Archive for the ‘Process Teaching’ Category

5 Steps for entering a social media PLN conversation

Social media communities like Twitter, Ning, and Elluminate have Personal Learning Network subgroup events that can be more of a challenge than opening up a Twitter account and trying to figure out what to do next. Finding your voice and jumping into an online conversation that’s loading upwards of 18,000 feeds per hour adds another few intense weeks onto your eight-month training period. These steps help out a little with finding a door to enter.

Social Media: PLN 7.2

In the previous blog (PLN 7.1) I shared some simple, but valuable tips for jumping into the wave of social media PLN’s. This blog post gets specific with identifying a few subgroups that have been making buzz in the K12 education online community and walking you through a less stressed entrance into their universe.

Step 1: Discover who’s who in the community
• Do a little checking around on those you are following. The first thing I do when doing an online background check begins with scrolling through 3 – 6 pages of their Twitter status updates to get a feel of how they’re using Twitter.

• Then I do a search for their username to find out more about whom they’re actually engaging in conversations.

• The next thing I do is follow their web linked to Twitter. If that proves uninteresting I may do a Google Search on their name matching the location and avatar found on Twitter to better match who’s who.

• If they are a blogger I usually enter the URL into my Google Reader to receive RSS feeds each time there is a new post.

Step 2: Closely follow those that have shared interest and personalities
As mentioned earlier following should actually mean following those you add to your PLN. Create client list and groups of those you’re most interested in following closely. And take time on the weekend to read their Twitter and blog post. There is no better way to connect with someone than to make comments on their blog. It is extremely exciting for a blogger to know that others appreciate their articles.

Step 3: Know which client and communities works best for you
Because there are literally thousands of applications known as clients used for social media communications I’ll narrow it down to a few for now and turn this post into a living document by posting updates when needed.

Tweetdeck: A highly favored free social media application offering a downloadable stand-alone program to install onto your computer. Tweetdeck is used by serious Twitter users for status updates for Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Ping, and other online social media communities from one window with flexibility of creating customized columns of search information, Tweet scheduling, status and a lot more.

Hootsuite: A fast growing social media client of choice because it offers everything Tweetdeck has, but there is no need to download a separate application. Hootsuite is a Twitter client service meaning all you need is a username and password and you can log onto any internet connected computer or smart phone and it’s on. Hootsuite is getting a lot of noise for being the outstanding Twitter client for Apple’s iPhone users.

Tweetgrid: Seems to be used in addition to Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and regular web users because of a much quicker real time status update feed. Users claim it feels more authentic offering a pause button so you can catch your breath between Tweets.

Elluninate: This client is a downloaded application created by social learning consultant Steve Hargadon that offers cutting edge PLN flexibility for educators, support staff, and students in both public and private communities.

Ning: A pioneering social media community platform that was quickly embraced by educators in the earlier days PLN boom before it acquired the name.

Edutopia: Created by the George Lucas Foundation offers K-12 community platform for educators, magazine, blog, reports, and videos. Great for joining groups like New Teacher Connections.

Step 4: Stage a few general topic comments
Setting aside time to stage a few prepared comments and scheduling them in advance to be posted during your PLN online event allows you to do some pre-background investigating, have multiple feeds in the conversation, and remain focused on the status updates that interest you the most all at once.

Step 5: Check for comment mentions about you frequently
Once you are engaged into the conversation like #edchat (Tue. 12pm/7pm EDT) or #nchat (Wed. 4pm PDT/7pm EDT) it’s not hard to forget that people in your PLN are commenting to your status updates without seeing them in the live feed because it maybe zipping by at the speed of light. Take your time, do your homework, and you’ll do fine.

Stay focused. Stay confident and come on in.

Your Best Year Teaching: If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

5 Tips for jumping into the wave of Twitter PLN’s

Personal learning network or as we educators have embraced PLN to be the newest and coolest way to connect, develop, and learn more about our craft and the people that share our profession. There isn’t an exact science for growing your PLN (group of people you go to for information) using social media platforms, but jumping into the wave can feel like putting your toes into a large body of water to test the temperature before slowly dipping in. So here are some tips to warm the water before the jump.

