Written by guest blogger Heath Kelley (@6kelley), 5th grade teacher at DMS
There are many social media options that provide content for educators to collaborate and share ideas. One of these options, Twitter, is used by millions of teachers to supplement the learning that may not take place during face-to-face, traditional professional development sessions.
I first started using Twitter a few years ago as a way to glean from experts such as Rick Wormeli (@rickwormeli2), Marzano Research (@MarzanoResearch), and read about how fellow teachers implemented strategies in their classrooms. I began following hashtags that organized topics such as standards based grading (#sbg). Twitter chats provided a place to discuss questions and exchange ideas. The district I was teaching at worked to communicate a shared vision to the community with posts of what was happening in and around the school using a common hashtag, similar to Howard Winneshiek (#2020howardwinn). Tools such as TweetDeck continue to help me organize the people and categories that I want to follow.
The personalized nature of Twitter gives teachers an opportunity to direct their learning at their own pace. Todd Whitaker (@toddwhitaker), author of What Great Teachers Do Differently,speaks to this when he says, “Twitter is the best PD in the world. Twitter is not an obligation. Email is an obligation.”
There are several educators in Decorah that are already taking advantage of using Twitter. I asked some of them to share their thoughts about how they have benefited from using Twitter. If you are new to Twitter, I recommend watching this 60 second video to catch a glimpse of how it may be helpful for you.
"Twitter = Connections. The bulk of what I have done in my teaching pedagogy has been lifted, stolen, and shared from sources using social media. Specifically, Twitter has afforded me the opportunity to connect, personally, with the creator of some really awesome educational tools that have helped me extend learning and make it more meaningful for students. It is like a short-cut to meeting and engaging with people smarter than I am in the field I am passionate about. Creating a Professional Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter has also helped me stay really motivated and engaged with learning how to become better at my craft. I only hope to continue to build my footprint on Twitter and be a resource for others to reciprocate all the benefits I've received from it."
- Zach Fromm (@ZachFromm1)
"I use Twitter to be exposed to current research by following leaders in the fields of education and math education; I have read more professional articles via Twitter than any other resource. I also use Twitter to help me process my thoughts on, and see other sides of, issues. Often this is done as part of a Twitter Chat, but I have also responded to individuals or groups to participate in these types of conversations. I do not always have time to check in, and I had to learn that that is ok. When I do have a chance to check in I almost always find some inspiration for reflecting more deeply on what I am doing in my classroom- and to me that is key. Twitter has made me more thoughtful about the decisions I am making in my classroom, rather than just following the status quo."
- Allysen Lovstuen (@alovstuen)
"I've found Twitter to be a great way to take advantage of the hive-mind to help me keep up on new thinking in both ELA and science. I've also shared materials that I've developed on Twitter and have most definitely benefited from seeing others' work, too."
- Steve Peterson (@insidethedog)
"Twitter is something I'm fairly new to, but it was introduced to me as an educational tool at a music education conference two years ago. I follow a wide range of people -- some friends and family, some educators, some policy-makers, and some pop culture personalities. Twitter is where I turn when I have 45 seconds to kill -- and it's amazing how many times I come across a gem of an idea that can transfer into my classroom! Sometimes I find stand-alone tech integration ideas, other times I stumble across a thread of tweets from amazing music educators around the country engaging in an on-going conversation about best practices. While Twitter isn't my first stop for research about education, it's definitely opened some doors and sent me down some rabbit holes!"
- Andrew Ellingsen (@AndrewEllingsen)
"Our goal with our twitter account is to use it as a tool to positively push information out about our activities and what our kids are accomplishing in all of their activities." Here is a link for more information about the Decorah High School Social Media Presence.
- Adam Riley (@Decorah_Vikings)
"I use Twitter to connect to various individuals in the physical education setting as well as for coaching. There are many valuable resources to connect with on Twitter and I have found it as a very easy tool to use. It is also been a way to be visible with my students as well and be able to communicate with them through this medium."
- Jonathan Carlson (@coachjc03)
"I get inspiration from a variety of sources: professional journals, Facebook groups, and email subscriptions. Nothing, however, compares to the depth and breadth of information I receive through Twitter. At the KPEC conference last summer in Dubuque, Todd Whitaker, educational leader and author, motivated me to use this invaluable resource more than I had been. He stated, “Teaching is a lonely world; Twitter connects you with experts. You learn how to be great by great people.”
