Monday, January 30, 2012

Collaboration on Social Media

Recently, I had to privilege of working with Mark, the senior English teacher.  His class had just finished Huck Finn, and he was developing a culminating project.  He came up with the premise that the School Board was going to ban Huck Finn and the students would need to develop a presentation to convince the Board to keep the book on the shelves.   He asked me if I had any other ideas for this project, and I almost jumped up and down, thankful that he wanted to collaborate with me.  I added the idea of creating a social media campaign to save the book.  Our students are using social media, but often do not see how it can be used for school; teachers can be the same way.  This project opens up the door for conversations about digital citizenship. Students then wrote a reflection comparing and contrasting the different techniques and tone used in a formal (board presentation) and informal (social media) situation. 

Mark does not use any social media, either personally or professionally.  He relied on me to develop the parameters and find resources for the social media campaigns. I also ran workshops for the students on how to use the social media tools for the project.  Students were given several choices of sites to use to create their campaigns.  The two most popular choices were:

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Create a Twitter campaign to gain support by sending out information tweets, links to supportive sights, and responding to those who send criticism tweets.  Most students chose to use to set up a room where they could control the environment for the project.  They set up a room and then invited their classmates to join in the conversation. They also created hashtags to simulate what happens on

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Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest.
Create a Facebook page to give information and promote discussion about the novel.  Students developed discussions about the merits of the novel, and created page information about the background of their campaign. Most students chose to create a public Facebook page, but some made a page to control the environment. 

Other options included staging a flashmob, creating a digital story of a protest, and creating a blog.  Students were also allowed to chose any book that had ever been challenge, and weren’t limited to Huck Finn.
We ran into some problems.  Due to timing Mark and I were not able to come up with a truly authentic audience for the students.  However, the students were motivated and had fun crafting various replies in the simulated environments.  Also, the school network blocks access to Facebook, but not Twitter.  Many students automatically discounted Facebook as an option because they would not have access at school and would have very limited access at home.   

Overall, this was a successful project.  In the future, I would like to have the groups interact more.  For example, I would have some students take the position that the novels should be banned.  Most of the arguments and discussion generated was fictitious.  While relevant, it could develop into more critical thinking and collaboration. 

This project was a great first step in collaborating with a teacher and capitalizing on the power of social media.  Now that Mark saw what we could throw together in a couple days, hopefully, we can do more in the future.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


One of the great things about technology is the ability to quickly put together information to show what one has learned. A great way to do this is by using images and links along with text to give examples.  This can then be posted on the web to give students an authentic audience that can also give their work more meaning.  However, there are so many web creation tools that it can be hard to choose which one to use. An easy tool to use with students would be the iOS app Zapd that allows students to smoothly create a website on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad.  Zapd is a free app available in the App Store.

Users choose from a selection of ready-made themes.  Then one can upload images, link to other websites, and add text.  The website can be published to be public or private. Zapd also allows for commenting at the end of the site to registered users.  Finished sites look professional and are very easy to share. 

An email address is needed to sign up for an account or users can connect using a Facebook account. 

Below is a tutorial I created to show students how to use Zapd.  Click here to see my sample Zapd website. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Love for Skitch

This year, my district purchased/leased one iPad cart of 30 iPads with keyboards per building. I took the lead and facilitated the initial professional development for the teachers to show them how to use the iPads and the iPad Cart. When I give a “How To” presentation, I love to use images to demonstrate. I have found that I work best when I see a picture of how to do something. That image sticks in my mind along with verbal directions.

As most presenters have experienced, when technology doesn’t work during a presentation the world feels like it’s ending. Therefore, I like to create presentations of images that would happen in real life. This also helps me to stay on task to make sure that I don't forget anything. During a presentation, I will have the image slide presentation along with the device available to show in real time.

With so many PD presentations this year, I falling in love with an app called Skitch by Evernote. The first time I heard about it was at the Wisconsin SLATE Conference from Tammy Lind.

Skitch is an awesome app that allows you to annotate an image from photos, screenshots, the web, a map, or just a blank screen. For a long time, I have been doing using the basic drawing tools in PowerPoint or Google Docs presentation to add an arrow or circle, and then add an extra text box. This takes a very long time and can get very frustrating because it rather tedious. What I like about Skitch is that it makes the text and arrows obvious and clear. It's very easy to use. After the image is annotated, one can share it by emailing, saving to photos, or my favorite option, save it to an Evernote account.

Below is the same presentation, one with created with Skitch using screen captures, and the other with the drawing tools from Google Presentation using images taken from an iPevo camera. I think that Skitch makes my presentation look much more professional, and easier to read (it also helped that the screen images were much clearer than the pictures I took with the iPevo).

The Skitch App is available for the iPad, Mac, and Android.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How I Miss the Apostrophe

The main complaint my friends and I have about the iPad keyboard is that there is no apostrophe key on the main keyboard. Colleagues tell me AutoCorrect will add it in, but it doesn't always work. Those composers who frequently use the words “she’ll” and “won’t” have to add in the apostrophe manually. In addition, AutoCorrect will also add an apostrophe to “were" making one have to go and remove it to have a composition make sense. When I’m typing, I also find myself on new lines because out of habit, I hit the return key when all I want is an apostrophe.

There is the shortcut to hold the (!,) key for a while and the apostrophe will eventually appear. I don't what to stop and wait.

So dear Apple and iPad creators, please put the apostrophe back on the main keyboard. Thank you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Conversations with College Professors (aka Family Members and Friends)

Christmas break is a time for gathering with family and friends. And sometimes that is the only time that you see some family members. Inevitably, you share about what is happening at school.

My cousin, and his partner, Shawn, are professors at two different Universities/Colleges in Florida. I also have a very good friend, Kevin, who is an adjunct professor at a local college. I always find it fascinating to talk to them because (1) they are very smart, but (2) they have not studied education pedagogy. They are thrown into the fire and have to learn those lessons quickly. Now, their students are different than mine, but we have all experienced the same classroom management problems. Before Kevin started, he asked me what to do if he ran out of material before class was finished, how to engage students in discussion, and what to do if his students plagiarized. All of these things I learned in my first education class and throughout my student teaching practicum with guidance from experienced teachers.

As Shawn is a physics professor, I shared with him that the physics teacher at my high school is developing a project using an app to analyze the physics properties of the yellow Angry Bird. I am helping to set up the technology needs by loading the app and teaching the students how to take video capture; the physics teacher is will instruct. Shawn was very interested and then asked me if I had ever heard of a “backchannel” being used during class. I giggled to myself because during district professional development, I’m often a moderator of our backchannel. I shared how he could use to set up a private room, and some of the benefits that I’ve experienced. He also asked me about my use of Twitter, and how beneficial it is. He seemed a bit overwhelmed at my love of Twitter for my PLN.

There are so many things that he can do in his college classroom with these tools. After our conversation, I thought about everything that I could share with him. I often think about Kevin and how with mentioning things that I think everyone knows about, but he hasn’t heard of them. When I read various articles and blog posts about technology in colleges, students are using all of these technology tools, but are the professors? It would be awesome if college professors could join into the K12 discussions about technology use on Twitter and other social media outlets. I think that we could learn a lot from each other.