Thursday, June 18, 2009

Friday 5: Twitter 101

I must apologize for the gaps in Friday 5 production! I've had a very busy spring, mostly because I changed jobs about a month ago. I am still working at the University of Chicago, only I am working with a different unit, the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education. This group is responsible for the development of Everyday Math if you are familiar with this elementary curriculum. I will be working on a variety of projects for CEMSE and I'm thrilled for this opportunity. For you, this will probably mean more Friday 5s on math and science topics! 

Anyway, this week's list is prompted by the media buzz surrounding the recent Iranian elections and the influence of Twitter upon the dissemination of information flowing from that region. If you have been living under a rock which many teachers in the US are at this time of year, check out this New York Times article.  

To put it simply, Twitter is a microblogging tool in which you post messages of 140 characters or less. Your "tweets" are only seen by those that "follow" you. Your followers usually are friends, family and/or people that have similar interests. You are prompted to answer a question, "What are you doing?" which is taken literally by many people. Hence, you may run into pretty mundane and pointless tweets from people like celebrity Ashton Kutcher (example: "I hate the after working out feeling like I'm gonna throw up feeling. I hate it, but I love it. lol"). Hopefully, you'll see Ashton as a cautionary tale and you'll learn to tweet stuff that your followers will find useful or at least interesting. 

When used well, Twitter can be the most powerful professional development tool in your education arsenal. I follow many people and organizations related to areas that interest me: education, technology, Apple, Google, global education etc. I use a tool called Tweetdeck to manage all of this, and with Tweetdeck, I can do searches of other tweets on topics that interest me. For instance, I have a search set up for Everyday Math, global education and citizen science right now. I have discovered a plethora of resources and other people to follow through searching. I also like to share what I find, and giving back to those you follow is an important part of Twitter culture.  

At any rate, Twitter is something that you are not going to really get unless you jump in and try it. Explore and stick with using this amazing tool and I think you'll see what all the recent buzz is about. To get started, make a Twitter account and check out the following resources:  

1. Twitter in Plain English - a great video that explains Twitter in a nutshell 
2. 7 Things You Should Know about Twitter -Educause publishes a series of excellent articles detailing new and emerging technologies.  
3. Tweetdeck -Use this third party app to manage Twitter. It's much better than using the Twitter web interface.  
4. TwitThis -Install this tool into your browser's toolbar so that you can share web sites on the fly as you surf.  
5. Hootsuite -This is a great tool for managing multiple Twitter accounts. Try this out once you've mastered Twitter basics.  
6. Twitter Freaks Group -If you get hooked on Twitter and want to learn more about other tools have been developed to harness its power, join my Twitter Freak group and browse the many resources that have been shared to this bookmarking group.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Expanding Your NECC 2009 Experience

View and edit NECC 2009 Washington, DC in a larger map. Please add your recommendations!

It's that time of year again... The International Society for Technology in Education will celebrate its 30th birthday in a few weeks by hosting the National Educational Computing Conference in Washington, D.C. For me, it's a particularly exciting time to be visiting our nation's capital in light of our new president and a renewed focus on improving education.

NECC 2009 promises to be professionally rejuvenating event for anyone interested in educational technology. It is a potentially overwhelming conference with nearly 13,000 attendees and approximately 500 vendors presenting their wares. For the record, educational technology has never been about the tools for me (although I do revel in the cool factor of many technologies), but about leveraging learning for kids. That said, I hope that educators from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests will attend for similar reasons. I would actually like to see the excitement about educational technology filter down more to those who aren't necessarily techie geeks like myself.

For the past few years, I've posted a blog entry highlighting a few tips and tricks for making the most of your NECC experience. Review my ideas for 2007 and for 2008; I still stand by that general advice. Pick an area of focus, spend time planning before you get to Washington with that theme in mind, and give yourself plenty of time to digest everything. Bring your laptop for taking notes and accessing additional content; I suspect more people will be using iPhones for this purpose, however. Finally, get connected with other educators through the plethora of events that are scheduled. For the second year, ISTE has an online community for conference conversation. Networking isn't just for job seekers or administrators anymore!

If you are not able to attend in person, you should be able to participate virtually as well. Some presenters may elect to post their materials online and to stream video feeds of their presentations. At Edubloggercon, an informal "unconference" to be held Saturday, June 27 as a precursor to NECC, many sessions will also be broadcast via tools such as Ustream. Finally, similar sessions called NECC Unplugged will be taking place in the Blogger's Café during the actual conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

In addition to all this, people will be blogging, posting pictures, and twittering away about conference happenings. You can find this stuff by searching various sources using tags (keyword labels) such as NECC, NECC2009, and NECC09. For instance, search Twitter using #NECC and you'll find a steady microblogging stream. I recommend searching Technorati for blog posts and Flickr for photos in a similar manner.

Finally, I like to make the most of any travel experience by doing a little research ahead of time. I usually do a cursory search in iTunes for content related to my destination that I can put on my iPod or iPhone. For instance, I purchased the audiobook of A Cricket in Times Square for my daughter when we traveled to New York City prior to NECC 2005. In 2006, I traveled to Europe with other Apple Distinguished Educators on a project and I brought along a Passport to Europe episode on Berlin and a No Reservations episode on Paris (this show isn't necessarily for kids, by the way). In addition to these items, there are tons of free podcasts available in iTunes if you do a search for your particular destination.

I've taken the liberty of putting together a few Washington DC related resources. I have not reviewed all of these; I just explored and plucked ones that look potentially interesting. If you have any additional recommendations, please add them to the comments. Enjoy and see you in DC. I'll be in the Google booth from time to time and presenting as part of Larry Anderson's Podcasting and Podcatching for the Absolute Beginner panel. Stop by and say hello!

