Thursday, December 16, 2010

Who Says a Snow Day Means Not Having Class??

Just because the weather outside is frightful does not mean that education can't still be delightful.  The age of 21st Century education and learning allows education to continue even when school is closed.  How might you ask?  Well, here are just some ideas to get your mind flowing...especially those teachers who have AP kids and are on a strict schedule.

With it being winter for the majority of the United States and talks of snow days and snow storms, I thought this would be an appropriate post for today.

1.) If you have a Facebook page, you can still "hand-out" assignments to your students via Facebook, and they could still "hand them in" by attaching in a message or providing a link.

2.) If you have a Classroom Twitter account, you could still share assignments and links to readings for students to complete over the snow day.

3.) Want to teach from your computer, use a site like and share your screen with your students.  Be an easy way to explain math problems in a step by step process or share a document they don't have access to.

4.) Upload a PowerPoint to Slideshare or add the slides to a Prezi so that students have access to notes and a lesson if needed for a quiz or test when they get back to school.

5.) Use TitanPad or TodaysMeet and have a backchannel chat with your students over a topic you are discussing in class.

6.) Use the site to share a Word document that you want students to use or answer questions.  I always made any worksheets using Word, and with this site you have the ability to upload the Word Document and it will maintain the formatting.  You can then create a URL to share with students.

7.) Use your email and send students a text message to their phones to let them know you have a new assignment/project posted to your website.  See my blog post about sending text messages from email.

8.) Embed a video from YouTube or link to an article and have students use a site like Wallwisher to discuss the video.  Or have them type a response in and share the URL.  Make sure to approve messages first before posting!

9.) Plan ahead, have students know that they will always have a free writing assignment to do.  Provide them a list and tell them to choose a topic each snow day, or designate numerical order for each snow day.

10.) Math teachers, use Twiddla and plan a time to meet with students online to go over math assignments, problems, homework, etc.

I always hear teachers say that kids think because they have a snow day that work assigned before the snow days is not due when they come back to school.  If you set the expectation that work is to continue over snow days, then the problem will take care of itself.  If students know that they will still have work over snow days, then it will definitely take care of itself.

If you have students that don't have access to the Internet, then you can ignore these.  This is just something for us all to think about.  How is the landscape of education changing?  Because this was never a possibility just FIVE years ago.

10 Tips/Ways for Using Twitter in the Classroom

Twitter has become a valuable tool for educators who are wanting to network with other educators.  Many other teachers have realized that Twitter can be a valuable education tool and communication tool to use with their students.  Some teachers have been using it for a while and have a great handle on how to use it.  Others are new to implementation and might want some further ideas for how to use it in the classroom.  Hopefully these tips can help provide some guidance.

1.) The initial trouble is getting students and parents signed up.  They are the Facebook Generation.  Several teachers I work with have offered extra credit/bonus points on a test for creating an account and then contacting their teacher.  This has been rather successful for those teachers.  Create some kind of form to send home to parents explaining the procedures and purpose and have students bring it back in with their username and parents usernames.

2.) Create a classroom hashtag.  Make it something simple like #mzush10 (Mr. Zimmer U.S. History 2010).  Have students search and follow the hashtag and that is an easy way for students to follow what you share.  You can search for hashtags using the following directory to make sure that you don't have any that conflict with other hashtags.

3.) Make your classroom Twitter account the only place that you provide extra credit.  This way when a student needs some, they know that is where you will provide it.  You can post assignments on an alternate website and have students visit it to complete the work.  When students complete it, have them reply to you so that you can expect it.

4.) Organize students into list.  If you have multiple classes, this is a great way to track students on Twitter.  You can create lists of students organized by class period, grade level, etc.  This way it is easy to track what they are doing, saying, and working on as it relates to their Twitter account.

5.) Once you have developed a PLN, I recommend using them to your advantage.  I highly suggest using them for taking polls, teaching geography, or getting opinions.  If other students from other schools are on Twitter, you could have a Twitter Chat and create a hashtag for them to all participate.  Use Tweetdeck to track the conversation.  The Teach Paperless Blog has a GREAT example of this.

6.) Posting reminders and homework assignments to the Twitter account is a great way to get students to create an account and use it beneficially.  You might even make Twitter the only time you will share the homework assignment.  This way they have to check it in order to know their homework, and it is something that you can do at the end of the class period or day.  It is such a simple task because it is only 140 characters long!

7.) Have a 140 Character reflection with your students.  Provide a link to a video, article, or news story.  Have kids provide their thoughts in 140 characters.  You might even create a separate hashtag for such an assignment.  This can provide students with an easy way to follow the assignment.  The next day in class you can then display the discussion and talk further about it, possibly even highlight specific student repsonses.

8.) Exit Slips are a a growing method of assessment.  Twitter would be a valuable asset to asses student learning by using it as a form of an exit slip.  When students leave, you can delete the previous classes responses, or ask a different question.  This way you have a log of the exit slips responses, and they can even be your bell ringers for the following morning.

9.) Connecting with professionals is a great way to utilize the power of Twitter.  Have students connect with NASA scientists, authors (100 Best Authors on Twitter and Directory of Authors on Twitter), politicians, the President, companies (Google, History Channel, etc), and Mathematicians.

10.) Backchannel is another valuable way to use Twitter.  Whether you are using it in class with students, or at home while watching the news, documentary, television show, or movie, you can create a backchannel for students to have a discussion.  Once again, you can create a hashtag for that specific discussion.  I like this as an option because it is easier to track specific students unlike other backchannel sites where students can make up any name.

There are several lists out there for ways to use Twitter.  These are some of my personal favorites.  What are some of yours?

ProjectExplorer is a website for virtually taking students around the world.  They are videos that you can watch separated by grade level.  They recently won a 2010 Edublog Award which is how I discovered their site.  The idea behind PorjectExplorer is "To foster the next generation of global citizens by encouraging awareness of the world beyond a student’s own community through the creation, production, and distribution of engaging and free multimedia educational materials."  You can currently explore Mexico, Jordan, and South Africa.  A great addition to classroom geography lessons.

Copia - Digital Book Club

Copia is a site dedicated to creating a social network for people who read eBooks.  "If a book is worth reading, it is worth discussing."  With Copia you will be able to browse and buy eBooks, create an account (which will give you 7 free eBooks - a $42 value), get into groups of people who are reading the same eBook as you, and enjoy powerful desktop reading and/or iPad reading through their app. 

If your school has gone to eBook readers, or students are reading books via iPod Touches, you can download the free iPad app or desktop software and students will then be able to discuss the book with one another.  Same goes for teachers.  Think of Copia as taking the Book Club to the digital format.  To learn more about Copia, click here.  To take a tour and watch a video, click here.

I could really see this being a valuable asset to schools that are taking reading to a digital level.  Having access to classic books is becoming easier and easier as they become free for download on various sites.  If Copia would create an education aspect for adding school textbooks it could be a beneficial addition as well.

2010 Edublog Award Winners

If you are new to the idea of reading blogs, or are looking to add to your Google Reader, then I recommend checking out the 2010 Edublog Award Winners.  Although I came up short of finishing in the top three, being nominated at all is quite an honor and I am humbled to be included with so many great educators.  The winners are not specifically limited to blogs, there are other websites to examine that include wikis, audio, video, and elearning sites. 

Check out the winners and give them your support.