Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guest Post: What We Can't Tell You #edchat

Here is a guest post from a reader I wanted to share.

There are so many people out there that think they know what teachers go through each and every day. They really have no idea what it is like on any given day in the classroom. I wanted to share one story of what it's like to be a teacher.

Share this with the next person that says teachers shouldn't complain because they get 3 months off each year. 

(Editor's Note: Some information was blacked out due to privacy laws.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Making Connections

I had an awesome opportunity to talk to some great English teachers the other day. We talked about digital tools and we also talked about connecting with other teachers. One teacher asked me how can they connect with other teachers. They were on Twitter, but they found it hard to reach out to teachers and engage them in conversation. I gave them some tips and tricks and I thought I would share them here so they could share them with other teachers in the school.

Step One: Establish a Social Media Presence

This can be through the creation of a blog and/or Twitter account. If people want to connect, they need something that will connect them to other people. Blogs are a great way to expand on your ideas and Twitter is a great way to share your blog with other people. It is the route that I used and it has allowed me to meet some of my best friends. By having a blog and a Twitter account allowed me to connect with so many other teachers that are active in the blogging community and Twitter. It was a slow start, but I did connect with many great educators.

Step Two: Lurk and Then Engage on Twitter Chats

Find a Twitter chat that resonates with you. There are many great chats out, so find the one that that meets your needs. Once there, take some time and see what the conversation is like and how the pacing for this chat works. After a couple of weeks, I suggest you start to engage the people in the chat. Answer a few questions, respond to others who are in the chat. Start to follow these educators and become a regular participant these chats. I became really involved in #EdChat and met so many great people through the chat. It was a great way for me to expand my PLN. #EngChat was another great chat I used to meet many amazing educators passionate about learning and sharing.

Step Three: Connect Outside of the Chat Stream

Once you have become comfortable in the chat world, it is important to start engaging educators outside that one hour a week time frame. These could be simple questions and friendly conversations. Twitter for educators is a very friendly space and many of are always looking for interesting new people to connect with and share great ideas. Also, now that you have started to connect with many different educators, feel comfortable to start sharing your blog posts with the Twitter world. If the blog posts lends itself to a specific chat, add that hashtag to your tweet. Personally, I am always looking to for new posts to read. I find most of them on Twitter and I add them to my RSS feed if I love what I see.

Avoid spamming people with your blog posts though. Time to time I think I am guilty of this, so it is important to have conversations and the sharing of other great posts and not just a one-way conversation where it is your work all of the time. If people like your post, it will be re-tweeted around the world multiple times over.

Step Four: Connect at a Conference

Once you have connected with many of these great educators, see if any of them are going to be attending any of the conferences you are interested. If they are, see if people would be interested in a Tweet-up. Tweet-ups are a great way to take the digital connection you have spent time working on and making it a personal connection. Three years ago, I went to my first ISTE in Denver and I had my first Tweet-up. It was awesome. I got to meet so many people face to face that I had only shared tweets. Many of these people are close friends now that I can go to for help, support or just a good laugh. Heck, I met my brother from another mother this way (@TGwynn). Connecting at conferences is a great way to take engagement with your educational peers to another level.

Step Five: Don't Give Up

Stick with your blogging and tweeting. Don't feel like you need to post every dar or tweet every minute, but make Social Media a part of your routine. Continue to engage more educators on twitter and write what you want. Don't let yourself get stressed over your Twitter stream. You can't see everything, so just relax and be patient. If it is really good, someone else will tweet it again. Do not get obsessed with the number of followers you have. Numbers will grow and varying speeds. Just focus on being you and let the numbers game play itself out. Lastly, be you. People will read your blog and follow you on Twitter because you are you and you are the only you out there. We have have very original ideas to share and educators need more voices, not fewer.

I hope this helps those of you out there that are on the fence when it comes to engaging on Social Media. It is not easy to put yourself out there, but we expect our students to do this to some degree, maybe it is time to practice what we teach?

If you have any questions or just want to connect with me, you can follow me on Twitter @TheNerdyTeacher or shoot me an email.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Awesome Annotations with Livescribe #EngChat #EdChat

A group of students were not happy with the current selection of books in our curriculum, so they started their own book club. I agreed to come on as a co-adviser because I love to read and I support students who love to read.

