Twitter Useful for Education?

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YES, Absolutely!

I have been using Twitter; for professional and personal reasons since the summer of 2007. I currently follow 579 people, 750 people follow me and I’ve had almost 4,000 updates (3,946 right now to be exact!). I use Twitter, mostly, to tap the collective brains of the people in my network and to also provide them resources and glimpses into my life as an Instructional Technology Specialist. When I have a question, I ask it on Twitter and get a response (or 10 or more!) within SECONDS. When I’m doing something cool with students and teachers, I post it on Twitter and often solicit questions. When I’ve found a really cool resource, I share it on Twitter for my network to benefit from.

So, what is Twitter exactly? Well, at the very basic level, Twitter users answer the question, “What are you doing?” But, as explained above, it can be much much more than that. In my opinion, Twitter IS the people you follow and the people who follow you – your Personal Learning Network. Someone who joins Twitter and only has 5 followers and only follows 5 people will NOT, in my opinion, get the most out of Twitter. You need to build your network to allow for the magic to happen. Start by following a few people (you can follow me:diannekrause :), then see who they follow, and start following a few of them. Eventually people will start following you and you can then decide whether you want to follow them back or not. The glory is that you have total control who is in your network, at all times.

Of course, Twitter can also be a huge time suck if you allow it to be. No, I do not read ALL the Tweets (that’s what individual messages are called) that come through my account, but I do read the Tweets from the people in my most immediate Personal Learning Network – mostly educators and people like me from Pennsylvania. To help out in the organization of all this information and status updates, I use a 3rd party application called TweetDeck; to separate all the Tweets out into groups of my choosing. There are many such applications out there so you do not have to always navigate to to read your Tweets.

So, is there a place for Twitter in education? YES! Check out these resources to see how, and how you can get started with Twitter yourself. Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask!

Check out this cool presentation…

See you on Twitter, hopefully!!

a whole new blog

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So yesterday I decided to take the jump over to edublogs from blogger for my personal and professional blogging needs. There really aren’t a whole bunch of reasons why, but here are a few. Firstly, I feel that edublogs is a better environment in which to post my thoughts about about the evolution of education. Blogger seems to just be anyone’s environment, where edublogs has a specific focus. I want to be a part of the larger education community as a whole and this is a step towards that. Also, the themes are pretty cool! I’m using this green one for now but I might change it as I adapt to the new environment.

Another reason for switching blog services comes with the name of the blog. I wanted a clean, fresh start in the blogosphere. Yes, I’ve brought all my old posts over from blogspot because I didn’t want to lose what I’ve already done. But I also wanted a new place to start over, and this is it.

I’ve been trying to think of a good name for my blog since I decided to make the switch yesterday and am throwing around a few ideas: iDianne, iTech, iTech Connect, and others. One day there will be a new name, but for now, this one is appropriate.

Putting it all together

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So I’ve had loads of fun checking out all the new links, resources and tools that I learned about at the Keystone Summit. Now, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty and think about how I’m going to actually use what I have learned. How am I going to get my students to use the technology without even realize it? How am I going to teach them how to use the tools and learn the curriculum along the way? How am I going to seamlessly integrate all this great technology!?

Here are a few of my general ideas with questions and calls for help!

I’ve already created my own, and one for the students, but what about the students creating them? Where do they fit in? Taking inspiration from Kristin Hokanson’s Learning Latin America project, I hope to guide my students in creating a wikispace for the Regions of France. I have an existing project that involves a webquest, a powerpoint, and a sample recipe. I plan to modify the project in such a way that the students will be creating a wikispace about the Regions, with each group creating the page for their region. Each group will have to present their page and create an activity to go along with their presentation. I still have a lot of thinking, organization, and planning to do, but I’ve created the wikispace for it already!…

Now, for French 5, I am thinking about using the wiki as the ‘home base’ of all online work. And as mentioned below, I’m considering using the wiki for the discussion board too. French 4… not much room in the curriculum for a wiki construction project but I’m still thinking on it…

Discussion Boards-
Last year I used eSchoolbuilder for my French 5 discussion board, and although it worked well with my students, could there be something better out there for me to use? I’ve considered using just the discussion tab on the French 5 wiki page, but that isn’t as secure as eSchoolbuilder was. I have also created a Google groups account for French 5, and that’s another way to go. I would really love to use the wiki though because then everything can be all in one place. I have to still decide on this one.. any suggestions?

