Friday, April 13, 2012

Tweeting with Teens
Last week we held an assembly for all of the high school students about digital citizenship. I was very concerned about the presentation being too formal and stodgy so I wanted to find a way to make it more interactive. I began to consider the use of cell phones as a means for the students to communicate with the presentation, each other, and with me, the presenter. Because the presentation was very short and packed with a lot of content, I needed to provide the students with a method of asking questions and offering comments during the presentation. Two possibilities emerged: texting and tweeting. One morning in homeroom several weeks before the presentation I took an informal show-of-hands poll to determine if the students had Twitter accounts, and if they were actively tweeting via their cell phones. Enough of the students appeared to meet these requirements so I decided on tweeting.

I set up a hashtag (#PCSCyberliving) and used Twitterfall to aggregate and display the tweets during the presentation. I had a regular backchannel going! Technically, all worked well. I had a prepared Keynote presentation for the content and I periodically switched between the presentation and Twitterfall to field questions, highlight comments, and to publicly acknowledge the backchannel. I had a teacher serve as the "monitor" of the Twitter feed, so as I focused on presenting the material, she focused on making sure the Twitter feed was under control. She also posted links and resources that went along with the presentation. In the future, I would really like to have someone serve as a commentator in addition to moderator. That way anyone not attending the presentation but following the feed can also follow along with the crux of the presentation. All of the technology elements worked well and I found no issues using Twitter to make my presentation more interactive.
Socially, well that's another story! As expected the Twitter resolution was used for both good and mischief! (I was dealing with high school students after all!) Most students offered thoughtful and appropriate comments and questions, but there were at least two students that insisted on using the feed as an opportunity to play class clown. This is why the moderator was so important, as well as my announcement at the beginning of the presentation that I would be displaying the feed periodically to the audience. I hoped that these two factors would deter students from indulging in bad behavior. Overall it worked. The moderator had to send one or two direct messages to students that got out of hand and her intervention seemed to quell the behavior. I think that given the subject of the presentation - digital citizenship - the Twitter resolution was a perfect lesson by doing. There was even a student out sick that day who participated in the Twitter feed.

If you think about employing this technique I strongly recommend you do - whether it be for a big presentation or in a classroom. It is an excellent way to encourage and enable students to use technology in a more academic way, if they are not already. It also provides teachers an opportunity to see how this technique can be used in a classroom setting. And it gives students an opportunity to practice good behavior using technology while under the guidance of adults. I'd say it's a win-win-win solution!

Feel free to email me or comment below with questions or share your own experience!

Thanks for reading!

Tech Tools Referenced:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The [Instructional Technology] Age-Old Question: How do we train our teachers?

Having been in the profession of technology in schools and curriculum for 7 years now, I have sort of developed an opinion about what does and does not work when it comes to how I get my teachers trained in the technologies we need to use. There are a variety of approaches my colleagues and I across the nation engage in regularly: one-to-many lecture style trainings, one-to-one individual meetings, small groups, faculty champions or department leaders, and even online asynchronous trainings!

One method that I strongly feel does not work is any iteration of the technology workshop. That would be the likes of 'Wired Wednesday', 'Tech Tuesday', or 'Monday Tech Madness'. Now, I am open to suggestions and open to continue to try this method if I can find cases where it has worked. This openness has led me to my latest version of the technology workshop: 'Lunch & Laptops'. I am trying one more time (at the strong urging of my head of school) to put in place this method of instructing teachers. I'm thinking of it as sort of my office hours when teachers know they can always find me available to answer questions or help with a skill. I am also holding one session per week after school (Though a clever name for this session has eluded me! Any suggestions?!). I only started this last week and this week is the end of the quarter, so, of course, attendance has been low (three sessions => three students). 

This brings me back to the question in the title: How do we train our teachers? I've attended several conferences and special interest group meetings and spoken to my professional network about the topic, and as anyone reading this in the profession knows, we don't yet have an answer! Especially in the schools where leadership has not made the training a requirement for the teachers or attached some sort of accountability. If you have discovered the recipe, please share with the rest of us! In the meantime, I will give my latest creation a solid try and hope that I can raise the bar for myself in my marketing and cajoling skills and get the chairs filled!