Top Ten Tips for Attending Virtual Professional Learning for Educators

So much learning is happening virtually now and it is amazing.  I recently attended a virtual EdTech Conference in Nebraska!  This is an opportunity I never would have been able to take advantage of before the pandemic.  I have attended a number of virtual conferences during COVID and I’ve also organized and facilitated virtual learning over the last year and it is a different way to get your learn on!

In order to really get the most out of Virtual Professional Learning here are my go-to suggestions:

  1.  Organize your time and your conference selections in advance.  If there are many choices, take the time to do the research on the session and on the presenter. If there are digital links for presentations on the conference site to add into a digital tote-do it before your sessions so that you aren’t tempted to leave the session in order to do so.  Thank you ISTE LIVE 21  for the digital tote feature!
  2. Be PRESENT.  Be mindful and intentional about your learning.  If it isn’t the kind of learning that you were expecting, hop over to another session otherwise you’ll be resentful of wasted time and learning.
  3. Put your “out of office” email message on and don’t check your email.  If you were in an in-person setting, checking your email would be rude. This is time for your learning so treasure and protect that time.
  4. When possible attend LIVE sessions not asynchronous or previously recorded sessions.  LIVE sessions have opportunities to engage and ask questions which makes the learning is deeper.
  5. Have a PLP (Professional Learning Partner) or two! No one really wants to go to a conference by themselves. Some of the best learning takes place when you share what you learned in a session that your PLP wasn’t able to attend! You double the learning!
  6. Participate in the learning.  If there is a chat feature then put who you are and where you are from in the chat.  Ask questions, engage and connect.  This is where you grow your Professional Learning Network.  In a face to face conference you would sit down and meet new people.  Think of how you would engage with others in a real conference setting.
  7. TWEET! TWEET!  Get the conference hashtag, follow it, retweet and tweet about your learning and the presenters.  Follow those presenters and give them a shoutout. Take a picture of the slide that they are sharing and post it (without people’s faces and names in it.)  It is awesome as a facilitator to see the tweets afterwards.  It is timely feedback and motivational for the presenter.
  8. Take notes.  My PLPs and I recently collaborated on note taking using a Google Slide deck while attending a conference.  We pasted links, took screenshots and put notes of important information into the slide deck so we have the learning for later.
  9. Participate.  As a presenter, it isn’t nice to present to the empty boxes on Zoom or Webex. Just as in person, it is nice to see the reaction of the audience to pace yourself and to know that they are still with you! That being said, if you are eating or dealing with your dog or family or have decided to multi-task, leaving your camera on can be distracting for the participants and the presenter.  If there is a question asked in the chat, respond! There is nothing like being a presenter left hanging.  If there is a poll, a word cloud, a Jamboard,or a Kahoot, play along! The presenter created these things in order to make the presentation interactive for the adult learner.
  10.  Take Breaks.  Make sure you look carefully at the schedule (and the time zone) in order to plan your screen, water, coffee, bathroom, movement or snack breaks.

The most important thing to remember is that the presenters put time and effort to share their learning and expertise with you.  It is nerve-wracking to present to a group of educators.  Tech savvy people have tech issues too.  Give presenters grace and remember to thank them and provide feedback for their work and expertise.  They will appreciate it!

 

Commiserating With Others Over Their Technology Woes

Many of us have been assigned the unusual teaching package of instructing our classes online this year. A year ago, that would have seemed unthinkable. Teaching students from their homes with their pets, music blaring, siblings crying and unreliable technology would have seemed like a tall order. But here we are.

For me, my assignment that I received recently is called the hybrid model. In a nut shell, I am teaching my students who are attending in person simultaneously with my students who have opted for online learning. The important note to this assignment is that all of my students have a Developmental Disability and a variety of complex learning needs.

With three days notice of this hybrid model assignment, my colleagues and I moved quickly to explore the technology required to make this happen.

