8 Ways to Engage Students in Distance Learning

“Every student can learn, just not on the same day, or the same way.” By George Evans

With districts going back to school with distance learning or virtual learning in place, educators are wondering what they need to do to keep students engaged. Many of the same strategies educators engage students in a “regular” classroom should still be in place in a virtual classroom. Below are ways you can engage students in distance learning.

  1. Mini-Lessons: Lessons should be engaging and also short, no more than 10 mins. Teachers need to think about teaching in shorter chunks and only one skill/standard at a time. For example, in Math if you are teaching subtraction, teach only one strategy at a time; allowing students to master it before going on.
  2. Choice Boards, Playlists and/or Pathways: Having an instructional design is important for the students as it helps them understand expectations and procedures. The first few weeks should be spent on helping students understanding what the expectations are so they can take ownership of their learning. Having an instructional design will also help educators identify what standard they are needing support on from pre-assessments. Check out these resources if you want to incorporate these instructional designs into your classroom. How to create a Choice Board and Playlist Versus Pathway.
  3. Discussions: Having students participating in academic discourses is a great way to engage learners. You can have whole group conversations but you get more engagement in small groups. In Zoom, creating small groups is easy to do as breakouts is an awesome feature when you are the host. If you are using Google Meets this becomes more difficult but still doable; you have to set up several meetings and provide links to each of the groups of students. In other learning management systems you can do discussions asynchronous thought discussion boards.
  4. Brain Boosts: Also known as brain breaks, helps learners reduce stress and frustration and increase attention and productivity. I suggest after a mini-lesson having students do a brain boost like the ones on Go Noodle or make up your own as a way to transition into guided or independent practice; just like you would do in “regular” face to face classroom environment.
  5. Goal Setting and Reflection: Goal setting is a great way to intrinsically motivate learners. Every Monday have students set learning goals in a goal journal for each subject so it becomes a weekly habit. You can easily make a goal journal using either a Google Doc template or create your own and then have students copy the template. Educators will need to model how to set goals for the students. Then at the end of the week, have the students reflect on their learning goals.
  6. Choose Your Own Adventure Books: They are fun to read but even more fun when the students are creating their own and reading each others. You can easily create choose your own adventure books by using Google Slides and hyperlink the different slides. Having the students start with a story board to draft their ideas and thoughts before beginning helps the students be more productive. Check out this site for more information and examples of Choose Your Own Adventure.
  7. HyperDocs: A HyperDoc is a digital document where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one document. You can create interactive Hyperdocs on different topics or have students create their own to show what they know! Checkout this Facebook Hyperdoc group that shares a lot of ideas and resources.
  8. Publish: When students know their work is going to be shared and viewed by others they become more engaged in the outcome. Have students share their screens or have them create their own Google site to be to create a portfolio of their finished projects etc.

Here are more resources about student engagement you might be interested in:

Tech Tools for Engagement by Thomas Murray

5 Digital Tools to Promote Collaboration

25 Strategies to Engage Students on Your Next Zoom Meeting

8 Ideas Designed to Engage Students In Active Learning Online

I would love to hear more ways you are engaging students in a distance learning setting, share in the comments below.

8 Sites to Help Educators Prepare for Distance Learning

“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” By Herbert Spencer

For the start of the school year 20-21, the current trend is that districts are moving to distance learning for at least the first few weeks. As educators are preparing for the start of the school year they will need professional learning opportunities.

Thinking outside the box of what professional learning looks like besides attending a course; below are my favorite sites to gain instructional ideas, tips and tricks for distance learning through blogs, podcasts, videos and more!

Caitlin Tucker: Her blogs, her books and her tweets are chalk-full of ideas of incorporating technology meaningfully so students are engaged. She breaks things down for you to make it manageable to try her ideas in the classroom.

ASCD Webinars: ASCD’s free webinar series brings experts in the field of education anytime and anywhere. Our webinars address timely and relevant topics like student engagement, classroom technology, and instructional strategies. They archive each webinar so that you can get your professional development on demand.

Cult of Pedagogy: Choose the way you learn best by reading, listening or seeing as Jennifer Gonzalez has an amazing blog, podcast and videos. She also has courses you can pay for at a low cost.

