Twitter Tutorial

I have recently spoke and chatted online with folks about the power of Twitter as a professional development tool. I have also posted to blog posts on my feelings and experiences with Twitter titled Twitter 101 and Twitter Has Changed My Life. Some of the reservation I have encountered is just the fear of the unknown and not knowing where to start. So, I hope this video will help get newbies started. The video quality is not as good as I would have liked due to the size of the file that I uploaded. If you are interested in obtaining a high def version to share direct message me on Twitter @stumpteacher.

In addition, I mention in the video some folks to follow on Twitter to give education people a starting point. Please comment on this post with some people you think would be good places to start for new "Tweeters".

Teachers are Professionals

Recently I saw a tweet that asked if teachers or parents were the final word on a child’s education. I have also had conversations with some overly involved parents that I know personally. In speaking to them it bothered me that at no point in time did they concede the idea that a teacher is in fact a professional. Personally, I have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and numerous other trainings and certifications on top of that including an additional 54 credit hours of graduate level work. And yet, even with all that education I am still seen as a teacher, rarely a professional.

The difficult thing is that I know I am not alone in my feelings on this. The phrase, “those who can’t do, teach” is one that is out there in society and we have all heard it. Going into teaching I know I wasn’t doing it for the glamour and certainly not for the money. However, I know that the job I embark in on a daily basis and the work I do with my colleagues is of great importance and holds implications on the future.

While I don’t want to diminish the role of a parent, I do think teacher’s have the final word when it comes to a child’s education. When my car is broken I take it to a mechanic. Why? They are trained professionals when it comes to fixing cars and making decisions about what is needed. When my plumbing is backed up I call a plumber. Why? They are trained professionals when it comes to fixing plumbing related issues. So, why is it that when it comes to educational decisions, our opinions as teachers are not always held in such a high regard. Now, I am not to say that we have not all experienced bad mechanics and plumbers. Also, I am not going to stand here and say that all teachers adhere to the gold standard. However, as teachers we are trained professionals that go through training to be experts in what we do. We need to remember that we are professionals and be confident in ourselves but also now that we need to always conduct ourselves in a professional manner to earn our due respect.

Next time a parent questions your decisions or makes you feel less than the professional you are, stand confident and trust in yourself as the trained teacher you are. On the other side of the coin, be supportive of new teachers and those that may have strayed from the path of good teaching. Remind them that we are professionals that need to be treated as such but also need to act in a manner that reflects that.

The Journey of SBG

Recently I posted about standards based grading and a few questions were asked of me via Twitter and email. I put together a brief video exaplaining my "journey" with standards based grading in my own classes. In the video I stress that I am not an expert, just a teacher trying to find a better way to grade student's learning as well as a better way of reporting student progress. This is still a work in progress and I welcome comments and questions!

10 Tips for Teaching Technology to Students

I recently read 10 Tips for Teaching Technology to Teachers by Liz Davis at  This got me thinking about this list in terms of students. I have taken Liz’s list and “tweaked” it a bit to reflect 10 Tips for Teaching Technology to Students. I left number 10 the same but simply changed teacher to student because that was perfectly written as it was and I could not agree more.

Please share your thoughts and suggestions!

1. It isn't really about the tool it is about how you use it: It isn’t about how pretty you make your essay using borders and clipart on Microsoft Word, it is about the content. The animations and sounds in PowerPoint are great but do they help demonstrate your learning or your message?

2. Differentiate: Provide lots of choices and options for students to use. Let them type an essay, create a movie, put together a photo story, use Crazy Talk to animate a “famous dead” person. Choices and options are key!

3. Don't be the only teacher in the room: Students know more than most teachers on a lot of the new programs and software out there. Let students teach each other and share their knowledge and experience. Make groups with a group leader who is proficient in the technology being used.

4. Ask lots of questions: Encourage your students to ask questions and look for answers with them. Don’t provide the answers to them but give them the opportunity to seek out the answers themselves.

5. Enlist your PLN: Have students work collaboratively with their PLN (Peer Learning Network). Before they ask the teacher a question have them ask their neighbor or peer in the classroom or connect online with Skype or another tool to other classrooms.

6. Remember there is great learning without technology: Remind students that they can show their learning without technology. Technology is a great resource but learning can be shown and can take place without technology.

7. Acknowledge your students' anxiety and expertise: While many students will come in with a more extensive skill set every year, some students simply do not have the technology access that other do. Some students walk into my classroom that has a reputation of being “technology heavy” and are anxious. That is where differentiated instruction and flexible grouping come in to play. The key is to have high expectations but to be aware enough to check everyone’s technology “pulse” from time to time.

