Twitter and Twitter Chats
Twitter has been the biggest game-changer for me and my journey as a school leader. Connecting to other school leaders, sharing stories, encouraging each other, and getting ideas as well as advice - all via twitter - is very helpful in professional learning. The people who are on twitter WANT to be there, so the atmosphere is extremely positive and encouraging. (I have heard stories of rare negative experiences or interactions with negative people, but those are very few and far between.) Don't use twitter with your students!
Twitter chats are another way to build a Personal Learning Network. If you've never participated, find one that you want to join and just "lurk" the first few times. Watch the conversation, then after a few times, join in. Retweet a few tweets and respond to a few tweets during the chat. For most of us, the first step is the hardest, but I promise that 1) it gets easier, 2) it's totally worth it, and 3) the more you contribute the more you will learn. If you need a list of twitter chats, check out Jerry Blumengarten's (@cybraryman1) site: http://www.cybraryman.com/
Voxer is another tool like twitter that contributes to my professional learning. It is an easy way to connect with others by the ability to leave "voice messages" for someone, but more than that you can join a "group chat" where members leave voice messages that can be heard by everyone in the group. (You can also text or drop pictures in the group.) Brad Currie inspired me, and the #satchat Voxer was my first group chat I belonged to. (My New Talk Radio - Voxer). Since then, I have joined other groups and started 2 myself. One is for Women in Education Leadership, and the other is for a book study group (we're reading The Differentiated Classroom by Carol Ann Tomlinson.) Being able to hear a person's voice adds another layer of personalization to the conversation.
Yet another way to connect, Google Hangouts (GHOs) are awesome because they can be used for video calls, but they can also be recorded, saved on YouTube, and played by anyone with a link.
Here are some of the ways I've used Google Hangouts:
--I was fortunate to be on a panel discussion about blogging with the DC Metro Area Google Educator Group led by Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateecher) via a GHO. (Link to video HERE.)
--To save time, we held a GHO "conference call" with me, two of our district technology personnel, and an administrator at the other high school in our district to discuss virtual classes
--Due to conflicts in our schedule, our ninth grade counselor and I were not able to meet in person with the math teachers in one of our middle schools. We met via a GHO and talked about our course selection process and answered questions about some math course changes we are making for next year
--Last July, we held our quarterly #USedchat on twitter via a Google Hangout. It was a scary and exhilarating experience all at once! (Read my blog post about it HERE.)
--Last summer, during our district PD days, I was the co-leader for one of the sessions, which was on standards-based grading. For the session, via a Google Hangout, I was able to bring Andrew Maxey and Garnet Hillman "to the table" for the conversation.
I love the motto for Google Drive: "Keep everything. Share anything." Google Docs makes it easy to collaborate. It saves me from those "Reply to All" emails when collaborating with a group. It allows me to work on a document at work and at home. I can share Google Presentations with a link (like this one called Dealing with Distractibility in a 1:1 Classroom). Google Forms allows me to collect information easily, like feedback from our students about their virtual classes we are piloting this year.
I know there's a lot more that I have to learn about Google Drive, but it has been a huge help for my needs so far.
Remind (formerly Remind 101) is a texting service that can be used to send texts, reminders, and/or messages to students and parents. I set up a remind group for the Class of 2017 last year and also I have a Class of 2018 that was set up for this year's freshmen and their parents. Whenever there is a change in schedule, delayed start, or closed school, I send a text to the group. Also, when there are important dates or deadlines coming up such as turning in course selection sheets, I send reminders to the group. It's a quick and easy way to send out information that parents and students will receive on their cell phones. (They are also able to get messages via email if they choose when signing up.)
These are the top 5 digital tools I use (others include Zite, Picstitch, Notability, Blogger, Vine, and Storify.) I would love to hear if you use any of these or if you have others you use regularly. Comments are always welcomed and appreciated!