Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twitter: How and Why, An Educator's Perspective by Gary Feltman

           At first I didn't get it. Now I'm hooked. I’ve been using Twitter for almost a year. I’ve learned so much, and I have so much more to learn. I'd like to share how and why I use Twitter by describing my experiences, examples, and opinions. At the end of this posting, you will find links to articles and blog postings by education professionals about Twitter.

I use Twitter to enhance what I do as an educator by:
   Learning about educational technology and professional development opportunities.
   Building a PLN.
   Reading news tailored to my interests.
   Using hashtags for education and inspiration.
   Keeping up with tech trends, research, and resources.
   Reading about other professionals’ experiences.

            I've been using Twitter for almost a year. I began using it to bookmark resources; links, articles, or tools I could use in the classroom. My very first tweet was How Twitter is Changing Professional Development for Educators which opened up my eyes to a whole new world.  Since my first tweet, there have been many posts about how educators are using Twitter.

Professional Development

When I hear "professional development," the first thoughts that come to mind are: 1-6 hours in a room, hoping the presenter is good, hoping the content is useful, and hoping the PD session is worth my time. Twitter puts an end to those concerns. I choose how much time I spend. I choose the people, content, and resources to follow. Since I choose the links/articles to read, I know the information is worth my time; if it's not I move on to other information.

When I attend a PD conference, I can pick and choose sessions that will help me improve instruction and learning in the classroom. Some sessions are winners; some are losers.  The conference website posts links to most presentations and presenter’s links. Twitter allows me to share this information with my followers. I tweet links I can refer back to. I follow presenters; the presenters Tweet their presentations, new information, other useful links. Through Twitter, I find other conferences throughout the nation and the world. Even though I may not be able to physically attend, I can find links to useful resources and presentations from those conferences.

Twitter often provides quick blips of information. l prefer lists (top 5, top 10, 25 ways, 100 links....etc). I like bullets so I can quickly find relevant information. When I find information to be useful to my situation I will dive deeper and spend more time studying. I try to make efficient use of my time by finding and applying information as necessary.

Building my PLN

I didn't know what a PLN was until I joined Twitter. Now I understand networking for professional purposes, I view it as an integral part of my profession.

Yes, Twitter does seem a lot like it’s about “I.” I choose who to follow; mostly ed-tech professionals and other educators with similar interests and objectives. I choose the resources I get to view. In return, others follow me if they’re interested in what I have to say. Through this process, I have a lot of information at my fingertips. I choose how long I study the information. With this in mind, all educators can learn a lot from each other from sharing info and resources.

One of my favorite blog/tweets of all time is by Jason Markey @jmarkeyap The Principal Dropout: Why I stopped pursuing my PhD in Favor of my PLN. I get it. I totally agree. I can honestly say this blog and post changed my view regarding learning and applying new information; this helped me confirm my thoughts about using your strengths and resources to apply relevant information in your life. 

One thing that bothers me about research, which I learned from writing my Master's thesis, is that it is such a long process to research and write one scholarly paper. By the time the committee approves this process (years later) the research is old. Should the committee and other experts deem it worthwhile, it may get published. When it gets published, people can find it either through their academic library membership, or by paying. This process takes years. To me this doesn’t make sense.  Compare this to reading a recent blog post from an expert in the field, willing to share it knowing that somebody may find it useful in significantly less time. Twitter allows sharing of crowd-sourced blogs and resources in real-time. Technology trends move at such a rapid rate, it would be ridiculous to wait even 1 year to research, write, and publish a technology article that would be outdated by the time that process was complete.

I'm very pleased with my PLN. It allows me to have useful resources at my fingertips. My PLN keeps me informed. I don't see it as an obligation. I view it as a relaxing activity in an online environment to learn and study relevant information.

News of Interest

I stopped watching the news a few years back. Waking up listening about murder, hearing expert opinions on hypothetical scenarios, political debates, government corruption…etc, is not a very motivating way to start your day. Over the years, I’ve also come to realize that the only news you see on TV is the news that the media wants you to see. On Twitter, I tailor the news to the type of news I want to hear about. If there is a news story important enough to know, either the people I follow will Tweet about it or people I work with in the physical world will tell me about it. If I want to know more about this, I will type in a hashtag, and receive real-time updates, photos, and opinions from people experiencing the event.

