Twitter in the Class



After taking part in a recent PLP webinar, it became clear that while many educators are comfortable with using Twitter to form their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and engage in learning, many were still wondering how best to use Twitter as a classroom teacher.

Here are just a few ways to use Twitter in the classroom:

  • In social Studies and History, visit, then have your students do the same with historical figures and events you are studying
  • Tweet a link to your monthly Newsletter
  • Have students live tweet their impressions of the novel they are reading
  • Have students tweet as if they were the character of a book they are reading
    • They can also engage other “characters” in conversation on twitter
    • Students can add to the story by filling in “unknown” times and information
    • Students can choose a minor character and give them more substance through writing their own fictional tweets
  • Set up a Twitter account for a topic or enduring understanding, and have students Tweet to it
  • Tweet links to homework docs
  • Increase family engagement by letting Parents follow your class account
    • you can tweet word wall words, reminders such as deadlines and school events, homework help, what you are learning in math, etc…
  • Very Short Stories! (1 tweet long, or more – you decide)  See examples at:,,,
  • Use to get autentic data for graphing and data management
  • Working with words:
    • Tweet out a word and have students reply with synonyms, homonyms, antonyms, using the word in a proper sentence
    • Tweet out a long word and have students reply with words they can make using the letters in your word
  • Have the students use a classroom Twitter account or a #hashtag to Crowdsource notes and thoughts
  • Share links to relevant videos
  • Use the classroom account to communicate with experts in the fields you are studying
    • many are quite willing to engage in conversations with classrooms
  • Use the classroom account to communicate with the author of a book you are reading as a class
  • Have students tweet their thoughts on a subject to the class account to get instant formative assessment to guide instruction

OK, your turn!  Please share some other ways to use Twitter in the classroom!

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Teachers – maybe we need to back off a bit!

This may be about 6 years old but it should be required watching if you stand in front of students, K-PSE (post-secondary education).  I’ve seen the video several times and always take away something new.

With his ground-breaking social experiments, Sugata shows us how students respond when presented with a computer, a broadband connection, and each other to learn with.

You can watch the full version here.  If you don’t have the 20 minutes to watch the full version today, you can start (but watch the full version eventually) with this 5 minute edit.  Thanks to Sean Heuchert for provided us with this edited version.  Also, thanks to Sean for his incites as to the main messages in Sugata’s video:

  • “Digital Natives” will just walk up to a computer and start playing, even kids who don’t speak English.
  •  Children will teach each other in groups if given the freedom to do so.
  •  Sometimes the best thing a teacher can do for student learning is just to get out of the way.

I’d just like to add that Sugata’s experiments also show the same results can be achieved regardless of things like primary language, Socio-Economic Status, Country, Origin, age, and gender.  Initially, the students ‘learned computers,’ but eventually, as the experiments became more deliberate and intentional, the students learned whatever they wanted!  And, I believe most importantly, they learned the ability to deal with an increasingly complex and connected world.

If you liked what you read and saw, a good follow up article to read is available here.

Happy viewing!

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Parent/Guardian/Student-Teacher Conferences!

A brief timely post about student-led conferences.

As we are approaching parent-teacher conference time, a few bullet points to remember:

  • Be prepared! You should always have a game plan for each and every conference.  You should have a few specific things you would like to share to help the student reach their potential.  Conferences should be Descriptive feedback (Growing Success – AFL) for the student and parents.
  • Allow the parents/guardians the chance to speak!  the majority of the speaking should come from the parent/guardian/student(when present).
  • Conferences should never be a “surprise” for the parent/guardian/student.  If you have major concerns, you shouldn’t wait for conferences to voice them.
  • Keep the door closed during conferences to protect the child.
  • You need to have evidence in the form of student work and anecdotal notes to support everything you plan to discuss.  A student portfolio of work, whether paper based or electronic, is a good place to start!
  • Have all necessary documents including a copy of the latest report and I.E.P. if applicable.
  • Be sure to always use the asset model to discuss the student.  Just think, “What if this were my child?”
  • Be sure to begin with all the positive things you can share about their child.
  • Have chairs in the hall for those waiting.
  • Use the space in the hall by your door to display/share/educate the parents waiting!
  • Have a clearly posted schedule on the wall outside your door.   I’ve always found it beneficial to have a clock in the hallway by the instructions to represent the ‘official’ time.  You should also have instructions for how/when the parent/guardian should enter the classroom.  An example could be:
  1. Knock when it is your scheduled time to meet.
  2. Wait 30 seconds, then come right in!
  • You should always conclude your comments with some measurable goals or areas of focus with some specific strategies to help the student.
  • Ideally, conferences should involve the student.  This aligns closely with Growing Success as we should be helping our students develop their metagognitive skills, internal motivation, and goal setting.  They should be responsible for their learning.
  • While it may be too late for this time, try to plan for Student-Led Conferences for the end of the first term in January.

Follow  the following link to access 2 short videos showing one type of carousel student-led conferences.

Click here!

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Timer Tools!

Click Here!

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Books should be free!

Textbooks shouldn’t bankrupt our school system.  Textbooks account for a sizeable chunk of the budget in any school board.   Furthermore, there are many subjects in which the subject matter changes or at least evolves before the books are even in the hands of students.

