Sunday, June 30, 2013

Twitter: It's All About Relationships

Recently my friend, #EduSister and EdCamp Atlanta Co Organizer, Jaime Vandergrift, wrote a blog post entitled, Playing the Numbers Game-The Truth About Followers, in which she explored the topic of connections made on Twitter which of course got me thinking about the great relationships I have formed through Twitter and the overall importance of relationship building through social media, specifically Twitter.

As educators we already know that the relationships we build with students contribute more to student success than any technology or teaching method we employ in our classrooms.  

Just as important as relationship building inside the four walls of your classroom is the building of professional relationships outside of your school, outside of your school district, and beyond your state, to the global community we are preparing students to enter.  One of the best ways to build these relationships is through Twitter.  

As a self proclaimed Twitaholic or Twivangelist, I am constantly emphasizing the importance of building a Professional Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter.  Simply setting up a Twitter account isn't enough.  You must make a concerted effort to find others who inspire, uplift and encourage and be willing to do the same in return.  

Eric Kuhnhead of social media at the famed United Talent Agency, advises that a good social media person is someone who is "authentic" and "transparent." The thought of being transparent is a hard concept for many educators to grasp.  Educators who are resistant to social media always state with fear in their voice, "Someone will see what I say".  Wonderful I say! Someone should see what you say! You are an amazing educator and only the few students who pass through your classroom/school know anything about the things you do. Wouldn't it be wonderful to share what you do with the world so that other teachers can learn from you and share those lessons with their students?  Then image what you could learn from other educators that you never even imagined possible in your classroom.  

Two of my self appointed online mentors make the importance of transparency and sharing what we do in our classrooms crystal clear.  Gwyneth Jones, aka The Daring Librarian, wrote about transparency in her blog post, Transparency is the New Black.  She states, "Now, more than ever, education professionals must be visible and transparent in what they do and with their program and practice."  Jennifer LaGarde, aka Library Girl, spoke to a group of new Alabama Librarians on June 9, 2013 at the Alabama School Library Association pre conference for new librarians about the importance of sharing and not being a Zombie Librarian.  Jennifer's message to new librarians rings true for all education professionals from classroom teachers, to librarians  to administrators.  Parents, administrators, school board members, the mayor, state legislators and politicians who continuously attack educators will never know just how valuable we are unless we speak up and share, share, share.  Don't be a Zombie Educator!

The video, Obvious To You. Amazing to Others, points out the importance of sharing through blogging.  It can equally be applied to Twitter as Twitter is a micro blog.

Principal Eric Sheninger drives home the importance of being a connected educator and sharing in his blog post, Connectedness as the Standard.  Eric states and I agree, "In my opinion, being a connected learner, leader, and/or educator is no longer an option.  When I think back to my life as an educator prior to becoming connected, I can honestly say that I was isolated, naive, and definitely not as well rounded as I am today."  In fact, I take it one step further.  When I meet a new educator one of the first things I do is search to see if they are connected on Twitter.  If not, my opinion of them drops. Why? Because I know that this educator is only as great as the sum of their own personal experiences.  Because they are not connected they have failed to harnessed the power, experience and wisdom of the minds of innovative educators from all over the world and bring that knowledge back into their classroom, thus providing the richest of learning environments for their students.  

So what does all this sharing have to do with building relationships?  EVERYTHING!  When you connect with others on Twitter and share the amazing things you are doing with students EVERYONE learns and grows exponentially and relationships are formed.  Imagine connecting on Twitter with a class in another state or country to work on a collaborative project together.  Students not only learn the basic objectives of the lesson, they also learn the value of collaboration, the importance of making global connections and how to be a good digital citizen.  

Start connecting, sharing, learning and growing today.  Find a hashtag so that you can engage in conversation with educators who are passionate about the same things you are passionate about.  A few of the main hashtags I use to connect include: #TLChat, #ALEdChat, and #EdChat.  The relationships formed through conversations that started with just a 140 characters on Twitter have transformed my life.  

In the words of Dr. Seuss from the book, Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now, "The time has come. The time is now." Get connected. You will be amazed with the person you become. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

#FF-What It Means To Me

#FF or #FollowFriday is the hashtag used by people on Twitter to recommend great connections.  For me it not only means recognizing those who you have connected, shared, learned and grown with that particular week but recognizing those long term, online friendships that have molded and shaped me into the educator I am today.  With this in mind, I want to expand upon #FF as 140 characters just won't do.

First, I want to send a #FF to my #EdCampATL Team: Jaime VanderGrift, Catherine Flippen, Wanda McClure, & Shelley Paul.  I have to also give a shout out to the incredible DanCallahan. If it hadn't been for Dan, Wanda and I may have never found each other and EdCamp Atlanta may have never come about as it did & I would have missed the chance to connect with this dynamic group of innovative educators.  Jaime & Cat have branched out beyond EdCamp Atlanta to hosts of their very own YouTube EdTech Show, #EduVue  What I love most about this group is the way we all support and promote each other.  Just last night during the #EduVue show with special guest @TechGirlSavvy a discussion ensued regarding women in education who are intimidated by other women and work to "keep others down".  I have experienced this unfortunate phenomenon myself, but am proud to say that this group of educators rejects that crab mentality!  

