#Twitter #Hashtags for #PD

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.53.09 AMI can’t rave enough about the benefit of following #Twitter feeds for “just-in-time” professional development (PD)!  In the few years that I have been on Twitter, I have made new friends from around the world, built a supportive & informative PLN, and added multiple ideas to my “teacher’s toolbox”.  To say Twitter has revolutionized my teaching practice and philosophy may be an understatement!

Here are a few Twitter hashtags that I regularly follow:

  • #BFC530 – BFC stands for ‘The Breakfast Club’ and we chat every morning at 5:30amEST!! Each morning, a focus question is posted and the attendees of the chat spend a few minutes responding.  The questions are always encouraging and thought-provoking; the educators, always positive and supportive.  Today’s question was: “What PD books are on your agenda this summer?” Now I have a list of about 20 more books I want to read this summer!! We usually wrap up by 5:45am.  I can’t think of a better way to start my day!
  • #TeachMindful – This is another joy booster. The idea behind #TeachMindful is ‘a Twitter Chat about creating mindful learning environments for students. Bringing calm and focus to the classroom#’ Teaching is all about the kids and #TeachMindful reminds me where my focus should be each day.
  • #edtechchat – This is a great feed for all things EdTech. The collaborators share resources, links, and ideas for integrating EdTech into your curriculum. Just this morning this link was shared: Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.06.44 AM

Now my mind is buzzing with how to add this to our 6th grade world geography curriculum! The podcasts and guides for adding digital curriculum to the classroom have inspired me to continue pursuing excellence in my edtech journey.

  • #SummerLearning – This is a hashtag that I just recently started to follow. Because I am enrolled in grad school this summer and am working on curriculum development for my school, I thought it would be great to see what Twitter has to say about Summer Learning. Just this morning, I found this link to a post about grammar. Even though I currently teach 6th grade science and world geography, the English teacher in me is always in-tune to spelling and grammar errors. The link includes a description of five of the top grammar feeds to follow on Twitter. Fun!
  • #EdChat – This hashtag helps keep me up-to-date in the world of education. Timely news stories and recent educational reform are often topics of discussion. Today this handy chart explaining differentiation (always a hot topic at faculty meetings:) was posted: Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 8.39.42 AM

As you can hopefully see from this post, Twitter is my preferred method of PD.  Rather than sit in an hour long faculty meeting discussing topics of little interest (sorry admin:~), I can spend an hour (or more:) following hashtags and come away with new perspectives and inspiration. One word of warning: Twitter can quickly become OVERWHELMING! I find myself jumping from link to link and before I know it, hours have passed by. I try to limit my time on Twitter but I find so many great ideas that oft times I have 20+ tabs open and my brain is whirling in all different directions.  Does anyone have a # for that?!?!

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Social Networking: EdTech 543 Introduction

 

“Education needs role models who demonstrate that complex problems are solved by cooperative networks of creative & passionate individuals.” – Alec Couros

How will the use of social networking sites impact my teaching? As we venture into this course, Edtech 543, this is the question I am beginning to ponder.  I have used Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Instagram for years. Each of these social media sites plays a different role in my life. Facebook is my way of connecting with friends and family around the world. I was born in England, went to college in New York, and first started my teaching career in Florida. Facebook allows me to stay in touch with my friends and family both near and far. I do belong to a few education related Facebook groups, but I primarily use Facebook for personal contacts. Google Plus has not been a central part of my social media life. I joined when I began my graduate courses at BSU and only post to it when I create a new class assignment. I am a Wellness Advocate for a holistic healthcare company and Instagram is my go to social media site for connecting with others in the business.

So that leaves Twitter.  Twitter is the only social media site that I use primarily for professional development.  I have a network of Twitter friends with similar interests in education that I connect with on a daily basis.  I have gained valuable insight into teaching pedagogy and am often encouraged by like-minded educators in my Twitter #PLN. Last summer I was part of a Twitter book club where we discussed A.J. Juliani’s book LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity. My experience in reading the book was much enriched through the discussions and insights of my PLN.

Because I teach in a small, private school and teach students under the age of 13, social media has not really been a part of my classroom instruction. Most social media sites are blocked by the school’s security software and my students are not old enough to join most social media sites (although I am aware that many of my students have their own personal accounts). I am looking forward to discovering how I can effectively, safely, and appropriately integrate social media and social networking into my classroom environment. Through this course I hope to better understand the role social media can play in my classroom.

Assistive Technologies

All children exhibit differences in both physical characteristics (in regards to abilities)  and learning abilities, however, these differences are usually small in scope and the majority of children find success in the general education classroom. Some children, however, display differences that are significant enough to label them as “exceptional”. The educational needs of students identified as “exceptional students” are wide and varied. “The physical attributes and/or learning characteristics of exceptional children differ from the norm (either below or above) to such an extent that they require an individualized program of special education and related services to fully benefit from education” (Heward 2013, p.7).  The term exceptional children encompasses everything from children with learning and/or behavior problems, children with physical disabilities or sensory impairments, and children with superior abilities. When we refer to children with disabilities, we do not include those considered gifted or exceptionally talented. Furthermore, students identified as at-risk may be those who are not identified with a physical disability but may have learning needs stemming from attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students must be identified as having a disability in or to receive special education services. “People with disabilities have a fundamental right to live and participate in the same settings and programs – in school, at home, in the workplace, and in the community – as do people without disabilities.” (Heward 2013, p.1). It is with this in mind that we can explore what assistive and adaptive technologies are available to people with disabilities or impairments.

