Friday, 21 September 2012

Social Media Forever

The things we don't think about, or realize, about social media - One of our grade 5/6 classes were discussing Terry Fox and a way to find out more about him. One of the students thought they could look up his Facebook page - "because it might be still around from when he was alive". The class agreed that would be a great idea! Of course, Terry would've had a Facebook page - everyone has Facebook.

Little did they know,  Facebook wasn't around, or even close to being around, in 1981. These grade 5/6 students just assumed that Facebook has been around forever. Social media is such a normal part of their young lives that it must have been their for everyone.

Another class that I was working this week (a grade 4/5 group) was discussing Terry Fox as well. I thought we could tie in what the other class had come up. So we decided to make a Terry Fox bulletin board (Faceboard) and imagine what his Facebook page might have looked like when he was alive. Our question was "How might Terry Fox go about promoting the Marathon of Hope if he was still alive now?".

Some of the students had a hard time thinking about this and implementing. Some thought that they couldn't do it as they weren't allowed a Facebook account. Others were fine with the idea and fully understood the concept.

Students were to post messages to Terry Fox to thank him, ask questions, write them from his perspective.

This is what they came up with.

The first posts were exactly what I imagined they might look like. Relatively weak and lacking any kind of substance. After some feedback students were able edit their thoughts and give their post some more oomph. This is something we will definitely work on and develop in the future.

What a great discussion about the positive power of social media and the reason why some people use it. It also showed students that us old teachers even value Facebook and that its OK to talk about it and include it in our learning experiences.

What next? 

We thought we could leave the main part of this bulletin board up and change the contents. It would be a great way to promote Social Media for a good cause. We thought we could even try real time posting, where students could post notes using post-it notes or something else similar.

I wonder what else we could do? How else could we promote the use of Social Media as a learning tool to elementary students?

Pleas feel free to comment. We would love feedback.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Learning to Share the Learning

5 Days in and I'm still bubbling with enthusiasm about school this year...

My Problem:

I'm excited about all the NEW learning that will happen this year, in and out of the classroom. Over the past year I have learned that, as a teacher, I learn so much from both students and colleagues. The power of social media has really hit me hard lately. However, I have a problem - I need a clean and powerful way to share this learning tool to other teachers I work with. How can I prove that this will the best PD that they will ever be involved in. How can I hit them over the head with Twitter hammer and knock some sense into them?

What Tools Do I Use Now?

Currently I utilize the following social media and Web 2.0 tools to document and share my learning:


Twitter is my main hub for learning through social media. Everything else I use came from Twitter in some round-about way. I browse through Twitter and find tweets that interest me from people within and outside of my Personal Learning Network(PLN). I find new people to add to my PLN through retweets(RT) and mentions. As my PLN grows I find it harder and harder to keep up with it all. Maybe I have to start using a different Twitter client other than the Twitter App itself, or simply find better ways to filter the amount of information.


Obviously (as you're reading this) I use my blog to reflect on things I learn about or things I wonder about. I use it primarily for myself but love to share my thoughts with the wider community.

Pocket (formerly Read it Later)

I use Pocket to save articles I find on Twitter so I can read them at a later time. I have never referred to one of those articles or shared one from my Pocket account.


I have been using Evernote for a while now but this year have started to focus on using it to help myself become paperless. I do use various Apps to help me cut down on stickies and other paper, but Evernote is great for making notes, jotting down ideas, and other times when I need to write something down and save it. I also write some of my draft blog posts using Evernote. Another reason I like this App is because it is so accessible. I can access it on my phone, iPad or laptop.


This is an automation website. It works on a simple formula of - IF That Then This. As impersonal as automated tweets might seem. IFTTT allows me to do things such as record or be notified of tweets from specific people or hashtags. IFTTT allows me to filter my twitter feed easily. I also use IFTTT in conjunction with Buffer.


Buffer is a social media client that allows you to post to social media sites at specific times. This allows me to post when I think  might be a better time to post a tweet. At the moment I mainly use Buffer in conjunction with IFTTT to thank people who follow me on twitter.


I transitioned from Delicious social bookmarking to a new Diigo account early this year. I believe that Diigo is more powerful than Delicious, especially for teachers. With Diigo, I can follow other educators and the webpages and notes they save. At this point I haven't really utilized it that well. I have recently just begun to bookmark interesting websites again that I find through colleagues and my PLN. My Diigo account can be found here


I saw this great video advertising Google+ yesterday I have a Google account but have not really started using Google+. I use Facebook and have not seen the point in using book of these Apps. Although, I think Google+ is more powerful for educators as it allows you to share in many different ways. My Google+ account can be found with


Facebook for me has always been a way for me to stay in touch with friends and family. I made the decision, when I joined Twitter, that I would use one Facebook for personal connections and Twitter for my professional connections. I'm starting to think that they will merge in the future. We'll see.