Washington DC and NECC Resources

Lucy's NECC Calendar - Each year, I use the NECC conference planner to plot any sessions interesting to me. I'm focusing on math, science and interactive whiteboards this year.

Lucy's NECC '09 Map - Join this Google Map and add your info and recommendations.

NECC Ning - NECC's online community; attendees and virtual attendees are welcome to join.

GovFresh - one stop shopping for multimedia produced by the U.S. governent. Everything is aggregated in one place; web 2.0 at its finest!

Apps for your iPhone:
TV Shows and Movies:
YouTube Channels:

Monday, June 08, 2009

Teachers Without Borders off to Africa

While many educators use Web 2.0 tools to make global connections, some educators are actually making these connections by traveling directly to countries where resources are scarce equipped with XO laptops, digital cameras, Flip Cameras, and incredible commitment to bridging the digital divide. I've invited Sharon Peters to be a guest blogger for Infinite Thinking this month to share with you how she and fellow educators are making global connections through Teachers Without Borders, and how you and your students can participate in their efforts to bridge the digital divide.

---- from Guest blogger Sharon Peters ----

Teachers Without Borders is off to Africa

At 59 million, teachers represent the largest group of educated professionals in the world. If you are able to read this blog post, very likely you are NOT one of the millions of those teachers who lack access to professional development and enrichment resources. Teachers Without Borders (Canada affiliation) is an organization of teachers helping teachers in order to foster and promote adequate teacher training in areas of the world that desperately need it.

In my experience, teachers are also those with the biggest hearts. During the last 12 months, I have had the incredible privilege of working shoulder-to-shoulder with inspiring teachers from Canada, the U.S., South Africa and Kenya as we rolled up our sleeves together and shared resources, methodologies and practices. I have learned so much more from my new colleagues than I contributed and I can see a substantial difference in my own teaching approaches. Last July and August, I served with a team of Canadian teachers facilitating workshops for science, math, English and ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) educators in South Africa and Kenya over a period of six weeks. We were the first teams of TWB Canada to be deployed. My experiences profoundly changed my world view, my priorities and my attitudes about learning - and ultimately affected how I ask my students to consider becoming global citizens.

Frankly, I cannot imagine more effective professional development than to work cross-culturally with other dedicated teachers from around the world. We return to our own educational communities greatly enriched and empowered. To develop relationships with teachers in politically and economically challenging situations permits us to give voice to teachers we may otherwise ignore due to lack of media attention or awareness.

Over a period of nearly seven weeks in July and August, I will be returning to South Africa and Kenya as a team leader of ICT teachers who will facilitate workshops for educators ranging from newly appointed elearning specialists to teachers who have never touched a computer before . Our team faces enormous challenges and will be stretched to the limit in ways we cannot yet imagine. Our team of Americans and Canadians will be joined by in-country facilitators this year. Many of these educators have not yet had the opportunity to facilitate professional growth for their colleagues. Our model is to ask increased participation of in-country educator facilitators every year so that by the fourth year of our presence in a community, we can hand over the PD to the in-country educators.

As an educational technologist, I see the incredible potential that online tools and environments offer to educators to connect, collaborate and share on a global level. Many teachers may not yet have access to the technology or they may lack adequate instruction on how to harness and exploit the tools available to them. Meeting teachers face-to-face in their contexts and creating relationships with them greatly facilitates the possibility of sharing resources and approaches. I witnessed many educators who eagerly desired to learn more technology and computer skills when I was in Africa. There was a profound sense of a need to "catch up" to the developed world, in terms of skills and access to the Internet. My experiences have also forced me to recognize and question how culture and ideology is implicitly embedded in technology tools and approaches. These are very important issues that must be considered as we facilitate content for our workshops. We are in new territory here where there are few guidelines or "how-to" manuals. Fundamentally, though, I think we are on the right track through the model of partnering with in-country educators who provide cultural and historical interpretation.

We need your help!

Teachers Without Borders is a relatively young organization. We are working on a model to build capacity and sustainability. Not all teachers are able at this time in their careers to consider going abroad and working on an overseas team. There are certainly other ways in which you can help.

  • Consider making a tax-deductible donation. TWB raises money through grants and donations to cover our on the ground expenses while we teachers are asked to raise money toward our travel costs to the host country. As you know, most teachers are not able to pay for this out of pocket. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us cover our travel expenses. If you are in Canada, you can give donations here. If you are in the U.S., please go to this link and be sure to specify that the donation is directed toward the TWB-Canada team members.

  • Consider making donations of used digital cameras, laptops or flash drives. I will be at NECC in Washington D.C. (probably hanging out at the Bloggers Cafe) in late June and will be happy to connect with anyone who would like to pass resources along to me. John Schinker, another team member, and I will be leaving from NECC to travel to Africa.

  • Consider making a donation of a Flip camera (or similar camera) to kick off a classroom exchange between your students and students in South Africa. We are partnering with Edunova in the townships of Cape Town to establish classroom-to-classroom partnerships. If you pass along a camera, perhaps with some embedded content on it from your own students, we will give it to a committed teacher in South Africa who will establish and maintain contact with your class.

  • Consider joining our TWB community to communicate with other global educators and to develop resources for teachers in other parts of the world.

For more information or for an American or Canadian address to which you can send equipment, you can contact me at speters at and you can follow our blogs throughout July and August:

Jody Meacher:

Zac Chase:

John Schinker -

Lois McGill-Horn

Sharon Peters:

Noble Kelly: