Learn and Share: leveraging social media for crowd sourcing learning

What if you find no purpose for  using social media?

On April 6, 2013, Grant Lichtman posted Twitter: I Know…But Just Do It. On April 11, 2013, I posted PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research #ettipad #ettlearns – reflection. On April 19, 2013, Jenn Scheffer posted Ten Minutes on Twitter.

While there is much to learn and share, how will we know if it is making an impact on my learning and the learning of others?  I am learning that you have to engage – use social media for two-way communication – in order to understand, observe, and experience impact.  Here are some examples of what I’ve been prompted to learn and think about from a quick read of my Twitter stream this afternoon.

Just a few notes from some of the people I follow on Twitter prompted me to look at ideas for using Twitter in the classroom, investigate the iPad apps Storybird and TypeDrawing.  I’ve also noticed Twitter being used for communication to foster collaboration among colleagues.

Two of my favorite uses of Twitter are to share information and to highlight bright spot work of others.

While Twitter can seem frustrating and confusing at first, it can be an interesting tool for professional learning.  If it’s about learning, what questions should we be asking? What actions do we now take to learn and grow? For what purpose could you use social media?


[Cross posted on Flourish.]

Learning is everywhere if you pay attention

Originally published in Flourish, April, 2013:

Learning is everywhere if you pay attention. At Trinity, we want every learner to know about themselves, the conditions that inspire their success, and the indicators that their struggles are worth it in the end.

Learning is – should be – reciprocal.  If I learn from you, then I want you to learn from me. Our mindset offers us the opportunity to have a broad view of our teachers.

Perhaps one of Trinity’s first graders taught the most enduring lesson I have learned this year.  Daily I struggled to accomplish a difficult task. (I was trying to work through a 10K training program.)  Many days, when I hit the first hill I would quit and walk.  It was too hard.  The distance was too long.  I just don’t run hills.  Yet, day after day, I would try again, getting more and more frustrated. Should I just quit? No one was holding me accountable. This was just a project that I started for myself.

Enter T, my teacher.  As I was walking down the hall, I noticed that T was working on a piece of writing.  To say it wasn’t going well would be putting it mildly.  He was frustrated to the point of being mad.


“This is too hard.  I cannot do this.  No one cares about this anyway.  I am never going to finish this.  I have so much to do.  I can’t do it.  I want to quit!”

I heard my words in his words.  I knew how he felt.  What he had, however, was a strategy that I did not have.  I, too, had a strategy he did not have.

First, we shared what we could not do.  He explained the entire story to me. Including his strategy.  The longer he talked, the more he worked and the further he got on his piece.

“Miss Jill, I’m never going to finish this.  It is too hard. It is too long.  I just won’t get to the end. I have only gotten this far.”

“I have only gotten this far” is the key to the lesson.  T was charting his progress.  He was keeping a record of what he could do.  Wow! Maybe instead of focusing on the entire project, I could focus on what I can do now and what I should do next.  By the time T reached the end of his piece, he was telling me what he was good at doing along with the strengths and talents of his brother and his friends. I learned to not stop while pushing up the hill.  I learned to tell myself what I have done, what I can do now, and what I should do next.

Turn “I can’t” into “I can.” – A powerful lesson to practice at any age.

Feedback please – a focus on progress – an update

One additional revision of Julia’s rubric has been made based on feedback from our friend and colleague, Angél W. Kytle (@akytle).  In her comment, she asks

“… A couple of questions– first, do you need the number? Why have the kids rank themselves, especially if they are reflecting and also describing evidence of their assessment of themselves? …” (read all of the comments)

The numbers are actually quite important to me. They are not for quantitative purposes. They are communicating levels to move through. Our target is level 3, always. The numbers indicate what level you are on and offer one way (or two) to level up. Of course, once you’ve reached the target, we want you to stretch and level up if possible. I use the following visual when presenting and teaching about leveled assessments.

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 9.27.32 AM

While I must be frustrating her, Julia continues to think, learn, and prototype assessments.

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 9.30.25 AM

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 9.30.50 AM

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 9.31.00 AM

I love how Julia continues to act on and ask for feedback. Angél’s question help us move another step in the right direction.  We value and appreciate any feedback, warm or cool, that you might also offer.

