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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Social Networking: An Educator's key to Cultivating Learning

     Social networking has made a huge impact in my classrooms. As a traveling teacher, I am between two middle schools and what works in one classroom might not always be successful in another. On the up side, I can “practice” a new activity and make improvements before implementing it again with another group of students. As a third year teacher, I feel there is great value in seeking knowledge from fellow colleagues. However, there are only three ESL secondary teachers in our district. In order to branch out and network with other ESL middle school teachers, I have found that social networking has allowed me to gain access to tons of information such as lesson plans, websites, interactive whiteboard presentations, games, and most importantly other teachers. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have allowed me to find credible teachers who not only share valuable information to aid me on my quest to be a stellar ESL teacher, but they can answer questions that I have in seconds. Technology is beautiful!
     In order to continue developing my personal learning network (PLN), I plan on maintaining my blog on Blogger. I think it is very important to document my journey in education as well reach out and or give back to the community. My hope is that others can learn by my mistakes and achievements in the classroom. Also, I have intentions on devising a personal blog which will include my newfound passion of running thanks to be husband, Jason Phipps.
     Before I took a class in social networking, I had never heard the term “PLN,” before or knew about Ted Talks, or how to tweet for that matter. I foresee educators globally building their online educational community just for the simple fact that it is inexpensive and at their fingertips. When we leave our classroom, we do not leave our PLNs behind because we carry them with us via our cell phones. Smart phone technology has enabled so many of us to check email wherever we go, answer tweets, and tap into our social networks in seconds. Future educators will expect answers in minutes and if they do not know, then having a strong PLN will be the key to unlocking those challenges ahead. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Response to Shirky's Take on Social Media

Tonight in my graduate class on Social Networking, we watched Clay Shirky's video on How Social Media Can Make History. After watching the video it really made me step back and think about how social media has changed over the past twenty years. Moreover, it made me think of how much social media will change in the next twenty years. As a middle school teacher, students are not allowed to have their cell phones turned on during school hours. I foresee the future of approaching this issue differently. With so many students having "smart phones" I think that teachers and administrators should embrace this technology and let students use it in the classroom. Students could be able to use their phones as clickers and use applications like Groupme in the classroom and even out of the classroom as students work on assignments, etc. It's a mobile chat room and the teacher can have the ability to introduce critical thinking questions that will expand learning. Overall, social media should be embraced in education and we need to incorporate the resources that are available to us now rather than trying to depress the inevitable. 

Follow up to Talking Tom

A few weeks ago I introduced Talking Tom, an iPad application to a few of my ELLs (English Language Learners). The idea behind the talking cat, Tom, was to get my students to record themselves and practice speaking. Overall, Talking Tom was a big hit and the students enjoyed making him meow and hold his stomach repeating the words, "Ow," over and over again. In general, the iPad has had some great success for me in the classroom as a positive behavior motivator. Students want to "play" on the iPad and really enjoy listening to music or watching videos on YouTube. It is a great motivator and I just wish I had enough for every student. In general, since I have started taking a couple of technology classes through Doane, I have been more aware of how much I use technology in the classroom. I really never knew what was out there to use with my students. By increasing my PLN (Personal Learning Network) with blogging, Twitter, and by subscribing to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, I feel like I have more potential to make a huge difference with my students and I am a better resource to other teachers as well. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Resources for the Classroom

Finding fresh ideas to keep students interested in the classroom during the last two months of school can be challenging. Thanks to Colorin' Colorado, a website dedicated to the success of English Language Learners for offering tips on differentiated instruction for the classroom. As an ESL specialist and co-teacher in a 7th grade reading class, I am always snooping around Twitter and Diigo for catchy vocabulary games and reading strategies to use with my students. In an article by Colorin' Colorado, the level of reading comprehension is linked with the student's level of vocabulary knowledge. Basically, vocabulary is broken down into three tiers of understanding which equates to easy to difficult. Lower grades would have a vast knowledge of Tier one words whereas the older the student, the more tiers of vocabulary would be added to the knowledge base of the student. Depending on a student's level of English proficiency, their combined tiers dictate how well they comprehend text and it also correlates with their success in the classroom. One way to increase understanding and comprehension in the classroom is by pre-teaching key vocabulary words before the topic is introduced in class. A few examples of pre-teaching vocabulary include repeating the word several times aloud. I downloaded an application called Talking Tom to my iPad a few days ago and I'm anxious to try this with my students. Talking Tom is a program that allows the user to record what he/she is saying and play it back. This is an excellent speaking opportunity and a good way for students to practice using key vocabulary words in the classroom. I'm going to try it out and share my results later on this week or next.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Making Learning Fun!

I have never considered creating my own magazine, but apparently it is possible. OpenZine is a free publishing website and is open to anyone who wants to invest in their own passions so others can view it free and online. In an OpenZine called Project PLN, elementary educator Derek Brahman blogs about his own passions. In summation, he encourages teachers to focus on making learning fun. If teachers are enjoying what they are teaching, then students will inevitably pick up on it. The biggest key point in his article is that students are not going to remember whether or not their school had the top state reading test scores, but rather if their teacher was fun and what they learned in class.

I happen to agree with Derek Brahman. I think learning should be fun and my intent is to focus on using technology in the classroom. Instead of banning the use of cellphones during the school day, why not let students use them in the classroom as clickers, use apps, connect to the school's wireless network and focus on what we can do with technology instead of what they shouldn't do.

Should students be able to use cell phones in the classroom?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Expanding PLN by responding to blog posts

I recently read a blog called 5 tips for better social networking by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown. This is a very enlightening article on social networking. Personally, I think this is sound advice. Something that stuck with me the most was the tip on promoting others. Tweeting about others reminds me of the idiom, "You catch more flies with sugar." This is also the reverse psychology concept. Give the other person kudos and recognition for what they are doing and in the end you are going to get props for promoting their ideas. In the end, people might even start following you. Honestly, I'm still pretty new to the tweeting and blogging. My goal is to use proper etiquette with my social networking and increase my PLN.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cultivating my PLN - it's new to me!

Okay, so it's true, my 12 year old son knows more about technology than I do. He can whip around an I-Pad faster than a dog licks up your crumbs off the floor. I am curious about technology and even more curious about social networking. I've had a Facebook account for a couple years, but never gave any consideration about tweeting simply because I wasn't very educated about it. I didn't know anyone who tweeted besdies my husband and even he said he didn't tweet very much. So, until I was "assigned" to make my own Twitter account, I held my breath. Now, I'm breathing and tweeting, and having fun following others and being nosey. Yes, nosey! It's kind of weird following somebody online and watching and snooping into what they are doing. However, I find it quite interesting that I can get expert advice from other teachers who really have a handle on what they are doing in the classroom. I am in my 3rd year of teaching and some days I'll admit, I think to myself, "does it ever get easier?" I love working with students who are from all over the world and speak not one, but two, sometimes three or four languages. I remember when I just started working in my school district as a paraprofessional and a high school student wrote my name in Arabic. I don't really feel like I'm very cultured myself, and I feel like I'm very sheltered and have been kept safe all my life. My husband has been to all but one of the seven continents and has all the Navy stories to go with them, too. Me, I feel like my life is boring. But, alas, I can now tweet about how boring my life is to anyone who wants to follow me. Ha! The biggest possibilities for me for tweeting are to share my experiences (no matter how mundane) to others. I'm positive that I will be able to get feedback from other educators and ideas to take into the classroom. My biggest goal is to be more techno savvy and begin incorporating technology into the classroom with my students.