Author Archives: Christine Boyer

Education

4 Reasons I Use Twitter in My Classroom

twitterUsing Twitter in my classroom has certainly elevated my tech savvy status with parents as well as my instagramming 5th graders who have never known a world without digital devices. We live in a very social world, so why not use social media in the classroom? Social media is a part of daily life for millions of people on our planet and it’s not going away any time soon. Using it in my classroom allows me to model appropriate use and teaches my students necessary skills they will need for their lives beyond our classroom.
While there may be many extraneous reasons to use social media in my classroom (it makes my life easier because it’s organized as well as time and space efficient), it really comes down to four main reasons:

Twitter connects me with parents

Using social media in a classroom gives parents a window into their child’s day. The learning becomes transparent as I tweet all content area charts (see below) made in class so they are available to all students at home, to be used as teaching tools/support for their homework and review. Homework assignments are also Tweeted after reviewing them in the classroom. We all benefit when there is ample time to discuss the assignments and less time spent copying the assignment.
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Tweeting charts lets the parents know what their children are doing in school and in addition, students often use them as reference tool for future assignments and homework as they are archived in our class Twitter account.

Twitter expands the walls of my classroom

Our class Twitter handle is @5Boyer and while I start the year orchestrating our tweets, my savvy students quickly start to ask, “Do we have to copy that or will you tweet it?” or “Can you take a picture and tweet it, I want everyone to see what we’ve done?” My students have many questions and it would ultimately be a shame if I was the only voice that answered them. We tweet to others to ask questions, why not go straight to the experts? Once my class Tweeted to the International Space Station asking, “How many sunsets do you see in a day?” AND The ISS Tweeted back! Imagine how exciting that was for 23 fifth graders (not to mention their teacher). Tweeting student work now becomes an instant celebration as it is shared with a much wider audience. As a teacher, I retweet relevant information and LOVE how that sparks a conversation in the classroom. Note in the tweet below, I was at home reaching out to my class as the spacewalk was starting before school hours. I added others to the tweet by inserting their twitter handles, check out their response.
twitterIn most of my tweets I add the hashtag #heathcotepride as our amazing tech guru has created a living bulletin board for all school related tweets and to his credit almost all of our staff is tweeting!

Twitter connects me with others who share the same passions

Professionally, I have built a network of teachers, learners, and experts whom I can learn from every day. There are incredible things happening in the world of education and I have a front row seat with an international view. Only social media can deliver that. I can connect with others who will be attending the same conference, see what’s going on in classrooms around the world or simply be inspired by other amazing teachers. Additionally, Twitter chats make it possible for me to participate in professional conversations in my pajamas. Twitter chats are when a group of twitter users come together at a predetermined time to discuss a certain topic using a specific hashtag with each tweet. Chats serve as a networking opportunity in addition to an awesome learning environment!
#edtechchat is one favorite and @iChrisLehman hosts many thought provoking chats focused on reading and writing.

Twitter helps me conduct research

Twitter offers direct access to the experts and the information is current. Many museums are on social media and post highlights on museum exhibits, special events and relevant articles. Scientists, journalists, athletes, engineers, bankers…millions of professionals are on social media. When my students are given a choice within their research projects, they often choose topics/people that are trendy and not easily researchable in books, (and if there is a book, it’s not in language a fifth grader can easily understand). Recent research topics have included: How Has Social Media Impacted Our Daily Lives? What are Football Combines?, When Will Time Travel Be Possible? and Astronaut Scott Kelly and Life in Space. Students learn how to use social media as a primary source when making connections with the experts in the field that they are studying. Available literature may not be accessible, but people rarely deny a student the opportunity to conduct an interview once the initial contact has been made.
In the process of writing this post I became curious as to what my students might say so I asked them, “What do you all think of social media in the classroom?”, here’s what they said;

  • “My grandma lives in Florida and Twitter helps her see what I’m doing in school, she likes that”
  • “Twitter can help others learn from what we’re doing”
  • “It saves on paper – we have all the charts without making 24 copies of it”
  • “It helps us to document our work”
  • “Tweets of pictures, charts and homework help us to review our work from home easily”
  • “We can share work with our parents”
  • “It takes too long to get to School Wires, Twitter is really fast and easy”
  • “If I’m sick or on vacation early, I can keep up on the work on Twitter, so I can go to sportsmens lodge costa rica without any worries”
  • “Twitter is a good thing – when my mom asks what I did in school, I usually say I don’t know, but now we can check on Twitter”
  • “Twitter is a good way to communicate with people who we can’t interact with directly. Like astronaut Scott Kelly who tweeted to us”
  • “I use Twitter to see what’s going on in school. I use Instagram to follow friends who have moved and see what’s going on.”
  • “Vine and Twitter are good for following my interests, like a sports team, a car company. I can see how they’re doing.”

Time is precious and twitter lets me complete a multitude of tasks in a short amount of time. It’s a tool that I have come to depend on for communicating daily with parents, colleagues, and astronauts. Wall Street and CNN have their tickers that deliver up-to-the-minute relevant information – that is what twitter has become for me and my students.
 