Learn and Share …AND… Practice and Share – #TrinityLearns

PD opportunities abound, but do they spur change? We go off to conferences and have a great time. We get inspired as we learn and share. But, in the busyness of school upon return, do we act, practice, and prototype what we’ve learned?

If PD does not cause a change in practice, did PD occur?

And, if PD causes a change for one teacher, is that enough? Shelley (@lottascales) and Bo (@boadams1) and I, along with countless others, continue to labor over this question.

How might we leverage learning opportunities to shift more than just one or two teachers? I could cry over the effort put forth with minimal results. We are working to put in place a “learn and share” system, so that our PD learning isn’t limited to the lucky few at conferences. We are not there yet.

But, there are bright spots! For background information, we sent a delegation of teacher-learners to ETT2013 Leading Change in Changing Times: EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. Karen Boykins (@K_Boykins) was one of the teachers in our group.  I think Karen was new to tweeting. (I found one tweet from November.) Throughout the conference, Karen tweeted her big take-a-ways and retweeted others.  Awesome!

On Sunday, she sent the following email as a reflection.

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 6.59.06 PM

Worth repeating:

I feel inspired to do more, passion for incorporating the iPad more as a learning tool, excited to share & that I used Twitter, a little overwhelmed as I soak it all in and wonder how will my classroom look different, and grateful for the opportunity.

Again, awesome!  To make it even better, on Monday, Karen sent the following tweet.

Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 10.15.09 PM

Even (more) better, Karen’s work was praised by our colleague Samantha Steinberg (@spsteinberg), another new tweeter at the iPad Summit.

Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 10.21.39 PM

PD that causes action – on multiple levels – needs to be replicated again and again. Brava to these motivated learners for learning, sharing, practicing, sharing more, and praising each other!

Learn and share.

Apply what you learn.

Broadcast for others to learn too!


Feedback please – a focus on progress

Building trust and relationship is critically important in growing and completing feedback loops.  I’ve been co-teaching World Language with Julia Kuipers as often as my schedule allows.  If you’ve read the posts, you know she is an excellent teacher.

Earlier this week, I read You’ve Been Doing a Fantastic Job. Just One Thing … from The New York Times. (HT @boadams1) The following passage stuck with me.

 “Those who had just started learning the language wanted the positive feedback, while those who had been taking the French classes longer were more interested in hearing about what they did wrong and how to correct it.

Why is that? One reason is that as people gain expertise, feedback serves a different purpose. When people are just beginning a venture, they may not have much confidence, and they need encouragement. But experts’ commitment ‘is more secure than novices and their focus is on their progress,’ the paper’s authors said.”

I loved receiving the following email from Julia.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.20.39 PMJulia writes “I turned the student’s ideas into a self assessment for the 6th Grade ELD langauge project.” Awesome! Building a rubric from student ideas.  Here’s her draft:

I was off campus at a conference.  Here is my quick reply.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.25.51 PM

I wondered what might come next.  How would Julia react to my feedback? What changes, if any, would she make?

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.20.55 PM

I really appreciate that she planned time in her schedule to review the feedback and work on another iteration.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.21.09 PM

What a transformation! I bet that we are not finished with this rubric, but I think the next step is to use it with students.  They will have valuable feedback, and we want to continue to refine our assessments with their input.

To show Julia’s engagement in the process (and complete the communication trail), here is the rest of our exchange.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.26.27 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.21.22 PM

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.27.27 PM

To reiterate:

“… as people gain expertise, feedback serves a different purpose.”

Julia and I invite you to offer your ideas, opinions, and expertise to help us improve so that we may better serve our learners.  Any and all feedback is welcome.


Tugend, Alina. “SHORTCUTS; How to Give Effective Feedback, Both Positive and Negative.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.

PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research #ettipad #ettlearns – reflection

My session at EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA in Atlanta, PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research #ettipad #ettlearns, went just the way I wanted.  Yay!

This tweet sums it up for me:

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 10.28.02 PM

With a quick show of hands, I estimated that 2/3 of participants used Twitter.  Approximately 1/2 labeled themselves as lurkers.  Around 1/5 had never tweeted.  There was a note in the program description.

