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Building A Global Classroom, Ten Reasons All Teachers Should Tweet.

I’m writing this post because I want teachers to be able to show their colleagues just what they’re missing out on by not having access to the global classroom I have recently become a part of on Twitter. This is what I refer to as my Personal Learning Network, or ‘PLN’. In my mind, educators have expanded their networks for some time, within their own schools or at conferences. Twitter is now giving us instant access to educators globally, which has massive implications on many elements of our professional learning and practice.

If you don’t have a Twitter account linking you to educators globally, here are ten very good reasons to go and get one:

Inspiration – My PLN inspires me to think critically, be reflective and actively improve my teaching and learning through communication and shared ideas. This is something that every teacher should be doing. Most of us are already; having a global PLN to support you makes it even easier.

Resources – Since starting to develop my PLN in late August, I have bookmarked a library of rich resources shared by other educators. These include Web 2.0 tools, lesson plans, other social media sites (such as Pinterest, Edmodo and many more shared in this previous post) but mostly just fantastic ideas that spark new ideas for learning that will suit my classroom. Using a tool like Delicious I can link my favourited tweets and bookmark interesting resources for easy future reading.

Learning – As mentioned elsewhere in this post, my Twitter feed constantly updates with teachers from all over the world sharing wonderful new ideas. This has encouraged me to actively seek opportunities for new learning. One example of this was my PLN’s positive response to Making Thinking Visible (Ritchhart, Church & Morrison) which I have since bought, and am now thoroughly enjoying!

Collaboration – In practice, teachers are encouraged to collaborate, share ideas, work together, debate, disagree and produce outcomes. This, of course, is the fundamental idea of the Twitter platform. It has been enriched further thorough use of hashtags such as #PLN, #Edchat, #Edtech and #OzPrimSchChat.

Politics – Social media has proved time and time again that it has a voice. Teachers too, can come together in this space and express an opinion. Although our AEU has some way to go with their social media campaign strategies (don’t get me started!), teachers have recently expressed their views in Australia using the hashtags in relation to federal funding with some success.

Easy – You can start setting up your PLN in three steps, here is an example of an easy way to start:

  1. Go to the Twitter home page and sign up here.
  2. Find my profile by searching for @TeddyMercer (or the colleague who encouraged you to read this!).
  3. Follow everyone I am/they are following and everyone who follows me/them.

Now all you need to do is introduce yourself, ask for shout outs, explain you’re new to Twitter and teachers around the world will do their best to show you the ropes. There are some more detailed guides at the bottom of this post and links to other resources elsewhere on my page.

Ideas – There are two sides to this: sharing ideas with others and those people giving you feedback as to how it went when they trialed it in their classroom is hugely rewarding. On the flip side, giving others feedback about how you used their ideas, and watching an idea from your PLN blossom in your classroom, is great too. There is an abundance of amazing ideas out there, it is just a case of selecting the ones that suit you.

Fun – Chatting with other teachers is great! I have had the opportunity to share knowledge with Pre-service teachers like Ashley Azzopardi (@AshleyAzzopardi), tech-wizards such as Hayden Jones (@elearnjones) and Daniel Edwards (@syded06) and professors and experienced teachers like Shaileigh Page (@DrShaileighPage), Mary Jones (@MJ0401Mary) and Ross Mannell (@RossMannell). Finding such a vast number of people who share a passion for teaching and learning has been one of the most successful aspects of developing my PLN.

Support – Teachers can also find support for their personal and professional wellbeing on Twitter. #TeacherWellbeingChat is held at 2030 central standard time every Sunday and run by the talented Louiza Hebhardt (@equilibriumctc). It is easy to join in the discussion using the hashtag, and gives teachers a chance to share their feelings with other professionals on a range of topics chosen each week.

Accessibility – Other teachers in my PLN don’t mind if I take a couple of days off! I can leave my Twitter account for a few days (we all have other things to do!) but everything will still be there when I log on a few days later. I also have access to my Twitter feed via my iPhone, iPad and laptop so it’s never that far away.

Please share this post with your colleagues if you’re still trying to convince them to join Twitter. After all, the more educators we can attract to our global PLN, the better it will be! I would really love to hear your feedback, comments and suggestions in the space below.

Cheers,

Teddy.

Other resources to encourage teachers to join Twitter’s global classroom can be found here:

What is a PLN and why do I need one?

DEECD release: ‘The Ten Stages of Twitter’ – Great reading!

Daniel Edwards (@syded06) has a great blog here.

Nathan Jones shares some excellent tools here.

Ashley Azzopardi’s blog is here.

 

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Graphic Organisers in the Classroom

One of my favourite things about graphic organisers is their application to a wide range of topics and student abilities in our classroom. I find that students learn best when they are made to feel as if they have some choice in their planning approach and, when appropriate, I find that offering a range of planning alternatives is a great way to cater for each individual.

