Friday, September 21, 2012

I Am Not A Twit

Some basic resources for effectively using twitter as a teacher.
A wiki to introduce people to twitter. Yes, you can tweet all about your boring breakfast (and worse) but if you would also like to get past that you can.
A wiki specifically for teachers to learn about using twitter in education.

The real question is:

Why would I bother using twitter as a teacher?

It does make one wonder. This Internet time suck used by celebrities and sports stars, how can it possibly be an effective tool for a serious endeavour like teaching?  

That is the beauty of twitter, you make of it what you want or need. Twitter, along with many other similar social media sites (Google +, Facebook, “yes, facebook”, pinterest, scoop it, etc...), has the ability to connect like minded people. Imagine if you will the teachers lounge, except the other teachers don’t know your students. All they can do is respond to questions with best practice advice, what I did in similar situation, what worked for me.

Twitter in this case has suddenly become what they call a Professional Learning Network as described in “The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age” by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall.
Professional Learning Networks are about individuals gathering information and sharing resources that enhance their personal and professional learning.

That’s great if I want to spend my evenings with teacher talk. Is it possible to be a bit more formal with our professional development?

As a personal learning resource use one of the links up top to find thousands of quality teachers to follow then check in once a day to see if there is anything interesting. Of course going through thousands of tweets is time consuming. We can sort through all of that by getting out daily twitter paper delivered right to our laptop. collects all the links and articles referenced in my twitter stream and  organizes them in a newspaper format based on how often they were tweeted out.

Still that isn’t formal learning. It isn’t professional development.

Social media is about connecting like minded people. Twitter and other media are great places to begin, to get ideas, but they are also great places to meet and connect while working as a more formal group. Below are a list of great weekly teacher meetings held on twitter.

General chates
#ntchat - New teacher chat - learn or mentor -
#edchat - The grandaddy of them all a general education chat -
#cpchat - connected principal chat -
#spedchat - Special Education chat -
#sschat - Social Studies -
#musiced - Music
#scichat  -Science

There are hundreds more find and learn about them here

Spending an hour once a week chatting on twitter doesn’t seem too big of a deal at first, but then again when it becomes a requirement it can be a big deal. Imagine this scenario though: This weeks #mathchat is "Is mathematics more important than numeracy?" this would be a great topic for elementary teachers to discuss. We decide to discuss it as part of our regular professional development in school. 

A professional learning community, again defined by Beach and Hall.
Professional Learning Communities are traditional school-based structures in which staff--both teachers and administrators--learn together with the goal of improving student achievement.
A teacher(s) or principal could participate in the #mathchat (held at noon or 7PM) then during regular team meeting times a discussion could be held. If nobody can make the chat, or even if they did, the archive can be distributed to the team and a discussion can be based on that.

Discussions are held, teaching practices are modified or strengthened, and the school as a whole is improved.

So there you have it, two, of many, ways twitter can and does provide professional development for teachers. There are more, many more ways networking through twitter and social media can be a catalyst for growth in our personal and professional lives. I can directly connect my twitter use to a graduate school program, CPDU opportunities, and and even a few job opportunities. In the end though twiiter is what you make of it, good or bad.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Diigo Review

Website – App Review

To skip the information and see my review click here



Grade Level





Finding and saving resources for use in class and personal development
  • Join or create groups based on interest and need

Easily share a list of bookmarks for use in class
Easily create groups for the students in your class

Student and teacher bookmarks
  • Private or public

Easily see how many other people have bookmarked a site and their public notes
Create your own network or groups of peers or students            
  • Share and store resources
  • Learn what and how other teachers are using what they find on the Internet
  • Quickly share to blogs or create an RSS feed of great links with annotations

Lots of great apps for browsers and mobile devices

Age requirements

13 and up, but with educator accounts you can create a class group that allows individual students anonymous accounts monitored by you.


The TOS is mostly about not using Diigo to infringe on other people’s rights.

 Content/Activity Prohibited. 
1.  is patently offensive and promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual; 2.  harasses or advocates harassment of another person; 3.  exploits people in a sexual or violent manner; 4.  contains nudity, violence, or offensive subject matter;14.  includes a photograph of another person that you have posted without that person's consent;


Free - with paid option

What I think

The power of Diigo.

Where would I as a teacher use Diigo

  • As a tool for personal use.
  • As a tool for professional use.
  • As a tool for use in the classroom.

For a power internet user like me Diigo is an indispensable tool. Many years ago I used to copy all my bookmarks by hand onto a floppy disk so that when I bought a new computer I wouldn’t have to start over from scratch. Then I learned to sync bookmarks with Firefox and I thought that was great. Still, I had this looooooooooooong list of bookmarks and most of them ended up being dead links.

Then I found Diigo. I imported all of my saved bookmarks and never looked back. Now, anytime I want to save a website I can, from any computer. If I want to find that bookmark I can from any computer. (yes, I’m assuming internet access why else would I be looking for bookmarks)

I know you don’t have over 2,000 bookmarks like me, you don’t need this service. Ah, but it gets better. What’s that you say, “2,000 bookmarks how do you find what you want?” Let me explain.
First the bookmarlet was invented.  I especially like the Chrome boomarlet because everytime I sign into my email it automatically loads, but that is a different story. With the bookmarklet I can quickly add a page into my Diigo bookmarks with tags.

Most pages suggest tags, occasionally I’ll add my own. Then a few months later when I say to myself, “What was that site on children’s math video games?” I’ll just go back to Diigo and search those terms.

Sometimes I have to play with the search terms, mostly because I don’t think about them before I add them. The nice thing is I can go back and add or delete the “tags” as often as I like. Diigo is also nice enough to suggest related tags, based on the other tags that are in the results that came up.

My world has become a world of search. I don’t remember everything I see, instead I take notes of everything. I add descriptions and tags, then later when I need to go back I can usually find what I need.

What is that you are saying, “This is all nice and good for a geek like yourself who spends his life trolling the interweb for resources, but for the rest of us, we still don’t see the purpose.” For that I say Diigo gets even better. I can highlight and take notes right there on the web page, then share those notes with anyone.
I have 4 choices of colors to highlight. I can add a sticky note right to the page. I can choose to make my notes public or private. Then I can share the page with anyone. Check it out here

Wait, it gets even better. I don’t actually spend all of my free time trolling the internet to find educational resources. What I’ve actually done is join some groups in Diigo. There the members of the groups find and share the resources we use with each other.

All those cool looking highlights and notes. They show up in the group.

I’ve used groups not only to find great resources for the classroom, but also as a shared study tool in classes. And that brings us to the final bit of awesomeness for Diigo in education. The educator account.

With an educator account, (free), you can enroll your students into a class group. Students who are doing research online can post their bookmarks and notes to the class group or to sub-groups you set up in the group. Further, for those teachers who have younger students Diigo will automatically set up anonymous students for your class. You can send in a class list and they will create accounts for each student. The best part is the class list can be names or it can simply be user names such as student101. No email account necessary because the accounts are set-up for your class not the students.

Wait, there is more. I’m really trying hard not to blow you away with too much information. For the rest of the cool stuff that you can do with Diigo, free and paid, you just have to go explore the site.
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