Top Five Reasons to Jump Into a Twitter Chat

This post first appeared on my EdWeek Blog

School leaders are always looking for quality professional learning opportunities for themselves and their teachers. For me, there is still nothing better than participating in an hour Twitter chat.  Dedicating some time to show staff where they can connect with colleagues from around the globe who have similar interests is well worth the time.  
Here are the top five reasons that school leaders should get themselves and their teachers involved in Twitter chats:
  1. Build your network – Educators will find colleagues from all over the globe who are in similar roles, whether it be classroom teachers or support personnel
  2. Solve problems – Educators will learn from others who have already found solutions to problems they are struggling with
  3. Receive affirmation – Educators will receive positive feedback from others who agree with their practices.
  4. Find experts – If there is a new initiative you want to try in your classroom or school then you will certainly find someone who has already tried it on Twitter.
  5. Keep up with current trends – Things are changing inside education at a faster pace than ever and there is no place better to stay on top of these changes.
 I had the chance to take part in a Twitter chat hosted by some colleagues in Massachusetts last week and the final question asked partcipants about their biggest takeaway. Check out a few of the responses below.  If you’re looking for some great background information to share with your colleagues about how to do a Twitter chat and when different chats take place then check out Cybraryman’s detailed page on the topic.

Are You a 21st Century Communicator?

As school and district leaders prepare for the 2015-16 school year, one of the most important things they can do is create a comprehensive communication plan that utilizes various social media tools to keep stakeholders in the loop. Taking advantage of all of the technological tools that can connect your school community with what is happening is a no-brainer at this point. Allowing an ongoing flow of information from school to the community is a wonderful way to build positive energy about all of the news and accomplishments of students and staff.
The creation of a 21st century communication plan is the perfect  way for school and district leaders to model the type of communication that they expect to see from other educators with whom they work. We are well past the point of this type of communication being optional for school leaders. Bill Ferriter, a friend and educator from North Carolina, summed up the matter perfectly in a recent blog post titled Note to Principals: You Can’t Keep Ignoring Social Spaces:

“If you believe that communicating effectively with the people that you serve matters, then you simply CAN’T keep ignoring the tools that the people you serve are using for communication.”

In other words, school and district leaders need to meet their stakeholders where they are. Mailing out newsletters and posting press releases in the newspaper may still work for some families, but there are better ways to get the word out that will reach more families and also save you time. These modern methods of communication allow for two-way conversations between schools and stakeholders that could never occur through newsletters and press releases. 

In Burlington Public Schools, we share news and updates on our district Facebook Page, our district Twitter account, and our district Instagram account. Our superintendent started the first blog in the district when he arrived seven years ago and his modeling has led to the creation of nearly 200 blogs from educators across our school district. Due to the amazing amounts of information and learning being shared daily on these blogs, we created a daily post series on our Burlington Public Schools Blog that highlights a post from a teacher or student. We got this idea from George Couros who started the 184 Days of Learning Blog in his district in Edmonton, Canada. 

Another great way to ensure a regular flow of information is to start school and district hashtags on Twitter where people can both share and receive information and ask questions. In Burlington, our two most widely used hashtags are #BHSChat for Burlington High School and #BPSChat for the entire Burlington Public School District. If you are interested in investigating this for your school or district then check out this great handout that Bill Ferriter created to help school leaders get started. 

Once you decide on which tools you will use to get out information in your school or district be sure to let people know your plan. Here’s a look at how our high school principal does this. You may want to send out a newsletter or postcards with information on new methods that you will use to communicate. It is also important to review these with parents at open houses and parent nights and offer on-site tutorials for those who may be new to the use of using social media tools. 

While one of the ultimate goals is to move away from the time and energy needed to put out mailings and paper newsletters, it is important to make sure that you are not cutting off parents who do not have access to online information. The creation of a brief survey at the beginning of the year that all students need to return is a great way to get the feedback you need on making the digital transition for communication. If you are looking for more ideas on how you can make sure that you are a 21st century communicator, check out the Digital Principal Award Winners from the National Association of Secondary School Principals. These school leaders model these skills daily and they are happy to share their work to help others move forward.

