Personal Learning Networks - Becoming a Networked School

Thursday, January 29, 2015 5 comments

This week I am responding to chapter 4 in Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Networked Classroom?

As I continue to read through this book I think more and more about the endless possibilities you could have with a networked classroom, but I can't help but think all of the work and time you need to put in to get a networked classroom up and running. 

Some of the advantages of a networked classroom could include overall student engagement. I don't think there is a teacher in the world that could argue that students are more engaged when they are learning about topics they are genuinely interested in. By working in your own personal network students will have the opportunity to access information that our general curriculum may not ever cover. When I think of advantages I also think about the life-long skills students will acquire. Jobs today are becoming more technology driven and it is inevitable that our students will most likely work in a field where they will need to communicate via the internet. By communicating and collaborating with others through a network students will continue to build and develop skills that will stick with them for a life time. 

Now, when I think about making the change to a networked classroom I have one thought that continually pops into my mind...the TIME! It's going to take a lot of time and planning up front (something teachers usually don't have a lot of). Also, as suggested in chapter 4, you are going to need a team of teachers who are willing to make the change with you. Change can be hard and change can be scary - finding educators who are willing to jump on board right away might be challenging. 

How can you slowly transition your classroom to a Networked Classroom?

I think making the transition to a networked classroom first requires 1:1 devices for students. I think it is important for students to have access to their networks at any time (students shouldn't have to double up on computers or have to "check out" laptops in advance from a grade level cart). In order to achieve this I believe the teacher (and/or school) will need to adopt a Bring Your Own Device policy. With a BYOD policy students are using technology that they are familiar with to access the networks they are familiar with. I'd love to see my students start connecting via our classroom blog, just by commenting in the comments on things I might share. Once we are comfortable with things like this students can start exploring different networking sites, such as Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, etc. 

There's some really great examples of how teachers are succeeding with their networked classrooms here in this article by SEEN (Southeast Education Network).

How can a Networked Classroom meet the needs of diverse learners?

Networked classrooms lend themselves perfectly for diverse learners. With a networked classroom students are all working on a common goal, but may be headed down their own, individual, path to get there. A Spanish speaking student may be learning the same content as his English speaking peers but he will be able to connect with people through his network that speak his native language.

Something Interesting to Pass Along...

As I was doing my research on networked classrooms I came across this article from Rice University, where this professor has been using networked classrooms since 1991!! 

If this professor could make it work 24 years ago then we can certainly make it work now! 

Tweeter of the Day

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 No comments
I've been wanting to do Tweeter of the Day ever since I saw Mrs. Delzer (from Top Dog Teaching) post about it. I'll admit that I was very nervous at do I get a group of 2nd graders ready to take over Twitter?! 

We started with a week dedicated to learning about Twitter. My kids knew a little bit about Twitter because they've heard me say "Smile! I'm posting this on Twitter" but they haven't really learned about Twitter. 

Day 1 - What Do We Use Twitter For?

We started by brainstorming. Students came up with great ideas. It was a bit challenging at first but when I said "Twitter is kind of like Facebook" it was a collective "Ohhhhhh! My mom has that!" and we were back in business. 

Day 2 - Who Follows Us?

We pulled up our Twitter account and checked out our followers. We made a list of the type of people who follow us - parents, teachers from our school, principals, teachers from other schools, and some of my friends. After we established who follows us we talked about what type of things might they want to see. We talked about how our audience is very diverse and we need to make sure we post things for all members of our audience (not just pictures for parents).

Day 3 - How Can We Connect With Twitter?

This day was a little tricky. Trying to explain how we could tweet "at" someone and how they could tweet back to us was a bit difficult. We started by finding our favorite authors on Twitter. Then we practiced sending tweets to them. 

The hard part was helping them understand that we won't always hear back from these people. We waited...and we waited...and we waited...all day but never had replies (I didn't think that we would) but the kids were pretty disappointed. We talked about it how popular these people are and how they must get a lot of tweets each day and it's probably hard for them to get back to people. Either way, we were still bummed. 

Day 4 - When is an Appropriate Time to Tweet?

I plan to let the "Tweeter of the Day" have unlimited access to the iPad so that they can tweet when they find something worthy of sharing; however, we had to discuss okay times and not okay times to tweet. 

Here is the list that the kids came up with:
(oops! Ignore the fact that I spelled *assemblies wrong!)

Day 5 - Twitter Rules and Guidelines

Finally, we worked together to come up with some rules for Twitter in the classroom. 