Ditch That Textbook: They have curated and created over 50 back to school activities for the distance learning.

Free Technology For Teachers: Richard has a lot of great ideas on his blog but don’t miss his YouTube Channel as he has a regular series of tutorial videos including more than 400 Google tools tutorials!

Alice Keeler: Named the “Queen of Spreadsheets” by Google, she is an expert in EdTech integration but understand no amount of technology can replace a great teacher. Alice uses tech tools to enhance instruction and build relationships with their students.

Jeffery Bradbury AKA Teachercast: Jeff has a amazing YouTube Channel with lots of videos that highlight different teachers sharing tips and tricks around technology integration.

Shake Up Learning: Kasey Bell is a Google Certified Innovator and Trainer. She has lots of tips and tricks on how to be a Google Master in her blog posts, podcasts and webinars!

Bonus: Here are a few Youtube Channels by teachers for teachers to check out too!

Pocketful of Primary: Michelle a 4th grade teacher shares what she is doing in her classroom. She will now be sharing what she is doing in her virtual learning classroom as her district is remote until January 2021.

Everyday Educator: She shares technology tips and tricks that work for all grade levels!

I know there are so many other educators and sites that are providing professional development for free. I would love to hear what some of your favorites are in the comments below.

12 Ways to Build Relationships with Students Virtually

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” by James Comer

Many schools across the country are not sure what school will look like in the fall. Building relationships is the key to a successful classroom environment that promotes academic success so we need to think about ways we can build relationships virtually. Here are six ways educators can start building relationships before school starts and six ways to continue to build them throughout the school year.

Before the School Year Starts:

  1. Create a “Meet the Teacher” video: In the video share a little about yourself and what students can expect to learn in your class to build students excitement. For example: In Science we are going to harness the energy of the Sun to make the best snack ever invented, S’mores!!
  2. Create a Scavenger Hunt using your LMS: Before school starts help students learn how to navigate the LMS (Canvas/Schoology/itslearning etc) your school/district is using by creating fun scavenger hunt to explore the components. Thought out the hunt add in things to get to know your students better in the discussion section or have them post an “assignment” that is fun so they can practice. For example: Write a top ten list of things about yourself.
  3. Have students create a Flip Grid: Have students share something such as one thing they want the class to know about them, a favorite book they have read or have them give answers to a “get to know” you survey. Then ask classmates to respond to each others flip grid posts. Make sure model by doing one too!
  4. Host a Virtual Open House or 1:1 Conferences: Provide a few dates and times for parents and students to meet you and have the opportunity to ask questions just like you do at a typical open house. For one on one conferences you could have a few questions for each student to answer and then have time for them and/or their parents to ask questions. A great way to do this is using sign up genius.
  5. Create a Bitmoji Interactive Classroom: This allow students to get to know you in a different way as you can share with them what would be on your walls if you were in a classroom. For example for me they would definitely see a Syracuse Poster! Check out this video to see how to create an interactive bitmoji classroom.
  6. Create virtual lockers: Have students create a space to get to know them as well by having them create a virtual locker. This could be something you add into your scavenger hunt as an assignment! Here is a copy of the Virtual Locker Template to get started created by Lauren Vining.

During the School Year:

  1. Morning Meetings: There is no reason you can’t provide morning meetings virtually with your students. Have the students come together before the day starts and share morning announcements and do a team building activity. This is also a great time to incorporate Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons in. Here are some great free sites for lessons and ideas: Common Sense Media and CenterVention.
  2. Host a Lunch Buddies: Lunch used to be one of my favorite parts of the day with students to get to know them. Pick a day and time when students can eat lunch with you and talk about other things besides school. During this time you will be able to build relationships differently on a Zoom call.
  3. Hold Theme Days: As students, part of the fun was having theme days and that shouldn’t go away. Have students participate in hat day, wacky tacky day or spirit week!
  4. Send a Notecard to Students: Everyone likes receiving mail. Send students a notecard about something you are proud of them for or bragging on them for doing something awesome. They don’t have to be long or fancy but knowing you are thinking about them will go such a long way.
  5. Chit Chat Time: Often times in school you get to know students during transitions. Let students know after a lesson you are going to stay on if they want to ask any questions. Or provide times where students can sign up if they want to ask you something more privately. This can also be done through email/or private message in your LMS was well.
  6. Shout Outs: Share authentic wins and jobs well done. This could be during morning meeting or it could be in a weekly newsletter email that goes to all families.

