Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What's Learned Here, Leaves Here - A Berrien RESA Twitter Challenge

I am asking all of you to get involved.  Berrien RESA is leading a twitter challenge on Feb. 16.  More on this to come, but I am hoping you will follow, participate, or even lead this challenge in your classroom, building, or district.  Connections make us stronger.  Connections make us smarter. Become better connected and share your story.  I will start by sharing mine.

With only 140 characters as a defining limitation I did not see how Twitter would change my profession, or more precisely my professional development.  I was wrong.  I signed up for the service skeptically.  There were enough folks posting shots of their dinner in the world, and it all looked better than mine. What did I have to offer?  

Like many I started out following famous athletes and others of 'interest' to the world.  I soon learned that this was not very engaging.  My next step was to connect while at conferences.  I would follow a hashtag and participate with other attendees.  This added value to my experience; by following other attendees I was seeing the conference through their lens.  There were takeaways and 'ah-has' that were now shared, not kept in silos.

From there I encountered the weekly #MichED chat.  Each Wednesday evening from 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm educators from across the state, region, and sometimes globe connect around a topic and shared questions.  They are not mandated to be there.  Few, if any, are getting some sort of professional development credit from their schools.  The participants are there because they want to be better educators.  They believe in the power of learning.  It is a powerful feeling to be surrounded by passionate educators.  The silos I felt in my own teaching were coming down by the week.  I was becoming connected.

The first couple of chats I mostly stayed on the side and followed by searching the #MichED hashtag and seeing what came across.  As I gained comfort from the process I decided to participate.  This changed everything for me.  The more I shared, the more I connected.  The more I connected the more empowered I felt for my students.  

Another reason I took to twitter was the students were there already.  I am a varsity golf coach and I wanted to model appropriate use for my team.  I also wanted them to know that I was in that space and could find them!  Too many kids were posting too often with too little thought.  So I created a twitter account for my class of sixth graders (@UptonMaizeTeam).

The exercise began as a way to connect with authors or specialists that my students had questions for that I could not answer.  For example we read about Samantha Larson, who had become the youngest person to climb the seven summits, and asked her directly how that felt ... and got a response.  This was powerful stuff.  I began having students create tweets for bell work on paper, 140 characters at a time, and would post some.  I was always in control of the content.   

We asked Aron Ralston, another famous adventurer/hiker, and again we heard back from him.  In our reading my students found that he once climbed the highest peaks of several states within 24 hours.  We researched where this would be possible given travel times, shared our theories, and were then excited he answered (It was the New England States).  While possible without using Twitter, it would be much more difficult relying on other services.

It turned out to be an excellent learning platform.  We attracted parent followers and modeled appropriate use.  One of the benefits I hadn't counted on was what a great record of the year the account maintained for me.  That record was helpful as I completed my portfolio throughout the year.  It is important to note that I did not ask kids to create a twitter account, or follow the account.  I created it for classroom use.  Like any communication of this type, it is important to keep administrators and parents involved.  In fact, twitter is a great way to keep them informed and involved, just make sure they understand your rationale and goals for using the service ahead of time.

If we can be of any service please contact myself or John.  We look forward to connecting with you on February 16 and remember, What’s Learned Here, Leaves Here - #WLHLH!

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