Sunday, March 4, 2012

Educational and Technical Features of Twitter

Technical Features of Twitter
As of six months ago Twitter had reached 100 million users, and there was an average of 230 million tweets per day. The features which have made this Web 2.0 technology so popular are it's ease of use and collaborative features. Twitter is easy to use for a variety of reasons, beginning with how easy it is to start. User names and accounts are free and only take a few minutes to register. Anyone can access Twitter and generate content from Internet enabled computers, tablets, and smart phones. The search features are easy to use and allow users to search for people whom they wish to follow, or to search for trends and content which they wish to view. The collaborative nature of Twitter makes it attractive for users and educators alike. By tweeting thoughts, news, pictures and videos, and hyperlinks this tool allows anyone to easily reach a group of followers whom they wish to collaborate with.

Educational Uses
I recently used Twitter with students for the first time and believe it holds massive potential as an educational tool. My experience with this technology started out of necessity as I was chaperoning a student weekend trip to Washington D.C. and needed a way to contact students with news and updates without calling each of the thirty students. My Assistant Principal and I set up an account and announced our user name on the bus on the way to the conference and by our arrival we had six followers. We found that students were more engaged with their colleagues than previous years, and we had fewer excuses from students about not knowing when and where they should be. While this was a seemingly minor experience I believe I can use this technology for multiple uses in my class.

Ideas for Usage
I would like to use Twitter for class announcements, homework assignments, and ancillary readings and articles which pertain to the class. Having a class twitter account would not be that much different from a class blog, but the ease of access for Twitter would better allow parents, students, and the teacher to communicate and collaborate. Most parents and students have to log in to multiple places to view class notes at my school, and since the vast majority of my students and parents have smart phones using Twitter would be an easy way for all involved to keep up with class postings. Also, parents and students can collaborate with the teacher and ask pertinent questions to better ensure student success. Also, I frequently find articles and readings on my phone which are pertinent to the classes which I teach, but have to email them to myself, print them off or scan them and distribute to students. By sharing these articles on Twitter, I would more effectively disseminate and discuss content with students outside of the classroom. Lastly, I think the collaborative nature of Twitter would be invaluable as a back channeling tool during class movie clips, discussions, and group assignments. Since students can access their Twitter account via a computer or phone it would allow them to connect in class and at home. While there are some snags and potential problems, I do believe that if teachers can begin to use Twitter for their classes there would be many meaningful opportunities for it's usage in classrooms.

Twitter in Education

Example of Usage
I recently used Twitter with the assistance of my Assistant Principal at a conference which we were chaperoning. The conference was a Model United Nations trip to Washington, D.C. where close to three thousand students were participating and staying at the Washington Hilton. We used this Web 2.0 tool  to make announcements pertinent to the group (and friendly reminders about personal conduct), and to promote discussion and interest in what students were doing in their individual committees. Below are two examples of our twitter feed which were promoting student work and announcements for the group.

External Resources
  • This site provides 50 useful ideas on how teachers can use Twitter effectively in education.
  • If you are still skeptical about using Twitter for your classes please peruse the following website. There are articles and videos which not only make the case for jumping on the Twitter train, but also data which corroborates the usefulness of the tool.

Glogster Project

Educational Uses
Over the past week my students have been creating glogs instead of the standard research paper. At the conclusion of the last unit of study the students chose which topic most interested them for further research. The required content is posted on my previous blog post, but students were required to include primary source documents, pictures, videos, written analysis for each item on their glog, and a summative audio or video explanation of their project. This project was a great way to get students to research historical topics and present their findings by using meaningful technologies. Students were engaged not only in their research but also by the use of this Web 2.0 tool. I found that student's video and audio analysis was many times just as valuable and informative as a written paper. The collaborative nature of the project is yet to take place (results are coming), but I have assigned students to access their classmate's glogs for a test on the material in class. Each student was required to email me two questions from their blogs for their classmates to answer, and I was surprised by how many questions were challenging and higher level.

Technical Features
According to their website, "Glogster EDU Premium is a collaborative online learning platform for teachers and students to express their creativity, knowledge, ideas and skills in the classroom." The reason this is a Web 2.0 tool is because of it's ease of use, low (or free) cost, and it's collaborative advantages. The gist of the tool is that users create a digital poster with easily navigable options such as inserting word documents, pictures, user created audio or video, text boxes, hyperlinks, and embedded video files from YouTube. There are also quite a bit of options which allow users to customize their backgrounds using their large bank of images or by uploading pictures.

