Friday, December 20, 2013

How Do You Support Student Learning?

A very good article by Julie Ramsay about "... a quest to discover the best way to meet the needs of her digital-age learners…moving beyond the technology tools to focusing on supporting each student’s learning."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Beyond Twitter for Your PLN

So, what if Twitter is not your preferred method of connecting with your Personalized Learning Network (PLN)?  Never Fear!! Options are here!

There are other ways to gather and share information.  You are using one right now!  Blogs!  Blogs provide a way for you to share (and gather) information in much more than the 140 character limit of Twitter.

Now, I know, I are thinking, "Are you kidding?  I don't have time to keep up a blog!" That's okay.  When you move into the blog world, your first steps can be to follow other blogs.  This gives you access to information from experts in your field, but removes the pressure of authoring your own blog.  (However, let me suggest that you keep an open mind about being a blog author.  There is value in it, so don't rule it out!)

Next step, how do you find blogs published by experts in your field?  Well, I am going to help you get started.  I will share some blogs with you and give you pointers on how to find others.

Lisa Nielsen: The Innovative Educator -
Edutopia -
Will Richardson -
Edutech for Teachers -
Diane Ravitch -
Edcetera -
Quests and Treks -
Evolving Educators -
It All Started in the Library -
Teachers Reflect -

All of these may not be right for you.  And please, don't overwhelm yourself by thinking you have to read all (or even most) of these.  Find what you like and start there.

Here are some resources for finding other blogs:

  • Scholastic recommends 20 blogs:
  • eSchool News recommends 10 blogs:
  • National Education Policy Center recommends:
  • Lisa Nielson recommends 10 blogs:
What happens when you find 3, 4, 5 or more blogs you want to follow?  Do you have to remember the blog websites and visit them everyday to see if something new is posted?  NO!! Thank goodness!

There are services that will bring all your blogs together, as soon as they are updated, and combine them on one page.  

I use Bloglines.

Create an account...for FREE!
When you get started, Bloglines may give you some suggested blogs to follow and they may already show up under a Merchant's Circle tab in your feeds.  You can remove that if you like.

To keep your blog feeds organized, I recommend you add additional tabs beside the default MERCHANT'S CIRCLE tab.  I added EDUCATION and TECHNOLOGY tabs.  To add tabs choose the WHITE PLUS SIGN on the far right side of the blue TABS bar.   A new tab will open that you can rename.

To get started building your own feeds choose ADD on the Bloglines toolbar.

From the drop-down menu under ADD, choose FEEDS.
You can copy the url for the blog page you want to follow and paste it in the first URL bar and ENTER.

If an icon or two pop up below the URL bar when you press ENTER, the service is prompting you to choose the RSS feed (as opposed to the website link).  Blogs are shared by their authors with RSS feeds.   If this choice appears, choose FEED. 

When you select the icon for FEED, a box will pop up asking where you would like the blog feed to appear.  Choose the the tab under which you want the feed to appear by clicking the down arrow, selecting the tab and clicking the green +.

You can now click on that tab on your page and a history of blogs from that site will be displayed in list form. 

BIG TIP!!!  Bookmark the Bloglines page you are creating so that you have easy, one-click access to the most up-dated blog posts.  

Next tip!!! To remove a tab that you don't want...or that you accidentally created, simply click on the drop-down arrow just to the right of the tab label.  You can then rename the tab of delete it.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Using Your PLN to Share Your School Stories

I had an opportunity to observe a professional development conference for principals yesterday.  I was there in a technological role, not as an administrator, but I benefitted from the experience none-the-less. While there, I saw a perfectly demonstrated example of how to use your Personalized Learning Network (PLN).

Remember that your PLN is not just a way for you to learn.  It is also a way for you to share with others so that they may learn.

During the professional development yesterday, one of the presenters was talking about the value of "sharing your school stories."  Sharing your school stories is critical.  Backing those stories with data (creating "data stories") is powerful.  You can say "we have a great school."  But, that type of broad statement could be refuted.  If you share the data that explains why your school is great then the stories are irrefutable.