The group will meet once a week and we will discuss part of a book the group has chosen. The first book the group chose is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I love this pick because it is a great book and he is actually from the community I teach. The story is actually set in the city the students live, so that should make for some interesting conversations.

Anyway, I really wanted to make sure I did a good job reading and annotating this story so I could share with the group. I feel I have a high bar to meet since I'm an English teacher. I didn't want to just download a book and annotate that way and I didn't want to just buy a book and highlight it. I wanted to do a little bit more with the notes, but wasn't sure what to do.

Well, Livescribe was the perfect solution to my problem. I have the Livescribe Sky pen and I recently purchased Livescribe Sticky Notes. By using these two items, I can take notes on the Sticky Notes and not only save them in the book, but they are saved in Evernote.

I can take the Sticky Notes with me and leave them in the book as I read. With my pen by my side, I can just add the notes as they come up and annotate the book as well. This book club idea has me thinking though.

What if I took the books we read in class and did my own annotations using the Sticky Notes? After the notes were saved, I could then post a public link on my website or drop those notes in another shared notebook with my students and they could have my notes while they read. Maybe note specific notes, but perhaps I add guiding questions. The Livescribe pen and the Sticky Notes can change the way I teach annotation with my students and can add a layer of class discussion that I haven't been able to have.

If I allow the students to edit the notes I share with them, the students could actually add their thoughts and ideas to the annotated notes I left. This could create a crowdsourced collection of annotations for the entire class to see. This could have a serious impact on how my students study and share. It can also really help some of my struggling readers to see what others are thinking why they read and can also add their thoughts.

I think I am going to try this for Gatsby or Catcher this semester. I know that it will be some work on my end upfront, but once I do it the first time, I will have the annotated notes in Evernote and in my book for years to come.

For those of you looking at different ways to use their Livescribe pen, I think this is a fun and exciting way to use annotations in the classroom. Stay tuned as I explore Livescribe Pens in my classroom.

If you want to start your Evernote journey now, follow this link to sign up!

Monday, February 11, 2013

#NerdyCast Hits The Big Time

Tim and I have been teasing a huge announcement for the past couple of weeks. Well, here is the big announcement.
#NerdyCast is moving to BAM Radio!
The show will be focused on student engagement and we will have the best guests in the world on our show. We are excited to take #NerdyCast to the education world because we strongly feel that it is important to have good educational discussions and a hearty laugh as well.

We will keep you informed when the first episode will be available and we promise it will be as amazing as a baby T-Rex riding a unicorn over a rainbow during a total eclipse of the heart.

Check out this link for more information.

This pretty much sums up how Tim and I feel right now.

Monday, February 4, 2013

New @LivescribeK12 Education Bundles #edtech #edchat

I have been a big fan of Livescribe for a long time. Their pens have been awesome in allowing me to communicate with my students when I'm not around. The ability for me to do a pencast and upload it to Evernote has been key in helping me emphasize certain parts of my lesson plans. I know I'm not getting the most out of it, but I keep using it and discover new things to do with it all of the time.

I wanted to share with you some new educational bundles from Livescribe that might entice you to pick up a Livescribe pen for your classroom.

I love these deals that Livescribe is offering educators. School districts are tightening their belts when it comes to expenses and this is a great way to get amazing tech into your classroom for a cheaper price. Not only that, they are adding some great pieces to their awesome pens. The best practices guide, deployment guide and the extra ink cartridges are an excellent bonus when buying these bundles. 

Why should teachers have all of the fun with it comes to Livescribe. These pens are awesome for students who want to capture everything and their traditional pen and paper can't keep up! I also love that there is a chance to buy the great materials if you already own a Livescribe pen and are looking for ways to get even more out of it. It's a smart move. 

Livescribe is working hard to reach teachers and students to help them get the most out of their classroom. Their work with Evernote is another great step in the right direction. The Sky pen wifi connection that sends all of the work to an Evernote notebook has increased workflow for me and helped me stay a bit more organized. For those looking to finally take the plunge into the world of Livescribe, now is the best time to do it with these amazing bundles. 

For more information on the bundles, check out Livescribe's site and their PDF on the Bundles