and collaborating for all learners.

This image, pulled from twitter just this evening in fact, states a powerful message about harnessing the power inherent in the technology of today.  Try inserting Parents or Principals in place of Teachers!

Author Unknown

Author Unknown: If you know of the origin please comment so I can verify and attribute please.

It wasn’t long into the school year that Mrs. Renaud began recognizing the power of the twitter-verse.  She soon started sending tweets about her learning as a parent.  Her son and his classmates interacted with her.  She shared these experiences with other parents.  Shortly after that Stephanie discovered #ptchat (parent/teacher chat).  She attended EdCampSWO on April 6, 2014 and now is looking to start her own twitter groups to help other parents learn alongside their children.  Below is a culmination of all these experiences in the form of an article that she wrote for a regional publication highlighting the power that social media, specifically twitter, can have on the relationships between parents, students and school. Please read this guest post by Mrs. Renaud and then feel free to send her a tweet and let her know what great work she is doing as a learning parent!

It’s Sweet To Tweet! A Guide to Twitter for Parents

by: Stephanie Renaud (@yoga_junkie) Eastwood (@EastwoodEagles) Parent Involvement Committee (@EastwoodPIC) Chair

Twitter is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the world of education.  Schools and their teachers are jumping on the bandwagon by the dozen.

If you are not a Twitter user already, I am sure you have heard of it.  It is very simple to create an account.  All you need is an email address.  You are in complete control of what you follow, so it is easy to customize your feed to your interests and likes, much like Facebook.  A quick search of the Greater Essex County District School Board site reveals that many, if not most schools have an account that you can follow, as well as individual teachers, classes, school organizations and administrators.

I contend that, as parents, we would be well placed to be jumping on the band wagon as well.  Here’s why.

Reasons why is it sweet to tweet as a parent.

#1 Connect with other parents.

Community is a powerful thing.  In a time when so many of us are part of dual parent working families, we barely have time to kiss our kids goodnight when we tuck them in, to say nothing of building relationships within our community.  Yet these connections are what makes life meaningful.  These connections help us to understand that we are not alone, that there are others out there who have the same joys and struggles we do.  In the same way that Facebook allows us to efficiently and conveniently connect with our friends and loved ones about our lives, twitter can help us connect to our children, our community and our schools in convenient, manageable ways.

#2 Up to the moment info on what your kid is doing at school.

How many of us ask our kids what they did at school today?  I am willing to wager all of us.  How often is the answer “oh, nothing.”  Ugh! I am trying to be interested here! Twitter offers you the opportunity to be tuned in to what your kids are doing on a day-to-day basis so you can ask questions that are much more specific.  The more specific you are, the more interested you sound, and the more likely you are to get a meaningful response.  When our kids feel like we are interested in their learning, their learning becomes just that much more engaging for them.  Who knows? We might just learn something new ourselves.

#3 Tweeting saves trees.

How much paper comes home in your kids’ school bags?  If they are anything like mine, it’s at least a small forest per week.  In an effort to reduce the paper waste in schools, many of them post updates and information on Twitter. Trouble is, not enough parents are active on the interface to substantially reduce the need for paper communication.  Become active, it can reduce waste.

#4 A place to ask questions and get answers from people who know.

As parents with children in school we often have questions and concerns about what happens at school with our kids.  Tweeting these questions and concerns allows us the opportunity to connect not only with other parents who may be wondering the same thing, but also with professionals both in our school community and in the larger global community who can give us answers, feedback and next steps.  Without leaving our kitchen table.

#5 A safe place to air general concerns and share ideas.

Who has time to go another meeting? So often our concerns and ideas are shelved due to sheer lack of time to set the meeting, to address or share them.  Let alone attend that meeting and be present enough to make it meaningful.  Tweet it.  Instantly your concern is communicated to the relevant people, be it your administrator, your child’s classroom teacher or the parent involvement committee for your school or region.   To make it even better? The responses are delivered right to your mobile device, be it iPhone, iPad or laptop.  Did  you have an idea to share? A new way to approach a problem that you see with how your school operates? Tweet it! Ideas are powerful things, and are better when shared.

#6 Does your child have special needs? Reach out to others who walk the same path.

With the rise of ADHD, autism and other developmental and behavioural diagnosis in children it has become more important than ever that we connect with other parents who do the same job we do.  Sharing ideas, questions, and struggles is a great way to help our own parenting strategies evolve and improve.  As a special needs parent, the more tools I have, the more effective I can be.