In addition to the textbook dilemma, students should be able to have access to literature to read.  Following is a few of the many sites where teachers and students can get involved with the creation and use of open-source textbooks, as well as a few sites where students and teachers can access many ebooks that are in the Canadian public domain.

Happy reading!


Wikibooks is a wikimedia collaborative community for creating, editing, and sharing free open-source textbooks.

Open Text Book –


Another collection of textbooks that anyone can access, and redistribute!

Books Should be Free –

Just a quick note to check out this site.  It offers thousands of audiobooks that can be downloaded in MP3, iTunes, and iPod formats. The site is easy to search and has a ton of books – some of which are still read in school.

The Gutenberg Project –

A collection of ebooks that are in the Canadian public domain, and are therefore available for free download.  Copyright in Canada generally lasts until 50 years after the end of the year of the author’s death.




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Whose job is it to teach Technoliteracies?

First off:  R.I.P. “21st Century.”  We’re almost in 2012 – “21st Century” when attached to words such as skills, education, society, learner, teacher, and competencies is now just a cliché.  It is just our reality now.

Our reality dictates that a literate person must possess a wide range of competencies and skills. Many of these skills have been part of the definition of “literate” since the word was coined.  However, as societies and technologies change, so does literacy, and what it means to be literate.

The evolution of the word literate involves a set of skills that many refer to as techno-literacies, information literacy, digital fluencies, or even digital citizenship.  These skills include but are not limited to:

  • Understanding Text in the most broad sense
  • (Collaboratively) Create, analyze, critique, and evaluate multi-media Texts
  • Manage multiple streams and forms of information
  • Locate and Evaluate (vet) information and its source
  • Determining the intent of authors
  • Develop proficiency with technology tools
  • (Collaboratively) Consuming (reading) and Creating (writing) in multiple forms of media
  • Attend to the ethical and moral responsibilities of consuming and creating in a global environment

While many connected educators agree that it is our responsibility to teach and continue to learn about these techno-literacies, I don’t think we’re doing a great job, yet.  While many speak about the moral imperative of an educational paradigm shift, few are recognizing that it is their job to address the need and teach these skills to our students.  They are as important as anything else in our curricula.

While I already addressed the role of the new Librarian and the new Learning Commons, I believe it is every teacher’s responsibility to teach these Technoliteracies to the students in front of them.  It’s going to look different from grade to grade, and it needs to be addressed differently from subject to subject, but it can be done.

There may be teachers who are not comfortable enough with these skills themselves to be able to teach them.  The good news is that we as teachers have the tools at our disposal to learn or even co-learn these skills with our students.  We are very fortunate at PVNC that every teacher has a laptop.  The laptop also comes with some great PD to get you started.  After that, it’s up to you!  Jump in!  You can’t learn to swim in a gymnasium.  Likewise, you can’t learn about digital literacy unless you immerse yourself in the process.  If you feel comfortable enough, empower your students to take the lead and help them to develop the skills they need to succeed in their future.  I’ll be that nearly every educator has the words “lifelong learner” or a synonym in their Philosophy of Education.  It’s time to renew that philosophy!

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Small Group Interaction in a Large Group Setting

More progress on the Post-Secondary front as 20 classrooms from the University of Michigan adopt software developed at the Ann Arbor campus’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.  The software, called LectureTools, allows students and professors to communicate in real-time during lectures.

This communication allows professors to pose questions of the class and get instant feedback from their students, who are using their smart phones, tablets, laptops, and other web-enabled devices to respond.  This provides a great deal of formative assessment information for the professor, who then can identify common misconceptions, and adjust their lecture as needed.

Students also have the ability to respond to questions that have been asked by other students.

Although the spirit of this has been accomplished with the use of clickers in many science and physics classrooms, there has long been a need in Humanities classrooms.

Purdue University has been on the forefront with the development and use of Hotseat.

What I think is missing from both LectureTools and Hotseat is the application and integration of learning pedagogy that supports the use of Accountable Talk, which makes students accountable to the learning community and encourages them to reflect upon, and build upon, the ideas of others.

I have tried to accomplish much of the same things as Purdue and the University of Michigan, while integrating the pedagogy of Accountable Talk, by lecturing with the use of a blog.  Throughout my lecture, I pose questions and problems that require critical thinking skills around the subject matter being learned and have the students discuss the questions with the students around them, using the Accountable Talk structure.  After a given amount of time, a representative from each group is invited to post the group’s response (not necessarily their answer) to the blog.  I then have a few minutes to vet the posts and proceed with my lecture as I see fit, based on the valuable feedback I now have.

In the cases of Purdue and the University of Michigan, and my own experiences with this, the students seem more than ready for this type of interactive lecturing.  Our students are Digital Natives and have Grown up Digital.  In addition to their being ready, I can anecdotally report that they seem to really enjoy my lectures much more than they did before I tried this out.  Also, my attendance has never been higher.  I believe the challenge echoes the same challenge that exists in K-12 education and can be found in another section of the Instructional Core.  Many teachers and professors are simply not yet comfortable with this major paradigm shift in education.

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