Remember to acknowledge that this “new normal” is challenging for all of us- parents, students, and teachers but we are in this together! As always I would love to hear from you in the comment section; how you are building relationships with students?

More resources:

How to Build Relationships Virtually: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers

7 Strategies to Develop Student Executive Functioning Skills for Remote Learning

Reflection of My Weekly Remote Working Habits

“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” via Stephen R. Covey

I am all about continuous improvement by making small changes. I believe small improvements will add up to something significant. With the shift to working from home (and will be for a while) I decided that I needed to focus in on how I could improve in this area.

Over the last six weeks, every Monday I posted a new habit on Twitter that I was focusing on to hold myself more accountable with #becomebetter. Below you will find each one of the habits I focused on, along with what I learned about myself. Maybe some of these habits can help you with your remote work situation.

Week 1: I needed to take control of my calendar so I started scheduling meetings for 45-50 mins to allow for more breaks and movement. When I calendared meetings I would start 5-10 mins past the hour and end five minutes before the hour. (Example: 1:10-1:55pm) This really helped me, especially on the days I had multiple zoom meetings back to back. The only problem came when I didn’t schedule the meetings, I still found myself sitting for multiple hours straight. In order for this to be more effective, others need to have this mindset too.

Week 2: In the beginning of COVID-19 I did a great job of reaching out to one coworker per day that I don’t see much anymore to check in on them. As the weeks turned into months I realized I stopped reaching out. I wanted to be intentional about reaching out again as it always made me feel good so I added this back onto my to-do list. Each morning the first thing I do before I start my day is to reach out to someone within my company that I don’t get to talk to as much. It starts my day off on a positive note which brings me joy.

Week 3: I started noticing that I had a “slump time” in the afternoon and needed a pick me up. I started to blocking 10 minutes to meditate to recenter my mind and goals for the day. This has been very effective and I found myself looking forward to that needed time.

Week 4: With traveling being a part of my job I had a routine that at the end of the day I would journal. I enjoyed this time of reflection and it helped me grow as a person. When working from home I had stopped journaling. I decided that a new habit I needed was ending the day with a meeting with myself to journal. I do a dot journal and write down two things that went went well, one thing I learned, one area of growth to focus on and one big idea. This new habit has helped me in two ways; first it helped me be intentional about reflecting and second it helped me have a conclusion to my day. Prior I had struggled with “shutting down” work.

Week 5: I started noticing that I had some of my best ideas when I was doing chores or when on a walk. In week five my new habit was to incorporate some downtime in the day such as a walk or even doing chores to help my brain unwind so I could produce better ideas. This also allowed me to get some things done around the house. These 10-15 minute breaks were great but I found I had a hard time scheduling them as meetings popped up often.

Week 6: I realized when I did get these great ideas, I had no time on my calendar to think about them. Which made my new habit in week six to focus on blocking larger chunks of time on my calendar to create and build out my ideas. I also have found this deep focus music has helped me during these larger chunks of time.

I feel I have made small improvements to my rework work life and at this time I am now going to focus on new habits to improve myself. I also would love to hear if any of these ideas resonate with you and/or what new habits have you created for yourself while working from home, leave them in the comments section!

Want to read more about habits, check out these resources:

The Habits Guide: How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

105: Why Habits Are More Important Than We Can Imagine

The (Super) Power of Habits and Routines

Return to School Planning

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. ” By Colin Powell

In states, across the county, many leaders and educators are creating plans for how to return to school under ever changing circumstances. It is important for districts, schools and teachers to start researching and putting together draft plans for multiple scenarios. It is possible that this school year districts will have to change scenarios/plans based on state guidelines or new health recommendations. Being prepared will help for smoother transitions and able for districts to be more agile.

Scenario 1: Go back to school with social distancing guidelines in place.