I use a MacBook Pro laptop computer that runs on the Mac OS Sierra operating system. Various technologies are available under the system preferences on the accessibility tab .  These assistive technologies are:

  • Vision: for blind or low-vision users
    • Display – Options to invert colors, use grayscale, differentiate without color, increase contrast, or reduce transparency
    • Zoom – Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom, smooth images
    • Voiceover – provides spoken and Braille descriptions of items on the computer screen and provides control of the computer through the use of the keyboard
  • Media: for deaf or hard of hearing users
    • Descriptions – Video descriptions provide a spoken description of visual content in media
    • Captions – Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing or closed captions will be used instead of standard subtitles
  • Hearing: for deaf or hard of hearing users
    • Audio – flash the screen when an alert sound occurs, play stereo audio as mono (for deaf or hearing impairments in one ear)
  • Interacting: for users with physical disabilities
    • Keyboard – Sticky keys allow modifier keys to be set without having to held the key down; Slow keys adjust the amount of time between when a key is pressed and when it is activated
    • Mouse & Trackpad – Mouse keys allows the mouse pointer to be controlled using the keyboard number pad; Double click speed can be adjusted from slow to fast
    • Switch Control – Allows the computer to be controlled using one or more switches. These can be mouse, keyboard, gamepad buttons or dedicated devices.
    • Dictation – Dictation commands allow you to edit text and interact with your computer by speaking to it.

  

According to apple.com Special Education, “We believe that technology can provide great learning tools for all learning abilities. Every Mac and iOS device comes standard with innovative accessibility features.” These features built into the Mac and Apple operating systems can help students with various disabilities or impairments to be on a level playing field with students who do not have disabilities. As stated above, it is the right of every child to have the opportunity to learn.  Assistive devices and tools can help all students have these opportunities.

Apple – Education – Special Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apple.com/education/special-education/

Heward, W. L. (2013). Exceptional Children, An Introduction to Special Education (10th ed.). The Ohio State University: Pearson.

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson.

Integrating Technology Into the Content Areas

Some of the most oft heard comments from history and geography students are, “Why do we have to know this stuff?” “It happened over 100 years ago!  It’s so boring!” And yes, ancient history or even history from just a few decades ago can seem dull to the younger generation. Engaging young historians can be quite a challenge for teachers, but the effective use of technology can make history come alive.

Clearly, helping students to understand the world around them and make global connections requires the opening of classroom walls.The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has determined ten themes related to social studies standards. One of the themes, science, technology, and society, directly addresses the integration and implementation of technology. Social studies instruction is designed to help us discover and better understand our world and its people, and technology-based strategies have become integral to this instruction (Diem & Berson, 2010).

Thankfully, educators now have a wide variety of technology-based tools to enhance the social studies curriculum. Some of these tools include simulations and problem-solving environments, access to primary sources, electronic research strategies, timeline generators, virtual field trips, digital storytelling, and geospatial technologies. I have used a few of these tools in my geography classroom and have found the students much more engaged in the lesson.  Recently, prior to a field trip to Ellis Island, I introduced the students to the immigrant experience through the Scholastic website Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today. The students were excited to hear the audio recordings of immigrants who had made the long and perilous journey from Europe to America.  We then viewed the digital timeline and used the data to compare the number of immigrants who came to America from 1820 through 2009. The students were then able to “meet” young immigrants who have recently come to the United States.  Through the website, my students were able to watch videos, listen to audio recordings, and explore a historical timeline.  The students’ engagement increased as these technology tools were implemented.

Geospatial technologies can also increase student motivation and interest.  Teachers no longer need to purchase expensive GPS devices. Today’’s smartphones and mapping software such as Google Maps provide all the information a class of budding geographers need.  Geocaching, the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website, has become a popular classroom activity. Students can go on a geocaching treasure hunt around their school grounds.  While discovering small “treasures”, students learn mapping, GPS, and navigation skills, all vital to the geography curriculum.  Google Earth has revolutionized the task of plotting locations on a map.

Blogging about history, creating “virtual” battles, and social networking with students across the globe are a few more of the ways we can teach our students to become global citizens. With today’s technological advances, the opportunities to make history come alive for our students are only limited by a teacher’s and the students’ imaginations.

Bernard, S. (2009, May 27). How to Teach with Technology: Social Studies. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-social-studies-lessons

Ellis Island Interactive Tour With Facts, Pictures, Video | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/tour/

Integrated Learning: Broadcasting and Social Studies. (2015, May 20). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/integrated-learning-broadcasting-and-social-studies

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson.