Thursday, July 26, 2012

Build a Bridge!

This link, ,will take you to the video of the Ignite Talk, Bridge and Fences, that  I gave for our New Tech Network's National Conference Closing. There were 10 of us who "volunteered" for this, and I think it safe to say it was MUCH more difficult than any of us imagined. That being said, I am so glad I did it. Too many times a zip code is a fence that our students just aren't able to bridge alone! So as you begin a new school year, think about what bridges you are going to build!

I LOVE that this photo was tweeted to me from someone who was inspired on his way home! Thanks @Jshackow this made my day!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Twitter, Hashtags and Chat, Oh My!

I live in rural Indiana, but my office is in Napa,California,I telecommute. We often tell our students we are preparing them for jobs that don't exist yet. I have a job that certainly didn't exist back in 1990 when I graduated from Butler University. My job is to facilitate communication and connections both between our 85 New Tech Network schools across the nation and with innovative educators world wide. We connect in a number of ways virtually, but for this Web 2.0 Challenge, we are going to focus on Twitter!
There are many ways you can use Twitter in your classroom, but we are going to talk about Twitter as a way for you to create your own personal learning network online.
If you are new to Twitter, here is a great video tutorial  from Common Craft to get you started.. Watch the video then click on over to Twitter and sign up. Choose your twitter name carefully. You want it to be short, easy to type and keep in mind you will  likely have colleagues and community members as followers
Speaking of followers, who will you follow? It isn't all about the Kardashians and Justin Bieber!  A few of my favorites are @cybraryman, @web20Classroom, I even follow children's author, @judyblume and of course, follow me,  @TheresaShafer.
One of the best ways I have found to form my Twitter PLN is through the use of hashtags. A hashtag is a key word preceded by the # sign and identifies the tweet as containing information around a certain topic. This makes the topic searchable.  For example when you are on twitter, search for any of the hashtags on this list to find the subject, grade level or topic you are interested in.
Now on to my new favorite Twitter activity, Twitter Chats. There are many (over 600 chats) that happen on Twitter through out the week. I most often participate in #edchat and the one that I moderate as my other Twitter name, @NewTechNetwork,  is  #PBLChat . PBLChat is on Tuesday nights at 9pm EST and we discuss all things around Project Based Learning.  An excellent way to get your feet wet with a Twitter Chat is to simply check out the chat archive.  I use Storify to archive our chat, others create a wiki or even a google doc.  I use the tool Tweet Chat for participating.  You go to Tweet Chat, type in the hashtag you want to watch and off you go. You can choose to simply "lurk" and follow the conversation or jump right in and tweet your own questions, solutions or thoughts. The cool thing about Tweet Chat is it adds the hashtag for you! Blogger for Edutopia and PBL author Suzie Boss wrote about this chat a few weeks ago and can give you additional insights.
I have gained so much from building a network on Twitter, I talk often with a PBL educators from Australia, have had tweets from Daniel Pink, get insights from Indiana's own Yancy Unger, I offer solutions, ask questions but most importantly I learn everyday. No where else but during our #PBLChat have I had a deep discussion around homework purposes and policies that included teachers, parents, administrators and students. I encourage everyone to reach out beyond the halls of your own building and see through the lens of others. If you have any questions tweet me @theresshafer, @newtechnetwork or send me an email! See you in the twitterverse.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bridges and Fences

Ignite Talk from NTAC12 in Grand Rapids, Michigan!

Bridges & Fences

 I know, I know you think I’m going to talk to you about the awesomeness of Twitter and about all the ways you can get connected with social media,  but I’m not going to talk to you about social media.....very much.   I’m actually going to talk about bridges and fences.

Jeff Bridges, foot bridges, suspension bridges, the Golden Gate Bridge, London Bridge covered bridges, there are so many kinds of bridges. Bridges are built to connect two things, places or people that may have never reached each other without a bridge.