So, what are your important school stories?  What data stories can you build to make them irrefutable?
How can you share those stories in "soundbites" that seem to be the preferred method of communication these days with the impact of social media?  Make sure your soundbites are stories backed by actual data, but don't bombard your audience with statistics.  People aren't usually open to statistics, but they love a good story.  Sell your school with irrefutable data stories on a regular basis!

Once you decide on your data stories find your method of delivery.  We have talked in recent blogs about using Twitter as an integral part of our PLN.  Twitter is also an ideal avenue for delivering your data stories.  With a 140 character limit, data stories must be condensed to the "soundbites" that are so abundant and seemingly so desirable today.

So, today's challenge for you???....create a data story about your school or classroom and tweet that data story.

What might this look like?  Let's say that you have known that your typical homework completion percentage  is 87%.  On average, 87 out of your 100 students complete their homework, on time, as assigned.  However, since your school started using Google Tools for Education (and your students were trained in using Google Drive for accessing and submitting their homework) the homework completion percentage is now 99%!   Share that as a data story on Twitter in 140 characters or less.

Student homework completion rate is 99% since our school system launched  Tools for Ed.   makes access & submission easy.

Now, you try!  Sell your classroom or school by sharing your data stories! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Did You Tweet This Week?

If you've been thinking about that Personalized Learning Network (PLN), I hope you took my advice and used Twitter as a starting point.  Maybe you didn't tweet, yet.  Maybe you just "lurked" during past week and saw what others are tweeting.  Were you able to find people to follow with whom you have things in common? Were you able to find experts in your field?  Sometimes it's a little tricky in the beginning figuring out how to find people/organizations in your field to follow.  Remember, if you do find someone you feel is a good for your PLN, see who those people/organizations are following....AND who's following them.  You might just find a gold mind of tweets to follow!

Let's get basic.....
How do you find people/organizations and see who  is following them or who they follow????

You can always use the magnifying glass at the top of the Twitter screen to search. You can search for names of individuals/organizations or for topics.  But be aware there may be millions of people named Bob Smith, so you might not find your Bob Smith so easily.  It helps to know, and search by, their Twitter name or their @name.  I am @shadrak1, so looking for me as Sharon Drake wouldn't help much.  As a matter of fact, when I search for Sharon Drake, I am offered 10 suggestions of other Sharon Drakes and none of them are me.

Side note:  If you are trying to find THE REAL someone, Twitter does its best to help you out.  It tries to verify Twitter accounts as belonging to the REAL someone (celebrity, athlete, government official). If Twitter feels an account does, indeed belong to the REAL person/group, it will be indicated with a blue cloud with a white check mark.   The Tom Hanks below with the blue cloud and white check mark is legitimate.   The one with the blue bar highlighting it is not, even though the account name is Tom Hanks.  Use caution!

You can also search by # (hashtag).  So, if you wanted to know who won the most recent NASCAR race you might try #nascar. If academia is more to your taste you might try #ccrs (for you non-educators that's College and Career Ready Standards).  When you see # for a subject that interests you, then PERHAPS the person/organization tweeting that # might be someone you would be interested in following.

If you come across someone that you feel might be added to your PLN, check out who they are following and who follows them.  To do this, click on the tweet that interests you.  Then click on the name of the twitter account holder.  This will take you to their profile page.  You can then click on their followers and also on who they are following (found just under their profile pic).   You may find interesting people/organizations in their lists that you want to add to yours.  (You can also click on their tweets and see a chronological record of all of their tweets....often a good source of info!)

To give you a boost I will share with you some of the people/organizations I follow.  You can check them out and see if they have anything to contribute to your PLN.

@Soc_of_Authors (Society of Authors)
@app4ed (Ed Tech)
@aldotcome (
@NikkiDRobertson (not of the Duck Dynasty Robertsons.....Hoover High Librarian)
@IRAToday (International Reading Association)
oh, and so as not to disappoint......@williebosshog (Willie Robertson OF Duck Dynasty). Yes, some on my twitter feed contribute very little to my PLN!

These are just suggestions.  It gives you a starting point to begin investigating possible participants in your PLN.

See you next time!