teaching with the tools of a digital world

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Taking the 30 goals challenge!

I have been looking for a significant way to push myself to dive further into my PLN (Personal Learning Network).

I have been looking for a way to set goals that will help me to do new things in my PLN that I haven’t done before and will help stretch myself to grow and improve.  I recently stumbled across this resource, The 30 Goals Challenge written by Shelly Terrell also author of The 30 Goals Challenge is designed to be a daily goal or challenge to be met for 30 consecutive days, each goal is focused on accomplishing tasks which will help teachers to improve their use of technology in the classroom and as educators. I’ve decided to take the challenge starting January 1st (the challenge was designed to be started on January 1st, 2010 – a year late isn’t too bad :). I’m sure you’ll hear more about each activity/goal as I go along.


Using Poll Everywhere in the Classroom

Every wondered what everyone in your class or meeting was thinking about a topic, but never felt you could get a good feel for what they were thinking because only a few attendees would answer your questions? You might think to use a classroom response system or “clicker,” but what if you don’t have the money for a system? I’ve actually been using two methods. I have a classroom response system and regularly use my classroom response system, ActiveInspire from Promethean but I also use a free-ish service known as Poll Everywhere. I say free-ish because it is free for up to 30 responses per question, so for most school classrooms this is perfect. If you are looking to poll larger audiences there is a fee attached.

I like both systems, Poll Everywhere and my hardware based Promethean system. However, there is something about Poll Everywhere that makes it more accessible to more students and more teachers. Students typically respond using a text message, however there are options to respond via the Poll Everywhere website via a question specific URL or through services such as Twitter or various smartphones. Poll Everywhere also allows for questions to be integrated into a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation with responses pulled live from PollEverywhere’s website (or they can be viewed live on the website.)

The questions are easy to set up and manage and the instructions for replying to questions are relatively easy to understand (you wouldn’t think you would have to explain texting to teenagers but they have messed it up a few times!) Each question has a unique keyword so responses end up where they are supposed to go. There are multiple types of questions MC, text, etc. There are also several different formats for showing student responses (the one shown here is the standard setting.)

Here are a few ways I have been using them in my classes (and one video example.)

–          I use daily journals in each of my classes and I typically only call on a few students to share their responses (using the Class Cards iPhone App to randomly select students and track their participation points for journals), but on days that I want to see what everyone has answered I use Poll Everywhere. It is quicker than getting out and setting up the classroom clickers if we aren’t using them that day.

–          I used Poll Everywhere before I got text response clickers. If I had a question somewhere in the lesson I would let students respond using Poll Everywhere.

–          One use I really like is having students give responses to questions or ask their own questions about reading assignments or the like OUTSIDE of class. Every teacher has been there when you’ve given an assignment and on the following day ask, “Do you have any questions?” and you only get blank stares or one word responses. This way students respond while they are reading, it has helped to get more thoughtful responses and more meaningful questions.

I am looking for a few more ways to use this service in my classes. Again, one of my major goals is to use technology like this to connect with students outside of the classroom and at the point where learning or questions happen, even though I am not physically present.

Any suggestions about how else to use this tool?

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Using Twitter

How has Twitter helped you? What good is it to the world? I am far from the person who is qualified to answer this question but I will tell of my experiences as a newcomer to tweeting and more specifically its application to education. I’ve had an account on Twitter for about a year now, but don’t be duped, I’ve only been “active” on it for about 3 months. For most of that “inactive” time I fell in the “Well now what do I do?” category.


That has changed in the last 3 months because I started to find resources about using Twitter in the classroom. I started hearing of how I could use it for my own professional growth. I started to have a use for it, I even started to need it as a next step in my growth. I now have a whopping 45 tweets! I’m working on a goal to increase my number of tweets, for now I have mostly been a lurker! Just watching and reading what others have to say. I’m comfortable enough now to begin to step outside of that and become more of a prosumer.  Any one have suggestions of a number of tweets a week that might be a reasonable goal? Is there some other way to quantify this? What do you think?

I have definitely seen a growth in my own understanding and experience since I dove into the world of Twitter. I have met many powerful leaders in edtech and have gleaned many resources, ideas and perspectives from them. It has been a powerful river of knowledge and experience that I now can’t imagine not being able to tap to improve my teaching. I only hope that I can continue to take advantage of this powerful resources, share it with others and begin to contribute to the flow of knowledge and experience.

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Share your ideas!

Look! I even got a certificate... 🙂

Yesterday evening I attended an Intel Education: Teachers Engage Community sponsored webinar; Using Cellphones and Scan Codes in the Classroom. After I figured out what time zone I was in (I showed up to the meeting an hour early), we got started with the meeting. We discussed the proliferation of web-enabled cellphones in our individual schools (there were about 20 teachers from across the globe) and how this would influence our implementation of these technologies. We then discussed QR codes, which I have already posted about how I have begun to use those in my classroom.

I didn’t get a bunch of earth-shattering ideas from the webinar, but I got a small taste of what it is like to share the techniques and practices I use in my class with other teachers. This has been a pretty exciting thing! I think I am starting to catch a bug! It was exciting to be able to share my experiences with other teachers and feel myself get excited about talking about how I am using technology in my classroom.  I was thrilled with helping others try out the ropes and plan unique ways to use the technology in their classrooms. I am going to be making a few deliberate steps to share my technology use with others. Here are my plans:

  • Keep using this blog, but find ways to share it with more teachers.
  • Look at how other edtech leaders are sharing their expertise.
  • Work in my own district and state to share and help implement these skills.
  • Work to build a solid Professional Learning Network (PLN) that will help me achieve this.

I haven’t formalized my PLN, but it is in the works. I am going to start this with reading Jeff Utecht’s book, Reach. I am planning a post or two as I start to get this figured out. I feel like I have started a few things that have been the basics of a PLN and it has been really successful in helping reach outside of myself and stretch beyond what I am comfortable with. Hopefully, a real PLN will be even better! Until then..