Social Media: PLN 7.0

No needs to stress out over trying to fit into social media personal learning networks if you are feeling like you are behind the learning curve. I tend to always miss participating with the newest and hottest thing on the market. Whether it’s the most popular car, latest shoes crave, or state of the art technology, I jump into the wave well after the ripples turn dribbles. Even creating my blog and later @K12Live were several years behind everyone else – I know how you feel.

Tip 1: Get a web link. If you don’t have a personal website, blog, or Linkedin to link to your Twitter account create a Google Profile and use that URL web address. Google profiles are a great tool because you can put as much or as little info as you want and instantly become part of Google’s community. Don’t leave the web address blank because you’re building a PLN and being transparent is very personal for allowing other to learn about you.

Tip 2: Google search for: eBooks on Twitters for teachers; Social media for teachers; Twitter communities for educators; Nings for PLN and educators and classroom. Look for these groups on Facebook and Linkedin as well. This type of research gets you more familiar with what’s out the without before jumping in to the water.

Tip 3: Pick a username for branding yourself. Make it as short as possible and easy to write down when your say, “You can find me on twitter @___________.” Make it as simple as possible for them to find you on twitter and follow the web link to more contact info like email, other profiles, blogs, and phone if you like. (Create a Twitter account here.)

Tip 4: Join an established Twitter community. There hundreds of ways to build your list of people to follow, but joining a group that shares your interest is going to reduce the stress of building your PLN. Here are a few that I belong to, tell them I sent you: PB works twitter4teacher, Classroom 2.0, Elluminate, The Educator’s PLN, Edutopia, K12Live Facebook, and I have assembled over 1000 teachers and support staff in the following folder of @K12Live. (also see pp 36 – 39 of Best Year Teaching for more)

Tip 5: Meet people. Follow greet and meet instructions learned from your grandmother and read this eBook from Steve Hargadon on Social Networking in Education. I’ll follow up with more detailed tips for jumping into specific online communities in my next blog post.

Best Year Teaching: If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

How to inspire Dads to do the Daddy thing?

Photo Credit by cogdogblog.

Research doesn’t have to report that students perform better and achieve academic success when fathers get more involved with their children’s education to know it’s a fact, do we? Nor, do you need someone to encourage you to forge a campaign for parent involvement before you get creative and start making things happen in your K-12 classroom.

K – 12 Education: Stressed Out Series 6.4

I don’t know if it’s just me being a male teacher or what, but I get excited when I see another man in the building (maybe not in the same way you do). It’s cool to watch students behaviors shift with each step taken by dads in the hallways. Like you I am more than prepared for lunchroom challenges, but we appreciate the reinforcement even if it is temporary on any given day.

Consider creating a campaign for building your network of male parents and guardians. In addition to fathers we’re talking big brothers (paternal and United Way), uncles, grandfathers, and significant others listed on your parent contact sheets. Your cause could be to form an advisory committee for best disciplinary practices to necktie donations and knot training classes on how to use one for an upcoming school celebration. If you are really gutsy make a difference by soliciting nominees for outstanding daddy.

You can write a district wide press release even if you only get one or two nominated dads to honor. Find a business to sponsor juice and snacks for a field trip of the dads to be invited. You can even do an interview by phone to launch that first podcast you’ve been putting off (see page 37 of my eBook for details). Don’t you think that ought to get them inspired?

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Five Simple Steps to Making That Call Home to Parents

Photo Credit by Inno'vision

Far too often we rely on negative passed experiences to carry us through current situations and circumstances needing a different set of rules to play by. But, how do we get past a bad experience to create something new and exciting? How do we find gratification in something like calling parents to narc on a child that has is suspected to have stolen a purse or believed to be selling prescription meds from the parent’s supply cabinet? There’s a simple way – Don’t wait until you need to call before you have to call.