Research Shows That Twitter Can Help Generate Better Ideas

Twitter
Twitter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MIT’s Sloane Management Review published an article Tuesday that highlighted the value of building a diverse network on Twitter.  Researchers looked at members of five different organizations over a five year period and came up with some interesting insights:

“New research suggests that employees with a diverse Twitter network — one that exposes them to people and ideas they don’t already know — tend to generate better ideas…

…However, Twitter activity and size measures (such as the number of tweets, number of followers and number of people followed) were not correlated with personal innovation…

…In particular, two activities emerged as being significantly correlated with increasing individual absorptive capacity and personal innovation: “idea scouting” and “idea connecting.”…

…Use Twitter to become an idea scout. Several employees described Twitter as a “gateway to solution options” and a way to obtain different perspectives and to challenge one’s current thinking…

…Use Twitter to be an idea connector. Several employees mentioned how important it is to have a strategy for sharing Twitter content with the appropriate internal stakeholders. They described their roles as listener, curator and alerter…”

The Best Of This Week’s Burlington Public Schools Weekly Twitter Paper

Did you know that Burlington Pubic Schools has a weekly Twitter Paper that is published each Monday highlighting the Tweets on our #bhschat hashtag from the previous week? So whether you use Twitter or not you can stay up to speed on the top tweets and blog posts that appear on our hashtag. Click on the tabs on the right hand side of the paper to check out the top posts in each category. I have also shared a few of my favorite excerpts from the blog posts highlighted in this week’s paper below.


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“The idea that we could cram all we hope our students could learn and know into a “common core” set of skills would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that we’re trying to do it. In the end, the problem with the Common Core isn’t that it is too broad, it is that it is too narrow. It makes no attempt to teach kids the most important thing there is to understand: “The idea that we could cram all we hope our students could learn and know into a “common core” set of skills would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that we’re trying to do it. In the end, the problem with the Common Core isn’t that it is too broad, it is that it is too narrow. It makes no attempt to teach kids the most important thing there is to understand: There is always more we can learn.” (from Chris Lehmann’s post – We Really Don’t Know What To Teach)

“If we don’t help kids connect to the entire world, not just information, but to people, are we not limiting the opportunities for these dreams to become reality? There are more opportunities for our students, not just in their future, but right now, then we could have ever envisioned. When we don’t help our students connect to those opportunities for learning and the experiences that they can have, then we are doing them a disservice.” (From George Couros’ post – Our Thinking Has To Change)

“Our school system doesn’t need to create kids who are good at school. Instead, we need to create an environment that engages learners, fosters creativity, and puts responsibility for learning where it belongs – with our students.” (From Shelley Wright’s post – Academics: What Is It Good For?)

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Connected Educator Profile (Day 4) – Scot Wright – Ore City, Texas

The United State Department of Education has declared the month of October Connected Educator Month. According to ConnectedEducators.org,  the website set up to support this event, the Mission of Connected Educator Month is to  promote educators learning and collaborating through online communities of practice and social networks.With this in mind I reached out to my Personal Learning Network (PLN) via Twitter, my favorite resource for connecting, and tweeted the following:
As is normally the case, my network came through! When I have a question on an educational topic or want some feedback for one of my crazy ideas, I have a network of amazing educators at my fingertips that never cease to amaze me. Being a “Connected Educator” is awesome!

Today’s Connected Educator Profile
Scot Wright, Ore City, Texas
High School Principal



Why do you choose to be a connected educator?

I’ve been exposed to so many different people from all over the world thru twitter. I’ve been able to learn so much more this way than I ever thought possible.

Where can other educators connect with you online? 

Twitter – @scot_wright

Blog: scotwright.wordpress.com

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Here’s A Great Way To Keep Up With #BPSCHAT – Our District Twitter Hashtag

Paper.li is a great resource to create a newspaper highlighting the feed from a Twitter hashtag. We have our own weekly edition from our Burlington Public Schools hashtag #BPSChat which you can check out below.

If you would like to receive a weekly update by email, just click on the subscribe button on the top right hand side of the paper.

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Top Posts #3 – 5 Ways For Teachers To Get Quality PD This Summer

This post first appeared on Edudemic and is post #3 in my reposting of my top five posts from the past school year – Enjoy!

1. Attend (or start) a summer Edcamp

For the third consecutive summer, our district will host an Edcamp each Tuesday morning in Burlington, MA. These informal sessions are open to educators from Burlington and beyond who feel like gathering to lead their own learning. Attendees assemble each week and decide what topics will be the focal point for their learning. We provide members of our Instructional Technology staff (including our high school students) to support those looking to expand their skills with technology integration. In addition, teachers from Burlington can earn in-service credits or Professional Development Points for their attendance.
This model could be replicated anywhere! All you need to do is pick some dates, provide a space, and invite local educators. Trust me – if you plan it, they will come.

