First, I have to admit that I was very uncomfortable about participating in a webinar and Twitter chat however since I have done it I believe I have found a new source of information. The first webinar I participated in was hosted through Discovery Education with the focus being on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I had read about the NGSS but knew nothing about it or what to expect. No one at the school where I teach had heard about it either so I decided it would be in the best interest of the school if I get acquainted with the NGSS. I was pleased to find out Idaho is adopting the NGSS within the next few years and that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) overlaps. This was all helpful information, however most of this webinar revolved around the NGSS version of Science Techbook published by Discovery Education. It was somewhat of an advertisement or training tool for those schools using the Science Techbook. I did find the curriculum very interesting and have forwarded the information to the principal at the school where I teach. The overall program would run circles around the science curriculum currently in place at the school where I teach. Not only is the curriculum up-to-date, it uses technology as the delivery tool. Although I was not particularly active in this webinar, I did ask several questions. The facilitator talked about the students being able to highlight text to refer back to and my question was how long does the text stay highlighted. I was pleased to find out that all student notes stay in place for as long as the student has the account. In the event the student moves and then returns, all of their notes will still be available on their Science Techbook account. Unfortunately for our students, we lack sufficient computers but in the event we should acquired more, the cost of the program is considerably less than that of textbooks.
I have been interested in integrating iPads in the classroom for the past several years, which was the topic of the next three webinars I participated in. The first one was hosted by Shelly Terrall and discussed getting students excited about reading with the iPad. This webinar was very active and I kept forgetting to participate since I was taking notes. I was finally able to add a few comments to the backboard regarding the amount of new apps I was introduced to during the webinar. As a teacher with only one classroom iPad, I was looking for ways to integrate it into my reading classes but found numerous new ways to use it for other purposes. Several of the new apps I learned about include Pic-Collage, Image Chef, and Comicshead. Pic-Collage would provide students the opportunity to become familiar with YouTube in a school environment. Students could use Pic-Collage to summarize any literature they may have read using pictures and video. This would be helpful for those students who struggle with reading and need another means to express themselves. Image Chef is similar to Wordle but integrates photos with text. This is very similar to Pic-Collage but has additional room for text such as quotes from books. Summarizing is a difficult skill for students to master and what better tool to help them than comics. Nearly all students enjoy reading comics and when given the opportunity to create their own, many talents may surface. Comicshead is an app that works with both IOS and Android, so there is considerable flexibility. One option for students using Comicshead is to summarize a story by creating a short comic. To illustrate their comic, students can use personal pictures, giving the student ownership of their piece.
The second iPad webinar I participated in also moved very quickly but after completing two, I was more prepared. As someone who is always looking for ways to improve, I found this webinar especially helpful. Hosted by Naomi Harm, this webinar introduced me to many new apps to help in classroom management. Several of these would have come in handy this past school year, but I will keep on file in the event I need them this year. iPads are not only an outstanding student tool, but one for the teacher. This webinar started out but stressing the importance of transforming student literacy followed up by remembering to start with the end in mind. It was also emphasized that teaching is not about the device but about what is learned. The iPad can enhance any classroom setting but the teacher must keep the end in mind. As the webinar progressed, numerous management tools for teachers were introduced and then Google Drive was mentioned. Finally, a management tool I have experience with. I was able to Google Drive has become an integral part of my classroom and I would be totally lost without it. The facilitator listed app after app and how they could be used as management tools. It was difficult for me to not get caught up in taking notes and participate but I did contribute whenever I had a question or had personal experience with one of the apps.
The final webinar I participated in was titled Free iPad Apps for Classroom Management, hosted by Monica Burns. Unfortunately this webinar was very similar to the one hosted by Naomi Harm but the information was still useful. I was able to learn about two new apps that I am going to get. Socrative is an app that provides real-time assessment, which could be most helpful for me. Even with the best of intentions, I periodically let assessment opportunities slip past me and wish I had a readily available tool. Socrative may be my answer. The second app is Touchcast, which I quickly downloaded. I am planning on using this app for my students to create short segments of video to be posted on the classroom blog. The videos will have to be short though any video longer than one minute takes a very long time to upload.
After conquering webinars, I was feeling somewhat more confident with TweetChats however that confidence was quickly squelched. At first I was very slow at contributing often forgetting to insert the hashtag and after closely examining the other Tweets, I quickly realized my mistake. Once I had that corrected, I started to enjoy the TweetChats. I actually felt more comfortable with this form of communication than I did with the webinar. The difference was with the webinars, I kept wanting to go to the new sites I had been introduced to and was very busy taking notes. With the TweetChats, the pace was somewhat slower and I was able to concentrate a little better. The Edmodo chat was interesting but would have been of more value had I been familiar with Edmodo. Again this is an app I am considering trying and was looking for some background information. Unfortunately all of the participants appeared to have experience with Edmodo in the classroom and I did not. The positive side of not knowing anything about this app is that I learned about the many applications Edmodo has in the classroom and have a slightly better understanding of how to use it. The experience helped me to decide to join Edmodo as a new online community and I invited the entire teaching staff at the school where I teach to join also. Now I am going to have to be prepared to get this off the ground before school starts in the fall.
#edchat was my next attempt at chatting and this was a completely different experience that #edmodo. This chat room was very fast paced and rather than people chatting, the participants were sharing educational articles. I resisted the temptation to start to read the ones of interest and was actually able to keep up with the group. There was not a specific topic or theme as there had been with #edmodo so it was a bit scattered however I was able to bookmark the ones of interest. I had actually just read an interesting article in TeachThought and had something of meaning to contribute.
Since I am in a social networking class, I felt it would be in my best interest to join in a Tweet chat on this topic. Again, there was not a specific topic or theme. All of the participants were randomly posting articles of interest. Since I am an elementary teacher, I referred an article from Edutopia, titled “A Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom.” Although it appeared to be the only posting applicable to elementary education, I was feeling more confident about participating. The more experience I gain from tweeting, the more I see how Twitter definitely has its place in education, especially for teachers looking for resources and ideas.
Now that my confidence is building, I started to explore TweetChat, looking for some different chats to join. Of course, there were several that I knew I did not want to go there but I did take a chance on several. #ptchat peeked my interest since I had noticed it tagged in some earlier chats I participated in. Hoping I would not be misguided, I was pleasantly surprised. This chat focused on communication between parents and teachers, one of my weaker areas. This was not a very active chat and I actually lost interest rather quickly. I did post as article on parent/teacher relationships. It was not a very recent article however the information was relevant to the chat room.
Overall, I have to admit that I really enjoyed this assignment especially since it made me stop being a lurker and start participating. I am still not completely comfortable with webinars and chats but it is something I plan on doing more of now that I have had this experience.