Scenario 2: Hybrid, portions will be face to face and some will be distance learning. This could look different for districts but examples could be one week face to face, two weeks distance learning or face to face one day, distance the next (a/b day).

Scenario 3: Go back to school through distance learning

As everyone is starting to think about how they will go back, it is important to make sure districts have common language so that everyone students, staff and communities. Many districts I am working with are creating a glossary of terms to communicate and refer back to. For example:

Distance Learning: Distance learning occurs when students, their peers, and their teachers are in different geographical locations. Distance learning experiences, which may or may not be facilitated by the use of technology, can occur in synchronous or asynchronous formats. 

Virtual Learning (online/offline + asynch/synch): Instruction is delivered through the internet, software, or both. Virtual learning can be used inside or outside a physical classroom environment and uses a computer, tablet, or tech-enabled device and an online program or software to enhance the learning experience. Virtual learning can be used in a self-paced format (see Asynchronous Learning), or live web conferencing between students and instructors (see Synchronous Learning).  Many districts have a virtual learning school.


Remote Instruction (temporary online): Moving content designed for face-to-face instruction online for limited or one-time-only course instruction, primarily in the case of an emergency or extenuating circumstance. This is not to be confused with distance learning, which is intentionally-designed virtual instruction. (ie what many districts did Spring 2020)

As districts and schools are researching, I have put together some resources as a place to start. Many resources have links within the documents, along with images that also help you think through what you want it to look like in your district, school, classroom. I encourage you to look at other states ideas as it might be similar to your states plans and spark ideas for how you can plan.

Different Return Plans:

Loudoun School District Return Plan Site and PDF
North Carolina Guide Book for Reopening
Fairfax Return Plan

Scheduling Ideas

Learning Continuity Education’s Biggest Challenge and Opportunity
Hybrid School Model (Dallas ISD)

District Communication:

Roadmap to Reopening (Klein, Tx)
Website for Parents (Asheville, NC)

If you have resources to share, please do in the comments as we are all in this together and no one knows what to expect but together we can be better.

Growing Your Twitter Influence

“Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” by David Alston

Guest blog post by Phil Echols

There are 330 million active monthly users on Twitter. Of those, 145 million, use the service daily (Twitter, 2019). That’s a lot of chatter. Now, more than ever, people desire to be heard and share something that might inform, inspire, and resonate with others. As the old saying goes, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should listen twice as much as we talk.” Here are a few strategies that I’ve found useful while growing my Twitter network and influence.

Balance withdrawals and deposits

One way to grow your Twitter network and influence is to spend time interacting with others tweets. Focus on interactions, not numbers. Examples of interactions include responding to questions, commenting on threads, “liking” tweets, and retweeting things your followers might find valuable or inspirational. There are a lot of “asks” on Twitter (i.e. Visit my, Buy now, Share our) and as beneficial as those resources might be, I equate those with withdrawals. It’s like walking past the person selling lotion in the mall. The lotion might be exactly what I need for my dry hands but your method of delivery makes me feel like you’re about to steal my credit card information. Are you praising and sharing as much as you’re asking? Be mindful of your ask vs. share and praise ratio.

“Likes”

Some Twitter users “like” tweets as a way to reference them later. Others might use it to acknowledge or validate a comment or resource. As your twitter network grows, it can be challenging to keep up with all the comments. I sprinkle “likes” like confetti as a means of interaction, almost like a virtual fistbump. If there are tweets I want to reference later, I save it by Direct Messaging (DM) myself. When checking tweets on the go, this is a great way to save something you might want to reference later when you have more time to craft a mindful response.

Be human/Show personality

Once you find your voice, go with it. Be authentic. Be yourself. Growing your connections and influence takes time. Trying to be someone you’re not, will eventually come to light. When we talk about our passions and things we love, our eyes sparkle, our face lights up, and the tone in our voice changes. The same happens on social media. People can read when a message (or tweet) is disingenuous or copied and pasted. The key to authenticity is finding your voice and monitoring the things that resonate with your audience the most.

Engage, Engage, Engage!

