Teachers Who are Learners

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.  ~John Cotton Dana

Miss. H. and her new cartDo you work with anyone that really epitomizes a life-long learner? Here’s a picture of someone I know who inspires me! Miss H. is an awesome computer teacher. Here are a few reasons why she inspires me!

Miss H. learns something every day. She’s constantly experimenting with different applications, asking lots of questions, and problem solving.

She is always pouring over books web resources to find new activities and her students rarely learn using the last year’s lesson plans.

When I first met Miss H. a little over a year ago, she claimed to have no idea what was Web 2.0. Now she’s on twitter, following blogs (her favorite is Technology Lessons), contributes to a wiki, and is enthusiastic about using the Read/Write web with her students (monsterproject.wikispaces.com).

She loves to contribute to a collaborative learning environment in her school. She did an awesome job when asked to teach some workshops, she spent a great deal of time preparing for her workshops and even created a book of lesson ideas for her attendees. She turned out to be a great presenter and everyone really enjoyed themselves.

During MAP testing, there are no extra classrooms for her to use with her students, so she teaches in the hallway with laptops. Even though she hates that situation (for obvious reasons), around her students, she acts like teaching in the hallway with laptops is the greatest adventure ever! This semester she’ll at least be using brand new laptops!

Above all, her students are her greatest joy and concern. Absolutely every effort she makes is for the benefit of the children she touches.

Who inspires you?

What Twitter Means to Me

A recent article shows that 11% of online adults are on Twitter. A bunch of my face-to-face friends and colleagues have signed up for twitter accounts as a direct result of my influence. I’ve promised them that I’ll help them find a way to maximize their use of the Twitter so its a valuable tool for professional development. For the longest time, I’ve been working on a post that will provide my friends good tips and tricks to get started. In addition, I want to offer encouragement to stick with it, since it takes some time to find a rich group of people to follow and to feel like you are making a real contribution to the community. I’ll admit that I can’t write a blog post that’s any more effective than the ones written by members of my personal learning network. So guys…read the posts by Liz Davis and Willis Whitlock. Check out the wiki Twitter for Teachers and take a use this spreadsheet. What the heck…if you not overwhelmed already, here’s all my delicious links tagged Twitter.

I joined Twitter about a year ago I have a clear intention on why I use it. I want to be engaged with a group of educators who are generous with their time and effort to improve the educational experience of students. In my position as technology integration specialist, I am convinced that I need to know everything. I think that my position demands that I’m aware of new tools, trends, and research about not just technology, but curriculum, teaching strategies, NCLB, social media, and internet safety. With regard to my engagement with Twitter as a professional development tool, I have a set of guidelines that have worked for me and not to add to the numerous “rules and regulations”, I call these my “twitter habits”:

  • I find almost all of the people I follow from the people I follow. I click on their “following” link and scan their list for educators, and click on “follow”. I follow plenty of people, but I like to find new members of my group by following those who get “@” messages on my list of tweets.
  • When someone follows me, I look at their picture (they better have one – although a lot of my PLN have silly avatars), their profile, and recent tweets. I won’t follow a newby unless I know them face to face. I’m looking for contribution and commitment.
  • With a couple of specific exceptions (more on that later), I only follow people who are connected with education – past or present, from early childhood teachers to university professors. I block marketers, goth bands, or anyone who uses the word “sexy” in their profiles or recent tweets. I don’t block educational products’ tweets, but I rarely follow them.
  • I limit my tweets to questions, compliments, answers to questions, and links. I occasionally write “going to walk to dog” or “anyone want a free teenager” and other “life” tweets because I think it helps develop relationships with the people in my network. I respond to the “life” tweets of others because I also think that showing interest in someone’s life is important to relationship building.
  • I follow news and media sources because I’m really interested in what’s going on in the world. My favorite is BreakingNewsOn  – because…well, I love to know about breaking news.

