Thursday, November 19, 2015

Twitter 101: The Who, How, What, When, Where & Why from #NT2T Chat

There are many, many, many education focused chats on Twitter but if you are taking the next step in becoming a connected educator and have recently joined twitter then participating in #NT2T (New Teachers to Twitter) chat is the best way to begin. #NT2T is a warm, welcoming chat moderated by Stephan Hughes (@Stephwurking), Julie Szaj (@Shyj) and Marty Keltz (@Martysnowpaw). Each week has a different theme but it always focuses on the tips, tricks, resources and ideas that will help new teachers navigate through the Twittersphere. If you haven't had the opportunity to participate in this fantastic chat then you are missing out! You can catch #NT2T chat every Saturday morning at 9AM EST. 

On November, 14th I had the incredible honor to guest moderate this fantastic chat. Our theme was Twitter 101 and new along with veteran Twitter users shared their expertise on how to get the most out of this online social network. So many fabulous resources and ideas were exchanged in the chat that it warranted a blog post to share all of this awesome! You can see the full chat storified by Stephan Hughes here

Love this quote by Dave Mulder. It really captures the power of Twitter!

Why should we encourage others to join Twitter?

Twitter is an incredible resource for us as connected educators. As Elizabeth (@StJMagistra) points out, it is a constant stream of personal learning. With such fabulous personalized professional development available to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week it is hard not to want to share the amazing world of Twitter with all of our colleagues. We can encourage others to join Twitter through professional development presentations like this one shared with us by Elizabeth. Alice Keeler (@AliceKeeler) also has a great blog post all about facilitating signing teachers onto Twitter. Also check out The Beginners Guide to Twitter Part 1 from for a simple easy to digest guide for those new to Twitter.

What do terms like MT & RT mean?

With only 140 characters there are a lot of shortened terms and abbreviations thrown around. So what do terms like RT and MT mean and how do we use these effectively to get the most out of our tweets? As Max (@now_teach_this) shared RT= Retweet is used to reshare the information you found interesting or informative. MT= Modified Tweet is for resharing and editing something that someone tweeted. With the new "quoting" feature it's easy to add your own comments on someone's tweet, plus their original tweet shows as well so others know where the tweet came from. This Twitter Cheat Sheet has list of all of these key terms and much more! 

Where can you find resources for connecting with others?

There are tons of resources on and off of Twitter that help us get and stay connected with other educators. Steve Peterson (@Principal_P) recommends checking out Jerry Blumengarten's (@cybraryman1) Twitter page which is a great resource if you are ready to sift through all things Twitter. Edudemic's (@edudemicTeacher's Guide to Twitter contains a guide to educational hashtags, 101 ways to use Twitter, a cheat sheet and more. 

When are your favorite Twitter chats?

So many Twitter chats, so little time! Participating in Twitter chats and engaging in discussions with others is the ultimate way to grow your PLN (professional learning network). There are more chats available to you than you could possibly participate in but we can certainly try! Julie Jones (@JuliePJones) recommends searching the official Educational Twitter Chat Calendar to find chats to meet your needs. If you want a more narrowed down list check out Craig Kemp's (@MrKempnz) Top 8 Twitter Chats for Educators. #NT2T gave a shout out to their favorite Twitter chats as well which are listed by day below. If you see any errors in times or links below please let me know so that I can update the post =)

#IAedchat Sundays at 8PM CT (shared by Dave Mulder @d_mulder)
#1stchat Sundays at 8ET (shared by Terry Stoufer @firstatbat)

#PrimaryRocks Mondays 8PM UK Time (shared by Maryse @AllThingsMaths)
#leadwithgiants Mondays at 5pm MT (shared by Lesley Dahlkemper @LDahlkemper)
#TLAP (Teach Like A Pirate) Mondays at 9PM ET (shared by Erin @butterfli820)
#TOSAChat Mondays at 8PT (shared by me =)

#EdChat Tuesdays at 7PM ET (shared by Jonathan Eagan @coacheagan)
#TotallyRossome Tuesdays at 9ET (shared by Brian @btcostello05)
#K12PRchat every other Tuesday at 5PM MT (shared by Lesley Dahlkemper @LDahlkemper)

