Sometimes I'm ten steps ahead of my own thoughts... I haven't posted an update in a while and a conversation with a PE teacher sparked me to share about connecting via social media. I've since realized that for someone new to the idea of PLN, simply urging them to create one isn't enough. Where do you begin?
What are you looking for?
First, consider what or who you're looking for. Are you looking to connect with other teachers in your subject area? Are you looking for inspiration for your classroom? Are you looking for project ideas?
Next, pick a platform and begin to explore.
Find one person or idea. Check links and followers. Find a source that works for you - a blog, a user, a collection.
The list below includes some of the main social media platforms used by educators.
I absolutely LOVE the PD I am participating in called Educator Learning Series (#eduLS) from Todd Nesloney. Each week a new challenge is posted that allows me to explore old and new tools and complete challenges using these tools. The challenges are presented by different educators, giving me a chance to expand my growing digital PLN.
In week 8, we were challenged to create with easy to use digital tools. One of the tools was Canva, which I already love! I thought I would try out the other two suggestions: @Tackk and @SmorePages. Smore requires a paid account, although an educator option is available with special pricing. I'd heard about this tool before and am pleasantly surprised by the features it includes. This can be used for newsletter, invitations, etc. and the creation of these products is very straightforward. I decided to sign up for Tackk, because it is free and available as an app.
The practice Tackk I created is below. Tackk allows for final products to be shared to a variety of social media platforms, they can be printed or e-mailed, or they can be embedded like I have done here.
I am now curious about the use of Tackk in education. You can follow users like on Instagram, for example. You can also set your Tackks to receive comments from others, which I elected to turn off for this particular one. You can also set Tackks to be private and hidden from the Tackkboard that includes work from various users. The app is just as easy to use as the web version of the tool, and I will definitely return to exploring the use of this with students!
I LOVED this challenge from the #EduLS and I have plans to incorporate this with my students. I work with a group of grade 3 student TIFs (technology integration facilitators - my job), and my plan is to introduce photo editing apps to create an infopic.
I combined this challenge with a few things. First, I decided to use Canva to create my infopic. I love this free website! It is SO easy to create really fantastic products without the need for a degree in design!
I am also currently working on a course on the IB Primary Years Programme. This is my first year working in an IB school, but there is so much I already love about the PYP curriculum. I selected a quote from the "Making the PYP Happen" - a curriculum framework we are using for my course and for all IB schools.
Lastly, the photo is from last year and shows my fifth grade students working with grade 1 students. Both classes were learning about plants and living things, so we worked together to explore the area around the school. The students created an Educreations video (using the free iPad app) together with the grade 1 students.
The photo isn't really the PYP in action, but I loved this quote about learning!
I previously posted about one of my favorite apps: Educreations. The app is so versatile and child-friendly. It is an app that allows students to create, rather than just consume. What I love most about it, is that it is applicable to a very broad range of grade levels and activities. Now that you've decided to download the free app, what can you do with it?
I am working in a new school and a new job this year, which allows me the opportunity to work in some age 3 preschool classes. I decide to give Educreations a go and let the students work with me during the second week of school. IPads with 3 year-olds their second week of school? You may consider me crazy. Take a look at the three different but related products we created!
To share the published videos, simply go tohttp://www.educreations.com and sign in. You can grab a link or an embed code for your video.
Other project ideas:
-narrate a story (write or type a story, create a story board, draw illustrations, and then record student voice telling the story!)
-explain math problems
-create diagrams and explain
-take photos of a given topic, and then record voice and writing to explain (shapes, colors, angles, etc.)
The possibilities really are endless with this app!
** I also will add that another very similar app exists - Explain Everything. There are a bit more features, but I find it less kid-friendly for our younger students.**
I have had many people ask me about how I found my job teaching over seas. It's a bit of a long story, and I blame it completely on fate.
For a while, I've had a desire to go live/work over seas. I grew up in Finland, and a piece of me will always be there. I've considered going there for a short period to work, but at the end of the day, there was always an excuse why I should just stay put.
Over my Thanksgiving holiday, I took advantage of the full week off and traveled to visit one of my oldest friends in Zurich, Switzerland. She is from Finland and was working there last year. I fell in love with the country and thought thats where I wanted to come back to. On my flight home I had a window seat, and the aisle seat next to me stayed empty until the very end of boarding. I had the two seats to myself on the way to Zurich, so I was disappointed when someone came and claimed the spot. She had her computer open, and I glanced over to see photo albums and folders very similar to my own - full of children engaged in activities and learning. Turns out she was a teacher from Colorado now working in Switzerland and was just traveling home for a funeral. I am certain she was hoping to get more work finished than she did, but she was so extremely kind in sharing her experience in how she found her job.
