The T in Twitter Stands for Teacher: Tips for Us!

 You may or may not know it, but Twitter is an educator’s paradise; filled to the gills with educational dialogue, resources, ideas, tips, and best practices. No longer just a tween Bieber playground (Sorry Justin!), Twitter has become sooo much more.

To help you ease into this new (and perhaps scary) world of virtual collaboration,  Let’s discuss why the T in Twitter Stands for Teacher.  Soon you’ll be an #EduTweeter Rockstar in no time!

1. Professional Learning Networks (PLN)
Twitter is, without a doubt, an amazing social tool for connecting people.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a universe that allows for open communication across multiple platforms (and even continents). As Mrs. Kathleen Morris states in her great post about Twitter on Edublogs“I find Twitter to be like a virtual staffroom…where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.”

To begin building your PLN, start following educators and members that appeal to you and align with your ideals/goals as an educator. Some of my current, favorite EduTweeters  (in random order) are:

@ShiftParadigm@justintarte@singoffpitch,@JewishSpecialEd, @LisaBerghoff@TheWeirdTeacher@gcouros@ShellTerrell,   @INISchoolsSpEd@BethHouf@JayBilly2,  @tritonkory@TyrnaD@davidtedu, @RusulAlrubail  @VeganMathBeagle, @FarleyJeffrey @JessLifTeach

(and so many others!)

Be sure to also check out this Google doc of top Educator Twitter Handles by Subject and follow some of the educators who work in your areas of interest for inspiration, connection, and more!

2. Educational Chats
Sue Waters, Working With Web 2.0 Tools EduBlogger writes, “Twitter chats are one of the best ways for educators to connect with other educators, exchange and debate ideas, ask for help and provide assistance, find new resources and take action.” 

Indeed, educational chats are a wonderful way to get involved with a sub-group of teachers and stakeholders who share similar interests as you.  Need help finding the best Ed Twitter Chat for you? Check out this fantastic schedule of Global List of all Educational Chats by @cybraryman1 and an ever-evolving google doc with chat times here: Edu Top Twitter chats.

Some of my favorite chats that I’ve been involved in so far include: #BFC530 (5:30am Breakfast Club), #SlowChatEd #spedchat, #LDchat, #edchat, #tlap (Teach like a Pirate), #satchat, and #sunchat.

Be sure to also check out the Twitter Teacher Book Club, or #TBookC led by myself and the amazing @LisaBerghoff and @JewishSpecialEd on Thursday nights at 8pmCST.

3. Gathering Insights and Inspiration in a Tweet-minute!
Got five minutes to spare in between your lunch and prep period? Hop on to Twitter to find some messages of inspiration, passion, joy, resources, and teaching tips.  Being able to learn and collaborate with your Twitter educators is like a high-tech, low-cost Professional Development session available at your fingertips.

If you’ve chosen the correct people to follow for your PLN, you’ll have a wide variety of amazing content and insight coming straight through on your Twitter feed.  Get ready to be AMAZED!

So, TEACHERS, what are you waiting for? Are YOU on Twitter yet?

————–
For some great help getting started with Twitter, read The Teachers Guide to Twitter (Edudemic) and Getting Started with Twitter in the Classroom by Carrie Kam and the Teaching Channel.

Teacher Book Club, #TBookC: Feb Pick

Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

Book_Club_logo1

#TBookC is an online Twitter Teacher Book Club dedicated to engaging with educators and education stakeholders around the globe. The goal of #TBookC is to read 1 book every 1-2 months to help us with our lives, profession, and passions. After all, Teaching is a HARD job; We could all use a little relaxation and connection from time to time, no?

#TBookC started the year off right with an amazing read on Teach Like a Pirate or #Tlap by Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) for January. We had so much fun engaging with new educators on this book! Dave Burgess really brings it with enough enthusiasm and passion to engage even the most disenfranchised classroom teacher. You can read about the #TBookC January chat here.

For Feburary, my wonderful team of #TBookC moderators @LisaBerghoff and @JewishSpecialEd (and votes by you), helped us pick our #TBookC February read…

 Announcing: How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath

How Full is Your Bucket? is a wonderful, short read for readers of all ages.  Based on a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, this book can help change our (and our students’) views and interactions with eachother, as well as help build a more positive and fulfilling world!  Read more information about this wonderful book here and/or follow Tom Rath on Twitter @TomCRath.


Picture

“How did you feel after your last interaction with another person?

 Did that person — your spouse, best friend, coworker, or even a stranger — “fill your bucket” by making you feel more positive? Or did that person “dip from your bucket,” leaving you more negative than before?

