Twitter-What is it and why would I use it?

I’ve read many blogs and sites on the “how do you twitter” but haven’t come across many about the why you would twitter. So I thought I would blog about my thoughts on the why aspect.

The first time I saw Twitter, I didn’t get it at all so don’t worry, you are not the only one. It took me almost a month before I saw any point to it. Now, it has revolutionized how I learn and relate with others.

I actually think this video doesn’t show the whole picture. If you only tweeted about how you had coffee this morning or mowed the lawn, people wouldn’t follow you. You need to provide something substantial and interesting.

So what is Twitter?

Simply put, it is a social networking tool. The best analogy I can make is it is much like the status updates on Facebook. It provides a quick way to say what you are working or doing now. However, Facebook limits your status updates (unless you make it public) to friends or people in your network. Twitter extends this to the rest of the world.

You can follow practically anyone. Many prominent faces in the world are twittering from Obama and McCain to Britney Spears and Shaquille O’Neil. Read more about it here

Great, now why would I ever want to share what I am doing with a bunch of strangers?

Think about it this way. Why would you go to a educational conference or workshop? To find out about what best practices are out there, make connections with teachers and hopefully learn something new. However, sometimes you go to workshops that are fascinating and want to learn more from the presenter. Usually you forget about this workshop or lose their business card they gave you. Twitter allows you maintain contact and read updates, new blog posts or interesting websites that they find automatically. You do this by “following” them on Twitter.

Slowly, your network grows as you follow more people. You develop a niche of people who are interested in similar things as you. Once you have this network, you an ask them questions and build on a shared knowledge from this network. This is often referred as a PLN (personal learning network).

If you don’t have a network, I agree it is useless. If you just had a random group of people that you were following, you might ocassionally learn something new but significantly less that you do in your own PLN. I would say you probably need to find and follow at least 20 or more people who have a common interest you. I usually add international teachers or people involed in technology. My passion is technology so I get all sorts of links and great information from them.

So how might I get followed by others?

Like any team, you need to give as well as take. If you don’t “give anything” than people aren’t going to follow you. Everyone has some knowledge to offer others whether it be a good website, a great technology tool or a better teaching strategy. Share it! Slowly, you will start appearing in search results and people will recognize this and add you. This creates a culture of reciprocity. If you aren’t a team player, Twitter might not be for you.

Here is a image from my recent twitter history:

On the left is all tweets from people I have followed. In the middle, are specific replies from others to me. As you can see, each tweet is short and have links to interesting topics or ideas. It’s like 1 big sharing circle! A twitter friend (@mscofino) posted some photos her class had taken about fractions. I am teaching Fractions next week and gave me a good teaching idea to do.

So that is a little about the what and why. It may or may not make sense to you at this point. The best way to understand something though is to go and experience it and defer judgement. Try it out for awhile and slowly you will start to see the benefits and become addicted.

For a detailed how to get started, go to this blog site that is designed by and for teachers:

http://onceateacher.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/a-teachers-guide-to-twitter/#comments

http://twitterforteachers.wetpaint.com

Team Teaching=Team Learning

“Wow, why haven’t we been doing this all year?” we both said to each other. We are both Grade 2 teachers, passionate about teaching, and had very little time to plan these experiments. Our team had been planning a series of science experiments for our Grade 2 classes. We had the same schedule and so the logical thing was to try and put both our classes together (16 in each) and team teach each experiment. On top of that, we were given some rather mundane outdated science lessons (although very comprehensive). We decided to spruce them up. The results were amazing.

Not only did it enhance the actual instruction we gave to the kids but the students benefited with working with each other through a series of hands-on experiences on Changes in Matter. We had both our classes sit together on the floor of the science lab while we walked them through essential understandings, big questions and had students make predictions. Students were partnered up with their science buddy.

One of the greatest benefits during the lesson delivery was that we could piggy-back on each others questions and ideas. When you are doing a lesson on your own, you don’t have that think time during instruction. The beauty of having another set of teacher eyes and ears is that you could clarify points that the other teacher made or left out. We would also learn teaching ideas from each other. Simple things that sometimes you forget to use as a teacher but seeing it modeled by a colleague with you quickly reminds you of the benefits.

The other benefit was that we could plan ideas to extend the experiments or reteach areas that students were struggling with. For example, we had an extra experiments set up at the back where students could go if they finished early and make observations on shells and rocks, draw diagrams or combine different mixtures. This idea came out of planning together.

Furthermore, we would always have a wrap up whole class(es) discussion at the end where students could summarize their observations and inferences and we could guide them in their understanding. We added some fun to it and would choose “Top Scientists” who made great observations, helped out, answered questions carefully, etc. We would give them little stickers that they put on their science lab books. Although extrinsic in nature, stickers motivated students throughout the lesson and increased the quality of work. Who says stickers are a bad thing? 🙂

Finally, it helped with classroom logistics. Luckily, we had a lab assistant set up all the experiments beforehand. But during the experiments, problems happen. A students spills water or loses their lab work. Having 2 teaching bodies in there allows one to deal with the issue while the other can move the class along.

So the questions remain, why did it work so successfully between our 2 classes? We both have similar constructivist teaching styles which helps. Another reason is that we have a “yes and..” approach. In other words, if one teacher has an idea, the other says yes and builds upon the idea. Will it work with other classes and teachers? Who knows but would love to hear about other success stories.

We are both so excited about the idea that we are now going to team teach Math lessons..in the science lab!

Making our own fun

I believe it’s time for a little mid-year reflection of life in Malaysia.

KL is a fun place to live in. Even more fun when you have the right people to spend it with. A friend said to me recently, “it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, it’s who you are with.” Though I’ve always believed this, for some reason, this really resonated with me. I’ve had just as much fun at the beach in Cherating (east coast of Malaysia) as I’ve had anywhere. When Malaysians look at me funny as if why would you ever want to go there?! Well, it is a beach but not a fancy resort, no kite surfing or fire shows. Each time I’ve gone, I’ve been fortunate to have the right group of friends around. Instead, we make our own fun.

Making our own fun. This brought back nostalgic memories of childhood, way before the internet, video games or even cable tv were invented where I would meet my friends on the corner of the block and we would jump on our BMX bikes through the foothills of the outskirts of surburbian Calgary looking for an adventure. We would go on quests to find tadpoles and gophers. We would play tag for hours on this little playground. No plans. No passive entertainment. During these times, we used our own creativity and spontaneity to laugh and enjoy the moment.

Perhaps this is such a rare commodity in today’s fast paced, techno-filled world where we expect that the world owes us entertainment at the snap of a finger. I see this in my students too. They crave those precious minutes during the day where I can let them simply be kids and create their own games and fun.

I saw two videos recently that really made me think about creativity, learning and being grateful in life. The first one I watched on TED talks (linked) on how schools are killing creativity. The other was just a funny one I saw on a friend’s facebook page from the Conan O’Brian show. Here’s the link The comedian had a good point though, we have come to raise the bar in what we expect in life. Even a simple thing as making a phone call, we take for granted. Just think of our students who have never known anything different.

For me, I guess I value creativity a little more and appreciate the moments I have along the way with the friends I have.