Was he ever right! All my favorite educators – Penny Kittle, Carol Jago, Meenoo Rami, and Kelly Gallagher (to name a few) as well as groups such as TeachThought, edutopia, NCTE, and Heinemann PD are now available to me through Twitter. Just this week I learned about new books my students will love, prompts for argumentative writing, and strategies for reaching quiet and disengaged students. I can also search a topic (for example Civil Rights Movement) to assist me as I’m refining lesson plans or search #edchat for more inspiration.
I used to feel guilty about following others without tweeting out information in return, but another statement by Todd Whitaker alleviated those feelings. He said, “Twitter is not an obligation; it is 24/7 learning.” I realize people share because they want to help others become better at their craft, and I sure appreciate that! I’ll still want to read books and attend conferences to hear from people whose work I admire, but now I can access what they’re thinking about with a quick tap on my phone. Priceless!"
- Liz Fox (@Lizabethfox1)
"I began using Twitter in 2012. My initial goal was to connect with other professional educators and gather resources to help me be a better teacher. I have found that at times I can also be a resource for other teachers. I like sharing ideas and seeing what types of activities and classroom management styles other teachers use. Twitter allows me to make those connections with teachers all across the nation quickly and easily. I have also participated in Educational Chats. These are opportunities to engage in discussions with other like-minded professionals in a guided format. I also use Twitter to follow authors. I find it fascinating that many authors will reply to my tweets. It is fun and exciting to share these connections with my students."
- Jenny Butler (@jennybutler83)
By Instructional Coach Andrew Ellingsen and Collaborative Teacher Shannon Horton
For the last month, we've been working with Carrie Kauffman and Kathryn Thompson on building a media literacy infographic. It has been shared with staff and students in our district, and the feedback has been really positive.
Why we made it
Our goal in creating this infographic was to give students a tool to use to help them sort media outlets in two ways -- the liberal/conservative bias of the organization and the level of depth in reporting. It is not intended as a way to replace critical thinking and thoughtful analysis, and we've been really pleased to see that the students who have been using it in the past couple weeks have been having thoughtful conversations and discussions.
The idea to focus on media literacy to help students identify quality reporting and inherent bias in the media isn't new to our district -- this is something many teachers have been covering in their classrooms for years. However, with all the buzz on both ends of the political spectrum about "fake news" right now, it made sense to us when Carrie and Kathyrn approached us about partnering on a media literacy project.
How we made it
Following our initial meeting with them, we began gathering resources that might be helpful. In that research, we came across an early draft of an infographic created by Vanessa Otero. We really liked the idea of sorting news organizations in two ways at once, but it left out some of the news sources our students use and some of the category descriptors were more blunt than we would choose for middle and high school students.
We re-created the x-y axis plot and used her axis labels of "Quality" and "Bias" but chose to use colors instead of ovals as our visual organizer. As we sorted the news organizations, we used Vanessa Otero's initial placements as our starting place. She described her methodology in an extensive blog post, and we felt good about the level of analysis she did as she placed them.
In addition to her initial placements, though, we also turned to sites like www.mediabiasfactcheck.com and www.allsides.com to get more guidance on the placement of media outlets. We liked that www.mediabiasfactcheck.com is run by an individual person who analyzes the news organizations on a host of characteristics and that www.allsides.com uses public perceptions of the media outlets along with a methodology for calculating bias. This counterpoint between a research method and crowd-sourced rankings struck a nice balance, and in nearly all cases, both sites had media outlets ranked identically or very similarly.
How we revised it
As we worked on this, we tried to be careful not to let our own bias influence where we placed things on the infographic. To help with that, we shared a draft with colleagues and friends on both sides of the political spectrum for feedback and made adjustments accordingly. This was a helpful step in the process as we received several high quality news source recommendations that we had not included in our initial draft.
It was at this point that we shared a draft of the infographic with DMS and DHS teachers for feedback. Their response was thoughtful and helpful; and their questions, recommendations, and additional resources helped us make further refinements to the placements of the news organizations.
How it’s being used
More than thirty DMS and DHS teachers have already requested poster-sized copies of the infographic to use in their classrooms. We've received requests to share it with teachers and librarians outside our district, and we are happy to pass it on to anyone who finds it helpful! Use, share, debate, and edit it -- and continue to seek out high quality news sources for use with students. Our goal in creating and sharing this is certainly not to favor one political perspective, but rather to help our students become better informed citizens by using the best possible sources of information.
Blogs we follow