 The #1 New York Times and #1 BusinessWeek bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? reveals how even the briefest interactions affect your relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. Organized around a simple metaphor of a dipper and a bucket, and grounded in 50 years of research, this book will show you how to greatly increase the positive moments in your work and your life — while reducing the negative.

 Filled with discoveries, powerful strategies, and engaging stories, How Full Is Your Bucket? is sure to inspire lasting changes and has all the makings of a timeless classic.” -Amazon Summary, How Full is Your Bucket?


We hope you will join #TBookC for this powerful read!

The chat starts Thursday, Feb. 5th 2015 at 8pm CST. Please add your name on the #TBookC Google Doc here to join us, or pop in to say hello at your leisure on Thursday nights!

Please note, for this chat we will be reading the “How Full is Your Bucket” for adults, but there is also a lovely “How Full is Your Bucket for Kids” that we’d recommend getting as well if you want help implementing this wonderful practice in your K-8 classroom.

Happy Reading! We can’t wait to see you all starting February 5th, 2015!

Your #TBookC Moderators,

Lindsey Lipsky (@LindseyLipsky)
Lisa Berghoff (@LisaBerghoff)

Lisa Friedman (@JewishSpecialEd)

BYOD in the Classroom

Lindsey Lipsky M.Ed.

Picture

Recently I went to a school on the outskirts of the Western Chicago suburbs to lead a Teacher Training in-service. What I saw in one classroom almost stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a sign about proper BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) use in the classroom.  I was amazed.

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, refers to the policy of allowing students to bring their personal mobile devices, such as smartphones, laptops and PDAs into the classroom for use and connectivity while learning. A new approach to integrating students’ technology into the classroom, BYOD is slowly gaining ground in the K-12 arena.

So why was I stopped dead in my tracks by a sign? Almost three years earlier, as a special education teacher, my school enacted a zero tolerance policy for any and all cell phones. A common scenario in my classroom went something like this:

Me: “OK, John, I see the phone in your pocket. It’s actually blinking, and singing a lovely rap song for us.”
Student: “But, but, Mrs. Lipsky, it’s not FAIR. My mom tells me I need to keep my phone on me for emergencies. Besides, Elysha and Jake both have cell phones in their desks… See, they just texted me.”
Me: (laughing slightly) “Ok, guys, I’m sorry, but you know the rules. Hand over the cell phones, or put them in my top desk drawer for safe keeping. You can pick them up after school.”
Students: Groaning in unison, all get up to put cell phones in my desk.

In my school, it was no secret that students had cell phones at school.  An unspoken rule though was that as long as the phones were out of sight (or sound) during class time, they could be out of mind (and thus without punishment).  This was in stark contrast to the view of our Administrators, who if found phones on students, would provide harsh penalties.

Due to this, throughout my day, my desk drawers became littered with confiscated student cell phones and mobile devices; a proverbial graveyard of untapped technological learning potential.

Interestingly enough, a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found that 78% of Americans aged 12 to 17 have cell phones, and nearly 1 in 4 (23%) of teenagers have a personal tablet. Another study found that 38% of kids under age 2 have used smartphones or tablets, Despite the fact that technology is becoming an ever-increasingly important aspect of kids’ lives, a June 2014 report by EdNET Insight found only “20% of elementary schools, 28% of middle schools and 40% of high schools” currently implement any type of BYOD policy in school.

Given the huge integration of technology into the lives of our students, why haven’t more schools begun implementing BYOD in the classroom? After all, aren’t more children today prone to using/having personal devices at home? To begin with, here are a few very valid and real barriers or concerns:

  1. Personal device inequities in the classroom (This is a biggie for me – how have others dealt with this? )
  2. Lagging Wi-Fi, or school bandwidth issues which make it difficult to support multiple devices on campus
  3. Need for more IT specialists and support  to help with increased tech demands
  4. A mind shift in general teaching practices, movement away from cell phone use as a distraction, to learning augmentation
  5. Need for broad behavior interventions and school regulations on proper use of technology

Despite the lengthy list of barriers to implementing BYOD, many schools have found that with successful support, tech integration, and training, BYOD can be an amazing tool for students. Some of the positives schools have seen when enacting BYOD on campuses include:

  1. More engaged students and learning environments
  2. A classroom that more closely mirrors outside technological realities and allows for good conversations/modeling of proper use
  3. Better collaboration across classes, students, parents and other teachers
  4. Differentiated learning that can extend beyond classroom
  5. Less cost associated with tech purchases like those for 1:1 models

Still interested in possibly implementing BYOD in your classroom? Get started by reading some of my favorite BYOD articles below:

What are your thoughts on BYOD in the classroom? Has your school begun implementing this concept? Why or why not? Leave a comment below, or let’s discuss on twitter @LindseyLipsky

Today’s Teacher

 Guest Blog Post! The following post was written by my amazing friend and collegue, Natasha Fortis.  She just started using Twitter (after much insistance by me): @nfortis1979 . Follow her! 