One example of this is Hurricane Sandy on the east coast. I was on Twitter, and people involved in the storm on the east coast were taking pictures and posting them on Twitter. These photos would get retweeted. I was watching actual photos of the storm as it was happening. To be clear, it’s not my intent to glamourize a catastrophic event; the goal here is to compare Twitter to mainstream media news. As I was on Twitter, I thought maybe I should watch the news. I turned on the news, and they were covering the hurricane too; only it was quite different. It was a reporter standing in the rain, far from the actual disaster, answering questions and giving opinions of hypothetical scenarios of the damage the storm may cause, for example the type of damage salt water may do to the NY subway. My point is, I learned more about the effects of the storm from tweeted camera images and Youtube videos a lot sooner than I did from watching the mainstream news channel.

Educational Hashtags

It took me a while to undestand what a hashtag is and how to use it. I think the hashtag is one of the best inventions ever. I search the hashtags #inspiration #motivation and #leadership to find inspirational quotes, stories and resources. Experts in this field post inspirational quotes or have links to list on how to self-motivate or improve leadership skills.

One of my favorite motivational quotes posted via @lifehackorg is “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” Powerful quotes like this first thing in the morning or just before I go to bed can make a huge difference in the way I feel about myself. I re-tweet the same advice to my followers in hopes this brightens up their day too. Many times I share it with my students as necessary and it seems to make a huge positive difference.

Lately, I’ve been participating in education chats through hashtags with other educators and professionals. These moderated chats generally take place once a week for about an hour, then are archived. #globalchat on Saturday morning is interesting as it allows one to see expert viewpoints on global education. I enjoy #1stchat to hear about 1st grade parents and teachers points of view so I can have a better perspective of my daughter’s education. Recently I participated in my first full #1to1echat moderated by @leydenasci discussing 1:1 topics. It was an excellent discussion that offered many insights indo curriculum and instruction by many experts. Often times, well-known online educational technology experts will make guest appearances in these chats to offer their advice or resources.

Tech Trends and Research

Twitter helps me quickly learn the new technology trends about technology, education, and social media. This information is crowd-sourced from technology companies, research experts, and professionals in the fields.

            What do I do with this information? I look at the tech trends, and I see if I’m familiar with the trend. If I’m not, I research further and see if I should get involved in the trend: I see if it will enhance anything I do, see if it will assist in increasing efficiency of reaching my goals, or just to see if I’m already a part of the trend.

            It’s always good to be familiar with the latest research. The sooner I find out the research the better, so I can share it with others that would be interested or begin applying it myself in the classroom and to improve my quality of life.

            In addition to trends and research, many other teachers with a passion for technology know and share excellent resources, links with endless materials, lessons, ideas, interactive websites, educational apps and so much more. I try to organize these resources in an easy to find manner. This way, when my colleagues or I need ideas or resources to enhance a particular lesson, I can find them easily, share, and assist them in enhancing their lessons. One of my favorite examples of an online resources created by Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1 categorizes many resources by teacher tool, class and grade, or subject/content area. Another one of my favorites is by Kathy Schrock @kathyschrock lists educational resources by category. Not only do these ed-tech experts provide you with resources; if you ask them a question, they’re pretty good about getting back to you right away with a great response or resource. This makes Twitter even more awesome!

Learn and Share Experiences

Some teachers are better writers than others. The really good writers (combined with being good teachers) enjoy writing and blogging about their experiences. It’s good to read about their experiences, successes and challenges in the classroom, because I can relate to this experience; especially if its either math, special ed, or ed-tech related. One of my favorite education bloggers is @pernilleripp because I can relate to her views and postings, and in my opinion she models appropriate digital citizenship behavior by blogging and responding to comments. Recently, she posted an interesting blog about un-following Twitter followers.

At first I thought blogging was weird…why would I want to hear about some else’s experience. Then I realized if I find bloggers I can relate to, I follow them and learn a lot! It’s like hearing about your colleagues experience in their classrooms, except this is a similar classroom in another part of the world. These teachers have the same objectives and goals and mind as I do: providing the best possible experience for the students to enhance the overall teaching/learning/exploring experience. So when I read about other’s experiences, I get an understanding of things I’m already doing well, other things I could be doing to improve my lesson, knowing that others face similar struggles as I do, or even anticipate struggles they’re already experienced in their classrooms.

           The experience through Twitter has led me to a greater appreciation for other’s blogs, as well as starting my own. I knowingly admit my blogs are nowhere near as good as people who do write for a living or have been blogging for a long time; but I do feel I have some really good ideas. I have found that writing about my ideas and thoughts helps me think about my experiences and helps me gain understanding of said topics. It’s a bit therapeutic. Also, other people may benefit from reading my thoughts. The way I see it, if my blog or thoughts change one person’s life, I’ve made a positive difference.