This is what the last week has looked like as I prepared:

 

This was my face when my Smart Board’s touch screen function now required you to touch things 1 foot to the right of the item you want to open.

This was my face when my student’s Chromebook wouldn’t load Google Meet for some unknown reason even though every other Chromebook loaded it just fine.

This was my face when my hard drive in my personal laptop imploded during the training for this new hybrid model.

This was my face when my office email refused to work three of the last four days.

This was my face when my desktop computer in my classroom no longer started, my student’s live streams crashed multiple times and the volume refused to work on my student’s iPad when we removed her headphones.

For those who are having technology woes, I feel your pain.

I am sure that things with all the technology will look up soon. I remind myself daily that we should be very thankful that we have access to iPads, Chromebooks, Smart Boards, laptops and desktops. There are many students all over the world that do not have access to even one of these things to support their learning. Tomorrow, I will pick myself up and try to figure out how to problem solve our challenges. For today, I sympathize with your challenges and I feel your frustration!!

Good luck for the month of October!

Content and Copyright Considerations in Distance Learning

The move to distance learning has certainly had some pitfalls. On top of all of the programming changes and logistical considerations, we’re hearing horror stories of the inappropriate use of digital tools and teachers unintentionally violating copyright laws.  It is crucial for teachers to make themselves aware of the privacy and security guidelines for their school board while also being aware of Fair Dealing and Copyright laws for online content.  Here is some food for thought, and a few tools and resources that may be helpful for teachers while creating and linking to online content.

Posting YouTube Videos

YouTube videos may be used for educational purposes in Canada so long as the creator and the source of the video is credited.  However, you might want to consider not posting a direct link to the YouTube video on your learning platform.  This link will take the students to the YouTube channel and the student may then freely search other content.  Maybe it is just me, but I’ve experienced the liquor advertisement pop up while watching a video in my classroom or the next video automatically plays and the content is not suitable for students. Teachers may want to try using online tools such as ViewPure or Safesharetv before copying the link into a learning platform.  These tools filter out advertisement and connects only the the video itself.

Reading Books Online to Students

A number of Canadian Publishers have opened up access to Educators to read published works online.  There are guidelines that an Educator must follow in order to do post an online story time.  For a list of participating publishers and more information on how to respect copyright for Canadian authors visit access copyright.  Scholastic Canada has also extended access to Educators to read published works online. The instructions on how to use Scholastic works is a little different.  Visit the Scholastic Read Aloud portion on the Scholastic Canada website in order to follow their rules and regulations.

FairDealing and Copyright

There are copyright laws specific to Education.  If you want to make sure that you can use something without violating copyright laws you can use the Fair Dealing Decision Tool.  Teachers can also refer to the Copyright Matters Document.

Privacy Policies and Statement

At the bottom of every home page for an educational digital tools you will find a link to their privacy policy or statement. I highly recommend reading what you are signing up for as a teacher when you click on a new Educational digital tool. Be aware of what data is being collected, where it is being stored and which third parties are attached to the company and make an informed decision for yourself.  Be proactive and check with someone in the Instructional Technology department at your school board to ensure that you are following recommendations before asking students and parents to sign up for a digital tool.  It is a lot for teachers to think about while at the same time just trying to get a handle on teaching in the midst of a pandemic. There is a big learning curve for everyone. Try to continue to go slowly. The move to distance learning is helping Educators truly understand the importance of digital citizenship.

Coding in Kindergarten

I have taught every grade from K-8 in some way, shape or form.  I can say that without a doubt or apology I have more respect for Kindergarten teachers than any other grade level.  Hands down.  I have loved every grade I taught while I was teaching it.  I was young and without children when I taught Kindergarten and can say that there is no tired like Kindergarten teacher tired.  That being said, I absolutely love going into Kindergarten classes with robotics.  Unabashedly Kinder friends approach you to ask your name and promptly tell you about the “owie” on the bottom of their foot as soon as they walk in the door.