8. Start with the early adopters: In every class there will be some kids that are far and above other student’s in their access, experience, and competency with technology. Get those students on board with your projects and let them be your models and you assistants in the room.

9. Have Student Observe Each Other: If you can, get students to see other students who are more advanced than them. They can learn from each other and pick up ideas just from watching. In addition, through those observations they will feel more comfortable talking to a peer than a teacher about things they don’t understand.

10. Don't touch the mouse: “Tie your arm behind your back if you have to, but try not to take over mousing for your (students). This is one of the hardest things for me to do, but also one of the most important. When people mouse they learn to do things themselves, when I do it for them they learn to watch me do it.”

Do Something... Twitter 101

I sit here contemplating my upcoming week that includes coaching two basketball games, running a student council meeting, attending a building leadership meeting, running three team meetings, preparing my biweekly news show broadcast, a post observation meeting with my principal, reading new blog posts, participating in #edchat, presenting Twitter to my team, and TEACH my Social Science and Language Arts classes. It is a busy week but this is pretty much par for the course I play.

With all those things on my plate I was thinking about a recent blog post by Jeff Delp at He challenges us to stop talking and “do” something. I could not agree with him more. Over this past Thanksgiving I was talking to my brother in law about Twitter and he initially scoffed at the idea that it was worth his time. It didn’t take long but I finally got him on board and he is just starting the educational journey that is the Twitter stream. After reading Jeff’s post I wanted to take it a step further than simply one convert…

I am a team leader within in my building and often struggle to find agenda items that are worth my colleague’s time given the time constraints we are all under. I am not a fan of meeting for the sake of meeting. So, tomorrow I am going to preview Twitter and try to get a few more contributing members to my PLN and hopefully yours as well. Here is my rough outline for how it worked for me and how I will present it to my team.

Twitter 101

Step One: Head to and sign up for a free account.

Step Two: Download and install TweetDeck at

Step Three: Follow a few key folks in the educational realm. I will be suggesting: @justintarte, @tomwhitby, @brokenairplane, @web20classroom, @L_Hilt, @thenerdyteacher, @kylepace and of course I will suggest myself @stumpteacher

Step Four: Add columns to keep tabs on some key discussions. The ones I will suggest are #edchat, #midleved, #sschat, #scichat, and #ntchat. Head to for a complete listing of the different conversations out there in Twitter thanks to @cybraryman!

Step Five: Read, Read, Read and Think. Spend at least a few days or weeks just reading what is out there and soaking up all the resources shared and conversations happening. To start it is very overwhelming to try to keep up. Your first experience with a Tuesday #edchat will blow your mind if you try to keep up on live stream via TweetDeck.

Step Six: Retweet what you read and agree with or think is worth sharing. This gets your name out in the stream and people appreciate their work be retweeted and shared out.

Step Seven: Share your thoughts and ideas with the groups you are following. Be a contributor and engage in conversations with people all over the world. If you want your Tweets to show up in those specific conversations remember to use the hashtags.

What's an "A" mean anyway?

Just read a recent post by @L_Hilt at and it got me thinking. I have been in the midst of reflecting on the practice of grading for a few years now. Starting two years ago, a colleague of mine, Rob and I decided to look at how we were grading in our Language Arts classes. Neither one of us were happy with how kids were being assessed. What it boiled down to was that students who turned in neat, creative work on time were those that received an "A". Often times those students were not learning more or less than anyone else but rather they were "good students." That lead us to investigate standards based grading or at least a version of it.

Last year we took all the Language Arts standards and aligned every activity we did in class around those standards. When it came time to assessing student's work, we only looked at their level of mastery on those standards. Regardless of when work was turned in, or how neatly it was done, their grade was purely reflective of there attainment of that particular Language Arts standards. For the first time in my teaching, I could give a student an "A" and feel 100% confident that that grade was reflective of their achievement and not other behaviors that often figure into a traditional model.

This past week before the Thanksgiving holiday we had an institute were we discussed this idea of standards based grading. One idea that came up and got me thinking was as a parent, those behavioral components are crucial to the development of your child. School should be a place to develop responsibility, compliance, and good work habits. However, how do we monitor that without mixing it in with their achievement grade. One idea was to have to separate grades show up on the report card. A student would get a grade based on their achievement toward learning standards and another one based on the behavioral component of school. I like that idea as it gives good feedback and makes it very clear how a student is learning as well as behaving. While those two things are often related, should a student's grade solely reflect their learning?

Personally, I would love to see a report card that is simply more than a letter grade that leaves parents to interpret exactly what that letter means...