Twitter for Teachers #learning2

Keri-Lee and Clint met on Twitter in 2008 and have since spent numerous holidays, along with their families, together across Asia. Cross posted at Tip of the Iceberg.

To help facilitate our Twitter for Teachers session at Learning 2.011, we have decided to post the general outline of our presentation and any resources on both of our blogs. We’d love to hear your feedback and how you are using Twitter to interact with your PLN. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments as well!

(Mis)Perceptions of Twitter

We’ve all heard the “I don’t care what you had for breakfast!” diatribe against Twitter. We’re curious to know what the perceptions our participants have about Twitter.

How We Use It

Twitter, like anything else, is simply a tool. Use of that same tool will vary widely from person to person and Twitter is no exception.

Top Tips

For those just starting out in the Twitter game or for those that started an account years ago but never really got into it, here our some of our top tips for using Twitter to expand your PLN:

  • Public, Personal, Private – Just as we would tell our students, it is important to understand the distinction between public, personal and private information.
  • BPLBio, Photo, Link. It’s hard for others to separate the gold from the spam when you don’t fill these things out!
  • Tear Down That Wall! – Don’t protect your tweets! Again, it’s hard for others to decide to follow you back if they can’t see what you’ve added to the conversations.
  • Go Beyond Basic – While Twitter as a service is fantastic, Twitter as a website is less than desirable. Try a Twitter client like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Echofon (just to name a few!) that allows you to separate your Twitter feed into easy-to-monitor columns.
  • Lists – Twitter lists allow you to create groups within your Twitter stream. You can even include people that you do not personally follow. Even better, you can follow lists that others have meticulously created. (Kim Cofino has a great International Teachers list.)
  • Hashtags#learning2 #edchat #scichat #mathchat #kinderchat These are all examples of hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to group and search for tweets about a specific topic. Using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, you can even use a hashtag to create an easy-to-follow column in your client. @cybraryman has a comprehensive list of education-related hashtags.
  • Search For It – Is there something that you’re passionate about? Chances are there are others on Twitter who are passionate about the same thing. Use the Twitter Search function to find people who are talking about your hometown, your favorite sports team or anything else you might be interested in.
  • Lurking (aka Legitimate Peripheral Participation) – One of the best and easiest ways to learn Twitter etiquette is to lurk amongst some of your favorite lists or hashtags. Once you see how things work, it’s a lot easier to join in!
  • Retweet and Reply – For some, the highest compliment you can pay them on Twitter is to retweet them. For others, they prefer the conversation that comes along with an @reply. Either way, it is a great way to engage others and to add followers to your PLN.
  • Conversation is King – Twitter, first and foremost, is about connecting with people around the world who can help you grow as a teacher and as a person. This happens through conversation and through getting to know one another as you would a fellow teacher on your campus. Sometimes these professional relationships develop into personal friendships that last a lifetime!
While it is extremely well-used and on the verge of becoming cliche, the best metaphor for your Personal Learning Network is that of a garden. It takes time and energy and patience to cultivate a PLN. But if you stick with it, it can be a very beautiful thing!
Image Credits:
Squawk! by Kevin Collins licensed under CC BY NC
Looking Up by Louise Docker licensed under CC BY

Inbox Zero

I’ve realized that in all of the chaos surrounding the start of the school year, I never got around to blogging about Inbox Zero!

Like many schools and institutions around the world, email has become an integral tool at UNIS. If the email server ever goes down for even 10 minutes (which, thanks to our tech department, very rarely happens!) there is a hint of panic amongst the staff.

Unfortunately, even as our reliance on email as a mode of communication has increased to the point of being absolutely essential, our ability to handle the vast quantities of email that we receive on a daily basis has barely evolved if at all. In fact, one of the most common complaints/concerns that I hear amongst our teachers is that there are too many emails sent.

When I first heard about Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero presentation that he gave at the Google Campus in 2006, I was instantly intrigued. It was billed as the best hour that one could spend and I agree! I have probably saved 10 times that or more since I instituted this system 1.5 years ago.

While I highly encourage everybody to check out Mann’s original presentation, the basics are below. I presented this to some interested staff to start the year and it was pretty well received!

If I needed one sentence to summarize Mann’s idea, it would be this: Stop living in your Inbox! Instead of being a slave to email and living in your inbox, convert your relevant messages into predefined actions (mine are delete, do right nowto do later , and reference, in that order) and keep your inbox empty. Don’t use your inbox as a filing cabinet (it should be for new messages that haven’t been processed yet) and don’t spend a lot of time filing messages into subfolders (almost everything goes into that generic reference folder; if I need to find it I will search for it later).

One of the themes for my presentation on the subject (which, I admit, unabashedly steals large portions from Mann, including a few slides which I didn’t have time to prepare myself!) is to think about the analog equivalents of digital tools. This is why you’ll see quite a few references to Mad Men.