#7 Great way to stayed connected as a working parent

Let’s face it, we are all way too busy.   Being more involved in our children’s education is something many, if not most of us want to do that we just feel we don’t have the time for.  The emergence of social media as a tool makes being involved as easy as checking your twitter feed.  It only takes a few minutes, and instantly you are more informed, more involved.  Like my mom always told me, knowledge is power.

#8  Knowledge is power.

The more information we have as parents about how and what our children are learning, the more we can support and extend the learning beyond the classroom.  Research is clear on this point.  The more education is extended beyond the four walls of the classroom, the more meaningful and long-lasting  it becomes.  How powerful is that?

As parents of increasingly technologically capable young people it behooves us to join the digital movement.  With awareness and involvement in the digital world we have the ability to guide and safeguard our children in the new digital frontier, and join with our schools in facilitating the development of our students as global citizens with media savvy.

Every school in the #GECDSB has a website.  I encourage you to look up your schools website where they will no doubt have multiple twitter accounts listed.

If you are still not feeling too confident that you can set up your own account and get tweeting, check out these links which lead you to some nice, simple How-To guides to get you started.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/how-to-use-twitter/#!DDUXH

http://mainframereview.com/how-to-twitter-for-dummies/

Tweet, engage, empower.  It’s that simple.

 Special thanks for this post goes to Stephanie Renaud, Eastwood Parent Involvement Committee Chair

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A video that was inspired by @Johnwink90 ‘s 136 character tweet.

On Saturday, July 18, I participated in #satchat.  I had some time while the kids were playing Plants versus Zombies (the “Cowper Game App of the Summer!”).   I had a coffee and my partner was reading beside me.  I figured….why not.  The topic of the day was “Back to School” and leading us was @DCulberhouse.  I knew that the majority of the educators were West Coasties and I was interested in their take on Back to School.  Of course there were many other participants from all over North America.  Until the spammers got ahold of the hashtag things were going great.  Of course the infiltration of spammers has nothing to do with the good people leading or participating in #satchat.  On the contrary.  The fact that we were trending a topic on a Saturday morning across the continent (and warranted the most inappropriate spam) speaks volumes about the quality of the 140 character content.

As @dougpete explains in What does Twitter for PD Mean; Twitter can be a launching pad:


The best learning for me happens when the conversation takes off and doesn’t necessarily stay in the social media.  I like following the links – take me to news reports, research, forums, wikis, and blogs where the meaty stuff resides.  You don’t get the full monty 140 characters at a time but like the library card catalogue, it should be there to tease and inform you about where the good stuff is.

After reading @dougpete’s blog entry and considering many conversations with incredible learning leaders like @kellypower and @globeandtims I continue to rehash the essential question:  Is Twitter a Professional Learning tool?

Well, in this particular instance,:

  1. I participated in the chat on Saturday with a group of like-minded educators passionate about learning and opening the school year (from all over North America).
  2. I learned of a myriad of ways other leaders are handling logistical issues that are ever-present in the first weeks of school.
  3. I grabbed a few nuggets of wisdom that resonated with me.
  4. I learned of many ideas, best practises and innovations for having a successful Back to School Night.
  5. I learned of one Principal (@JohnWink90) making “How To” videos for his parents and community.
  6. I made the committment to “give it a go” (thanks for the lingo @jessmcculloch) myself with an iPad, iMovie and our Eastwood Eagles YouTube account.
  7. I filmed the entire video using my own children and a few adult helpers as “actors” on the very same day.
  8. I then sent the video to three individuals (@avivaloca being one), I have never met face to face, for their perspective and assistance (as well as an administrator in a neighbouring district.)
  9. I also sent the video to two Vice Principals in my district for their perspective and assistance.
  10. Finally I uploaded the video to our school blog and mailed it directly to our faculty (we have some new faces)

I have captured the moment I got the idea with this image:

This endeavour involved professionals, learning, technology tools, acting (doing) and reflecting.  I will undoubtedly get feedback from the community, other school leaders and the kids.  Granted there is not a direct impact on student achievement.  I still believe firmly that the reason I engaged in the entire process was because I am a member of an ever-expanding professional learning network through Twitter.  Again, in this instance the power of social media lead to deeper learning experiences.