I work with Bee Bots in Kindergarten classes to teach sequencing, estimation, problem solving, geo-spatial reasoning through coding.  Bee Bots are a rechargeable, floor robots designed for early learning.  It is easy to operate and does not require any other equipment.

We start as a whole group using the hundred’s carpet and decide how to move Bee Bot from our start to another point on the carpet.  Students decide upon the directions and we program them in to find out what will happen.  Wonderful mistakes happen here and we need to clear the code and start again.  When we achieve our goal as a group there is much rejoicing!

It isn’t really about teaching Kindergarten kids how to “code”.  Coding is used as a vehicle to teach many other transferable skills.  Planning, organizing and communication are just some of the learning skills that come from using the Bee Bots.   If you have access to the mats as featured in the photos, you can automatically see the ties to language and math concepts as well.  There is a romance period that needs to take place when the students first get their hands on Bee Bot.  However, even if they don’t know the words for “right” and “left” at first, they get to know them quickly through the use of Bee Bot.  Bee Bots in many of our Kindergarten classes now have homes and some have villages made from found materials so that Bee Bot can be coded to go to different places.  The possibilities for creativity really are endless.

For more information about using Bee Bot in the classroom, check out these resources:

https://krgarden.ca/media/hold/the-beebot-robot

https://blog.teaching.com.au/5-mathematics-bee-bot-lesson-ideas-for-the-classroom/

 

 

Artificial Intelligence

Have you ever been looking at something on Amazon and then see advertisements for that exact product on your Facebook feed?  Do you ever think about how “suggestions for you” on your Kindle or Netflix make it incredibly easy to click on the next book or t.v. series?  These are little ways in which artificial intelligence is becoming a normal every day occurrence in our every day lives and we don’t even realize it and we also need to make our students aware of it too.

According to research, scientists are far away from the C3PO kind of artificial intelligence but the reality about A.I. being a part of our world is far from Science Fiction.   I firmly believe that teaching students how to think critically about how artificial intelligence works is important.  Recently I was a part of a workshop with Microsoft and Kids Code Jeunesse in which we explored some of the pros and cons of A.I. in general and then specifically in education. We need to have these serious, ethical discussions with our students so that they are aware of the implications of a world with A.I.  Those recommendations that are computer generated may be helpful or they may narrow your experiences.  Just because I like historical drama doesn’t mean I don’t want to also watch romantic comedies.  However, until I watch a few, those don’t come up in my Netflix recommendations.  The narrowing of choice can save money for companies too.  See where I’m going with the moral implications?  So…how do we have this discussion with students in a way that they can understand?  Inquiry.

During the workshop we used The Teachable Machine which is an online program designed to demonstrate how machines can learn.   It is an effective tool to show that the more data that is entered, the more accurate the outcome. If you have a moment to look up the Google image for “Blueberry Muffins and Chihuahuas” you’ll understand what I mean.  Microsoft has been working with educators to help foster an understanding of artificial intelligence and bring that awareness to students.  On their website they have a number of experiments that you can take your students through in order to experience artificial intelligence at work:  Experience A.I.  As students use software such as predictive text, Google Read and Write or even chatbots for frequently asked questions, challenge them to ask the questions of how does this work?

Teaching digital citizenship and critical thinking needs to be a constant discussion, not a one and done lesson.  Students need to generate questions and explore how to find the answers with guidance from their teacher.  I think it is also important to highlight that A.I. might be a scary thing for some students so they need to be aware that although there are skills that humans and machines share, the machines do not learn those skills without the input of a human.  Machines cannot replace the empathy, creativity, communication and relationship building capability of humans.  They also cannot replace the understanding and caring of an effective teacher.