K – 12 Education: Stressed Out Series 6.3

Remember how Ms. Patroness’ emotional state changed after describing the humanitarian project her students were involved with one semester and how she felt great about making all those calls to coordinate the event. She was able to identify tremendous states of excitement in knowing the parent would welcome her calls. Ms. Patroness also believed she was not only leading a great campaign, but she was experiencing a measurable highlight in her career. I’m going to share how she pulled it off in five simple steps.

Step 1. Don’t wait to the last minute to call a parent. This is wrong on so many fronts [no pun intended]. Think about how you feel when a representative from the company you made your last purchase calls to congratulate you and hear from you how you rate the experience. You don’t have to be a school of choice to find value in servicing your customers this way.

Step 2. Create some sort of ongoing need to connect with your parents. In a recent blog I recommended taking camera phone pics of chalkboard assignments and sending it to your student’s parents by picture mail or Twitpic [] so that they can stay on top of things quickly (see Step 2 of 7 Steps to Becoming an Effective Teacher). This works especially well for parents with shared custody.

Step 3. Make it a rule to contact each parent on your roster at least twice with heart felt positive reports before having to rat a student out. Parents that get regular negative calls from school personnel are a little punchy when seeing the call come in on caller ID. By establishing a genuine service connection with parents, based on trust and credibility, you can easily recruit them as part of your classroom management and support team member for special events.

Step 4. Call your parents when you’re thinking of them. If you pass a location or reminded of a family event, follow up with a quick text or email particularly if you anticipate having to contact them about their child in the near future. It will soften the blow for the next time you call with bad news to report.

Step 5. When you need to clobber that little darling with a phone call home to his parents, spank his little behind. Only this time the stage has been set to operate as a genuine family ally instead of, “that guy.” The time needed to establish trust may vary between semesters and families, but staying focused on the goal to make partnerships that matter will give you the confidence to stick with it until you succeed.

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Why is it so difficult to contact my student’s parents?

Photo Credit by marcalandavis.

Have you reached a point in your career where identifying what’s most important for you to help your specific group of students to achieve individual academic success based on their particular circumstances and skill sets, is what matters most?

K – 12 Education: Stressed Out Series 6.2

Identifying what’s most important or prioritizing what gets your attention is a huge undertaking to address in a blog. I’ll approach the process of determining importance by taking on different aspects of training sessions teachers have struggled with over the years.

One repeated theme of importance for educators is parental involvement. Many schools across the country have engaged parents at the kitchen table during homework, actively participating in PTA, and volunteering on fieldtrips. Not to be unrecognized, in many other schools across America, is a lack of parent presence at sporting events and parent teacher conferences.

Family Overlaod

They are often working more than one job that takes them away from peak academic hours and still fall short trying to fund school projects. Transportation maybe an overwhelming challenge when having to visit several schools at the same time.

These are genuinely complex circumstances needing simple solutions where possible. That’s one of the reasons I addressed measurable goals (V2.5, p. 32) in my Guide to Having Your Best Year Teaching With Smart K12 Methods. You’re are going to have to take bolder leadership measures to inspire all parents and guardians to make radical changes in how they get involved with what is most important for your student’s success.

Fearing Paternal Hostility

A teacher in one of my training sessions said she found it extremely difficult to connect with her student’s parents. I asked, Ms. Patroness, if she could explain how it felt when she knew she was going to have contact a parent? She said she could imagine the parents getting hostile and paternally protective with their child. This was probably created out of a past experience that anchored to her memory in a negative way. So, I asked if there was ever a time when she had a great experience calling a parent?

Almost immediately Ms. Patroness perked up and began telling me stories of when her class was chosen to be a part of a nationally televised news piece showcasing a humanitarian project her students were involved with one semester. And how there was an exchange of phone calls between her and the kid’s parents for permission slips, coordinating volunteer support groups, and designating drivers. Now all we had to do was connect those feelings [felt at that time] to picking up the phone and calling parents for a parent-teacher conference. (To be continued)

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Five Simple Steps to Eliminate Classroom Pencil Sharpening Distractions

Photo Credit by Ela Plante

Have you been overwhelmed with the process of building a system that works for managing student behaviors? Are those student behaviors costing your student achievement levels to drop?

