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?

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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.

BYOD in the Classroom

Lindsey Lipsky M.Ed.

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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

 #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:

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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?

15 Education Acronyms to Know for 2015

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
Ten points if you can decipher the following paragraph!

Veronica is a 3rd grader who has ADHD. Veronica qualified for a 504 in 2nd grade under the category of OHI.  After being in RTI for two months this school year without progress, the IEP team is looking at beginning testing for SLD and possibly creating an IEP. In line with IDEA, ADA, and FAPE, Veronica needs to be taught in the LRE.  Veronica’s teacher, Mrs. L, is excellent and engages learners with UDL, DI, and PBL principals in the classroom, but now has to shift focus towards CCSS. Mom is hoping to get Veronica AT to help her be successful in the classroom.

How’d you do?? Not great? Don’t fret–you’re not alone!  Public education today is filled with enough technical jargon to confuse even the most learned scholar. But, have no fear, help is here! 

Check out this list of 15 Education Acronyms to Know for 2015 :

1.  ADHD: This stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Students with ADHD may have a hard time focusing, be overactive, not able control behavior, or a combination of these. Some great support and articles are available at www.understood.org.

2. 504: This stands for a Section 504 Plan of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against public school students with disabilities. A 504 Plan is designed to help students with learning and/or attention issues participate with accommodations they need for school.

3. OHI: Other Health Impairment, or OHI, is a special education eligibility category for students who have “limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli… that is due to chronic or acute health problems.” Some examples include Epilepsy, Diabetes, ADD/ADHD, heart condition, Tourette’s Syndrome, and more. Read this article for more information.

4. RtI: Response to Intervention (RtI) is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with varying learning/emotional needs within the general education classroom.  Check out the RtI Action Network for more information at http://www.rtinetwork.org/.

5.  IEP: Perhaps the most commonly used special education acronym, the Individual Education Plan, or IEP, is a legal document created by a team of professionals and parents for a student which outlines a student’s disability category, present levels of educational performance, accommodations, modifications, annual goals, and more. Check out this IEP Checklist from the Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center for help.

6.  SLD: Specific Learning Disability or Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) is one of the 13 disability categories outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). SLD is an umbrella term and can be further specified by difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, reasoning, recalling, organizing information, and more. Check out the National Center for Learning Disabilities website at http://www.ncld.org/ or read this article from the Learning Disabilities Association of America for a wealth of information on this topic.

7. IDEA: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, outlines 13 special education disability categories for students to qualify for special education services.  IDEA was originally passed in 1975 to ensure that students with disabilities would have access to the same educational opportunities as their non-disabled peers, and was last amended in 2004.  For information about IDEA 2004, visit http://idea.ed.gov/.

8.  ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a civil disability law that “prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.”  Visit www.ada.gov for more information.

9.  FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, refers to the provision that schools must meet the educational needs of individuals with disabilities to the same extent that the needs of non-disabled individuals are met. Check out this great infographic on FAPE by Understood.org.

10.  LRE: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), is a federal mandate under IDEA calling for students with disabilities to be served in special classes, separate schools, or other positions only when deemed necessary by the severity or nature of a child’s disability. By and large, LRE states that students must be educated in the same environment as their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible.

11.  UDL: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for teaching that identifies the needs of diverse learners first in terms of teaching environment, accessibility, curriculum design, and learning styles. The principal of UDL is that there is no “one size fits all approach” to teaching, and that doing what is best for students with special needs, can often benefit all. Check out http://www.cast.org/udl/ for more information.

12.  DI: Differentiated Instruction (DI) is the way in which a teacher anticipates, modifies, and responds to a variety of individualized student needs in the classroom. Under DI, teachers create varying content (what is being taught), process (how it is taught) and product (how students demonstrate their learning) within the classroom. Visit http://www.caroltomlinson.com/ for more information on DI.

13.  PBL: Project or Problem Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching methodology that allows students to investigate, analyze and examine a problem or project for an extended period of time. Within PBL, educators often use hands-on experiments, outside classroom experiences, and more to help students acquire deeper knowledge of a specified learning objective. Check out this great website by Jerry Blumengarten, @Cybraryman, on PBL.