Fore more reading on the subject of Artificial Intelligence in Education:

Ryan M Cameron, A.I. 101 A Primer on Using Artificial Intelligence in Education

Wayne Holmes, Maya Bialik, Charles Fadel, Artificial Intelligence in Education:Promises and Implications for Teaching and Learning

The Gender Gap in Technology

Quote for blog

According to a recent report* by ICTC (the Information and Technology Information Council) Canadian women represent about 50% of the overall workforce but represent only 25% of the technology industry workforce.  Of the 100 major tech companies in Canada only 5 have female CEOs and 1 Co-CEO.   26% of the tech companies have no women in senior leadership at all.  There is a gender wage gap in the industry of $7,000-$20,00 per year.  When I read these statistics I wondered as educators, what can we do about the gender gap in technology?  This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a place to begin:

1.  Build her confidence in her abilities.

2. Cultivate a community of supportive peers.

3.  Provide a STEM/STEAM club for girls.

4. Ensure that access to technology and computer experiences is encouraged and inclusive.

5. Foster interest in computing careers.

6. Be a role model as a LEARNER.

May 11th is National Girls Learning Code Day.  If you are looking to encourage coders in your school, why not begin on May 11th?  Below you will find links to resources for beginning coding.  Many students code on their own at home and may appreciate the opportunity to mentor fellow students.  The resources attached will get you started.  There is no special equipment or robotics required.  Teachers do not have to be expert coders to encourage their students.  Teachers can be role models of resilience, risk taking and problem solving by learning alongside their students.  Teachers only need to open the door and expose their students to the opportunities.

Girls Who Code Canada

National Girls Learn Code Day

Canada Learning Code

Scratch

Hour of Code

Code.org

 

*Cutean, A., Ivus, M. (2017). The Digital Talent Dividend: Shifting Gears in a Changing Economy. Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC). Ottawa, Canada.

Elaborated and written by Alexandra Cutean (Director, Digital Innovation Research and Policy). and Maryna Ivus (Senior Analyst, Research and Policy) with generous support from the ICTC Research and Policy Team.

Coding with Microbits

Twice I have attended the Ontario Teachers’ Federation “Pedagogy before Technology” conference in the summer.  This year I attended a design workshop that the InkSmith company provided and would never have been able to predict the chain of events that would follow.  In the workshop we were grouped with people at our table to come up with a design concept and present it in the manner of a “Dragon’s Den” pitch.  As we discussed the concept and made diagrams on chart paper, I put the visuals together in a small Google Slide presentation and added an entertaining video.  I have my drama specialist and I’m not afraid to ham it up in front of a crowd.  When it came time for the presentation we wowed the InkSmith team and ended up presenting to the entire group.  We then went to lunch and I didn’t really think too much more about it.  However, because I had so loudly and visibly put myself out there in an entertaining way, I was contacted by the team at InkSmith and then connected with kidscodejeunesse team.  Kids Code is a federally funded program that helps students learn to code.  They provide free workshops to classrooms across the country using handheld, programmable micro-computers called micro:bits. The coding program is web based and is in the blockly format but can also be switched to html for more advanced coders.  When a workshop is provided to a classroom, the teacher is provided with ten microbits for the class to use and keep.  You can visit the website kidscodejeunesse to sign up for a workshop for your classroom.

microbit

                                                                                                                                 This is the microbit connected to a battery pack.

Kids Code Jeunesse provided me with training and as part of my job as an innovations consultant, I now go into classrooms within my school board to deliver workshops to students.  The only coding that I had done up to this point was with Spheros and Ozobots which was quite rudimentary.  I am now immersed into the coding culture. Which means that sometimes my kitchen counter looks like this:

IMG_6320 It was a little out of my comfort zone to be sure.  As I have gone into classrooms I have admitted to students that I’m not an expert on microbit   technology and I have learned from some of the students that have been engaged in complex coding on their own time.  With a quick conversation with   the classroom teacher I can usually make some decisions around differentiating the program to keep students engaged.