Final Thoughts

There are other ways to use Twitter as well as including in the classroom and for entertainment purposes. Everybody uses Twitter differently, and for different reasons. Upon seeing Twitter for the first time, regardless of the context or purpose, it seems as people just put their thoughts and opinions out there for whatever situation. Should one look a little closer, and surround themselves with professionals, there is a world of creating and sharing the best crowd-sourced education resources. 

            Thank you for reading. Comments are welcome. Below is a list of Twitter articles, links, and blogs I’ve gathered relating to Twitter.

Links & Resources

Twitter for Educators (Professional Development)

How Twitter is Reinventing Collaboration Among Educators

How Twitter is Changing Professional Development for Educators

Teachers Use Twitter As Their Preferred CPD Tool by MentorMob

Blog post: Using Twitter as a Professional Development Tool
25 Ways to Use Twitter to Improve your Professional Development

25 Twitter Tips for your Professional Development

Can Twitter Replace Professional Development

Using Twitter as a Professional Development Tool

Twitter for PLNs

PLN Challenge: Using Twitter To Build Your PLN

Building and Maintaining an Online PLC

Why and How You Should Create a Personal Learning Network

Rebuilding a PLN "Twitter is What Twitter Does"

1133 Educational Leaders to Kickstart Your Twitter Feed

Twitter, Social Media Guidelines and Suggestions

30 Twitter Community Management Tips

12 Most Must Have Habitudes for Social Media Success

Teacher's Smart Guide to Social Media

Social Media Lessons for High School Students (video)

On Social Media and the Power of Real World Serendipity

Social Media: Guidelines for Administrators

Will it Take Another Suicide Before Parents Start Talking To Their Teens About Twitter

Educational Chats & Hashtags

Cybraryman's Educational Hashtags Website

The 2012 A-Z List of Educational Twitter Hashtags

Sneak Preview: The Must Have Guide to Educational Hashtags

50 Great Twitter Chats in Academia

Twitter in Education and the Classroom

Educators Finding Time NOT to Tweet

Tweeting for Schools

How Twitter Can Be Used as a Powerful Educational Tool

100 Ways To Use Twitter in Education by Degree of Difficulty

50 Things for Teachers to do on Twitter

It's Official: Twitter Makes Students More Engaged

“Using Twitter Makes Students More Engaged” (study)

50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

An Educator's Guide to Twitter

Is This a Problem? Twitter in the Classroom.

Everything else Twitter

26 Twitter Tips for Enhancing your Tweets

Why is Twitter so Powerful?

How Twitter Changed Everything

The 6 Type of Twitter Trolls

Buy and Sell Tweets

We Need Legally Protected Tweets

Twagiarism: Does a Copyright Protect a Tweet?

45 Simple Twitter Tips Everyone Should Know About

How Do You Cite a Tweet In an Academic Paper

Fake Outrage on Twitter: Being Tricked into Retweeting People Manipulating You

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Recommended Educational Apps for Middle School: Ages 7-10 by Gary Feltman

A close colleague of mine wanted a list of apps for his daughter. He explained that she does "fast math" in her classroom. He also stays away from game-based apps (educational games are acceptable); just would rather focus on using the iPad as a learning tool connecting it to education.

This list recommends apps that could possibly be used by a first grader, but are a little bit higher level (grades 2-5) for ages 7-10, that enhance mathematics and literacy skills. Here's the list of apps:


Math Quizzer "Math Quizzer is an interactive and fun way to, not only learn, but also to boost your skills in; Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division. It offers an easy to understand chalkboard visual, which keeps track of your “score” as you progress." -Palm Beach Schools iPad Wikispace

Math Magic-Practice math facts, choose skill level by difficulty, and max value of number, turn negatives on/off

Flash to Pass-Practice basic operations, set timed options and difficulty levels

Math Bingo - Bingo card with choice of addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. App has other bonus mini-games.

Flash to Pass Students practice basic facts with optional timer, and changing levels of difficulty.

Squeebles Fractions - A fun way to learn and review fractions with cartoon monsters and manipulatives. 

Geometry Stash-Links to all theorems, postulates, and ideas Geometry.

Language Arts

K12 Timed Reading Practice - See how many words per minute are read.

Reading Trainer – "This app teaches you how to train your eyes and brain to read and comprehend text faster. Think of it as exercise for your reading skills." -Palm Beach Schools iPad Wikispace

Cursive Practice - Learn to write in Cursive

Max Journal - Write a journal.