I could barely contain myself as I landed in Atlanta and immediately googled the job fair she had attended: CIS in London. Lucky for me, I had just enough time to get my self registered with the organization and then accepted to the job fair. It was the first weekend of December and the deadline was early January for the fair which would take place at the end of January. I had never been to London, so this seemed the perfect excuse to take care of a bit of travel and work at once!
Monday morning I had a scheduled mid-year conference with my principal. No time for nerves or debating how to ask for a reference, I was short on time! I explained to her my desire to attend the conference and explore the possibility of a job overseas. I taught for 7 years at the same school, and I did not have a reason to want to leave. I needed to fill a personal itch, though, and I knew this was the opportunity I had to pursue.
Prior to the job fair, I researched a bit about the schools and countries. It was overwhelming as there were so many different opportunities available! I had experience only in the primary classroom, but I have a strong technology background. I decided to market myself for both primary and technology positions. I received some communication from schools prior to the fair and actually arranged for an interview in London prior to the fair starting. I spoke with the kindest representatives from a school in Taiwan, and they helped prepare me for what was to come the next few days. I should also mention here that my current employer reached out to me prior to the job fair, but I did not give the e-mail much thought. The Middle East was not high on my list of regions to move to (complete ignorance on my part).
The fair started Thursday evening with an intro session for newcomers, which I was thankful to attend. I was able to hear the perspective of some school leaders that were interviewing, as well as meet and see some of the other candidates. Friday morning was a day full of school presentations. During each time slot, there were so many interesting options. I chose to attend the presentations of schools which had primary openings or were otherwise very intriguing. I listened to leaders from incredible schools share about what made their school unique and why I should come work there. I wanted to go everywhere.
Friday night was not the highlight of my time at the fair. It was the sign up for interviews. We'd been prepared to convince the recruiters to interview us in about 30 seconds of handing them our CV. Each school sits around the room with paper charts behind them of which openings they have. I went to confirm interview times with schools that had contacted me, and I went to make a case for why others should interview me. It was a series of highs and lows in a matter of seconds. Saturday there were a few more school presentations, but I spent the day in interviews.
My very first official interview Saturday morning would turn out to be the job offer which would lead me to Doha. I couldn't immediately accept the position, though, as I had a full day of interviews ahead. The day went beautifully, and I felt very confident in my interviews. That evening was a social gathering for all the interviewers and interviewees. I had made some friends at the fair with other candidates, and it was great getting to share and chat about our experiences. What was a bit uncomfortable, was being in the room with all of the people I had interviewed with earlier and knowing I did not want to pursue jobs at some of those schools. I will be honest here again; there was a single school which had completely captured my attention, and I received a long hand-written note right before the social hour letting me know that the ONE opening in the entire school was filled. As I chatted with a CIS counselor and was sharing my experiences from the day, the representative from that school came past. Without any control over my emotions after two long, stressful days, I broke out into giant tears. I was completely helpless as my eyes filled and tears streamed down my face. The representative from CIS was so helpful and we spoke about the roller coaster of emotions that I had experienced. I cleaned up in the restroom and headed back out for another refreshing beverage.
It was at this point that my first interviewer approached me. I was still not sold on the idea of the Middle East, mostly because I was very naive about what life would really be like here. I spoke with the two school administrators for a long time that evening, and I was given the answers to everything I wanted to know. I felt genuine respect and caring from the representatives. I place a great deal of value in relationships with students and my leadership. It was that evening that the school offered me something far beyond the details of a contract offer; I saw the character of the leaders that I would be working with.
I ate breakfast with a fellow candidate the next morning. We had met each other Friday morning and realized we were both from Atlanta. She had been teaching overseas already and was looking for a new teaching experience. We've since kept in contact, just like I've done with several other teachers I met at the fair. She and I spoke at length about my decision, which was still not firm at this point. In 30 minutes I was due to the first school to give my final decision about the job offer. This friend I made Friday morning helped me make a rational, and what would turn out to be the best possible decision for me. I accepted the position in Doha.
The absolute worst part of the entire fair was then having to reach out the school which I had decided to turn down offers from. I genuinely enjoyed all of the meetings and saw such amazing opportunities at each of the schools. Ultimately I went with a gut feeling that proved to be spot on.
Later that day, I interviewed with the technology team that happened to also be in London that weekend. (Fate, remember?) We chatted over some coffees at Starbucks, and I listened as my dream technology position was described to me. When the position was offered to me, I did not need even a second to consider it. I had accepted a position at the school as a primary teacher or in this tech capacity. I was now formally offered the technology role, and everything inside of my was screaming and shaking with excitement.
Would I go again? Absolutely. Was it what I expected? Yes and so much more! Did I end up where I thought I would? Not at all - but that is what I loved about the event! I had the chance to meet so many incredible people and learn about so many amazing opportunities that I would never have known existed. I went looking for a change and left with the opportunity of a lifetime.