I have found that the technical features of the tool are extremely easy to use, and are quite intuitive for most web users. Students commented that the website was quite easy to navigate and I had very little questions about how to create a glog or how to use any of the functions. There are a few possible technical setbacks that I found however, including saving and publishing. The tool does not save automatically which set one student back because of his forgetting to save his work. Also, if students are not careful to follow directions they may forget to publish their finished product for viewing. These two options are not prominently featured on the project page. Besides these two minor issues this site is very user friendly and easy to use. 

Note: I was lucky that my school bought 200 student accounts based upon feedback from teachers who thought the site was worth investing in. The technology coordinator at my school set me up with a teacher account to monitor student progress and with a class list with site-generated user names and passwords. I went through the process with the coordinator and it was quite easy to use, both in the setup as well as the monitoring of student progress.

Glogster Examples and Resources

Below is an example of a glog created by a student. He included seven primary source documents, one video clip, six paragraphs which explain the content on his glog, and most importantly, his video summation of his research.

The following is my rubric and requirements for my students for the glogster project. I would love feedback as to what can be taken out or added.
All of the following requirements and graphics are to be appropriate to your topic. There are many opportunities for you to use topic-appropriate graphics which can enhance your project. Inappropriate graphics can detract from your overall work, and incorrect grammar and spelling will result in the deduction of points.  
1). At least 2 primary source newspaper articles/political cartoons by using scholarly databases to hyperlink to the article. These should be hyperlinked in your text box to further develop your analysis of the topic at hand. (5 points each=10 points) _____
2). At least one embedded video which is relevant and enhances your analysis of the topic. (5 points) _____
3). At least 5 relevant images with appropriate labels. (2 points each=10 points) _____
4). Accompanying paragraphs for each image or video posted (at least 6). This paragraph should explain to the user the relevance and importance of the topic(s). (5 points each=30 points) _____
5). A video or audio recording to conclude the research project. This conclusion should be comprehensive and a summation (not reading of sources/comments) of the topic. This will be a major part of your project because the nature of the program doesn’t lend itself to large amounts of text analysis per topic. (20 points) _____
6). Two critical thinking questions included in your submission email which will be answered by your class mates. (5 points each=10 points) ______
7). Correct MLA formatted citations at the conclusion of each paragraph/source which is used.
(10 points) _____
Total 95 points ______
This project will be due via email with the URL of your project, as well as your 2 comprehensive test questions for your classmates. This is due @midnight the day before we take the “glogster-quest”

Please see below for some further resources for using Glogster.

  • A great resource for using glogster in the classroom can be found HERE.

  • This blog contains many great resources for teachers looking into using glogster in their classrooms.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

VoiceThread Project Technical Features

The way I organized this project was to create a group for my students so that they can all access and comment on each others work. While this scared me originally, I have done this project now three times and have yet to have a student slip innapropriate comments into a classmates presentation because it shows who is making the comment. Here is a picture of what my group setup looks like.

One source from the VoiceThread website that is very helpful for helping to inspire ideas is This site has examples from multiple disciplines and age levels which have provided me with many ideas as to how I can adapt this Web 2.0 technology for meaningful inclusion in my classes.

Another source which may be helpful to educators is This site is a wiki created by an educator to show the different ways VoiceThread is being used by teachers, and has many examples which you could use for your students or for coming up with new ways to incorporate this technology.

Lastly, I have included the rubric as a google document which I use to grade the project and to give the students context on my expectations. This rubric has changed slightly each year I have done the project, so any input would be appreciated.

Collaborative VoiceThread Project

Above is an example of a VoiceThread project in which students were placed into groups of four to provide feedback on their projects. Each student was required to create their own VoiceThread project and to join a class group which I created. I divided the class into groups of four where they were responsible for watching and providing two comments or questions to each of their group member's projects. At the end of the project, the students told me that they were really excited about the ability to comment and critique their colleague's work outside of class. Many students told me that this allowed them to more freely share their true feelings than they would have felt comfortable doing in a classroom. The comments and questions offered by other students online were then addressed in class to provide further context from each project.

I think this project is not only a great way to incorporate meaningful technology into my curriculum, but the collaborative aspect of VoiceThread is what makes this technology so valuable for our students.
For your convenience, the two best examples of collaboration occur between :15-1:23 and 7:15-8:10 in the movie.

Welcome All

I hope that my postings on three Web 2.0 technologies for teaching will be helpful or inspiring to you all.