2. Attend A Multiple-Day Workshop

Most of the teachers whom I know hate taking one day off from their classroom during the school year, and they would never consider missing consecutive days for a workshop of any kind. The amount of additional advanced planning, combined with the time away from their students, is just too much for these folks to bear! Well, there is no time better than the summer months to escape the guilt of missing a day of school and treat yourself to a quality learning opportunity with educators and taught by other educators. Check out the summer-long list of workshops offered by EdTech Teacher’s staff of classroom practitioners.

3. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

The beauty of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is that most of the learning opportunities can be done regardless of time and place. You can choose what you learn, when you learn, and where you learn. If you are anywhere with a wireless signal, and you want to try the MOOC experience, then your only dilemma is choosing from the extensive list of options out there.  A great place to begin your search is at www.mooc.ca, a comprehensive list of MOOC’s maintained by Stephen Downes.
If you are looking for a less intimidating option, you could also enlist a group of colleagues and run through the some of the topics from the educational-technology focused #ETMOOC which ran between January and March of this year. The important part here is to find a space where passionate educators can find a topic of common interest and share their learning journey regardless of space or time.

4. Participate in a Weekly Twitter Chat

If you are an educator, then there is a Twitter chat for you. Check out this awesome Google Spreadsheet of Twitter chats broken down by nights of the week that was created by@thomascmurray and @cevans5095.  There are literally chats for every grade level and discipline that you could imagine. My suggestion would be to speak to your district or building administrator about earning credits towards recertification for your participation (in MA we call these credits Professional Development Points). You could use storify to archive your participation in the chats and incorporate your tweets into a reflective blog post to provide documentation of your learning.
If you need help getting started with Twitter, check out Erin Klein’s great video that appeared on Edudemic last week.

5. Just Hang Out

If you haven’t experienced the capabilities in a Google+ Hangout, you are missing out! Check out the schedule of Education On Air sessions that is available to educators for free learning opportunities. Educators could also create their own hangouts for colleagues to discuss a pertinent topic, collaborate on curriculum work, or even do a book discussion. The possibilities are literally endless, and the hangouts allow you to record the sessions to have for future reference. At the very least, I encourage you to try a hangout with one or two friends to see how easy it is to set up and utilize the numerous built-in functions.
Given all of the avenues available for professional development, 2013 could be the best summer ever! What a great time to take advantage of these opportunities to advance your own learning!

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Following #ISTE13 From A Distance – Thank Goodness for Hashtags!

I first noticed the power of following a conference hashtag two summers ago during the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston. While I was unable to attend the event due to a number of schedule conflicts, I was amazed at the number of resources that I was able to access by following the tweets of the attendees during the conference.  With this in mind, I decided that I would spend some time going over the stream of tweets from ISTE’s Annual Conference to try to fill some of the void that I am feeling from missing out on the biggest Ed Tech conference on the planet.

As I began to look through the Twitter stream on the #ISTE13 hashtag and save some of the more interesting links to my Diigo bookmarks, it struck me that I should be sharing them here as well. I am sure I missed a number of great resources trying to follow the action in San Antonio from so far away, but here are a few that piqued my interest.

Leading Innovative Change – Google Doc from presentation by George Couros (Thanks to @wfryer for tweeting it!)

Changing Our Vocabulary As Technology Integration Coaches
This post from Wes Fryer reinforced the point “that non-techy terms are important when we want to win the hearts and minds of parents as well as other teachers.” Check out the great list of alternatives that Wes gives to help schools make this transition.

10 Killer iPad Projects Students Will Love #ISTE13 – from Sandy Kendell (AKA EdTech Sandy), an EdTech Specialist in Texas.


The Persistent Appeal of Technology in Learning – from Edutopia


Free Resources for Better Content Creation – from Horry County Schools in South Carolina

Stay tuned for more…

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Growing Your PLN Video

I had the chance to spend some time in a Google Hangout tonight to discuss how educators can grow their Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) using Twitter.  It was a privilege to be included in this discussion with an impressive group of educator. The discussion included Nick Provenzano (an high school English Teacher from Michigan), Lisa Dabbs  (a former Principal, blogger for Edutopia, and currently an Education Consultant), Lyn Hilt (a former Elementary Principal and current tech. integration coach in PA), and the organizer of the session Tom Murray (Director of Technology and Cyber Education in Bucks County, PA).

The discussion referenced the following questions:

  What’s a personal learning network and why should educators be connected?
  • How have you used Twitter to make connections and grow professionally?  
  • What’s your connected educator story?
  • How can educators get started?  Where do they even begin?
  • How can educators increase the size of their learning network?
  • How can Twitter be used for Professional development?
  • What other advice do you have for people looking to get started?

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