An important component of student blogging is allowing students the opportunity to comment and provide feedback for peers. This can seem intimidating at first. "What if they post inappropriate things?" "What if they are mean and criticize the other student's work?" or even "What if they just write 'good'?"
These are all valid concerns and reasons why using an established protocol is important.
This protocol was shared as a way to provide feedback for my current online graduate courses. The Ladder of Feedback Protocol was developed by Daniel Wilson and Heidi Goodrich Andrade at Harvard Project Zero. It incorporates a way to provide critique and feedback in a constructive way.
The protocol includes four different components: Clarify, Value, Offer concerns, and Suggest.
Clarify: In this portion the reader asks any questions about what may not have been clear or included.
Value: Provide compliments on specific ideas or components.
Offer concern: Offer critique with phrases like "Have you considered..." or "What I wonder about it..."
Suggest: Give suggestions for the concerns you've identified(Download the full document here http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic86452.files/LoF_detailed.doc)
In creating a student project, I was searching for a document that presented this information in a kid-friendly language. I thought I would give it a search, before creating my own from scratch.
I found this great post that included a link to a TpT document that was FREE to download!
Added bonus: This particular teacher has been teaching over seas for a few years! Another great PLN connection!
I will admit that when I heard that my assignment was a WebQuest - images of a low level scavenger hunt immediately appeared in my head. In fact, I wasn't excited about the project even after viewing some great examples.
My summer of grad school courses has been quite busy and tiring. This seemed like a task that I was not going to enjoy.
That all changed when I first discovered a photo of a family from 1920 that inspired my entire project. What if I had tell the history of the Great Depression through the story of this family? I then found my way to the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection. I was drawn into the faces of the young children.
Learning social studies growing up was my least favorite subject. In fact, I may have even admitted to *hating* a history course or two. I didn't want to memorize any more names and dates that seemed insignificant.
I had a completely different experience when I started to teach social studies. I was captivated by stories.
What if I could use these images and stories to try and capture my students, too?
I created this WebQuest as a required grad school assignment. I won't be in the classroom to adjust and implement it next year, but I hope that it can be useful for someone else.
Again I find myself wondering, am I making the right choice leaving the classroom? Will I find a similar passion in working with teachers as I have with young, inquisitive minds? Will I see the same enthusiasm and pride in learning something new or taking on a challenge?
Most importantly, will the adults laugh at my jokes?
Every once in a while I save e-mails and actually remember to refer back to them...
Thank you Twitter for the following e-mail, which led me to this blog post by Vicki Davis.
I read through the post that includes some great resources, including some that I had not heard of yet. One of the new tools mentioned was Canva. What actually caught my attention was Vicki's description of Canva:
I've previously referred to my organization device for idea storage - my cluster of a brain. Somehow Vicki's description reminded me of a post by Erin Klein about the new Twitter layout (I searched with no success for this post, so a link to her site will . Since I read Erin's post on a morning walk with my dog, I've wanted to have a moment to create my own Twitter header. (This has not happened as I have waited for an idea for the perfect branding for my site which has still not come to me in one of these moments of creativity.)
I first used Canva to create a new Twitter header for myself. (This was while I was procrastinating my grad school work at Starbucks.)
The header is a work in progress, but you get a glimpse into how cute Canva can be!
There are several different designs ready or you can input custom dimensions.
Tonight, I used the program for a grad school assignment: revise a boring MSWord flyer.
I loved the ease with which I can manipulate images and shapes on Canva. I am not an artist, so I appreciate the plethora of layouts and ideas to begin a project!
Check out the great tool, and as always, I'd love to see what you create!
23 weeks = the length of time it took for me to actually create something I pinned.
I love Pinterest, but typically the ideas just get pinned onto a virtual board rather than my actual classroom. I am an idea person, so just seeing ideas is enough. I file them into my "to think about later" category in my brain. Sometimes I remember to refer to them. Sometimes.
This particular pin was something I saw and recalled frequently, looking for the perfect opportunity to incorporate. To me, technology is not about technology. It is about how to incorporate technology in a way that enhances learning. With the state testing requiring a fast pace, I did not find an opportunity to incorporate this particular idea until the end of the year.
This year I had the exciting opportunity to be selected as one of the first 25 members of the Fulton County Vanguard Group. This group seeks to increase innovative teaching and technology use in our classrooms through mentoring and coaching. While it was difficult to be able to complete a lot of coaching because of my full time classroom position, I feel that I was able to continue to serve as a role model for technology use at my school. It is this group and my Specialist program at Kennesaw State University, which led me to pursue and accept a full time technology position for next year. This video is just a short clip of all the wonderful things that we were able to accomplish at Dolvin!
Based in Doha currently, I am a technology-advocating learning junkie.