 You might be wondering what it is these little computers can do.  The LED lights on the front can be programmed to light up in patterns which create   animations.  Students can create dice or rock, paper, scissors games and with a few alligator clips and a small speaker or headphones, microbits can be   programmed to create music. With a little innovation and some adaptation it can be programmed to water plants automatically or become a pedometer.   It can also be paired with a robot called K8 which can be purchased from Inksmith and assembled.  The microbit website itself is where the coding takes   place and it has easy to follow tutorials and ideas for projects to code.

The initial workshop is only the beginning.  The only limit to these little computers is the limits of your student’s imagination.  Microbits would be incredibly useful in a maker space or genius hour environment.  The students develop design and critical thinking skills and problem solving techniques as they create and de-bug programs.  It is an amazing way to introduce coding to students-especially if you are a teacher who is brand new to coding.  Be warned: coding is extremely engaging and you and your students may have an inordinate amount of fun while learning.

         IMG_6350IMG_6200IMG_6358IMG_6326IMG_6356

The Almighty Meme

My teenage son is obsessed with memes. I remember my friends and I at his age, randomly quoting lines from John Hughes or Monty Python movies which confounded the adults around us but my friends and I would collapse into hysterics.  I am now the confounded adult but instead of movies, the quotes are from internet memes and vines.

As a teacher I always seek to leverage whatever is important to my students in order to make language engaging and authentic.  Last year I used their interest in Snapchat and connected it to “book snaps” in order to synthesize information about what they were reading.  Over the holidays I played a game called, “What do you Meme?” which is an adult version of “Apples to Apples” but with pictures.  Although the content was rather explicit (obviously not to be used in a classroom) and more than a little embarrassing to play with my 86 year old mother, I got to thinking afterwards about the language processing that it took in order to play this game and how could I turn it into an engaging teaching opportunity.  The idea around the game itself is rather simple, choose what you consider to be the best “caption” for the meme (photo) and then another person chooses their favourite of those put forth by the  players.  The idea is to make it “relateable”.

I realized that there was a great deal of inferring going on while we were matching the statements to the pictures.    We had to read the facial cues, look for other clues in the picture and then also relate what was happening in the picture to some kind of an emotion or shared human experience.  I’ll give you an example.

   smiling-cat-14104597394GP

“When you have beaten your big brother to the last piece of chocolate cake.”

In order to come up with that statement, I had to make some decisions.  I really had to think about the photo and determine what was happening. For me, it looked as though the cat was laughing and feeling rather satisfied with himself.  Then I had to think of something that would cause that reaction in someone to which other people might relate.  It is rather complex thinking.

In the classroom before any writing would take place I would provide many examples of popular (and appropriate) meme photos that are being used in different ways and discuss these with my students over a period of time.  What makes it funny or something with which people can relate?  What about the human experience is being shared in this meme?

Then I would provide a photo something like the one above on the Smartboard for students at the beginning of the language period. Just one at a time at the beginning so that we can take the opportunity to break down the thinking.  Students could then invent their own statement for the photo and justify their idea when they share it with others. In order to scaffold for some students, I might provide a variety of statements like the game itself and have them choose and justify their choice.  Students could also take or choose their own photo and create their own memes using apps such as Canva or Pic Collage.  This could also lead to an authentic digital citizenship opportunity with how to search and use photos that are public domain. In addition, these memes could then be shared on a class blog or social media to receive comments from others which provides feedback to students on their creations.

To take the idea of the memes further, the students could then use them as story prompts and create a narrative around the meme.  I might also ask the students to create some memes like book snaps which relate to the books that they are reading. See the example below:

smiling-cat-14104597394GP

“When Fudge ate Dribble.” 

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing-Judy Blume

A meme that needs an explanation isn’t a good meme, just like you shouldn’t need to explain a good joke.  There is a kind of sophistication in the thinking process involved in the creation of memes and they connect us as human beings.  Memes are this generation’s political cartoon, headline in the newspaper or funny birthday card from “The Far Side” creators; a visual paired with words that connects a shared human experience.  Know what I Meme?