Monster Physics - Awesome science/physics educational app Long Clip Brief Clip

Murky Reef-Series of ed apps that encourage critical thinking.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Resources for Creating Classroom Blogs by Gary Feltman

Here are some excellent resources for creating classroom blogs.

Cybraryman's webpage compiled with numerous resources, guides to getting started, and examples of classroom blogs:

A great resource with how-to's, reasons why, important things to consider, and expert advice:

A good example of a first grade classroom blog (includes posts by teachers and students):

A site to get started:

Hope you find this useful. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ways to Use iPads and Apps in the Classroom

Ways to Use iPads and Apps in the Classroom
by Gary Feltman@garyfeltman

Recently educators have been using tablets, laptops, and iPads to enhance instruction in the classroom. I have performed extensive research regarding iPads in the classroom, educational apps, and specifically how iPads are used in the classroom. In addition to this research I have attended a two-day conference with multiple breakout sessions from teachers presenting and describing the ways they use iPads in the classroom. All the presentations I have seen and the articles I have read explained iPad usage in the classroom from various perspectives.
Through my research and learning, I have been provided with many links, each containing both seemingly endless collections of apps to use in the classroom and resources regarding education related apps. (Click here to see the collection). It is no secret that these articles, presentations, and links all contain buzzwords about using the iPads in the classroom, for example: transforming classrooms with iPads, flipping classrooms, transforming teaching and learning with iPads, enhancing instruction and learning, the shift in teaching and learning, iPads incorporate the 21st century skills... the list goes on and on.
The question is, so what? What do we do with this information? Where do we begin? What apps are good for my individual curriculum? Where can I find them? Which links and sites are useful? With so many questions ranging from who, what, when, where, why, and how; how does one deal with this information overload? This is an attempt to break down the themes I have gathered from reading articles, doing research, and testing apps suggested from technology and content experts in all areas.

Administrative concerns
There are many things that need to be handled from an administrative perspective including budgeting, safety, security, management, troubleshooting, updates, implementation within the curriculum, and professional development training. One standpoint of the administrative perspective which requires budgeting, specifically weighing the costs of the iPads versus the educational benefits. Another viewpoint is from a tech directors standpoint includes concerns such as security, Internet safety, and wireless networks. Teachers have many concerns including how to use the iPads in a one-to-one setting, how to effectively use one iPad in the classroom, directly linking the tablet technology to the curriculum. These are concerns that can only be addressed once a teachers familiar with and iPad. There is an issue of how the apps are purchased: who purchases the apps, who was put in charge of what apps are purchased, who budgets the amount for the apps, and who oversee the entire process so it's run effectively and smoothly. Finally, there's the apps themselves. The apps range in use from grade levels of early childhood to adulthood, various subjects including reading, writing, and mathematics. Some apps assists in organization and research which could both be used for a wide variety of subjects in and out of the classroom.

IPads are expensive although many teachers and administrators are creative in finding and utilizing grant money for the purpose of purchasing tablets and iPads for the classroom. Purchasing the iPads with grant money takes responsibility off the taxpayers. Although in many cases taxpayers are supportive of districts using iPads and technology and are likely to approve this technology in the classroom. Is important that administrators work together to ensure the proper foundation is in place before implementing iPads in the classroom. This includes looking at the budget in the present and in the future. For example, the lifecycle of iPads, securing the iPads, inventory and accessories all need to be taken into account. Wireless networks need to be in place in order for the iPads to be used effectively. Some districts choose to use two wireless networks: one for teachers and one for students. Networks need to have filters. Administrators need to be sure that teachers are comfortable using this technology. Administrator support is necessary in order for effective use of iPads in the classroom. The support includes training, follow-up with training, strong links to curriculum, and ensuring teachers implement appropriate safety procedures and proper classroom management strategies while allowing the kids to use iPads in the classroom. Also it should be determined who is to be put in charge and with what aspects, of using iPads in the classroom.