#Mathschat Wednesdays 8pm UK Time (shared by Maryse @AllThingsMaths)
#sblchat (Standards Based Learning) Wednesdays at 9PM ET (shared by Dave Mulder @d_mulder)
#Edbeat Wednesdays at 6PM MT (shared by Lesley Dahlkemper @LDahlkemper)
#PTchat Wednesdays 9ET (shared by Jeremy Bond @JeremyDBond)
#weirded Wednesdays at 8PT (shared by Brian @btcostello05)

#k12artchat Thursdays 8:30PM CT (shared by Nazia Sikander @NaziaSikander)
#WhatIsSchool Thursdays at 6ET (shared by Terry Stoufer @firstatbat and the moderator himself Craig Kemp @mrkempnz)
#SOBTC (Send Our Boys to College) Every other Thursday at 7:30 ET (shared by David Billikopf @DavidBillikopf
#ElemMathChat Thursdays 9 ET (shared by Terry Stoufer @firstatbat)
#Ditchbook Thursdays at 7PST (shared by me =)

#Inzpired Fridays at 9:30 ET (shared by Terry Stoufer @firstatbat)

#Satchat at 6:30 CT (shared by Elizabeth @StJMagistra, echoed by Lisa Rosenfeld @lisarosenfield)
#NT2T Saturday at 9AM ET (shared by Elizabeth @StJMagistra echoed by Natalie Slick @Natalie_Slick96, Erin @butterfli820, Lilo Stephans @lilostep)

#BFC530 (Daily) (shared by Erin @butterfli820)

Who do you recommend other educators follow on Twitter?

The best way to grow your PLN is to participate in a Twitter chat and find people who inspire, encourage and challenge you. However, it is sometimes nice to have a list of those others have followed and recommend as powerful additions to our PLN. Craig Kemp provided us with his 10 Steps to Creating the Perfect Twitter Account which has a list of his top follows. Below are the educators the #NT2T participants gave their seal of "follow" approval to in no particular order. 


How can we get the most out of a Twitter chat?

Most Twitter chats are Q&A style chats, like #NT2T, which post a question using Q1, Q2 etc, then participants answer using the A1, A2 format. Once you have a few chats under your belt, and feel comfortable, you can move beyond the Q&A to engage with others and get the most out of a chat. Jonathan Eagan (@coacheagan) suggests responding to comments and quoting tweets from others who have answered. It can spark powerful side conversations where you can take the topic discussion further. Kory Graham (@korytellers) challenges us to find those tweets that really get us thinking and let that dig us into a conversation. You can continue the conversation after the chat has officially ended either on Twitter, direct message, email, Voxer etc. Like Jonathan and Kory said, be brave and contribute, don't be shy! 


Be sure to catch #NT2T chat every Saturday at 9AM ET and follow the marvelous moderators Stephan Hughes (@Stephwurking), Julie Szaj (@Shyj) and Marty Keltz (@Martysnowpaw) for details about upcoming chat topics. You can also join the #NT2T G+ Community and check out #NT2TEU, a chat for New Teachers to Twitter in the UK happening every Tuesday at 9PM BST! So mark your calendars and invite a friend to #NT2T. See you there! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Starting Our STEM Lab & Making Our Makerspace: Tips, Tricks, Resources & Ideas We Learned About Along the Way.

*In an effort to honor the true meaning of a Makerspace, as defined by the ones who paved the way, I want to clarify that our lab is truly a STEM Lab with the element of a makerspace added in. We offer time for our students to tinker, create, play and explore without the constraints of an objective or directions to follow. However, our STEM Lab does have challenges and a little more structure that offers us an opportunity to meet the NGSS (especially Engineering Design) in an engaging and exciting hands-on learning environment. For more information about the meaning of a true Makerspace check out What is a Makerspace by Colleen Graves.

On October 1st, 2015 the very first class entered our STEM lab and it was truly magical. The kids were engaged, they were learning, exploring and discovering the entire time they were in there. It was the moment we had worked so hard when we created this innovative learning space. It was a long journey that our little STEM lab team took to get there and we learned a lot along the way!