K – 12 Education: Stressed Out Series 6.1

Last year I worked with a teacher I called Ms. Ann. She described her out of control classroom as the group of students that were constantly getting out of their seats, talking with each other during her lessons, and texting when they were suppose to be working.

I was able to help clearly identify some of Ms. Ann’s immediate problems for paving her classroom potholes, which were things like the noise of a pencil sharpener at inappropriate times during her lesson. Can we take a look at that for a minute? Ms. Ann discovered she didn’t have a process for eliminating the problem. The students would enter the room and take their seats, but never really seem to settle down. Her students would also begin sharpening pencils non-stop even though they knew she didn’t allow it.

Step 1. What we did first was to address the process of entering her classroom. There wasn’t any consistent structure for the intro of her lesson. So, we designed a routine were the students entered the room, took their assigned seats, glanced at the board specifically sectioned to post assignment/homework instructions, and the students understood they were to begin immediately while she took attendance, walking the floor plan, and engaging her students.

Step 2. We invested in pencils. She purchased a couple of small cases of pencils for under $5 to get started.

Step 3.
Ms. Ann hooked up with the custodians and asked if she could have any pencils picked up during their daily cleaning rounds.

Step 4. She made it know that if there was any students needing to work off detention or community services that she had plenty of pencils needing to be sharpened before and after school. Now the stage was set for eliminating the pencil sharpening issue.

Step 5. Her students were expected to be responsible for bringing necessary supplies, but throughout the lesson students were allowed to swap a limit of two broken pencils in exchange for sharpened pencils. She didn’t create more stress by making the process all strict or complicated for everyone. She supplied the pencil cup and the kids swapped pencils.

The transition was so productive that she was no longer up tight about a student or two not coming to class with something to write with. As a result her students were ever more willing to share their supplies because of their own changed perceptions of being in control.

What processes have you put into place for creating a better quality of community in your classroom?

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Are you stressed from an out of control classroom?

Photo Credit by Jim Sneddon

The process of building a personal system that consistently produces student achievement may take a minute to manufacture, but for the sake of reducing stress, getting the boss off our back, or saving our weekends for a ‘life’, we’re in a constant search for better ways to make the process less stressful. In short we are simply too invested with all the other things of our life to afford not having students learning. We need to be leaders more than ever before.

K – 12 Education: Stressed Out Series 6.0

For now, lets take a look at how you might go through the process of regaining an out of control classroom. However, before doing that, may I ask you a question? What exactly would you call out of control? This is important, because, defining control will determine the process of establishing a classroom community with limited conflicts.

Last year I worked with a teacher that described her out of control classroom as the group that she wasn’t able to keep from repeatedly getting out of their seats, talking with each other during her lessons, and texting when they were suppose to be working. Does any of that sound familiar?

This teacher, lets call her Ms. Ann, was feeling the pressures of fitting into the title of being highly qualified and was associating low student achievement with her inability to limit distractions. Once we were able to identify her stressors we looked at two things. First, was if these occurrences alone caused students to fail. Secondly, was it causing her to loose focus of the learning process?

What we discovered was that her true source of stress with students getting out of their seats was that the noise of the pencil sharpener (she was fortunate to have one that worked) threw off her concentration. It throws mine off to, but I also believe pencil sharpening noise is probably more of a distraction for me coming from a culture of quiet libraries and neat rows of orderly students than it is discomforting for my 21st century learners.

You see by separating her perception of how learning should go down, from how the learner learns best, helped us to enhance her quality as a teacher. Once we clearly identified Ms. Ann’s problems, we were able to create actions in her daily process of managing her management verses managing her classroom’s behaviors.

What actions do you take for reducing the loss of valuable learning time?

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.