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Featured Image via Flickr

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Education

How MakerSpace and MakerFaire can unlock a student's love of creating

The saying, “If you build it, they will come” may have been referring to baseball stadiums, but it may also be the favorite mantra of makerspaces across the country. Since creating our school’s makerspace in November 2013, I’ve seen a small revolution start to grow within our elementary school and also across our district. A makerspace is a learning environment where children can tinker, design and create collaboratively using a variety of materials.
However, a makerspace is so much more than a physical space, it’s a mindset that embraces making as a necessary component of learning. In the past two years, I’ve worked with colleagues to incorporate changes within our curriculum that tap into a child’s natural love of creating.

Getting Started With A MakerSpace

Our makerspace is a small room off of our library that was once an office and storage space. It is now a vibrant hub of activity, stocked with a variety of high-tech and low-tech supplies that challenge and inspire our little makers. I was fortunate to have been given an old storage room to convert into the physical makerspace; however another challenge persisted and that was, what to put into the space. The ultimate goal for me was to help teachers create new learning experiences that empower the students and incorporate next generation skills.
Having the learning extend beyond the classroom walls and creating vertical curriculum where students teach students is magical when it happens and something I thought could grow out of our makerspace. So it was critical that the items that filled the shelves in our makerspace inspire and facilitate this growth. Staying focused on the idea that, while the 3D printer and coding programs are very cool, it’s truly not about the technology but about transforming teaching and learning experiences for our students.
My love of building and creating actually comes from my own two boys. Watching them create trains, castles, superhero costumes and monster webs out of cardboard and duct tape made me realize that not only were they enjoying a childhood rite of passage when they commandeered the large boxes, but they were applying the 21st Century skills that all educators talk about. They were planning, designing, iterating, collaborating and writing a fantastic story that grew with each step of the process. I needed to bring this love of learning into my classroom and into my school!
Having like minded grade level colleagues and the flexibility to enhance curriculum made it easier to incorporate more hands on project based learning into the 5th grade science units. Rocketry was our first and biggest change as we went from a cookie cutter prescribed way of creating soda bottle rockets to an inquiry based open ended, steeped in design thinking challenge – this documentary says it all. We also were able to make over our unit on models & designs to incorporate our makerspace and the 3D printer. This also “upped the ante” on our students Rube Goldberg projects as well as their own models designed and printed in school.

Making Meaning

Most recently, I revisited the idea of homework and asked my students, “What do you want to learn? How will you learn it? and How will you show what you know?” They are researching, documenting (through writing, sketches, photos and videos), interviewing experts in their field of interest and creating something so meaningful that no testing agency in the world could measure.
Initially, I thought parents might be upset by the absence of traditional homework, however their reaction was the polar opposite. Parents were emailing me stating how proud they were of their child’s efforts and creativity. Many parents even took an active role in this month-long homework assignment that came to be known as The Passion Project.
Ethan taught himself how to use Sketch Up to make a 3D rendering of a fort he wants to build in his backyard. Using foam core he made a model to scale as well as drawings on graph paper. Construction on his 46 sq ft fort begins next week.
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Ethan and the scale model of his future fort.

Juliette designed and made her own garden (including the fence). She plans to use the vegetables for cooking and healthy salads. Allie is learning the art of graffiti and even found a local expert to interview and take a lesson with. The list goes on…
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Allie’s graffiti inspiration board.

When it comes to change, I have to jump into the deep end or I will end up overthinking it. Alan Watts said, The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. While I know that is how I feel, I do respect that others often wade into change. Building the makerspace didn’t automatically bring classroom teachers in droves, but rather in a trickling stream, and by working with several colleagues and our PTA president.
This past year has helped to give our maker movement stronger momentum with the addition of school sponsored clubs (multi-grade makers club and Lego Robotics). These clubs have introduced more students to the space, and encouraged cross grade/school collaborations to incorporate making into the curriculum. And perhaps one of the most ambitious projects of all is our inaugural HExpo (Heathcote Elementary Expo) – our version of a makerfaire.

MakerFaire

The upcoming HExpo is truly going to be a celebration of the positive changes that are happening around our school and district. It’s a celebration of the planning, designing, iterating and collaborating that has grown out of our makerspace and it’s our contribution to the growing maker movement. We have partnered with community members, parents, former students and local businesses and museums to design a series of hands on workshops for students to participate in.
Our impressive line up includes furniture design, architecture, bridge building, 3D design, coding, a mobile planetarium, 3D animation, collage, and several tinker tables for open exploration. Our school’s green club is busy making their version of Cain’s Arcade for the HExpo.
While the makerspace may be one room in our building, it encompasses a mindset that encourages exploration, imagination and prototyping. This room symbolizes a change where problem solving and creativity are at the core of learning. It’s only one room but the impact is slowly reaching far beyond it’s four walls. HExpo ‘15 will be the first of many to come.

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