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Monday, December 16, 2013

'Twas 5 Days before Winter Break

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas 5 days before school break and all through the class
Not a brain cell was stirring, must think and think fast
The objectives were posted on the board with care
In hopes that good thinking, soon would be there.

The children were dressed in bright blue, green and reds
As visions of vacation days danced in their heads
And Marie in her Ugg boots and Jon in his cap
Had just settled their brains for a short in-class nap

When all of a sudden there arose such a clatter
They sprang from their chairs to see what was the matter.
Away to my laptop I flew like a flash
Turned on the projector and sent them to the hash (tag)

The look on the kid’s faces along the back row
Showed a bit of a stirring, a glimmer, a glow
When what to my wondering eyes did appear
But a live online chat and ideas to share

With hot topics the kids were so lively and quick
I knew in a moment that this was the trick.
More rapid than eagles their thinking it came
I whispered and smiled and called them by name

Now SCAN tool, Edmodo, Today’s Meet and Wiki
On laptops, on Ipads, on mobiles with twitter
To the top of Blooms Pyramid, to the top of the class
Now think away, think away, think and think fast

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky
Up to the tallest heights the ideas they flew
With creativity, critical thinking, and communication so new

And then, in a twinkling, I saw on the screen
The comments and thoughts of each one of those teens
As I stood there amazed my thoughts swirling around
In came the principal with some thoughts profound

She was dressed all professional from her head to her foot
And her tablet was open to observe something good
A bundle of energy we had in the class
She was so impressed she got in on the task

Their work, how it sparkled, the ideas so fresh
The comments were helpful, their words start to mesh
They supported their arguments with evidence and more
Their writing more confident than ever before.

I spoke not a word, let them go with their work
And watched as they collaborated as I just did lurk.
And after the bell rang, not one child rose
Too engaged to hear it, I had to suppose

I sprang to the door as the kids cried out loud
And assured them their work was saved to the cloud.
I heard them exclaim as they moved out the door

When can we come back and do this some more?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Changing the World, One Twitter Chat at a Time

Okay, I admit it, I got caught up watching the Morning Show and the discussion that Matt Lauer had with the Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter.  While Matt recognized that being able to use pseudonyms allowed for political speech where it is oppressed and therefore had the potential to change the world, he was concerned about nasty tweets and negativity (apparently he has had some hurtful ones).  Doesn’t that sound like the fear that teachers sometimes express regarding the use of technology, and particularly social media in the classroom?  I loved Dick Costolo’s answer “it is incumbent on us, as operators of the platform to make sure that everyone can come to Twitter feeling it is a clean, well-lit place.” That is exactly what we have to do as educators, in our regular and our digital classrooms. It is incumbent on us to teach our children civil discourse and digital citizenship.  It is no different than expecting them to be polite to each other face to face (except that students cannot twist the truth when confronted with comments that are in black and white).

 While Lauer and Costolo’s conversation veered off to the entertainment industry (“Who does Costolo wish would sign up?” “Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler”),  my mind went in a different direction, to the other side of Twitter.  I have to admit, I do not follow anyone famous (I do follow James Taylor on Facebook, I enjoy seeing him pop up in my newsfeed between my teacher friends and my sister with pictures of him baking pies on thanksgiving, etc….after all, years ago, he sang “you got a friend” to me….of course there were a couple thousand people in the room, but I am pretty sure he was singing to me…but I digress).  The people I do follow share news, resources, ideas, and laughs.

Costolo admitted that the language of twitter (#, @, RT, etc) can turn some people off, but the content is powerful – the media, photos, and content that people share is what is important.  Recent twitter chats on critical thinking via the #njed group (headed up by @wkrakower) and #TXeduchat (led by @jennifermiller9) are an example of this great content-content that I think can change the world.  They were fast paced, fun, invigorating, stimulating, and validating conversations.  I have never seen a nasty tweet amongst my colleagues (granted, I don’t have as many followers as Matt Lauer, but he only has them because Justin Bieber asked his followers to follow Lauer), and as Costolo stated “there is a certain creativity that comes with being limited to 140 characters.”

Some examples:

So combine #greatminds, creativity and thought provoking questions (after all, the conversation was about critical thinking) and you have true learning, sharing of resources, practices and insights.  How can you lose?Although I love Amy, Melissa, and Tina, I am pretty sure that adding them to twitter will not change the world.  Get the right educators on there, and I think we have a shot.

Join the #njed chat on Tuesday nights, 8:30 ET