The question I get from people is “How do you have time?”. I found a strategy that works, but it helps that I’m ADD, I sit in front of the TV every evening, and I never read books that don’t directly relate to the impact of technology. Just to prove a point, I spent a little time tracking how Twitter has made me smarter in the past 2 weeks:

I attended a mini-conference that I forgot was taking place in my area, but I was reminded by fsinfo (On the morning of the conference twitter helped my find the right school entrance)

I virtually attended a graduate class taught by Alec Couros

I bookmarked the following in various ways for sharing with my staff, my PLN, the general public, or keep “just in case”:

  • 25 tools, resources, articles, and studies relating to teen online behavior and Internet Safety
  • 24 sites that had specific or a collection of K-8 student projects using various web2.0 tools
  • 10 resources, lesson plans and tutorials for interactive whiteboards as a result of posting a tweet about needing some
  • 8 resources that can be used to enhance instruction in Social Studies, including history, geography, and government
  • 8 tools, resources, articles, and research that will help me prepare for a presentation and the preparation of an information literacy curriculum
  • 8 resources relating to copyright issues
  • 8 links relating to social networking (other than internet safety)
  • 7 new Web2.0 tools
  • 6 YouTube or media converters/video search engines
  • 6 Articles of interest from national media sources such as the Washington Post, CNN, and the New York Times that I may need to refer to sometime
  • 4 resources that can be used to enhance instruction in Language Arts including reading, phonics, and writing
  • 4 Blog posts that I want to refer to later
  • 4 resources about cell teen phone trends and cell phone etiquette
  • 3 resources that can be used to enhance instruction in Art
  • 3 new tools that I could use for professional development of the staff in my district
  • 2 resoruces relating to the program Scratch
  • 2 wikis similar to the one we use for our district
  • 1 resource that relates web 2.0 to Marzano
  • 1 Tutorial site for Google Sketchup
  • 1 portal of university professor lectures/open courseware

My response is….”How can I not take the time to tap into the rich knowlege and professional generosity of hundreds of colleagues on a regular basis.”

Personal Learning Networks III

Although it’s Spring break, I’ve been pretty busy this week. I’ve developed another strategy for keeping well-informed in the area of educational technology and finding and tagging along with people who have a similar passion. As promised in an earlier post, I’ve been actively utilizing twitter. Because of those people I follow, I’ve had a chance to listen in on workshops broadcasts on Ustream.tv, I’ve expanded my list of blogs that I read, and I’ve developed a use for a web2.0 tool called Diigo. It’s pretty amazing how busy these ed-tech people are. Every few seconds, someone posts a message about a new blog article, preparing for presentation to their staff, or sending out a notice about a live stream of their workshop. There are also recommendations for great sites (hence, the new use of Diigo) or requests for technical help.


There is a really cool phenomenon among those I follow in twitter. People I follow post information about themselves that goes beyond the professional stuff. There’s been news about lost jobs, the need for new jobs, sick children, and the lost of a parent. The twitter community is extremely supportive. The community is always willing to offer advice, job leads, and offers of prayers. It’s an awesome community.

This blog entry by vanishingpoint explains twitter as a PLN opportunity extremely well. He says, “Twitter has opened amazing learning opportunities for me occasionally the 100+ folks that I follow post so much information I need to archive it to get to later. But THAT IS A GOOD THING! It proves to me and frankly forces me to continuously be grazing information (a skill in itself) and learning continuously.” I couldn’t agree more.

On the other side of the coin, I find the process intimidating. After all, I am following some really smart people. I’m not yet comfortable twittering about my blog posts, and I don’t Ustream.tv any of my workshops. I’m pretty proficient, but I can’t offer much technical advice to this bunch of “geeks”. I’ve yet to find a voice in the world of edu-bloggers, so I can’t provide any words of wisdom. For now, I am happy just to follow all this wealth of knowledge, and maybe someday, I’ll make a really substantial contribution to the community.

Building Personal Learning Networks – Engaging Adult Learners

This is a presentation by Vinnie Vrotny. Unlike other presentations, Vinnie tried to make it interactive by giving the group guiding questions to discuss for a few minutes to get us thinking and talking about personal learning networks. His goal was clearly to get us to network with others around us. The ICE conference is always a good way to network and I like to take advantage of the opportunity to meet other enthusiastic educators. The complete presentation can be found here.

My “Big Three”:

  • Set up a social networking or web2.0 application for parent workshops. Include videos, articles, prompt questions. Encourage engagement and for parents to be a guide and a mentor rather than a policeman.
  • Use twitter and the Ning network to extend my personal learning network
  • Facilitate personal learning networks with others in my district. I’ve discussed this possibility with a couple of staff members and was met with lukewarm response. I need to find a way to show them examples and demonstrate the value.
  • Set up a tool to develop a learning network for our chapter of ICE (ICE-COLD)

Has anyone noticed that my big three is usually more than three?