Nobody in their right minds (certainly not Don Draper!) would keep all of their correspondence stacked up in their “In Tray” on their desk. Why do we feel we can do that with email? If a phone message were to cross your desk, most people would act on it immediately, either by calling the person back, making a note in their calendar or throwing it in the trash. Why do we treat email any different?

Ultimately, Inbox Zero is about converting messages into actions and then disposing of those messages. It has helped give me a sense of purpose on busy days when I would have normally been overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of messages in my inbox. Now I know exactly where I need to go in order to find things I need to get done!

How do you handle email at school? What systems work for you?

Image credits:
Inbox Zero Presentation by Merlin Mann licensed under CC BY NC ND
Cuffs6 by banspy licensed under CC BY

Parents, Tablets, and the IB Learner Profile

This week we will be holding an information evening for parents of students who will be receiving tablets for the first time next year. That’s a total of four grade levels: next year’s Grade 5, 6, 7 and 8 will all be getting their hands on the magic next year! This is the third time we’ve run one of these sessions in the Middle School/High School — our rollout has been pretty gradual: grades 10 and 11 the first year, then grades 8, 9 and 10 (plus 11 and 12 from the previous year) and now the entire MSHS.

For this group of parents, I have been tasked with talking about some of the specifics of the 1:1 program and how it will affect their children and themselves. Along with some of the usual big themes – How are we going to support the students?; How are we going to support the parents? – I thought I would use the IB Learner Profile to put the rationale into perspective. As stated by the IBO, “The IB learner profile is the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes for the 21st century.” Our move to a 1:1 program is an extension of what we have always been doing!

The following images and descriptions are in draft mode. I would appreciate any feedback (positive or negative!) or suggestions to improve them in the comments below. All images are taken from Flickr under a Creative Commons license except where noted.


Inquirers – Students will have the ability to access meaningful, up-to-date and relevant information whenever they need it. Learning environments can be set up to encourage inquiry and discovery.


Knowledgeable – Students will have the ability to reference facts, skills and resources like never before. Their notes will be searchable and easily organized. Gives an opportunity to show their knowledge in different and authentic ways.


Thinkers – Critical thinking skills become increasingly important, due to the flood of information available. Students need to analyze and evaluate information.


Communicators – Allows our students to communicate and collaborate with others, either in our school or across the world.

Two to choose from! Which do you prefer?



Communicators 2

Principled – Students and teachers must examine what it means to be a principled member of society in a technology-rich world. This is not something we can bury our heads in the sand about. If we (schools and parents) do not teach them, who will?


Open Minded – Nothing yet… Suggestions?

Caring – Increasingly, interaction is taking place between individuals or groups online. It is important for students to understand the consequences of cyberbullying as well as how to be an effective member of digital communities.

I’m not sure how I feel about this image. It seems to show the opposite of caring…

Note: This image is from the University of Alabama and used based on the permission given there.


Risk Takers – Students, teachers and parents at UNIS are at the leading edge of technological adoption. In a recent survey conducted by Triple A Learning of MYP schools worldwide, less than 1 in 8 schools identified themselves as 1:1.

Risk Takers

Balanced – A balanced education is one that takes into account all appropriate learning opportunities. By adopting a 1:1 program, we are not abandoning non-technological modes of learning. We are, however, giving our students that ability to experience learning in a way that is more representative to how students today and tomorrow will live their lives. I’m trying to figure out how to encapsulate Will Richardson’s sentiment


Reflective – A 1:1 program gives students a wide range of tools that can be used to reflect upon their learning and thus improve the metacognitive abilities of those students. Because of their archive of work, it will allow students to compare their learning from year to year.


Again, your thoughts and feedback are encouraged!

Classroom Management: Now with Audio Inside!

Thanks again to all those in my PLN who gave me some great suggestions regarding classroom management in a 1:1 classroom. After posting my draft version, I made some minor revisions – most of them cosmetic, to be honest.

I gave this presentation today to about 16 teachers, mostly from the middle and high school and my highest turnout to date. I also had the principal for a good portion of the hour. I recorded the entire discussion and have now linked it to the presentation. There are some times when the discussion wanders a bit but it is all still (mostly) relevant to the topic at hand. If you’ve got 45 minutes or so, I invite you to take a look. Or you could browse through the pretty pictures…

Classroom Management in a 1:1 Enviroment Draft

I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns from teachers about how our students are using their TabletPCs. Most of the concerns, in my mind, are not technological concerns but rather behavioral and social concerns that happen to be manifesting themselves when the tablets are present. So I’ve decided to host a discussion of classroom management practices in a 1:1 environment. I have borrowed heavily from the works of others in the creation of my slide deck, most notably those in my Twitter Network who answered my call a few weeks back, Ann Krembs, the Irving Independent School District, Jim Heyndericks at, Mike Hasley on Tech Learning, and the Always On podcast.

Here is a draft of my slide deck to date. I really would appreciate any feedback, comments or suggestions. Thanks!