It’s time to start exploring the world of Blogs!

School is about to start up again! This is the opportune time to plan for the upcoming school year and think about the changes you might want to make in your classroom. Most tech-minded teachers already know about top education sites like Edudemic and Edutopia, but where else should you look on the web to find tips this summer? Here are some great blogs that will help as you plan for the fall.

Free Tech 4 Teachers: This excellent blog written by Richard Byrne covers all kinds of technology, from web-based tools to apps. Byrne updates regularly with reviews and descriptions of new tools.

The Innovative Educator: Public school educator Lisa Nielsen focuses her work on using everyday technology to inspire and motivate students. This blog will help you incorporate technology that students already use, such as cell phones and social media, into your classroom.

Cool Cat Teacher: Written by Vicki Davis, a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director of a small school in Georgia, this blog strives to help teachers use technology to innovate their teaching. Davis also hosts the Every Teacher Matters podcast, in which she interviews teachers about best practices for using technology in the classroom.

Teacher Tech: In this blog, self-described “technology missionary” Alice Keeler gives tutorials on how to do all sorts of technology-based tasks. Recent posts include instructions on how to use Tweetdeck to follow multiple hashtags at once and how to create and manage YouTube playlists.

Teacher Reboot Camp: Shelly Sanchez Terrell challenges teachers to transform their teaching. In addition to her 30 Goals Challenge, Terrell also runs a blog full of resources for teachers, including her “A to Z Guide of Technology and Trends,” a weekly webinar, and a series of “survival tips” for teachers.

Those are just five blogs to help you jumpstart your search. What other blogs do you use to inspire your teaching? Please comment below.

 

Grit? Risk taking? What behaviors should you encourage in your classroom?

If you use ClassDojo with your students, you’ve probably noticed that most of the behaviors you want to encourage or discourage are already embedded in the program, but did you know you can add your own? How do you decide which behaviors to add? It helps to think about what kind of classroom culture you want to foster. I felt really strongly about encouraging risk-taking in my class, so I added “taking a risk” to the positive behavior options. If you decide to do something like this, make sure you have a discussion with your students about what each of these behaviors looks like and why they are important.

It’s easy to say you want students to exhibit grit and perseverance, but what exactly do those look like? The first criteria for adding a behavior to ClassDojo is measurability. When I decided to add “risk taking” to my list, we had several discussions about what this would look like with my class. The general consensus was that students should receive a point for risk taking if they stuck their neck out, and stepped out of their comfort zone for the sake of learning. This means if someone was called on and was unsure of what to say, if they said something in an attempt to participate rather than exercising their right to pass, they earned a point. This approach opened up a larger dialogue about the importance of taking a risk and not being afraid to fail. It became a part of our classroom culture and we talked about it every day. These are the types of things you should add to your behaviors list to help develop these traits in your students.

You may be tempted to add every desirable human quality imaginable, but I recommend starting slow. Keep it simple. Add one at a time and use it consistently. If you notice you are never using a particular behavior, remove it. The great thing about this feature is that you can adapt it to each individual class. Last year I had a particularly disruptive class, so I put interrupting on my negative point list. In general, I like to use positive encouragement whenever possible, but in moderation, correctional type of feedback is also very useful.

 

 

Time to drop email and start instant messaging with parents!

An integral piece of my success each year is developing strong communication with parents. There are various methods in which I attempt to keep my students’ parents informed. Parents can visit my classroom page on my school’s website to find out what topics are being covered, what tests are coming up, and what events our classroom might be participating in during any given week. I update my page weekly or even daily if required.

At the beginning of the school year, I emphasize that emails are the quickest form of communication for me. Although I would love to return their phone calls, it can be almost impossible due to the fact that the nearest phone is in the teachers’ lounge. I ensure parents that I can respond to their questions and concerns much quicker by email. However, a shift has occurred in my communication strategy. A new and exciting tool has opened up an even better line of communication: ClassDojo Messenger.

ClassDojo Messenger has become one of the best ways to get instant information to parents and receive instant feedback as well. Although my first time sending messages were due to student misbehavior, I was thrilled with the results as responses began pouring in from the parents of those few students who were involved. I informed the parents of the incident at 8:30am and by 9:15am I had either a response or an indication that my message was read.

Since then I have found a number of ways to use ClassDojo Messenger to assist my communication with parents. I’ve also noticed that the parents are using it more often as well. With the app notifying me that I have a message, I am able to answer those immediate questions at anytime. I wouldn’t normally see those questions on my email until the morning. If it were a question about homework or an event happening the next day, my response would have been too late.

So far, I’ve used ClassDojo Messenger to:

  • Remind parents of end of year procedures.
  • Provide a Field Trip checklist of things the students need.
  • Congratulate a student (via the parent) on his or her test grade.
  • Thank the parents for a great year and wish them a relaxing and safe summer.
  • Provide a little positive reinforcement for one or two challenges among my students.

I am surely looking forward to expanding the use of ClassDojo Messenger this school year. I also plan to check in on my students during the summer and send some loving messages to my former students. I’m excited to open a greater dialogue with parents through ClassDojo Messenger and see all the benefits associated with increased parent communication.

The power of #hashtags in education

The word “hashtag” was recently added to the dictionary. It has revolutionized the way people share, organize, and archive information on social media sites.

One hashtag in particular, #satchat, is near and dear to my heart. It has given me an opportunity to connect with current and emerging school leaders in the wonderful world of Twitter. Each and every Saturday at 7:30am EST educators use the #satchat hashtag in their tweets to share ideas and resources on specific discussion topics. Throughout the week when the actual discussion is not taking place, educators use the #satchat to gain access to timely information and best practice ideas. Hashtags have enabled educators to customize their learning. So let’s take a look at the power of hashtags in education.

There are so many hashtags to follow. Are you a school leader? Try out #satchat. Parent? Check out #ptchat (Parent-Teacher). Educational junkie? No doubt you will love #edchat. Addicted to educational technology? Follow #edtechchat. I could go on and on. Whether it’s a state oriented hashtag, like #iaedchat (Iowa), #njed (New Jersey), or #arkedchat (Arkansas), or a subject specific hashtag such as #sschat (Social Studies) you have so many options at your fingertips.

The great thing about hashtags is that they are applicable to a number of social media sites. Utilizing your search box feature will help with finding resources related to a particular hashtag. A very popular Instagram hashtag educators use is #teachersfollowteachers. Whether you are looking for a classroom decoration idea or want to see what a particular learning experience looks like, Instagram provides educators with an opportunity to grow in ways once thought unimaginable. Educators can actually see what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.

Hashtags are sometimes overwhelming, especially across multiple social media sites. That’s why it’s imperative to use a tool like Tagboard to stay on top of things. Tagboard is a collection of social media posts that share a common hashtag, helping you stay connected and organized. Hashtags can also have a profound effect on stakeholder engagement. Classrooms, schools, and districts should strongly consider utilizing hashtags to activate stakeholder interest in school happenings. For example, Joe Sanfelipopo, Superintendent of Falls Creek School District in Wisconsin, encourages the school community to stay connected and promote initiatives through the #gocrickets hashtag.

So what do you say? Take a chance and start a hashtag to tell your school’s story and promote all that’s right with education.