Use your manners

In the book Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk mentions no formula calculates how many positive interactions it takes to pay off in a sale or a recommendation. Every interaction is an interview and earning others’ trust is key whether you’re simply growing your network or selling goods and services. Gratitude is free. Without spending money, there are ways to build and strengthen virtual relationships by making others feel valued. Sending a “thank you” or an “I appreciate the RT” only takes 7 seconds, but the return on investment is exponential. First, it communicates a sense of appreciation to the person. Secondly, it increases impressions. It raises the visibility of your tweets. Finally, it models who you are to others, and when you finally do have an “ask” it increases the likelihood that your followers will respond to the call to action.

Revisit your lists

Twitter lists are a great way to target audiences and track your level of engagement. You created the lists and added certain people for a reason. Carve out time to scroll through your lists engaging in the conversations related to the list category. Let them know you appreciate their perspective by “liking” tweets, retweeting relevant content, and by connecting them with others on your list.

Twitter Chats

Connecting back to withdrawals and deposits, when is the last time you participated in or promoted a twitter chat other than your own or one your organization/school district is hosting? Occasionally, visit other twitter chats to contribute and learn. Be open to the ideas being shared and enter the conversation as you would physically face to face and not monopolizing the conversation.

A couple of things to be mindful of while engaging in twitter chats:

  1. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  2. When others contribute something that resonates with you, let them know.
  3. You don’t have to have the last word.

In conclusion, your identity, values, and beliefs are made visible through your words. Twitter can feel like a popularity contest when comparing your numbers to others. One of the best ways to grow your influence is to care about the people you’re interacting with and consider as many ways as you can to add value to your relationship. Twitter shouldn’t feel like a cold call. Focus on people, not numbers.

A-Z: Leadership Traits and Attributes

“Titles don’t make you a leader, impact does.” Unknown

Effective leadership is essential in moving schools forward to evolve and grow. Being a good leader isn’t something everyone can do because leadership is a journey and takes time, reflection and intentional goals. Many effective leaders share several traits and attitudes; below I offer 26 ways leaders can be effective.

A strategy I suggest is choosing one trait or attribute a week and self reflecting where you are in your leadership journey with the attribute or trait. Using this strategy will help you start to make small changes in your practice to becoming an even more effective leader. 

Authentic: Being your true authentic self at work will allow you to enjoy what you’re doing every day because it will will align with your skills, values and passions. It won’t be a job you have to go to but a job you want to do.

Balanced: Being a good leader means making sure you are modeling positive behaviors such as work/life balance. It also helps you be the best leader you can be when you are also taking care of yourself.

Communicate Effectively: Communication is an integral part of being an effective leader. You need to be able to synthesize information along with being able to frame problems as opportunities in order for staff not to feel confused or overwhelmed.

Decision Making: Effective leaders need to feel comfortable making decisions in response to rapidly-changing information. As a leader, your decisions need to be responsive and guided by your priorities, purpose, and data.

Empower: It is important you understand that great work can not be done alone and that you need a team to be able to be successful. You can empower staff by acknowledging others strengths and potential contributions.

Focused: It is key to stay focused and not lose sight of your goals. There will always be lots of distractions; you need to be able to filter and focus on moving forward, keeping in mind the goals you set.

Gratitude: Expressing gratitude not only shows you care and recognize people but it also builds trust and creates positive, feel good interactions. Check out this article to learn more, Why Gratitude Makes Leaders More Effective.

Humble: Being humble makes great leaders open-minded and willing to listen to others. It shows you trust your team/staff and respect them. Humble leaders don’t let pride get in the way; they take constructive criticism to improve their craft.

Inspirational: As a leader people are looking up to you. You need to have the ability to communicate that passion, purpose and meaning to others to help inspire them as it will define your culture.

Joy: Bring joy to work is an essential attribute for leaders for many reasons. When leaders lead with joy it is infectious and spreads like wild fire to create a culture of joy. Having a culture of joy makes staff happier which means more productivity and engagement. Do you want to learn how to bring more joy into the workplace; check out theses 12 ways.

Know Your Self: Effective leadership involves leading by example which means you need to know yourself as a leader. Your personal experiences, values and strengths make up your leadership philosophy. Here is a great exercise that takes 10 mins to allow you to create more self-awareness.