Note: This session will be interactive, so please have a Twitter client on your iPad and an established Twitter account prior to attending this session. “

I believe about 10 did not have an established account.  All really interesting formative assessment.  I described my conversation with Bo where he challenged me to inspire faculty to use the technology in place – the faculty wanted iPads.  We wanted faculty to use and understand more about non-graded formative assessment.  I mashed up or blended brain research, Twitter, and formative assessment.  I offered a purpose to tweet.

After giving my Ignite talk about this PBL PD for teachers, I challenged the participants to partner up, leave our session to visit another session and tweet using the conference hash tag (#ettipad) and my hash tag (#ettlearns).  Maybe a little fear waved over the 1/3 non-tweeters and lurkers.  Go with a friend; come back in 15 minutes.  We’ll understand hash tags using learning by doing. I explained the risk I was taking.  I’d never sent my participants away, but I am committed to experiential learning.  Everyone got up and left to go observe and tweet.  It was so great until I turned to see an empty room.  Wow! What was I thinking? What had I just done?

They did tweet, and they did come back. Whew!

Here is a compilation of the tweets:

We talked about hash tags and how they can be used.  I answered lots of great questions. We answered lots of questions.  It was awesome! And, the hash tag #ettlearns lives.  Wow!

Learning is reciprocal.

Don’t just absorb; give back.

Learn and share!

PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research #ettipad #ettlearns

Today, I’m presenting at EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA in Atlanta.

PBL PD: Integrating Formative Assessment, Twitter, & Brain-based Research

“Want faculty to engage in a project together? Want faculty to try a non-graded formative assessment technique? Want faculty to investigate a little brain-based research to work on retention of information and learning? Want faculty to learn and explore using social media for learning, communication, and collaboration? Hear one school’s story of such a project that you can implement with learners next week.

Note: This session will be interactive, so please have a Twitter client on your iPad and an established Twitter account prior to attending this session. “

With the mountains of “stuff” our teachers need to learn, practice, and do, how do we get it all accomplished? How can we, the adult-learners, practice and learn while continuing our work? In other words, how do we create PBL experiences for adult-learners that teach through experience and out of isolation?

What if we created a movement to learn more about Twitter and formative assessment while investigating the primacy-recency effect as described in How the Brain Learns by David Sousa?

“This research indicates that there is a higher probability of effective learning taking place if we can keep the learning episodes short and, of course, meaningful. Thus, teaching two 20-minute lessons provides 20 percent more prime-time (approximately 36 minutes) than one 40-minute lesson (approximately 30 minutes). Note, however, that a time period shorter than 20 minutes usually does not give the learner’s brain sufficient time to determine the pattern and organization of the new learning, and is thus of little benefit.”
How the Brain Learns, David A. Sousa

What if we integrate reflection and quick-writes as the down time or cognitive break as the bridge between the 2 prime-time learning episodes? What if we leverage social media – Twitter – to share learning and questions across our school to paint a picture of learning?

Here’s the idea and implementation plan for a 50-60 minute period.

      1. Pause at approximately 18-20 minutes and ask our student-learners to do a quick write about what they are learning or doing in class.  (a form of self-assessment; do I know what I’m supposed to be learning?)
      2. Let learners quickly share what they wrote.  (a form of formative assessment, are they learning what I intend?)
      3. Tweet a summary of what is being learned or done using a common hashtag. (this models using social media for learning)
      4. Follow the tweets from this hashtag to be more informed about each other and what we are learning/doing in class to possibly find curricular connections and common ground.

What if we check for understanding 20 minutes into class and let this check inform our practices for the rest of the learning time – the 2nd prime-time interval?

Many teachers can’t find purpose for Twitter.  It is too much information, or they feel they have to be connected all of the time.  What if we change that? What if we use Twitter as a communication, learning, and celebration tool? (I think Grant’s post last weekend supports this and the need to change.)

I’m going to try something different in this session.  I’m going to ask the participants to practice, to go on a learning walk and tweet and then come back and analyze the results.  Experiential learning rather than sit-n-get. (We are going to use #ettLearns in addition to #ettiPad.)

Keep your fingers crossed!


For reflections and artifacts of learning about this PBL PD experiment, read more.