Where Next?

After looking at this list, I begin to think that I have too many things to think about. However, each one of these Web2.0 tools have unique uses and offer me something that other ones cannot. Also, as time is precious to me, I wonder if juggling all of the different accounts is too much. I guess I will continue to use them all and if one drops off the radar then so be it. 

My real dilemma and the reason I started thinking about this post is that I need to share what I learn from twitter with the Face-to-Face colleagues I work with. Most of them do not use social media as a professional learning tool but do for personal social networking. Not many use Twitter and do not understand how it works. Once I have them on-board with joining up I will be able to run little workshops and tinker sessions but first I have to get them to believe in it and buy-in.

What I need is a way to give a picture of what twitter is about. I need to keep certain tweets, articles and examples of how powerful it can as a learning tool. I think I will try to expand my blog and add pages for the different purposes of sharing. Here I can also house a hub for my different Apps and their associated accounts. I'll post more on this development as it unfolds.

An Inspiration to all

I'd also like to thank the people that have inspired me to share and learn from others as well as develop my own PLN are the greatest advocates for social media as a PD tool. Here are some snippets of their work.

George Couros (@gcouros)- George is a Division Principal for Innovative Teaching and Learning in the Parkland School Division in central Alberta. This video is a presentation George did at Syracuse to promote twitter and PLNs - The work that George does is documented on his blog website

Dean Shareski (@shareski)- is a Digital Learning Consultant with the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I love the way Shareski shares. He has a slick blog that has different pages that presents himself and what he has learned. simply has links to the social media sites that he shares on.His blog site can be found at

Alec Couros (@courosa) - Is George's older Brother and another advocate for social media in learning. Dr. Alec Couros is a professor of educational technology and media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. Through Twitter he also shares plethora of amazing links and stories about social media as the best PD tool. His blog can be found at

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A Learning Commons Teacher: What would THEY do?

I wrote this post after our first day of school last week. I forgot to publish it ~ Take 2!

Today we had our first day. It was great to see our students settle fast into their new classrooms with their teacher for the year.

As it was Tuesday, we also had our first staff Tuesday Staff meeting for the year. Our heads were already spinning from a great first day but we still had it in us to discuss a few things. One of those being my position in the Learning Commons (LC). As it has been undecided, it's important we all get an understanding and also have some input into what I will be focusing on right from the beginning of the year. The discussion went well. This post is some of my my thoughts after the fact. A chance for me to think about what value I can add to learning in our school.

Some of the things that were mentioned were the following:
  • Our school will continue to focus on working and developing Galileo and Inquiry Based Learning principals. We will focus on using the Disciplined based model of inquiry.
  • We will have a full time teacher working out of the LC. We also discussed that the LC is an extension of the classroom.
  • My position would not be solely going into classrooms to teach a particular App or technology based tool. I would more than likely compliment or add something extra to the learning in a project ~ Small group work, displacing a teacher, adding another teacher to a group to enable more diverse grouping, 1-on-1 work with particular students, etc...
  • That my position would not be providing any Non Instructional Time (NIT) for teachers, as originally thought.
  • Teachers could think about how I could be utilised that would work for them and their students.
  • We also talked about the fact of making learning visible. The dream that I have is to showcase the learning happening in our building with the wider community ~ that being within our system/district as well as in the global classroom of Twitter :)
What a great opportunity - To be able to work both students and teachers and be engaged in some amazing learning.

What do I think I can offer the students of our school? What is it that I really specialise in? I am certainly not saying that I'm the only expert in inquiry or technology in our school. As I mentioned in our staff meeting, I actually struggle to always think about the big picture. What I think I can do is think in a digital sense. I can take an idea and thinking how students might be able to present that idea using technology. This ability comes from being aware of Apps and tools available to us and to be able to make a connection between a specific tech tool and the curriculum.

One of my main focuses as the LC teacher will continue to be on student engagement. I enjoy the challenge of trying to get students who sometimes struggle to engage themselves in learning tasks, to take ownership of their learning and express what they know about something in a way that is meaningful to them. I try to find something technology related that may be able to help them. Of course, technology based learning tools aren't always the best answer but I do believe with some creative thought, technology can definitely make learning more accessible for many of our students.

I will be interested to see when my position goes this year. How much teachers will value having someone else to turn to. There will need to be a fair bit of change in the way we think. In my experience teachers often don't like giving up the control in their classroom. I do agree it is hard to see your students walk out and work with someone else. I'm not sure why but with guidance, hearing testaments and seeing it work through modelling, this new way of looking at learning will be more widely accepted and grasped by educators everywhere.

It's not going to be an easy journey but I do believe it will be well worth it.