By Natasha Fortis, M.Ed.

I am what you might call a “Scrooge” during the holiday season. I abhor Christmas, and cringe in late October when the local business and commerce plays their non-stop rotation of “Jingle Bell Rock” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” There is, however, something I look forward to with child-like enchantment, and that is…the 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon on TNT. Truly, this classic is one of the best Christmas movies of all time, and I delight in watching it every year.  It never gets old to me, as it reminds me of a simpler time in our history with its veritable tableau of childhood innocence and traditional American values. As I sat down to partake in my little tradition this Christmas 2014, I noticed something I had never paid attention to before in this film…the classroom.

Set in pre-World War II Indiana, young Ralphie struggles to convince both his teacher and parents that Santa should bring him a Red Ryder Range BB gun. Amidst the hilarity and fuzzy memories that ensue, we are introduced to the 1939 American classroom, where students sit obediently at their desks with hands folded while they listen to the teacher recite multiplication tables. Although historically inaccurate, there are 2 African Americans in Ralphie’s classroom. Racially integrated classrooms did not occur in Indiana until 1949, but I overlook the inaccuracy, and regard it as one of the many charming anachronisms in this film, including the kid in the classroom wearing a Dukes of Hazzard wrist watch. Nevertheless, the students are all sitting in their seats and listening to the teacher, which is something I never experienced in my tenure as a public school teacher.

There are other subtle reminders of America’s elementary education past in the classroom scenes of ACS, including the 4 rows of seats, each having 4 desks in them. If you studied your multiplication tables just like Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields says to, you will determine that there are 16 students in this classroom. When was the last time a public school teacher in America had only 16 kids in their class? Today’s typical public school classroom has anywhere from 25 to 30 students, according to the National Education Association website. That’s almost double the amount of students!

There have been more changes to note despite the student to teacher ratio. A teacher’s fears in 1939 might be an essay from a child desiring a BB gun, whereas today, a teacher has to fear the conceivable threat of a real gun, along with its deadly consequences. Classroom violence is at an all-time high in the United States. In the past decade, 10% of urban school teachers reported threats of violence against them by their own students. The news is filled with stories of school shootings. Today’s teacher has much more to fear than a child’s tongue being frozen to a flagpole.

Aside from violence, many teachers fear losing their jobs as tenure in many states has been eliminated, and teacher performance and job security is based largely on student assessment scores. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a daunting task if we all had classrooms like Ralphie’s. Miss Shields also knows she has the support of her students’ parents. Their defiance both in and out of school is not overlooked, as Ralphie learns when his mouth is literally cleaned out with soap by his mother after uttering a bad word. Sadly, today’s high cost of living has parents, both single and in the traditional marriage unit, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. They count on their kids’ teachers to keep them fed, warm, and safe during school hours. Hopefully, the kids learn a thing or 2 in the process.

Today’s teacher is not only heroic for all of the aforementioned reasons, but also incredibly underpaid, unappreciated and misunderstood. The role of a teacher has come to include manager, entrepreneur, artist, babysitter, disciplinarian, school nurse, social worker, psychologist, police officer, janitor, and so many more. I fear for this country at times, as we do not value the sacrifice teachers make for the love of their jobs. Looking back at the classroom of yesteryears, I only hope we can become that way again.  I strongly feel our country’s prosperity depends on it. Perhaps it isn’t too naïve to think this could be possible, but, alas, in the words of Neal Young, “I’m a dreaming man, yes, that’s my problem”. However, who knows? If Ralphie’s glasses can come back into fashion, then maybe we can resurrect the old classroom to come back as well.


Picture

Natasha Fortis is a former Language Arts teacher and professor. She began her education career as a high school English teacher, but completed her post-secondary licensure in both elementary and secondary Language Arts. Upon completing her Master’s degree in English as a Second Language, Natasha worked as a Title One Reading Specialist in Douglas County Public Schools near Denver, Colorado. She has also taught Writing Fundamentals at Red Rocks Community College. After 10 years actively teaching in various milieus, Natasha now works as a Program Manager for a nonprofit organization that provides audiobooks to students with print-based disabilities. Her hobbies include air drawing and dancing to no music.  

 #EdTechWish: What Tech Do You Wish for in 2015? 

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
This article has been featured on Edutopia with a wonderful post by my friend and amazing PLN Colleague, Rusul Alrubail. Check out the post here.

