Lately, I have been telling my colleagues (and my boss!) about the value of connecting to other educators through Twitter. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a mere 140 characters!
Last night I participated in something called Edchat. Simply put, a whole bunch of us logged onto Twitter at the same time and had a real-time discussion surrounding education. All of the tweets were accompanied by the hash tag #edchat so users could track the conversation.
Last night’s topic was about MLDs or Mobile Learning Devices (laptops, netbooks, smartphones, tablets, etc.). There were lots of opinions from many different stakeholders – teachers, coaches, administrators, professors – both positive and negative. Most were cautiously enthusiastic about the use of these types of devices in the classroom. Many expressed concerns about the need to teach students about appropriate and responsible use of technology before any of these devices can be used effectively in the classroom. Others spoke of teachers needing professional learning on ways to integrate technology in ways that both engage students and maintain best practices in the classroom. The proponents of using MLDs often cited the fact that both students and teachers are so “connected” outside the classroom that it makes sense to use those connections to our best advantage.
I jumped in several times to talk about my own concerns about cost and management of devices and accounts, as well my experiences as a coach using my new iPad 2, both for work with teachers and students. For the moment, it is somewhat difficult to manage multiple devices and accounts, especially with apps that need to be purchased. Right now, I have my work iPad linked to my personal credit card due to the fact that I have no way to buy apps through the school system. Don’t get me wrong – I rarely download any paid apps, but this is still a potential issue for those considering pilot programs. For the time being, it is my understanding that districts can use purchase orders to buy iTunes gift cards in bulk, but only in certain denominations. Also, the fact that syncing devices is not yet “cloud-based” and wireless means that they are tied to one particular computer. In our district computers can be moved at any time, and it’s hard to keep track of which device is synced to what computer. I already had an issue where my new laptop (PC) was infected with some nasty viruses and needed to be practically wiped out and started over. This naturally destroyed my iTunes account and I had to back-door rebuild my library. Hopefully this will be solved in the near future via wireless syncing capabilities. As far as the positives go, I have found my iPad to be a wonderful tool for my role as a coach. I am able to take notes at meetings (check out Evernote), and record observations (check out LookFor and eCove). I have also used many apps with students while working in small groups (Sketchio, Everyday Mathematics Games). There are so many great apps out there that I will have to dedicate another post just to that topic!
If you want to get involved in the Twitter community, simply go to their website and sign up for a free account. You can access your account directly from the website, or through apps on your mobile devices. Some of the popular ones are Twitter’s own app, TweetDeck, UberSocial, or my personal favorite HootSuite. To get started, you can follow others based on recommendations from the site – most celebrities and major news organizations have accounts. Some of my favorites are @ASCD, @mathteachers, @NMSI, @MHEducation, @delta_dc (my professor friend from MI), @Education_com, @neiltyson, @TheScienceGuy (Bill Nye!), @Curriculum21, and @EdLeadership. As you explore, I’m sure you’ll find more interesting folks to follow. Of course, your first follow should be me, @GPSMathCoach! If you find some interesting streams, please post them here in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!