Define and defying (smart) device use

photo by sik-life CC0
photo by sik-life CC0

There’s more to Modern Learning than delivering lessons on to smartphones.
There’s more to Modern Learning than having a paperless class.
There’s more to Modern Learning because there just is…
And I’m fine with that because there is more to Modern Learning.
So much so, that we are seeing more and more educators trying to define it even if others seem to be defying it.

Walk into a K- 8 classroom and you’ll most likely see students and teachers using smartphones, tablets, MS desktops, Apples, and Chromebooks. Perhaps they’re inquiring about a recent lesson, or digging deeper into a passion project during Genius Hour? Maybe the whole class is playing Kahoot with their French teacher?

From a distance it looks amazing. I have been the teacher who has witnessed all of the above and I’ll throw in a Google Classroom, TED Ed Lessons, Padlet, and raise you a Twitter. Can you hear the government types and administrators applauding and patting themselves on the back for allowing it to happen. However the applause should be for the educators who have led the charge to implement Modern Learning into their spaces. They are willing to take risks, try new things, and make mistakes to reach their Modern Learners. Teachers are in the trenches of learning everyday and understand the what, why, and how of their classrooms.

Outside looking in

To outsiders, visions of devices and technology in every hand sum up their understandings of modern learning. A cynic may equate Modern Learning as simply a shift from text books and worksheets to students completing digital versions of the same old thing.

Keep in mind, “Modern learning” is not limited to tech use alone, but will be for this post. Technology in the hands of educators and learners has now become the conduit through which learning takes place. When modern tools and passionate instruction are paired, learning becomes more relevant and engaging to students. Imagine being able to ask a question and have time to search for the answer immediately with only a few keystrokes and clicks?

“Technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces, so in education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there.”                  Jørgen MORTENSEN

Board wide access to WiFi means more and more students are taking notes during lessons using the technology at their fingertips. At the same time, teachers are gathering evidence of learning too.  And, still others are watching a cool cat video or streaming music? It’s all possible in the modern learning classroom. However, as many educators have already discovered, the use of smartphones can be a friend and foe in the classroom and comes with a few caveats. Modern Learning

A smart device is a tool in the learning toolbox not a cure all. It is not the only one and as such should never be relied upon for a quick fix or for ushering in the ‘educational renaissance’. Consider what Jason Lodge writes,

Enhancing education is a complex, wicked problem because learning and teaching are multifaceted phenomena, involving biological, technological, psychological, social, economic and pedagogical factors.

Reading this provides little comfort to my understanding of Modern Learning. In fact it leads me deeper down the rabbit hole in pursuit of understanding it better. Despite the wonder promised by all of this technology, students are still engaging with it far more often to connect and communicate rather than curate, create, and collaborate on content.

True story time

The other day I observed a grade 6 student using a device at an inappropriate time. As I approached, she quickly hid it(an iPhone 6+). Like a phablet that size can be hidden. I asked what she was so consumed by on her device that she was defying school policy? She shared it was a fan site for Ariana Grande.

Not the worst use of WiFi by a student, but off topic to be sure. After a few more questions I asked her to explain to me what she liked about Ariana Grande. We chatted about the March For Our Lives rally and about her performance. The convo continued and I got to know more about the student rather than defaulting to a YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER moment, followed by the standard lecture on appropriate use of technology.

Maybe this approach can be considered as Modern Learning too. If not, we can call it Modern Pedagogy that builds relationships and connections before asking students to fall into curricular compliance without context. Maybe Modern Learning has to be willing to defy convention?

By taking the time to discover her interests, some barriers were taken down. It was only afterwards that I suggested that classtime was intended for curriculum, and that I would suggest a Genius Hour activity in the near future where she could combine learning with her personal interest in Ms Grande – all the while helping other students discover, scratch, and share their own intellectual itches.

