Wow. We just finished our first Twitter Challenge (#BASDChallenge) in my district and all I have to say is: gamification in professional learning can motivate teachers!
Connecting Is Personal
Becoming a Connected Educator is a highly personal journey. Over the past year, I have been trying to gather interest in creating PLNs and PLCs in the high schools that I support. I have had a few die hard teachers attend my trainings and participate in Connected Educator Month. Connecting teachers together can transform your school. But until they experience it for themselves, it is a really abstract concept and frightening. When I tried to help teacher “set goals” about how PLNs to could help them grow professionally I got mixed stares. It was as if they were thinking, “Ok, this WAS fun! Please don’t ruin it with goals!” I’ve heard PLN spelled out as Personal Learning Network or Professional Learning Network. After working with teachers, I am going to stick with Personal Learning Network.
Teachers Have to Be Learners First
Like Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has often said, teachers have to be learners first in order to recharge and evolve as educators. I have found there is an a-ha moment with Twitter once the person understands the parameters of the tool and THEN connects with other educators. But until then, baby steps. We need to walk (tweet) before we can run (a Twitter chat).
Make It Fun
My training is normally well received by teachers at my district. I make all of my trainings to be available online (synchronously or asynchronously) or in person. I’d say most of the teachers opt for the online training as their lives are so full and busy. The last training was completely online as teachers took part in a 15 Day Twitter Challenge. It was a hit! While we had roughly 40 teachers participate across the district, I would receive inquiries on joining it due to an excited colleague that was participating. Before we started, I informed teachers they would be recognized and have a chance at a prize if they participated in each of the tasks. Some teachers asked if they were still receiving recognition because they couldn’t complete one of the tasks on time. And some teachers even taunted each other on Twitter because THEY wanted to win the prize at the end. I wondered if the gamification would turn teachers off. Well, it looks like the pilot was a success so I am investigating how to gamify my other trainings for next school year.
But I didn’t invent the Twitter Challenge – read about how do your own here!
I had the opportunity to connect with another Connected Educator, Mark James (@mdjames67), at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference in 2015. He gave a session on using Google Apps with Math. What struck me the most about Mark was not the math instruction techniques or cool tools. I was impressed and extremely interested in the other math teachers he mentioned during the presentation. One that figured prominently was Dan Meir. Look him up if you don’t follow him. He was a Math teacher, now the Chief Academic Officer of Desmos.
Educators are trying their best to do one main thing: Help Kids Learn™. We each take a different role whether it be that of a classroom teacher, an administrator that keeps the school running smoothly or an educational coach that helps teachers get better at this one thing. We are part of a team.
Connecting to other educators that are doing things differently or better is one of the most important thing a teacher can do. While their classroom is their domain, it is a challenge to maintain the stamina of Help(ing) Kids Learn™ in a vacuum.
Yesterday, Mark came to one of my high schools to talk about how he has made connections through Twitter to inspire and help him through the challenges many teachers face on the front lines in the classroom environment.
Using Angela Watson’s blog post to guide the presentation (and a really cool demo of Pear Deck!), he walked us through the top 4 reasons why educators do not connect (but how they can overcome them).
- I don’t want to spend my free time thinking about school. (But do you have time to think about what made you excited about teaching in the first place?)
- I don’t think it’s necessary/I didn’t know I needed a PLN/PLC. (The way to breathe new life into your teaching is to tap into your inner motivation and connect with the things, people, and ideas that matter to you). Yeah, I quoted that from Angela Watson but it was so good that I had to include it.
- I don’t have time. (How much time do we spend on things that are time wasters? Why not make your job easier by connecting for a few minutes instead?)
- I don’t know how. (No worries, the Twitter Educator community has your back. If not, Jerry Blumengarten, self-appointed Cybrarian).
Interested in Mark’s talk?
We have a recording of the first session here. Please check it out but please pardon our sweatshirts and sweatpants as we had PD from home on a snow day!
Interested in getting Connected or learning more about it?
Well, we can help you with this!
- On March 1 (Liberty High School) and 2 (Freedom High School) I will be hosting Growing Professionally with Twitter workshops. These can be completed online as well.
- On March 7, we will begin a 15 Day Twitter Challenge (including our own #BASDChallenge Twitter Chat)!
- On March 8, we will have our first Connected Educator Book Club Meeting. Our first book will be Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age. We’ll set the parameters for the club and the first 8 lucky people will get a book on loan to use during the book club.
For Bethlehem Area School District teachers, please sign up on CPE Tracker for these sessions. If you are from outside the district but are interested, please contact me
if any of these topics interest you!