Learning: As a leader you should be constantly learning and growing your practice. No one is saying you have to know everything but be willing to learn and grow by saying things such as “I don’t know the answer but I will find out.
This also models for your staff that learning never stops.

Mindful: It is important to pay attention to the present moment as much as it is important to look forward. You need to keep in mind not everyone is in the same place as you and to have empathy for others.

Nimble: Nimble and agile leaders are those who can adapt to an ever-changing and uncertain world. As a leader you need to be able to see how your school, department etc can continue to grow and develop while making pivots.

Openly Listen: Effective leaders need to listen to others around them. Openly listening to not only their ideas but also the barriers they see. You also need to listen to them when they are having struggles in and out of the workplace in order to be supportive.

Proactive: As a leader you need to be proactive to take time to strategically think and plan. Too often as leaders we get caught up in the tactical and day to day we don’t leave enough time to strategically think. One way to making sure you have time to strategically think during your week is to block it off on your calendar like it is a meeting.

Questioning: Asking questions helps leaders understand concepts, ideas and others. When you don’t ask questions you make assumptions and that doesn’t help anyone. Asking questions to clarify, identify gaps in understanding and to learn helps leaders facilitate discussions. Questions are also a great way of challenging people to think differently or to think about the outcomes they want.

Relationships: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” by Maya Angelou. Building relationships is the most important thing you can do as a leader and you must remember to continue to foster and nurture them.

Servant leader: Being a good leader means you need to put people first. To do this you must help others with their goals and grow their skills. Check out this article to gain ideas on how to put people first: The Power of Putting People First

Transparency: When you are transparent with your staff they don’t have to tell themselves stories of what is happening because they know what is happening. The more openness and honesty you promote, the quicker you and your team will be able to work together.

Understanding: As a leader, you must understand that everyone has different needs and that there isn’t a one size fits all solution. You must tailor your coaching and supporting style to match their working style.

Visionary: Having a vision and using it as a foundation helps to move the work forward. The vision needs to speak to the staffs purpose and why it’s important for the school/department/organization to exist. You need to be able to create not only the mental but also the verbal pictures of desirable future state.

Wondering: When you wonder, it sparks curiosity and innovation. Never letting the status quo exist helps you keep you on the cutting edge.

X-Factor: Each leader have different X-Factors that make them unique. Figuring out your x-factor will help you know yourself as a leader and understand your strengths.

You Elevate Talent: The greatest leaders distribute leadership and elevate others talents by knowing their strengths. As a leader, take the time to list the strengths of your staff and then meet with them one on one to listen to their goals and ambitions. Use this information to determine ways you can elevate their talents.

Zest: To have zest as a leader means having positive energy. Positive energy motivates and inspires people and helps you network as no one wants to be around someone that is miserable or complaining, except those that are miserable.

Leadership can be hard to define but I like how John C Maxwell defines it, A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Want to read more of my lists A-Z? Check out my previous blog post – Personalized Learning from A-Z

5 Ways Leaders Can Show Empathy

“The highest form of  is knowledge empathy.” By Bill Bullard

Empathy is an essential skill for all leaders. It is one of the most important ingredients to building strong, trusting relationships that allows leaders to connect to others. It also can be hard taking on others concerns so it is important that leaders make sure they give themselves grace and also have someone to lean on as well.

  1. Be Fully Present – Remove all distractions. Turn your cell phone over so the screen is not shutting or if you are in front of your computer put it at a 45 degree so it shows the other person you are present.
  2. Actively Listening – Let others share their stories without interrupting them or adding your opinion. Instead ask questions and let the other person drive the conversation.
  3. Show Vulnerability: Share the risks you take, the failures you have, be transparent with your communication and share your process on how you make decisions. Sharing this information shows others that you are not perfect and that helps people relate to you as a leader and builds your empathy muscle.
  4. Withhold Judgment- Understand the other person perspective, let go of the idea of a right or wrong answer. Reflecting on what others have said helps to better understand their perspective as well.
  5. Be a Servant Leader: Help others such as by highlighting their strengths. You also can do this by developing others in ways that unlock their potential, creativity and sense of purpose. 

Want to know how empathic you are? Take this quiz created by UC Berkeley, you will then get a report that gives you more suggestions based on your results.