For me Twitter has not been the best professional learning I have ever engaged in.  I believe that saying this is hyperbole.  On the contrary I have had some incredibly moving learning experiences with one, two or three people in a room making dialogue over work, learning, dilemmas or successes of our profession.  These are the professional learning experiences that have been the most riveting and influential.  Funny thing is. . . without Twitter I may not have had the opportunity to have these conversations with the likes of those mentioned above (not to mention the 34 #UnPlugd12 -ers from last weekend!).  Twitter has turned me on to some individuals who have led me to question, bolster, appreciate, act on and essentially change my perspective on just about everything I have learned to this point.

Thanks good sir.  I hope it helps our school community this September.  I am going to have some fun filming a trailer for this academic year next!

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The most powerful blog sharing tool feeddler combined with the twitter tool have made it so smooth to stay up to date on blogs I follow. With the twitter App I can share great reading and learning with my network.

After trying a couple I decided to bite the bullet and pay the whopping $4.99 (pricey in the App world!) to run Feeddler. By far it was the most bang for my buck. Complete with folders and multiple reposting applets this tool is user friendly and makes sharing an absolute breeze.

I love staying in touch with blogs like Connected Principals. Even better is that after reading an entry sharing is done with two touches.

Try it out! If you need help…tweet me!

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I had a funny evening with a couple friends the other night.  They were friends before our conversation started.  I can only hope they all are now, or, will be by the time this is Tweeted.  It started with a comment from Friend#1 that he enjoyed my tweets from a recent P.D. experience I had had.  Friend#BanSocialMedia jumped in with a “You tweet during meetings? That is rude!”  There was some silence at the table from Friend#1 and Friend#4 (a high school I.T. department teacher).  The conversation quickly lead to “Friend#BanSocialMedia”‘s expectations, complaints and comments about his students’ level of engagement in his history class.  Now let me just say, this teacher is a great teacher.  He loves his students.  He stays current.  He pushes the envelope.  He is leading the education reform movement in his school if not in his district. Sans social media technology.  He absolutely detests student cellphone use in his class.  So . . . he has procured the specifications for his own “cell-phone jammer” and is in the process of manufacturing one.

Insert laughter here.

“Instead of swimming upstream why not harness the power, knowledge and expertise that your students already have?” I asked rhetorically.  “I can teach you in five minutes how to run a cellphone, text back channel that could add in your delivery, provide by the minute feedback to you, engage your audience deeper and make you the talk of the lunch table from now until 2018!”

“Are you crazy?” was his response to me.  “Cellphones are the worst things in schools.  We banned them.  I hate them.”

From here on out Friend#1 interjected to keep the peace, Friend #4 took notes on his cellphone and the band played on.

I kinda went “soapbox” on my friend.  I asked questions like “Why are you denying me my learning?  Because of my learning style?” and “are you afraid of the feedback you will get?” and “would you take away a students pencil when he was taking notes?”  I admit, it got kind of ugly.  I finished with a statement.  “If the students are talking about what to do on the weekend, fights at lunch and who is dating who, give them something even better to text about:  Your teaching methods, your expertise and your efforts to reach them in a medium that they all get and love.  Tell them to follow your blog and follow your twitter account . . . then pump their heads full of historical fact that is more like fiction.  Give them stuff they won’t believe and then they will try to prove you wrong by doing some of their own research.  Ah . . . the old Jedi Teacher Trick, get them to learn when they think they are having fun. ”

(See Fun Theory)

I am sorry Friend#BanSocialMedia.  I went over the edge.  Please watch the video, continue your incredible work and consider buying a cellphone, engaging in some social learning yourself and with your students.  Having an experienced opinion will give you much integrity with your students.  I am sure you have taught history and World War II!  You know what “cellphone jammers” and denying the public voice pangs of.

Sorry for that last one.  I am refusing lately to take the passive way out.  Our kids, my own children are worth it.  When we refuse to meet students half way we do nothing to close the teaching – learning gap.  Instead of investing in a “cellphone jammer” why not take a leap and allow the kids to answer questions, pose arguments and ask questions via a texting back channel.  Come on . . . give it a try.  The kids are going to jam your jammer anyway.  Learning is supposed to be fun.  If we don’t make it so . . . those darned kids will!

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Clearly technology is not the sole answer to the teaching  learning gap.  It is just another channel to watch.  I view Twitter dialogue (#edchat) as a Protocol for my learning.  140 characters is concise to say the least.  A person of my loquaciousness needs boundaries.  Twitter gives me that structure.  Because it is on the public timeline I have also maintained public integrity.  I know that my digital existence is infinite.  I will be held accountable for my words.  Thus there are inherent “norms”.  My efforts are to get my colleagues to the table to discuss the issues in the same light.  I do not have a lack of faith or belief in any of us.  I know that people don’t “hate” me for talking it up.  On the contrary I understand that each of us has deep understanding for the role that education has played in our lives and we wish to provide that to our communities.  Technology is one avenue to get to that conversation outside of the time crunch and certainly outside of your circle of influence.  I have pictures of technoids sitting in rooms with handhelds engaging in Tweetups!  This is a structured protocol.