I also have to recognize my very supportive and encouraging librarian PLN.  The TL Virtual Cafe Team and the #TLChat Team have spurred me to push beyond my comfort zone, beyond what I thought I was capable, with encouragement, advice and support.   One recent example of how supportive this group is started with my receipt of  the Bound To Stay Bound Grant to attend the American Association of School Librarians Conference this November; my first National Conference.  I was a bit nervous regarding the details and then out of the blue, the wonderful +Tiffany Whitehead reached out to me & now we are going to room together at AASL!  Whew! I am so grateful to Tiffany for extending the hand of friendship.  I also owe a great deal of love, gratitude  and respect to +Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones, Shannon Miller, Tamara Cox, Donna Baumbach, & Michelle Luhtala who have all had tremendously positive effects on my life.  One of my newest library friends, Michelle Cooperis the founder and moderator of the Texas Librarian Chat (#txlchat). Michelle sets a perfect example of librarians as leaders.  

Since I mentioned Texas, I would be remise if I failed to mention my own state library association, the fabulous Alabama School Library Association (ASLA).  +Carolyn Starkey and Elizabeth Hester are the connected leaders behind the magic that happens with ASLA. This organization has gone to the wire for it's libraries and librarians and puts on the best statewide conference for Alabama Librarians.  In fact, just this past June ASLA brought the wonderful +Jennifer LaGarde to Alabama. I absolutely love Jennifer and after meeting her in person and hearing her speak I love her even more!  

The Alabama love continues with my friends at EdCamp Birmingham (#EdCampBHam) and EdCamp Madison (#EdCampMadisonAL).  My PLN list for these include: Amanda Dykes, Suzan Brandt, Jeff Richardson, Angie Bush, Sandy Brand, & Carmen Buchanan.  I am also very excited for the 2013-2014 school year to start when I can work with the founders and moderators of #ALEdChat, Jennifer Hogan and Holly Sutherland. Other great Alabama EdTech folks to connect with include Bryan Phillips, J Mark Coleman, and Derrick Waddell.

I have reserved a special paragraph for my two best friends in Alabama, Judith Glenn & Julie D Ramsay. Judith Glenn is a teacher and an author.  Judith's book, Manassas, Please Slow Down' is a comical depiction of a day in the life of a child with ADHD. It challenges educators to search deep in the hearts of the children they teach to find their gifts and talents. Follow Manassas on his journey to self discovery. If we don't hear them, we can't heal them. If we don't reach them, we can't teach them.
If they don't know we are there, how will they know we care?  Judith also writes for students at the secondary level with her book, Voices, which addresses childhood sexual abuse. 

L to R: Angie Griffin, Judith Glenn, & me

Julie D Ramsay is also an Alabama teacher & author.  Julie's book is, Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?  It shows teachers how to weave technology throughout the curriculum and get students so fired up about writing that they don't want to stop when the class period ends. Readers will learn how to select appropriate digital tools, guide and involve students in the learning process, and differentiate instruction to meet individual needs. Through Julie's inspiring stories and lessons, teachers in the intermediate and middle grades will discover how technology-assisted writing can foster innovation, global communication, and creative problem solving, developing responsible, productive digital citizens whose inherent love of learning will travel with them throughout their lifetimes. 

Both Judith and Julie are huge blessings in my life!  

Perhaps the biggest influence on my journey to becoming a connected educator and building my PLN is Shelly Terrell.  In 2010 I stumbled upon Shelly's 30 Goals Challenge/Teacher ReBoot Camp and my professional learning went into warp speed. 

Finally, I have to include long time PLN friends & #edubrothers Doug Johnson, Tom WhitbySteve Hargadon, Jerry Blumengarten, Steven Anderson, & Jeffrey Bradbury.

Thank you to my amazing PLN for being such great sources of information, inspiration and friendship.  

If you haven't built your own PLN you are doing yourself and your students a terrible disservice. I don't care how great of an educator you are, if you are not connecting, learning and collaborating with other educators outside of your school and outside of your district, you are not connecting globally and will be woefully inadequate to prepare your students to join the global community. 

Click here or on image to access my ASLA Connected Educator Presentation


Stepping off my soap box now.  

Go out and #FF today! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Flipped Classroom: AEA PLU/CEU Presentation

If everything goes as planned and Google+ Hangouts are working correctly, you will be able to catch my Flipped Classroom presentation for the Alabama Education Association here on Saturday, June 8, 2013 beginning at 11:55 am CT.

If you like what you see and would like more I am presenting a 3 hour hands on workshop for the Alabama Educational Technology Conference in Birmingham on June 11, 2013.  Sign up for the session now before it fills up!

Click here to access my Google Presentation.
Click here to access the EdCanvas for this presentation. The class code is: xcud

Thursday, June 6, 2013

ePortfolio: Presentation for AEA PLU/CEU Conference

If everything goes as planned and Google+ Hangouts are working correctly, you will be able to catch my ePortfolio presentation for the Alabama Education Association here on Saturday, June 8, 2013 beginning at 10:20 am CT.

If you like what you see and would like more I am presenting a 3 hour hands on workshop for the Alabama Educational Technology Conference in Birmingham on June 12, 2013.  Sign up for the session now before it fills up!

Click here to access my Google Presentation.
Click here to access the EdCanvas for this presentation. The class code is: zucb

As can happen in a live recording we had technical difficulties and the broadcast ended almost before we got started.  Here is part 2 of the broadcast.