Another approach

At other schools, students are now required to lock their smartphones away for the learning day as an effort to reduce misuse and device distractions. What the link did not mention was that the school probably has students on computers or tablets as part of the instructional space. Anyone who has booked a computer cart or lab knows that students can become as easily distracted by these tools too.

So what ends up happening are these absolutes and dictums from class to class and school to school. It is obvious that some teachers are more open to embrace this more easily than others. Perhaps it is an admin or system issue, but there does not appear to be a consistent policy about device useage in schools. The dissonance in all of this for me is that we ask our students to innovate, we give them the most amazing and powerful learning/communication devices on the planet and then expect them to be able to put them aside to listen to a lesson that is being pulled from a text book or source older than they are. In other cases, students are creating multi-modal masterpieces of identity and ingenuity.

How about engaging and empowering them to use their devices for everything that is possible, trusting them to make good decisions, and having them create the criteria for use in classrooms? At the same time, educators can model appropriate use by sharing documents, links, updates, and evidence of learning via Twitter or class web sites.

The technology is not going away. The when, where, why, and how it will be used needs some defining so that students are not seen as defying school when they use their devices. Then maybe Modern Learning can be more than just more with technology.

Extra Fuel for your Modern Learning fire;

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/06/why-technology-alone-wont-fix-schools/394727/

 

 

 

Twitter EDU

Over the last few years many people have become disgusted and disenchanted with the platform of Twitter.  I agree that it can be an echo chamber for those who like to hear their own voice.  However, I also know that it can be an effective Professional Learning tool.  I have created an entire Professional Learning Network on Twitter because of the people that I chose to follow and I am diligent about blocking people who are spreading unworthy tweets.  My Twitter account posts nothing personal.  It is about my own professional learning. With Twitter colleagues challenge my thinking regularly.  Questions that I have for my educational colleagues are answered immediately and without judgment.  Global connections are made easily and then I use these connections to learn with my students.

Let me give you a few examples of how I’ve used Twitter in the classroom.  One of my students brought in a rock with a fossil on it from his backyard.  We took a photo and tweeted it out to find out if anyone could tell us what it was and the approximate age.  Within an hour we heard back from a scientist at the ROM.  He had an answer for us and was happy to help.  In fact, he told us that corresponding on social media at the ROM as a scientist IS his job! One of the students brought in a mushroom from the woods near their house.  We tweeted out to our PLN because they wanted to know whether or not it was edible.  We were answered immediately and there were many links to other sites for information that sent us on a further journey into the wonderful world of fungi.  Consequently, the advice from our Twitter contact was to never eat anything you find in the woods unless you are a scientist. In music, we were learning the words to a song by the Alternate Routes band and the students asked to tweet the band. They tweeted us back thanking us for the support and encouraging us to keep singing.  We found some great classes across Canada to Skype with through Twitter and did mystery number finds with other grade 1 and 2 classes. You get out of Twitter what you are willing to put into it.

I have gotten more out of 15 minute Twitter education chats than I have out of some day long workshops.  The educators on Twitter chats are there by choice and they are passionate about education. The questions are specific and the answers are in 140 characters. The best part is, you don’t even have to comment if you don’t feel comfortable.  You can just sit back and learn.  I have also met these Tweeters in person at IT conferences and taken their workshops.  Knowing the presenters ahead of time and having a connection is like going to a concert when you already know the newest album really well; it makes the experience richer and deeper.

Here are a few EDUTweeters that I suggest you follow to get started:

@dougpete  @peterskillen   @brendasherry    @avivalova   @mraspinall  @sylviaduckworth  @Toadmummy (that’s me)

Here are a few #hashtags to follow

#EdchatON    #edtechchat     #teacheredchat   #bfc530

Twitter may not be your thing, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it as your #PLN.  I guarantee you will find some ideas for #deeperlearning or #inquiryed.