My brother, Ash, is a computer engineer– which basically means I have absolutely no idea what he does on a day-to day-basis. I do know, however, that he works for a “User Experience Design & Engineering Consultancy” based in Chicago which was recently named one of Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies (fancy!)

Not that I like to brag or anything, but my brother is smart. Like really smart. He designs and creates and prototypes all kinds of technology; Tom Cruise in Minority Report kind of technology.

One night over a wonderful Sushi Dinner, my brother and I were discussing what he does.   After much technical jargon talk (on his part, of course) we got around to the subject of Educational Technology.My question for him was simple: Why does it seem like new technology keeps coming out that “accidentally” works well in the classroom? Shouldn’t Tech Developers (such as yourself) be reaching out to Schools/ Teachers/ Districts FIRST to create and design tech rather than the other way around?

His response? Show us the Benjamins.  (OK, he didn’t really say that, but that would’ve been amazing if he had!) His response was really that there is not much funding in EdTech due to the high costs associated with developing new products around classrooms; often expenses that are too high for many schools/districts to bear.

That got me thinking– What would happen if we went a back way into helping propel new EdTech design with teachers in mind. What if we started by asking a large number of people (educators mostly) what type of tech or design needs they saw in the classroom? Rather than having large Tech giants start projects that just so happen to work well for our classrooms, why not start by asking what educators want first? This idea sparked a hashtag and subsequent chat on Twitter: #EdTechWish and #EdTech2015

See first Tweets below:

Picture

We got an amazing response from educators all over the country discussing their EdTech ideas, needs and problems they needed help solving when facing implementation of good tech in the classroom.

Read the initial Storify and conversation on #EdTechWish here, as well as the #EdTechWish Chat during a week-long #SlowChatEd January discussion.

Also, feel free to keep the #EdTechWish hashtag going by answering this question on Twitter: What tech do you wish for in your classroom for 2015?

Finding Funds for your Classroom

By Lindsey Lipsky, MEd
Before I became a teacher, I had no idea the amount of money I would be spending out of pocket on my classroom.  In over five years of teaching, I have spent thousands of dollars on materials, books, and the occasional pizza party for my students. From engaging posters/curriculum/materials for my units, to furniture in the reading corner, and even a sweater for the student I knew didn’t have one at home, I could not separate my practice from spending.

A recent study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) found that “99.5 percent of all public school teachers (in the 2012-2013 school year), spent some amount of money out of pocket” on their classrooms, (David Nagel, The Journal). Although it is no secret that teachers spend billions of dollars each year on their classrooms, one of the things that most surprises me nowadays as a teacher trainer working in schools is how few teachers know about online funding projects for their classrooms.

Teachers: Have an amazing classroom idea or project, but not the supplies or funds? Step away from your wallet and into the world of online crowd funding!

Below are some of my top online funding websites for teachers and schools to use in the New Year. Whether you’re looking to add some books to your library, spruce up your classroom with new furniture, or gain updated technology for your kids, head on over to these sites for some amazing opportunities.  You and your students just might have the time of your lives doing it!

1. Donor’s Choose:
DonorsChoose.org is an online non-profit organization that connects public school teachers to essential classroom materials, supplies, and technology. Teachers write about projects, curriculum, and materials they need in the classroom and their project is posted for free on DonorsChoose.org for up to four months. Endorsed by many large corporations, celebrities and organizations alike, the most amazing thing about this website is that donors can often double the impact with match offers and promo codes by large companies.

When your project is fully funded, all materials and items are shipped to your school for free from the Donor’s Choose team.  You can choose from vendor’s like Apple, Staples, Scholastic and more to find what you need; The possibilities are endless!

Want to make a great Donor’s Choose page? Here are some awesome tips by Mr. Andy, an early elementary teacher in New York, who has received over $7,000 in supplies and materials funded by Donors Choose for his classroom.

2. GoFundMe:
GoFundMe is an online fundraising website that can be used for anyone or anything in need of funds.  While not necessarily intended for the classroom, it has proven to be an amazingly effective fundraising tool for schools and classrooms across the country. So far GoFundMe has risen over $630M for various projects, people, and organizations around the country. GoFundMe is totally free and has no end time limits to post about your project.

Getting started is easy; just take the tour to find out how you can create your own page.

Want some tips on how it’s done? Check out this amazing project done by Matthew Arend, the Principal at E.A. Sigler Elementary in Plano, TX, for a School Makerspace.  (Read this Edutopia article here on what a Makerspace is!) This amazing $3,000 project recently reached full funding and will be sure to impact some young lives. Congrats Sigler Stars!
—-
I hope these sites give you and yours some amazing things for the New Year. Enjoy!