My friend’s email was included as a response because it helps me recognize the obstacles to having other educational leaders join the conversations.  I respect my friend immensely and thus view these perceptions as real concerns and obstacles for other professional educators.

  1. The time needed to learn the technology.
  2. The superficiality of the “Twitterverse”.
  3. The feeling that being self-referential is a bad thing.

1.  The technological learning curve is actually quite steep.  With the likes of WordPress, Twitter,  and other Web 2.0 applications that are web based there really is no length of time to learning these pieces of software.  There are oodles of people willing to help you once you are actually plugged in. 

2.  It is simple, only follow those people who offer something to your professional learning profile.  When they stop offering something to your professional learning profile stop following them.  Likewise you will notice that you can allow only those people you feel are following you for professional learning reasons.  Sure the web is full of stuff that just isn’t adding to the collective social consciousness of the world.  So are book stores.

3.  Delete self-referential and insert self-reflective.  T.W.I.T.T.E.R.-The World’s Intellectuals Taking Turns Exchanging Resources.  This was a Twitter post late last week by an educator I follow.  “Resources” are practical applications, web resources or could simply be the ideas, feelings, opinions and experiences that keep your mind actively assimilating new information.  Twitter provides a timeline for your self-reflection.  The self reflection you offer can stimulate others self-reflection.  It is essentially self-reflection for collective wisdom.  Please do not tell us what you had for breakfast.

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In my defense re: Twitter 
 
I am of an age where the time I need to invest in learning to use technology is overwhelming. I also have a personal bias against the inanities of the “twitterverse”. I feel we are raising a generation so introspective that they really do believe the world should care about what they had for breakfast. So much introspection breeds delusions of grandeur; this world needs more inflated egos like I need a hole in the head. I concede that situations like the Haiti earthquake were covered in the first person by Twitter and that kind of direct communication did contribute to the global action in support of the survivors, but each week, alongside the news topics, are just as many followers for pop culture like Justin Bieber or LOST. That self-referential “digital noise” really turns me off. After reading the article, I would also concede that the author feels his Twitter network keeps him motivated. As I seem to be in a bit of a rut right now, I guess I can understand that.
 
By the way, the Dec. 2009 issue of WIRED ( yes, I do read a variety of periodicals- even those on technology on occasion) had a very interesting article about Evan Ratliff who decided to shed his identity one month to see if it were possible to hide in plain sight in the digital age. For one month he travelled around the U.S. with those who were trying to find him close on his heels. They set up networks, FACEBOOK, blogs and Twitter etc. to share information; “where is Evan Ratliff?” In the end, his Twitter posts were his undoing and he was found on day 25. What connected for me was that an institution sprung up instantly to solve a problem. Members did not compete, they collaborated (Vanish Team). I found this saga to be a parable for how knowledge will be disseminated and shared in the future and what we need to prepare our students for. 
 
 

 

Wired Magazine: Where is Evan Ratliff?

Just blathering on a Sunday afternoon. I need to pay my bills electronically so I am using email as a task avoidance strategy. (<~~ yes I realize the irony of ending this with a self-referential statement).  

Cheers
Your Friend

 

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My Friend,  

I so badly wanted to send this to all of my administrative colleagues but fear my rant will land me more empty seats at my table at the monthly Principals’ meetings, more jokes about the “techno-guru” that can fix the LCD projector or the PowerPoint show and certainly even less interest in “picking up what I have been laying down” since the technology workshop with David Warlick in August. I am gonna lay off on the “Join Twitter chatter”. I am losing real life friends faster than I am gaining virtual followers. So I decided just to send it to you (and my few Bloggings Readers). So go ahead……hate away.  If you decide to join and follow and need some guidance drop me a line or send me your @.   See the email below. 

Friends,

 An article in ASCD’s Educational Leadership endorsing the use of Twitter for professional learning for teachers. Check it out.

 Why_Teachers_Should_Try_Twitter

Educational Leadership by ASCD

Just think, If you got on Twitter you could start ignoring my annoying “pleas” that come with these emails. If you want to talk about it…..just drop me a line (or your Twitter name).

 Tweetly Yours,

 Cowpernicus

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