What was truly impressive was how all of them handled it. They tap danced a bit but presented some relevant information and even though our web use wasn’t available, they were informative and helpful. It was really impressive to see them rise to what was a very serious challenge. The second and final day of the course is tomorrow and I’m sure the internet will be working and awesome and we can build on what we learned today. But good job ITF people! You were troopers today!
In the vein of technology, last year I spent about three months as an education columnist for an online newspaper, golocalpdx.com and I wrote about a dozen columns before retiring after realizing that teaching and fatherhood kept me plenty busy enough. Here is my column from about ten months ago on education and social media:
Teaching and Twitter
I had to explain what America Online was to one of my students last Friday which made me feel even older than I am. Also, when I tell them that I didn’t use a computer until my first year of teaching, they are dumbfounded. I remember using a gradebook that I’d write in with a pencil. I remember mimeograph machines with that purple ink. I remember writing on an actual chalkboard. But now my students have iPads provided by the district. The students can check their grades in about 4 seconds on their smartphone or iPad. I can have a guest speaker come to my classroom via Skype. Every AP student of mine maintains a blog where they post their essays. Technology has definitely made a gigantic impact on education, both in the classroom and out, but I think my favorite new “techie” thing is the use of Twitter.
For the uninitiated, Twitter is a social media application where a user creates a profile with a name (it is a @ sign followed by your user name. Mine is @benjatos) and sends out messages/status updates which are limited to 140 or fewer characters. You can also select people to follow and their status updates are what you see when you log on to Twitter. You can tweet photos or links to articles or a plethora of social media wonderment. There are also hashtags (#). They look like that. A user can put a hashtag on a tweet and another user can search for anything under that hashtag and be shown every tweet with the given hashtag. It’s a way to build community and organize messages.
For me, I use it to follow educators, sports folk, some news sources, and some of my friends. It is truly an amazing tool to get news sometimes. I remember recently that when the Ferguson protests were happening Twitter was ablaze with tweets from people inside the protest providing minute-by-minute updates that major news channels weren’t reporting until hours later, if at all. It is a powerful tool. It’s also a fun place to “watch” a sporting event. I can just refresh my Twitter feed as a Blazer game goes on and be kept up to date, with some fabulous snarky commentary thrown in.
For a teacher, we can learn a lot about teaching and impact others by participating in Twitter. The main two are connecting with other teachers and motivating students.
Connecting with other educators
This is by far the greatest thing for teachers to utilize. There are so many powerful educators across the world and Twitter grants access to any of them who use the tool. I have read so many wonderful articles that were tweeted out by educators I’ve never met but who are incredible. It can be like professional development as well. There are people who have chats, using a given hashtag, and participate in in depth educational discourse across the globe. I feel like my skills as an educator have been greatly enhanced just by following some of the people/educators I follow. They’re inspiring, passionate, and have a lot of knowledge to share.
A great number of my students follow me on Twitter which is pretty cool. It enables me to reach them on a different level, tweeting out things like, “My second period class dominated their writing assignment today!” Or even personal mentions like, “Special shout out to @kidstudentlearner for writing his best essay of the year.” Students eat this up. It is meeting kids on their turf a little bit but it’s not overly intrusive. Warning: When I started using Twitter I made the mistake of following a student of mine. I learned things about him I really didn’t want to know so I quickly unfollowed him. Some things should just remain unknown.
Suggested users to follow
My favorite educational follow. She links to some awesome writing and her take on education is a must read. She also linked to one of my pieces on here so I automatically love her.
He wrote an incredible book, Teach like a Pirate, and leads education chats most every Monday night.
Principal in Canada who is so far ahead of everyone else in technology it’s humbling. Also has a great blog.
Superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools who is also way out in front of most everyone else on the technology front.
Teacher in Chicago who links to some fantastic articles
The Badass Teachers Association is committed to fighting the corporate takeover of public education in America and when you follow them it is like an education all by itself.
Principal and motivational speaker and I’d love to meet this guy.
Writes about education for the Washington Post.
Author Susan DeFresne and a Kindergarten teacher activist
George Couros is my favorite follow of those because he blogs and his writings are honestly transformative.
And now my literature review:
Shunned by Meredith Hall
This is a 2013 essay and I love it. It deals with a senior in high school (Hall) who gets pregnant in 1966. Upon her pregnancy, she is barred from school, barred from home, and basically barred from her small town because as she puts it, "...a girl in Hampton let herself be had in the gritty sand by a boy from away who said love." It is a sad and scary story that resonates well even today.
Essay: 10 of 10
It's written very well and is interesting throughout. It's a bit over 6,000 words so it isn't overwhelmingly long (Ten Microsoft word pages) and can be finished at one brief sitting, Hall conveys not only her frustration and being shunned by everyone, but also her utter numbness as she went through the whole ordeal. The reader feels right alongside Hall.
Teachability: 10 of 10
I may grade these super easy but I only review things I like. I like this essay. The shunning of a pregnant high school girl in 2015 isn't nearly as bad as it was in 1966 but shunning overall is still a thing. There is importance in putting the "mean girls" syndrome in the light for discussion, examination, and hopefully, eradication. Classroom discussion of this piece would be wonderful and a personal narrative writing assignment about a time a student felt shunned or misunderstood would be well-received. There is power in this essay and kids would learn lots.