You'll notice that one rule says "Only Ms. Strunk can press 'send'", this rule is to ensure I proof read every tweet before it reaches the twitterverse. We talked about the internet, and that once something is out there it is there forever...which is why I want to be the final reader before it reaches our followers. 

*The students needed to know of that rule before creating the "When is a Good Time to Tweet?" chart. This helped students see that they cannot tweet when I'm in the middle of a lesson because I won't be available to proof read their tweet. 

We officially have begun Tweeter of the Day this week! Be sure you follow us @2ndWithStrunk to see how it's going. 

Listening Center with QR Codes

Saturday, January 24, 2015 1 comment
With the addition of 2 new iPad minis to our classroom (thank you I wanted to find a way for my students to have access to more books. I had heard of using QR codes in the past but I was nervous to get the project started. 

Once I put the binder in our classroom the kids were more than excited to begin watching and listening to all kinds of books. 

I got my binder cover from The 2 Teaching Divas,  you can find it in their store here.

Here's what you'll need to get started:
-Page Protectors

Once I had that ready to go I began scouring Teachers Pay Teachers for free QR Code Story downloads. Here are some of my favorites:

Once I had all of my QR Codes printed I began cutting them out and sorting by title. I thought the best way to organize the binder was alphabetically. 


My students do a great job of using the tabs and finding the books they want to read now. 

What I also love about the binder system is that it is easy to quickly add or remove QR Codes to at any time! The kids love to go through our library and give me suggestions of books they'd like to see in the binder. 

Do you use QR codes in your classroom as a listening center?  I'd love to hear how you use them and organize them! 

Personal Learning Networks - Using Twitter

Thursday, January 22, 2015 3 comments
This week's focus is something that I love more than anything - Twitter.

I would like to start off by saying, or maybe admitting, that I currently have 3 Twitter accounts. Yes, I have 3 separate accounts and there is a very good reason why. Each account serves a VERY different purpose. 

My first account, @Melanie_Strunk, was the account I started in high school. This account is locked down with privacy settings and I mainly use this account for staying in touch with friends, gossip magazines, celebrities, and other silly nonsense.

My next account, @ATrendyTeacher, is where I connect with teachers from all over the world. You may have noticed that this account is the one that I have linked up with my blog, my Facebook page, and my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I would consider this account most closely related to my PLN (personal learning network).

I enjoy watching Tweet Chats hosted by various educators or instructors from around the world. A Tweet Chat is when a group of people use a common hashtag to discuss a certain topic. Here's some more information on Tweet Chats:

Twitter Chats 101: A Step-By-Step Guide to Hosting or Joining a Twitter Chat

Here's a video on Tweet Chats presented by a marketing company. If you want to skip right to the nitty gritty on Tweet Chats jump to 3:21 and you can miss all the introductions.

If you'd like to experience your first Tweet Chat or "lurk" as we call it when you don't participate but just watch the conversation as it unfolds, be sure to check out some of these great hashtags that will bring you to fantastic Tweet Chats.

13 Great Twitter Chats Every Educator Should Check Out

My third and final account, @2ndWithStrunk, is used to connect with teachers, students and parents that are directly connected to my school and district. Some of the things that I do with this account are:

-Tweet reminders for parents and families. 
-Connect with authors and other educational figures that the students know.
-Tweeter of the Day (we are starting next week, check back for updates).
-Post pictures from projects, experiments, field trips, etc. 
-Participate in book studies with my staff using a common hashtag.

If you plan on associating a Twitter account with your class the one thing I suggest is that you update it frequently! My biggest pet peeve is when teachers set up things online and leave them empty all year. If you need help getting started check out the HootSuite app.

I use this app to schedule tweets. You can compose your tweets ahead of time and set a date and time for them to publish online. Here's what it looks like in the app...

This is a great way to make sure your followers will always be able to connect with your content. 

I hope after reading this you'll have some ideas on how to use Twitter with your kiddos or for yourself. Twitter can seem so foreign when you first start using it, but soon enough it will become second nature. 

Bachelor Bracket - Chris Soules

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 No comments
Let me take a minute to say that this has absolutely NOTHING to do with teaching or education, but sometimes you need to kick back and have some fun. 

If you're watching the Bachelor download this bracket and play along with us! 

Have fun! 

And Chris...if you're reading this and it doesn't work out with anyone, I'm always available!

Technology Tuesday

On this terrific technology Tuesday I'd like to share some of my favorite online reading sites. These sites are full of FREE read aloud that you will surely enjoy. 

We Give Books - for each book that is read online another book is donated to a charity for children.


Donors Choose - Getting Your Project Funded!