14.  CCSS: In 2010, a number of states across the nation adopted the same standards for English and Math called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Since that time, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core.  Visit www.corestandards.org for more information.

15. AT: Assistive Technology, or AT, is any item, equipment, product, software or system, that is used to increase, maintain, and improve the functional capabilities of a student with a disability. Check out the SETT Framework by Dr. Joy Zabala or the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) for more information on AT and its implementation.

Want to save a copy of this list for your for your files? Download a copy of it here.

Have any other educational acronyms you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below or contact me on twitter @LindseyLipsky.

The Three Types of Reading

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”  – A C Grayling, Financial Times (in a review of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel)

As educators, one of our biggest jobs is to help our students develop a love of reading. After all, without reading, as A.C. Grayling describes above, one cannot engage fully in the world.  But what if our learners have trouble accessing or reading print in the normal way?

You see, 1 in 5 students in America has Dyslexia, a Learning Disability which is largely characterized by deficits in language and phonological processing that hinders a person’s ability to decode, process and read fluently on level despite normal IQ.  What can we do for them?

Over ninety percent of what we teach as educators is through traditional “eye” reading; decoding and analyzing text and word patterns on a page with your eyes, which are then interpreted back into comprehension. However, there are two other types of reading that we, as educators, need to be aware of for incorporation into best teaching practices for all.

Three Types of Reading: Because there is more than just reading with your “eyes!”

1. Eye Reading
This is what 90% of us think of as true “reading.”  It is what we are most tested on, trained for, and taught in schools.  Eye reading includes taking in words, sentences, and phrases through our eyes to develop meaning, which is the basis for almost all reading and ultimately comprehension for a majority of people.  Without a doubt, eye reading must be taught and focused on throughout school, especially in terms of developing phonemic awareness, fluency, and decoding skills at the elementary level.  But what happens when a child still cannot “break the code” well beyond the elementary years and hasn’t gotten proper interventions yet?

2. Ear Reading
This is where ear reading can come into play.  When you have a student who can’t “decode” the text but is reading/comprehending on or above grade level, they can still “read” with their ears. Although sometimes stigmatized as “not true reading,”  for some of our students who are lacking decoding and phonological skills to interpret grade level text fluently, “ear reading” is an extremely necessary accommodation to help foster continuous growth.

As Jennifer A., a Reading Specialist outside of Chicago, states to students, “You might learn better through your ears than you do taking in information through your eyes, and that’s totally fine because your brain is still doing the work with it.”

Watch this video by Dr. Sally Shaywitz at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity here on the power of audiobooks and ear reading.

3. Finger Reading
Finger reading, better known as“Braille Reading,” is how students with blindness and visual impairments engage with the written word.  We would never say to a student with blindness or vision impairment that, when reading braille, they are not actually reading, would we?  Then why do we say to students with Dyslexia and/or Learning Disability that “ear reading” is not really reading? Just like ear and eye reading, finger reading helps unlock doors for students, adults and learners who cannot access print in the normal way.

For students with a learning disability like Dyslexia, research has shown us that allowing students to “ear read” may make the difference between helping advance a student’s comprehension growth or hinder it.  For support, check out some of the resources from accessible instructional material providers like Learning Ally (human-voice) and Book Share (digitized voice) which have hundreds of thousands of PK-12 and college accessible textbooks, popular fiction, and more for students with a qualifying print-disability.


Download this poster for your classroom by Learning Ally on the Three Types of Reading.
types of reading poster

We all read differently…and that’s OK!


 To Fully Support All Learners:

Remember, to fully support all students with reading disabilities and challenges like Dyslexia, along with acknowledging the different types of reading, you must also incorporate an evidence-based Multi-Sensory Structured Language (MSL) Program into your classroom. For more information on these programs, read a list of some recommended MSL programs from the International Dyslexia Association, as well as information about the Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method (article by the Schenck School); an extensive approach to language, reading, spelling, and writing instruction incorporated by most reading and language specialists.

The combination of MSL program instruction and audiobooks are a powerful combination for all learners to keep up with their same age peers.

What do you think about this list? Do you incorporate the three types of reading and MSL instruction in your classroom? Let’s discuss on twitter @LindseyLipsky or leave a comment below.