I gradually introduce various graphic organisers through the tuning in part of my lessons throughout Term 1, and encourage their use in reading groups (scaffolded and independently). As the school year progresses, students begin using their prior knowledge to select templates that suit their task. I also have a small window display that I provide for student reference.

There is a huge, potentially endless, range of resources out there. I have narrowed this list down and added some of the ways I integrate them into our classroom learning. Great news for techies too, as there is a growing range of graphic organiser apps being built and shared for iPad-based education!

Websites:

Freeology (Graphic Organisers) – I like this website because of the huge amount of effort that has gone into giving ideas for almost every graphic organiser template. If you want to introduce these to your reading/writing groups there is a great range of ideas located here.

Eduplace – The templates here are clean and simple. They are useful in the Adobe Reader app for iPad, as students are able to annotate and save their work using the app. These are predominantly the templates that I use on my displays and offer to my students.

The graphic organiser BLMS look best when they are printed on to coloured cartridge paper. I have considered colour coding them in the past, but I’m not sure how useful that would be. I’ll get there eventually.

Wordlewww.wordle.net – This fun tool lets you play around with texts that you provide and create a ‘Word Cloud’ that gives frequently occurring words more notability. Before reading a news article I copy the content into the Wordle and my grade hypothesise what the news story might be about.

Apps:

Gliffy – http://www.gliffy.com/ – (Requires signup – Free 30-day trial) A handy resource both professionally and for students’ use. This one requires some time investment but it produces some pretty darn cool results.

Popplet (lite) iTunes Store – A colleague introduced me to this student-friendly app with a neat, simple interface. Multiple graphic organisers can be saved in one app (Full version only) and then exported as PDF or JPEG files. The lite version allows for one local copy and you can still export your files – I find that this is workable if you are only using it in small groups or have a 1:1 iPad/student ratio.

iMindmapHDiTunes Store – A step up from the simplicity of Popplet but it makes up for it with some trickier user features. The free app is quite restricted but still provides enough options to be worthy of a mention and make the list.

Teacher reference:

Take a Look  (Kath Murdoch) – A colleague introduced me to Murdoch’s inquiry-based teacher tools. Her reflective tools are no exception. This text is well worth a Google.

WA First Steps (Reading, Writing, Viewing) – A formidable resource that we use in our annual, term and weekly planning. They aren’t cheap, but are worth a look from a team based/whole school planning initiative.

Finally…

Today I was in the world of Twitter and I stumbled across this article on the (extremely awesome) tech website, Mashable:

http://mashable.com/2012/07/09/how-to-create-an-infographic/

This has inspired me to lead my Grade 3/4s down the infographic path in Term 4, what possibilities! I’ll keep you posted.

Cheers,

Teddy.

Thank you all so much for your support and kind comments so far. Please use the section below to share some of your uses for graphic organisers in your classrooms, here are some questions to get you started:

Do you have a favourite resource that I haven’t mentioned? How do you integrate it into your practice?

Should we be working towards making everything tech-based (iPads, apps etc.) or do BLMs still have a place in our students’ planning and brainstorming?

Do you have a blog? Share it with us below!


App of the Month – Criteria

Colleague: ‘What apps should I get?’

Rotate iPad 90 degrees, shuffle across to them,

 

Me: ‘Well…’

 

The reality is that there are just so many apps out there, for such a range of purposes, that it is not always possible (in the same time it takes to drink your lukewarm coffee) to pinpoint to a colleague exactly which apps are relevant, useful and practical for them. My current experience of app-based technology in education is an enthusiastic group of professionals spending precious time integrating apps that actually make their lives more complicated! Personally, I have done this and later found myself spending more time re-reorganising files and folders, notes and photographs to get everything back into one, accessible space. I can say the same for so-called lesson enhancing apps.

Reflecting on this, I’m sure we all agree that our focus is best directed when we find an app that does a better job for us than we are doing already. I’d like to clarify my future posts by categorising apps under three simple terms – those being that the app makes things easier, faster or cooler.Because every student will tell you that if it (the lesson) is easy to interact, fast or cool, they’re in. And teachers? Well, I can only speak for myself…

With this in mind, I’m going to choose an app each month that achieves one, two or all of these criteria, to share and evaluate them. Perhaps by explaining their usefulness under these simple terms, I can make them more readily accessible to you.

I look forward to hearing your feedback, experiences and suggestions for alternatives so that this monthly section can become a forum and resource for others. Please feel free to use the comments section to direct future posts or any app categories that you would like to discuss.

Happy Apping!

Teddy.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an Apple expert. I will only present apps that are tried and tested.