Sunday, April 17, 2011

Twitter 101

[Sorry for the cross-post, those of you that follow both blogs. I thought it was suitable in both places.]
I love Twitter. After a recent conversation with my aunt about what, exactly, Twitter is, (and realizing that I’ve had this conversation multiple times), I decided to put it in writing. As they always say, if one person has a question, there are probably many others who do too. So, for those of you who don’t understand what the big deal is about Twitter, this is why it is NOT what you think.
What Twitter is NOT:
Twitter is NOT about updates about what you had for breakfast, (unless you can say it in an incredibly clever way). It is also NOT a private, direct messaging service, a la Facebook, email, instant messaging, etc. Though many use it from their smartphones, it is NOT only available on phones, but is also a website where you can tweet from (  
What Twitter IS:
Twitter is a “micro-blogging” service. In other words, it is like a blog, in that all posts are public, and they are listed reverse chronologically, with the newest posts listed first. It isn’t like blogs in that it has a140 character limit.  Because of this limit, tweets are approximately 1-2 sentences and many people and companies use it to post links to longer articles, blog posts, etc. (It IS possible to send direct messages to people, but they still have to be 140 characters or less. Because of this, it is not a common use of Twitter though.)
Due to the public nature of Twitter, it is most useful for keeping track of public organizations and people. You don’t have to know them or ask for permission to follow them. For instance, I follow AirFrance for European travel deals (@AirFranceUS), New York Times for news and commentary (@nytimes), and Jimmy Fallon (@jimmyfallon) and Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) because they are hilarious : - )
However, the reason Twitter is most useful to me in my daily life is that I can follow other people within the education community, many of whom are technology teachers like myself. We all post about things we’re doing within the classroom, open questions we’re considering in terms of educational technology, and other such things. Some of the teachers I know personally, but many I do not. Twitter gives me access to a much wider circle of like-minded people whom I can bounce ideas off of. I also follow some friends from my personal life.
Overall, Twitter is an excellent means of keeping abreast of news and information of interest to you, professionally and personally. There is much more to say in terms of effective ways to use Twitter, details about common abbreviations, hashtags, or trending topics, but hopefully this basic description helps you understand what it actually is and how it might benefit you. And if you decide to join Twitter, follow me @dierdreshetler ! :-) 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When things go wrong

Make sure it works!

For those of you with a little corner of your brain that goes nuts at the many possibilities of things that could go wrong with using educational technology, I have some suggestions for you. Before you are getting ready to use technology, ensure that it works by doing the following things: 
  • try the activity yourself, so that you know all necessary steps 
  • test the website on the computers the students will be using
  • make sure batteries are charged, if necessary
  • make sure all critical elements are plugged in and displaying/producing sound correctly
  • know who is available to call for help in a pinch
  • have a related back-up plan (more on this later)
  • have an educational task ready for those who finish early ( is an excellent option for this circumstance)
If you need to borrow someone who knows more than you to help make sure everything is working in advance, do it. Definitely do this when students are not there. This way, you can focus on teaching when the time comes. Also, make sure that YOU set everything up, even if someone else comes in to advise you on how to do it. This will give you a much better idea of what to do if things go wrong. 
That said, no matter how much you've tested things out, things happen. 

Do Not Give Up
Should something malfunction, do NOT give up immediately because there is a class of students staring at you. In doing this, you teach them to give up. If waiting a few minutes means they get to use technology, they will be VERY patient (if not quiet). Give the students a content-related topic to talk about/work on, and then take a few minutes to try to troubleshoot the problem. If this doesn't work, ask a student to try to get things to work. Students tend to have much more perseverance than adults. While they do this, go on with the rest of the content of the lesson. Most of the time, one of these options should eliminate the problem.

Back Up Plan
On the off-chance that you've tried to fix it, a student has tried to fix it, and you've called a co-worker and he/she can't help you, then chalk it up as a loss, and move on. These are the cases where your back-up plan is critical. Your back-up plan should be one of two things: either a different technology-based way of accessing the same content (i.e., a different website, an interactive whiteboard lesson/game, a video clip, etc.) OR a non-technology based way of addressing the content (i.e., textbook, game, discussion, writing, etc.) In having such a back-up plan, you ensure that kids will learn the desired content, no matter what the circumstance. A benefit to having a non-technology-based method is you have a way of teaching the same content to kids who don't focus while using technology.  

Try Again
Lastly, just because technology may have bitten you at one point, DO NOT GIVE UP. Even if you had to bail on your last attempt, TRY AGAIN, even if its with a different website, etc. Once you have a successful experience, you'll understand why technology is such a powerful medium for educating children. And remember: there is always a learning curve when doing something new, but it will diminish with time and practice, and it will be worth it!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Haiku for me and you

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to be a presenter for the first time at a conference. I applied to present in September of last year, mostly just to see if I had any chance at all of being accepted. It took me a while to decide what to present on because, having been to the MEC conference before, many of the things I know a lot about are fairly common things. Hence, I was looking for something that wasn't particularly well-known, but that has worked really well for me. With these criteria, it didn't take long to come up with Haiku, an online learning management system. Lucky for me, that was the type of thing they were looking for and I was accepted!

I first used this system when doing my final project for my master's degree, when I designed an online professional development class for teachers in my district. While Haiku's main premise is to be used to teach online classes for K-12 students, I knew it had a lot of potential to function well for professional development (in any field, really) as well as for online collaboration between administration, teachers or students. 

While I hated to do a powerpoint presentation, I know that when learning about a new thing, what a person really wants is the bullet points with the main ideas. So, I went with the powerpoint and this is what I came up with. Putting this presentation together led me to realize that there are even more cool things about Haiku, that I didn't already know (including a beyond affordable pricing structure). Since I was going with the standard presentation, I decided to at least make it a little up-to-date and include some poll questions via, in which participants can use their phones to text in an answer to a poll question (Such as: What area of education are you involved in? What areas would you be most likely to use Haiku for at your school?) I would've used a video from the Haiku website, but when I'm at a presentation, I don't want people to show me things that I can see for myself on a website. I also wanted to use my iPod Touch as a mouse, so I wouldn't have to stand by my computer the whole time. Here's my presentation: 
Haiku Learning Management System

When the day came to present, I was definitely nervous (made even more nervous by a co-worker who came in to watch :-)), but everything went fairly well. There were about 15 people in the workshop, which I thought was pretty good, given that it was for a product that no one had ever heard of, being presented by a me, whom no one had ever heard of. The embedded poll slides worked quite well, and gave me a quick idea of the general type of audience I was talking to (mostly administrators), as well as their opinions on various portions of the product. The remote mouse didn't work, because I had to keep logging on to the guest internet account. People seemed very interested in Haiku, and there were at least a few who sounded like they were definitely going to consider for their site. 

So, for my first time out of the gate as a presenter, I felt like it went pretty well!