One iPad per classroom
Usually when districts begin following through purchasing iPads to the classroom, teachers will get them first. This allows the district to pilot the iPads, let teachers get comfortable with the iPads, and slowly incorporate them into the classroom and curriculum. So the question is, what can a teacher do with one iPad in the classroom. First of all the teacher can use the iPad to assist with organizational skills. For example when teachers use them they can check their e-mail, check the calendar, make to-do lists, use the notepad camera and slowly explore all the basic features of it iPad. Students can do these things as well. This also allows time for teachers to get comfortable with the settings. There are many essential things that teachers should know within the settings including how to set up wireless access to the iPad, setting a passcode, locking the iPad, accessibility, and being able to navigate the App Store. After the essentials teachers will be comfortable with the iPad and start to explore various ways the iPad can be used in the classroom. Some simple examples include playing games, creating to-do lists or shopping lists, browsing the Internet to the iPad, viewing YouTube videos, and testing all the free apps that are available. In addition to using the iPad just for organizational purposes and learning the basics, iPads can use for motivating students. For example in a special-needs classroom, it could be used as a motivator. Positive student behaviors may be rewarded by letting the student use the iPad. Another way is if the teacher is delivering instruction and a student has a question, the iPad can be passed around to research the question while the instruction continues. The research can be done through an Internet browser or Wikipedia. Specific apps can also help with research like discovery education, dictionary, or calculator. If a student finishes their work early, they can read a book to the iPad. There are many literacy apps that can be used to provide students with books including iBooks and Free Books. Finally, there are many presentation and collaboration tools

Several iPads per district or classroom
Another scenario a district might have is if the district or classroom only has between 3 to 5 iPads. The question is which teachers and/or students get the iPads and how often. One way the districts have been successful is to allow students and staff to check the iPads out from the library. Another possible way to organize iPad usage through districts is to set up separate accounts; elementary, junior high, and high school. With this specific scenario it would make sense of the library director was in charge of purchasing the apps, similar to the fashion in which books and other media are purchased for the library.

If some teachers had between 3-5 iPads per classroom, students could be assigned to work in groups to collaborate and complete projects. One app, iVideo, would allow students to create interviews or short clips of scenes, and compile them to create a presentation to share information with the class. Another example for the iPads to be used in the class with small groups, is each group can research a given topic which supports the main topic through video or other resources.

One-to-one computing with iPads in the classroom
With time if the pilots are successful with one or several iPads in the classroom then some districts choose to purchase iPads for all the students in the classroom. This is known as one-to-one computing. There are many different ways to effectively manage a one-to-one classroom with iPads. Again one way for the kids to be successful with iPads is to use them to enhance their executive business functioning skills. Some of these skills include planning, prioritizing, time management, organization, attention, flexibility, attention, self-regulation and emotional control. In order for students to minimize distractions as they perform the classroom tasks, it may help for them to have a variety of resources in front of them. An iPad can accomplish this goal. The iPad allows the students to have literally have multiple resources at their fingertips. Students can have calculators, dictionaries, Wikipedia, Google, YouTube, to-do lists, calendars, and even social networking. Social networking  is brain exercise; necessary for the brain to make connections. When the brain makes connections the students will enhance their executive function skills and therefore learn better. I'm not saying that social networking is the answer or that social networking should take the place of school or learning however incorporating class-based social networking into the classroom in order to teach specific concepts are skills may be beneficial. 
The app Evernote seems to be a popular app in which anybody, teachers and students, can create notes, save them and use them later. To-do list apps like TODO will assist students in creating and achieving goals and prioritizing those goals to make sure they are followed through in a timely manner.

One final concept is the apps. Apps are available for literally all ages, all demographics, all types of personalities, and at all prices. There are apps available for all subject and entertainment areas. Through each subject, there are many concepts that an app could focus on. For example, in mathematics, apps may focus on counting change, telling time and practicing basic math skills. Other more involved apps may practice concepts like factoring and calculating area of figures. Others have attempted to group together many apps for one subject area, but again that group only pertains to what enhances that individual's curriculum. One has to test the apps to see the effectiveness in their individual curriculum.

iPads can be useful in the classroom. The teachers using the iPads should be comfortable with their curriculum and incorporating technologies into their classroom. All individuals participating in iPads in the classroom should have an overall idea of the administrative responsibilities put into implementing the iPads into school settings. Once pilot testing is complete, the school should have a plan in place for the present and future of incorporating iPads in the lessons, and managing the hardware. The teachers should have the ability to express opinions in what apps to purchase, based on the overall make of the classroom, the number of ipads, and the benefits of the apps according to the link to the curriculum.

The toughest part might be supplying the teachers with a database of apps, based on subject, focus, price, ability level, app effectiveness, and ease-of-use. If a person is designated to learn how the apps work, or test an app before the district makes a purchase, it makes sense; however only the individual teacher may know the full effectiveness of the app in the classroom. The best way to prepare for this is for teachers to have a plan in place to deal with information overload, then apply that plan of action.
Thank you. I welcome thoughts or suggestions.-Gary