What about fences? Garden fences, wooden fence, split rail fences, playground fences, barbed wire fences, prison fences. Fences are built to keep people out or are they actually built to keep people in?

Bridges are written about in symbolic ways throughout literature and song, Bridge to Teribithia, A Bridge Too Far, Bridge Over Troubled Water. You are never supposed to burn your bridges and things in the past are water under the bridge. No doubt bridges are important. 

Some bridges are short, but still scary. You know that colleague across the hall, the one you have been politely nodding to and then shutting your door? Open the door, cross the hall,share an idea, give a compliment, offer to help, invite them in. Build bridges with your colleagues.

How well do you know your school board members? Only by what you read in the paper or hear in the lounge? Find out their talents, their likes and hobbies. Send them an email, give them a call, copy them on your good news, include them in a project. Build bridges with your school board.

How well do you know your community? What hidden gems are there that you or your students may have yet to discover? Contact your Chamber of Commerce, leadership groups, and city government. Authentic problems may be right in your own downtown waiting for students to solve.  Build bridges to your community

So what fences are there keeping you from connecting with your colleagues, school board and community? Some fences are made of grudges long held, offenses not forgiven, judgements made in haste. I encourage you to let these go. Let these go and begin building bridges.

Every time you craft a driving question, you are building bridges. Bridges that connect past experience to new information.  Bridges that connect closed minds to opened eyes. Ones that connect content in a book to realistic application in student lives. Build bridges with questions.

 Every time you create a group you are building bridges from student to student. When you put the young lady with hair that is a different color everyday in the same group with the one who wears a different headband everyday, you are breaking down barrier,s teaching students to value differences. Build bridges with students.

 Every time you bring people in from outside of your classroom, you build a bridge. Whether they Skype in or walk in, you connect students to mentors, to colleges, to careers. You also show the world these students have tremendous talents worth sharing and nurturing. Build a bridge to the world for your students.

 What fence is keeping you from connecting to these people? Many fences are build by fear, fear of disruption, of embarrassment, fear of confrontation, fear of failure. Fear is a fence that keeps many people from getting out or letting anyone in.

 Echo is a really safe place to begin building bridges. I encourage you to join a group or even begin a group discussion about topic you have an interest in exploring, ask questions, weigh in with answers. Connect with others all over the network. Build a bridge with Echo.

 Build a 140 character bridge with Twitter. 500,000 million people do and many of them are educators. Follow,  tweet, re-tweet, join a chat , search a hashtag. You will get feedback, pushback, and you can give back. Build a bridge with twitter.

 Blogging can build a bridge! Whether you write a blog, or read and comment on someone else’s,  you will be joining in a conversation that will connect you with people who echo your own thoughts or maybe make you think again or think differently. Connect and reflect in a public forum. Build a bridge with a blog.

 Adam Babcock built a bridge from Danville New Tech high to film. One tweet built a bridge that connected his students with one of the award winning producer/directors of The Interupters Alex Kotlowitz,  who Skyped into his class and talked with his students about the issue of violence and young people. Adam is a bridge builder.

 Leah Henry built a bridge from downtown Indianapolis all the way to China. She reached outside of her classroom and took her students with her. In doing so she made the phrase “global education” real. This bridge opened eyes, opened doors and opened minds. Leah is a bridge builder.
 Dan McCarthy built a bridge out of tombstones. While exploring the novel Our Town the students at Zebra New Tech took information from this local cemetery, uploaded it to FindaGrave and began being contacted by people from all over the United States who now were connected to their past.  Dan McCarthy is a bridge builder.

  While many of us have built our own fences and must take responsibility to tear them down, so many of our students are born inside theirs, fences they did not have a hand in creating . Fences of poverty, stereotype, fences that exist simply because of their zip code.

 These fences are exactly why we must build bridges. Our students will climb up on those bridges and cross over their fences heading for places they have yet to see or even hear of, as you go back to your communities, schools and students, I challenge you to be a bridge builder!