Sunday, May 1, 2016

Being a Connected Teacher: #ettchat, Twitterbabies & Positive Change

I've written before about the blessings of Twitter in the classroom. An author connecting straight into your classroom is certainly fabulous, but so is having an array of Professional Development right at your fingertips!

For example, a colleague and I were struggling with how to tackle persuasive writing. Our students were struggling to capture point of view in texts, think outside of their own perspective, and really evaluate sources in an argument.

Alas - twitterbaby was born. Not sure if that's a thing, but here's my definition:

n. a new idea that has come into being from an inspirational tweet, that subsequently causes lots of brain gear shifting and sparks deeper in-person between colleagues

Here's the original EdTechTeacher Post shared on twitter where Greg Kuloweic @gregkulowiec, shows us how to make a book using offline resources which then go into Google Slides, you can collaborate with multiple people on, and then send to Issuu to make your beautiful magazine. Alas, the idea from twitter.

Then, after sharing this idea with my amazing colleague, the twitterbaby of Point & Counter Point Magazine was born. So here's what we did. Instead of the traditional "write an argument," paper, we took this, and made it more rigorous in order to address both points of view (point and counter point) before students began their own Op-Eds, writing their subjective opinion after evaluating each side. We did this in order to meet our goals of students understanding point of views, thinking outside their own perspective and being able to better evaluate sources.

It took a rather long time, as we learned, but so worth it! Students were able to dive in, we had them gather multiple kinds of sources like real investigative journalists. They conducted polls and interviews, researched articles in databases and found other blogs and video opinions. Instead of just seeing their one side, they were forced to see the other. And that caused such deeper analysis, learning, critical thinking and synthesizing.

When we surveyed students midway through this process, the survey results spoke for themselves:

  • 70% of students agree or strongly agree that they've improved research skills
  • 71% of students agree or strongly agree that they've improved their ability to collect evidence from their reading
  • 70% of students agree or strongly agree that they've improved their ability to distringuish the point of view in a text
  • and perhaps most unsurprising, yet incredibly important: 
  • 75% of students report learning more about writing by writing this way than in workbooks or grammar correction lessons 

While some do not want to publish their and that is totally OK - even just in making the slides they've learned SO much! They've learned what a textbox is and how you pick quotes for those. They've learned how hard it is to survey, and what happens when the data says the opposite of what you want (no, you can't just change the numbers!).

Since our students are in middle school - this screencast video I made below shows them how to post unlisted publications on ISSUU (so to just share privately, not with the whole world). And many, like me, will probably continue to edit and edit until we're 1000% ready for the internet's eyes. But someday, when I'm reading a magazine one of my former students is publishing, I do hope this may be one of the first projects that helped ignite that spark. 

And who knows - it may be the jumping off point for your own twitterbaby! Happy teaching, happy twitter, happy tech! 

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