You might also like my previous blog post on Building Empathy with Educators.

10 Ways to Get More Followers on Twitter

“Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” via David Alston

Twitter is a powerful social media platform for educators. It can help to grow your network and build a connection with others that are interested in the same education topics as you. To me twitter has been the best professional learning experience because I can learn from experts on different topics along with seeing different perspectives.

  1. Photo: Make sure you have a headshot instead of having no image or something random. Nobody wants to follow a faceless person.
  2. Profile: Your profile is what followers read first. It is a chance to explain who you are, what you do and what you are passionate about. This is why it is import to have a strong profile that represents you. Some things you should include in your profile are relevant keywords (shows up in searches), highlight your skills and include your interests.
  3. Banner/Headers Image: Your banner should also represent your personality and interests like your profile. When people click on you, they will be drawn naturally to your banner first, even before reading your profile so make sure you use that real-estate wisely.
  4. Tweet Frequency: Tweet content regularly including on weekends even if it is only a few tweets! You can do this without being on twitter all the time by using free services that schedule tweets such as Tweetdeck.
  5. Hashtags: Use hashtags to open up your tweets to more audiences – but also don’t put a lot in one tweet. You should also decide on which hashtags you want to follow based on your interests along with what is popular. You can notice these hashtag trends by seeing what others are using and following them to see if they are the right fit for you. Example: I like to follow #leadershipmatters as I am interested in leadership and I like follow #edutwitter as it seems to be a catch all for great idea sharing.
  6. Mentions:  Connect with followers by mentioning people in your tweets. For example say @(fill in the blank persons name) so that you are pulling them into a conversation.
  7. Chats: Attending Education chats on topics that you are interested is a great way to “meet” people that have similar interests as you. There are many education chats happening all week, here is a great place to start but please note twitter chats come and go so double check to see if the chat you are interested in is still happening by checking the hashtag.
  8. Follow: In order to get more followers you also need to follower others! Also participate in the #FridayFollow to promote people you are inspired by or interested in what they are saying.
  9. Tweet Content: Your twitter content should not always be your personal content. You want to make sure you are promoting others voices as well by retweet. Adding images to your tweets is also helpful for two reasons, one because the image will catch peoples eye and two because you can also tag others in images so they can see it and more likely will retweet your content.
  10. Call to Actions: Make your tweets actionable! Ways to make tweets actionable are by adding in questions to engage others or by introducing people that you think should follow each other – think virtual introductions.

If you want to follow me on twitter or want to see these tips and tricks in action you can take a look at my account – I am @edu_thompson.

Always make sure you follow good Twittiquette; for example – don’t buy fake followers, don’t spam people (including in DMs) and don’t be a troll.

5 Digital Tools to Promote Collaboration

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Having students collaborate using different digital tools helps build students communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Here are five ways to promote collaboration in both a physical and/or virtual classroom space.

Video Ask: It was created for business but teachers can turn anything into a learning opportunity with VideoAsk. Teachers and/or students can pose questions and you can reply back different ways such as with video, audio, or text. It works asynchronous so students can reply back with they have had enough time to process and/or when it is convenient for them.

Wakelet: This application allows teachers and students save, organize and share content from across the web. It can be used multiple ways in the classroom such as co-creating a digital newspaper or newsletter. You can provide your students with a topic and theme such as Ecosystems and students can find current events around that topic and have discussions.

StoriumEdu: StoriumEdu is very unique as it gamifies creative writing. Students get different digital “story cards” that represent different aspects of storytelling and character development. The cards serve as writing prompts, helping students figure out what to write next at each step of the game.

Gimkit: Similar style to Kahoot, Gimkit is a game show for the classroom that requires knowledge, collaboration, and strategy to win. It makes it great for remote learning because each student can play on their own devices

Dotstorming: Have students brainstorm together and vote on their favorite ideas. Last week I collaborated with a teacher to help create their virtual classroom rules/norms together with the students using Dotstorming. The students add cards of what they wanted the rules to be for their virtual classroom and then they voted on the top four rules co-creating their rules together.

I would love to hear your favorite digital tools to promote collaboration in the classroom. Share in the comments!