I also have an issue with how to provide valuable feedback to my students with their discussion board entries. Last year they just got a grade and hardly any verbal or written feedback from me. The class surveys at the end of the year told me that they wanted and needed feedback from me. I’m struggling with how to give my students feedback in such a way that it is natural for me and not too time consuming. Any ideas?

As you’ve seen if you visit my pages, I love Voki. I want my students to all make at least one this year. I’m trying to work out when is the best time in the curriculum for each of my courses to do this. I am absolutely going to get the French 5 students to create them as introductions of themselves for their epals. French 4 – probably during the unit in which they discuss relationships and getting along with people.. maybe as a ‘video-dating’ thing where they describe themselves. Forum – Probably during the Quebec unit where they discuss what sports and activities they like to do. It’s just a really cool tool that I think the students will really get into. And if they are writing their scripts and speaking in French, they are learning along the way!

Comic Life-
I already have my Forum students create a comic strip during the Belgium unit in which we study the popularity of comics in Europe. The project currently involves Power Point. I have had students use Flash and other software in the past, but I would love it if this year’s students used Comic Life. I could offer them a variety of tools to use and have them choose, but Comic Life is very cool and I think the students will love it. I just have to get them all to DL and install it… that may be an issue.

I will absolutely be having my students all create at least one podcast this year. I have already begun to restructure a French 4 project to include a podcasted advertisement for a hotel. Last year they presented their advertisement to the class, but next year they will be scripting and recording a podcast advertisement along with a brochure made in publisher. The students told me they really liked the project last year so this year has one more added element that they will love! (I hope).

I think French 5 will have multiple opportunities to record podcasts but I need to figure out when they best fit into the curriculum. I think I will have them use podcasts a lot for their epals, instead of letters. We will still do both but I think that the addition of audio and maybe even video will create deeper exchanges for the students. The students last year really enjoyed their epals and having a connection with someone in the world who actually speaks this language they are learning. If we add pod and vodcasts to the exchange, I can see these feelings of connection only get stronger.

I have also found and subscribed to several French language learning podcasts through iTunes that I will share with the students on my wiki. I may even challenge the students to find more and post them to the wiki for extra credit!

For the past 8 years or so of my teaching, I’ve had my students create video skits in which they demonstrate communicating in French using vocabulary and grammar they learned in class. Over the years the final products have become better and many students now edit their videos on the computer and are really good at adding music, transitions, titles, etc. But, I still get some videos filmed on VHS with bloopers in the middle, missed lines of dialog, horrible shooting techniques and so forth. This year I want to REALLY teach the students how to make a video. Of course the French and the curricular value is important, but so is creating a great final product. So, instead of just assigning the project and telling the students it is due in 3 weeks, I plan on guiding the students to better resources about making videos and giving them at least a day’s instruction on good techniques and tips on how to create a good video. I also plan on taking more class time to collaborate on the projects instead of just having them do it all outside of class. This way I can guide and help my students not only with the French aspect of their creations, but also the video-creation aspect and their pride in their final product.

Hrm, this one I’m still trying to tackle. I know it would be an awesome learning experience and opportunity for each of my French students to maintain a blog in French, but the thing that gets me is how I will keep up with it all. Currently I have epal letters and discussion board topics to read and assess. How would I do it with a blog for each student too? And where would they put their blogs? Google? Blogspot? WordPress? Others? How to assess & give feedback?

I would also love to use tools like Slideshare, Flickr, Jing, Box, VoiceThread and so forth with my students. I figure the best way to teach these tools is to just use them and show how to get them as I go along. I learned about them by seeing them on wikis and blogs and clicking and researching. I will encourage my students to do the same. I know that I do not have enough time in the curriculum to TEACH the technology and teach French, but I can guide my students and give them plenty of resources to help them out.

But as I sit here, I know there are a lot more things out there that I don’t know about yet. Anything I’ve missed?? 🙂

Voki fun

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So today I spent my time creating Vokis. You can check out the one for this blog to the right. The other 3 I created are on my wiki, teacher website and work blog:

I am now thinking about how I can use Voki with my students next year. I have already decided that my French 5 students will be making them to introduce themselves to their epals, and I may have the French 4 students do something similar.

How would you integrate Voki into your courses?