The lab was originally Wendy Townlin's (@wtownlin) idea. She wanted to create a dedicated science lab for our school. It evolved into a STEM lab, then (with a little help from twitter) we decided to add in the element of a makerspace. With the support of our awesome principal Kris Martin-Meyer, four of us, Wendy, Amanda Young (@ajyoung53), Claire Simon (@MissSimon246) and I put our heads together, researched, reflected then began building. Here are some things we learned about along the way.

1. Put your resources and ideas in one spot. For us that place was a collaborative Pinterest page. We were able to add ideas and resources from twitter, facebook, TPT or anywhere we found inspiration. Here is a link to our STEM Lab/Makerspace Pinterest page.

2. Find great people to connect with and follow those twitter that are already doing it! Don't reinvent the wheel. We visited Live Oak Elementary School in San Ramon, CA because we had heard they were doing amazing things with technology. There we connected with Nick Zefeldt (@nzefeldt) and Chi Shui who shared their awesome with us and gave us some incredible ideas. We also followed the experts on twitter then took ideas that worked for us (and that we could afford to do) and tweaked them as we went along. The great thing about twitter is that we were able to tweet to them and ask questions and they will respond and help! There are a TON of amazing people out there doing great things be sure to check out Elementary Library Makerspace Resources by Colleen Graves. Here are our go-to makerspace gurus.

3. Invest in some cool tech tools. We LOVE our Dash robots, Cubelets, LittleBits and Green Screen (used w/ DoInk app @DoInktweets). There are many great devices and tools out there but here are the ones we started with.

  • Dash Robots by Wonder Workshop. Dash is very popular in our STEM Lab/Makerspace! A cute little robot that can be programmed using apps at various levels. Dash is a fantastic edition because it can be used by our Transitional Kindergarten (TK) students as well as our fifth graders. The apps provide different levels of programming skills so the possibilities for using Dash are endless! 
  • Cubelets from Modular Robotics. Cubelets are robot blocks that kids as young as TK can put together to form tons of different types of robots. We also purchased the Lego adapters to make even more creations! 
  • LittleBits by LittleBits. Small electronic building blocks that snap together to make circuits. We started out with 5 Base Kits and upgraded with 5 Gizmo and Gadgets kits. Each LittleBits tub we have contains the two kits, 5 Lego adapters and a bag of "maker" materials (cardboard tubes, tape, wire, lightbulbs, straws, paper cups, rubber bands and more) so students are able to create amazing things! We love these LittleBits Task Cards from Mrs. J in the Library. A freebie from TPT!
  • Green Screen backdrop from Chromakey sold on Amazon. We used PVC pipe to make a frame for the screen so it is moveable. Using the green screen with the DoInk app available on the App Store is an easy way to start using a green screen. If you want a cheap way to get a green screen check out the bright green shower curtains from the Dollar Store, they work great! 

4. Build a Lego and Pegboard wall! We are VERY proud of our Lego wall and pegboard wall. The building, creating and engineering that is happening in these two spaces is pretty cool. Watching the kids put together pvc pipe to build a marble run or use the Legos to make a map of the school is pretty fantastic. Plus they are just plain fun! To make our Lego wall we followed Diana Rendina's tips found here.
The students came up with the idea to make a marble run on the Lego wall! 
These third graders worked hard designing this one.

5.  Find ways to connect and extend the learning after the students leave the lab. We are constantly growing and thinking of new ways to use our resources. Attending conferences, viewing webinars or finding information on twitter is a great way to get ideas. Our team attended FallCue in October and got a ton of great ideas to help us make sure we are using all of these "cool tools" to meet multiple Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. We have our students complete this STEM lab reflection hyperdoc after visiting the lab as one way to extend the learning after their time in the lab. We also reach out to our professional learning network on twitter as often as we can. Check out the storify from a #DITCHBook (Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller +Matt Miller) twitter chat all about Makerspaces where many great ideas, tips and resources were shared.

The most important factor in making our STEM Lab & Makerspace successful is creating a culture of innovation at your site. Our STEM Lab & Makerspace would be just that, a space with a bunch of cool tools if we didn't have an amazing staff that is constantly learning and growing to meet the needs of our diverse community of makers. The staff at Sun Terrace Elementary School (@SunTerrace1) deserves some major props for all that they do to bring STEM education to our students!

Do our kids enjoy our STEM Lab & Makerspace? These quotes, written on our cabinets turned into a whiteboard comment wall, say it all!