Friday, January 16, 2015 No comments

You know that you'd love to have that iPad for your classroom. Or maybe you've been dreaming of a class set of clipboards -- Donors Choose is the site for you! 

If you haven't heard of, it is a site where teachers can post projects (things they need for the classroom) and people can donate from all over the world. 

I could go on and on about how to set up your account and how to go shopping but there's already resources out there for that. 

I want to share with you my best advice to get your project fully funded...and quickly! 

Once I my project was approved I shared the link with everyone. I also talked about it ALL the time! My hope was that if I talked about it in the classroom that the students would begin talking about it at home. Sure enough...they did. 

I chose not to send out intentional "GIVE US MONEY" emails but I tucked it into weekly emails and our newsletter. Each week I sent a progress report to our families. I also made sure to tell the kids each time we got closer to our goal. 

Caring Classrooms is one of the coolest Facebook pages I have come across. The page's purpose is to spread the word about Donors Choose projects. On the page you'll find rules on how to submit your project. This is definitely a page you want to follow, if you can get your project on here you'll get TONS of exposure and you'll be one step closer to fully funding your project.

Get that super cute picture of your kiddos (with parent permission of course), compose a letter with your Donors Choose information, and put their sweet signatures at the bottom of the page - once you have this head on out into the community. Hit up some of your local businesses after school. Remember that letter you made earlier, with the cute picture and the scribbled signatures, leave that with the business owners. No one can say no to cute kids. At least not to your face lol! 

Make sure you let everyone know that their donation will be matched by Donors Choose if they make a donation within the first 7 days of your project being posted. This should be included in your newsletter, on your class blog/website, everywhere! 

Now...this option might not work for everyone, but I wanted to share anyway! If you run a TPT store offer to trade FREE PRODUCTS for donations. I advertised on my A Trendy Teacher page that if anyone made a $5 donation they could email me and receive a free product from my store. Of course this was a no-brainer, it cost me nothing! I also made sure to run this special during the first 7 days so that donations would be matched.

What are your best Donors Choose tips? Have you gotten any projects funded? What would you do differently next time?

Personal Learning Networks - Chapters 1 and 2

Thursday, January 15, 2015 3 comments
Hi all!

Many of you may be reading this as part of the requirement for our Online Applications for Technology class, and some of you may be just browsing through my blog. For those of you who aren't in my class I'd like to take a second and tell you a little bit about the project we're working on. I'm currently working to complete my Masters in Educational Technology through Missouri Baptist University. This semester I'm working on another online course and we are required to read Personal Learning Networks, Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education and blog about it each week.

If you're interested in getting your hands on your own copy you can find it, here, on Amazon.

Alright...back to the assignment. 

Chapters 1 and 2:

"We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea than an education is something that we create for ourselves" -Stephen Downes

That quote was taken from Stephen Downes' essay "A World to Change" and was quoted within the first chapter of the book. I found this quote to sum up exactly the shift we are beginning to see in education. With the technology and the resources that we have available I believe that it is so important that our students (and colleagues) start to see that the possibilities are endless.

As I continued to read through chapter 1 I found myself excited when I came across the seven common traits of students who participate in professional learning networks (or PLNs). Of course every teacher wants their students to be:

-better prepared for life and work in the 21st century.
-more engaged in the classroom.
-responsible for their own learning.
-able to receive more individualized instruction.

Schools are also able to save time and money and the adults become better at their jobs and build problem-solving capacity. As I continued reading I became more and more eager to implement PLNs in my classroom. However, after reading that making the shift to PLNs requires a commitment to move to a networked learning culture I could only wonder, how can you make this work when your whole building doesn't make the shift?

After reading chapter 2 and seeing all the ways you can work to build your own PLN I was feeling pretty confident. About a year ago I started my journey across the internet to connect with teachers from all over the world - one of the reason's I started this very blog! In addition to the blog I love Facebook as a networking tool. I belong to the Facebook group Primary Teacher Ideas and Resources. There are over 6,000 teachers who belong to this group. I have learned that it is great to have a sounding board that has no direct relationship with my school or district. Twitter is another great resource (follow me @2ndWithStrunk). Our building utilizes Twitter a lot. Our administrators often share links on Twitter and we use the tool to host book talks with our staff on a weekly basis with a building hashtag. 

I am looking forward to continuing this book and finding ways to transfer my love of networking into the classroom to benefit my students. 

"Without sharing there is no education." -David Wiley

Technology Tuesday

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 No comments
This week's Technology Tuesday has a focus on Brain Teasers
Brain Teasers are a great way to practice those critical thinking skills. If you like puzzles then these are the games for you! 

Check back next week for more technology fun!

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