Why Have a Class Twitter Account?

Digital GEMS templatekey.001

There are a whole host of benefits to having a class Twitter account. Allow me to present you with my top 5:

1. Access to Experts

By following the Tweets of experts, such as NASA or Dr Jane Goodall, a class can access up-to-date information in byte-sized packages. Most often, links are included to videos, articles, blog posts and images to explore in more detail


2. Connect with Authors

Remember writing letters to authors, mailing them off and never hearing anything back? Today, a significant number of authors are on Twitter, interacting with their readers.

Last year, a G5 class was thrilled to Skype with Gary Whitta (an author of Rogue One, the latest Star Wars film), who spoke to us about the writing process, diversity in film and answered student questions. Talk about relevance! This got the whole class hooked on writing!

Some lucky students in G4 tweeted an author of a book they were reading, and were thrilled when they got a reply. What a motivator for developing literacy skills!

3. Share our learning

We can make a difference to other people’s learning simply by sharing our own. Tweets of student sketching a character’s development, might give another child an idea about how they can represent their own learning. Parents love seeing examples of their child in action during the school day too.

Adding hashtags can allow us to reach a common audience, where we find ideas related to topics we are learning about too, such as #writingworkshop

4. Develop International Mindedness

Part of the PYP is developing International Mindedness, where we seek out and value perspectives from different cultures and communities, and consider the impact of events around the world on different groups of people.

By way of example, @littlemissflint became a powerful role model for taking action after she began tweeting about the water crisis in her hometown of Flint. Now she continues to take action on issues important to her and her community

From a class Twitter account, you can follow the United Nations to learn about what school is like in different parts of the world, for example this school in Gaza.

5. Model Digital Citizenship

We know that modelling positive and appropriate use of social media helps students learn how to be effective digital citizens. Through a class Twitter account, students can see how to interact positively with others online, they can learn to compose Tweets, and develop digital literacy skills such as appropriate writing conventions in digital medium (e.g. use of the @ symbol to reply, and use of hashtags). Having a class account lets students learn these skills with their teacher as a guide and role model – almost like having a safety net there for them as they learn.

A class Twitter account shows that teachers value writing in digital as well as print form, adding weight to the writing students are doing in their lives outside the classroom.

The bottom line is that teachers are there for kids.
We want learning to be relevant, contextual and engaging.
A class Twitter account is just one of the ways we teachers support today’s learners.

The Power of a Small Idea

I was checking Twitter one day, when this tweet by Anna Davies jumped out at me, with its striking red and black colour scheme and professional-looking images.

It turns out that Anna had been inspired by my Dover colleague, Nicki Hambleton, who created posters with her Middle School students, based on the work of Designer, Graphic Artist and Photographer, Barbara Kruger.

When I see an amazing idea, like the images in Anna’s tweet, I always want to try it out. As I don’t have a class of my own, I have to pitch the idea to my colleagues and hope that it sparks an interest.

As it happened, our school was just embarking on a PSE unit around the Power of Words. Tech Mentor Mike Bowden jumped on board and took the idea to his Grade 3 team.

Students prepared for the poster by finding a quote that resonated with them about the Power of Words. They took a photo of themselves on a plain background, ensuring to leave enough space to fit the quote.

In Keynote, students added the image, then reduced the saturation to turn it black and white. They used the limited colour palette of red, black and white for the text, experimenting with placement and rotation as needed.

This was a very rich learning task for our students. There were a lot of technical and design skills that we were able to build into an authentic context that met our curricula outcomes.

Naturally, we shared examples of our finished posters on Twitter – these examples were from Mandy Whitehouse‘s class.

What happened next is what I LOVE about social media. Jose O’Donovan saw our examples on Twitter and got his students to make their own – this time, posters about Kindness.

So in case you are the sort of person who worries about sharing the learning in your classroom, take the plunge! You never know the power of your small idea and the impact it may have on others. 

11 Answers – Part 1

Recently, I was kindly tagged in this ’11 Questions’ meme by Ian Guest. Once tagged, you are encouraged to answer 11 questions, then pose 11 further questions of 11  unsuspecting victims worthy recipients. As I have been somewhat AWOL on the blogosphere lately, I also owe DJ Thompson answers to his 11 Questions, so I will get to those in my next post! Best you get a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable…

The following are Ian’s questions. Read his full blog post here.

1. What teacher had the most influence on you and why?

Both of my parents are teachers, so I think I would have to name them as having the most influence on my life! My father is/was a Music teacher (can you ever really STOP being a teacher?), and my mother is currently a teacher of the deaf. While I could list endless things I learned from both Mum and Dad, in the interest of brevity, I will cut it down to one main thing: my parents are both learners and value learning.

I am the eldest of 3 girls, and there was a point when I was the least educated member of my family – Mum had M. Special Ed, Dad had a Doctorate, my middle sister was (is!) a Doctor and my youngest sister had an M. Business & Finance! I HAD to get an M. Ed just to keep up! They don’t just care about academic learning though, they are always learning new things, which is a fabulous model, especially for my children. I love the way my Dad teaches my kids the ukulele when we visit them at Christmas, and my Mum teaches them outdoorsy things like how to dig up potatoes. In turn, they are incredibly responsive when my two want to show them the hotel they built in Minecraft…


My lovely family at Christmas 2013

2. During your career, which student (without naming them!) most sticks in your mind and for what reason?

Upon reading this question, a number of faces flashed up in my mind. Some students really stick with you over the years, don’t they? Breaking the rules, I can’t choose just one. Here are some vignettes:

An 11 year old boy came to mind immediately. For some reason, we both kind of clicked. I got him, and he got me. He was a gentle soul, very bright, thoughtful, funny and kind. I used to have a post box in my class, and would encourage the class to write ‘letters’ to each other, and each Friday we’d deliver the mail. I know that I wrote to all my students, and I’m fairly certain they all wrote to me, however it is his letters that I remember the most. They made me feel like I was making a difference. I left for England midway through that year, and it was quite heartbreaking leaving that class and him in particular. He was the first to teach me about MSN Messenger, and I was fairly enthralled with technology from then on.

A 12 year old girl is another student I will always remember. She was mercilessly teased throughout her primary years for being quite different. She had closely cropped hair, a very deep voice, and had come out as gay early on. By the time she arrived at our middle school, teasing her was almost an expected norm. Although fiercely intelligent and an incredible writer, she didn’t understand the social mores of middle school. I would like to say I stamped out all the bullying – I certainly tried – though I suspect it never went away for long. I did my best to make her feel like she was not alone and that she had someone to talk to.

A 12 year old boy from South Africa was in that same class, and he had the highest emotional intelligence of any kid that age I have ever met. He was incredibly polite, having just arrived from a country where “Yes ma’am,” or “No sir,” was the norm. Very unlike most NZ students! I asked him once, why he never joined in with some others in teasing the girl above. He said, “I just don’t see the point in making her life any worse.” I wish more students felt the same way.

The best part for me, is being able to see these wonderful students grow up to be impressive young people. I am connected to each of these 3 via Facebook, and I am grateful I am able to still be a part of their lives, all these years hence.

3. What was your most abiding memory of school dinners?

This question made me laugh. We never had any! Not growing up! That’s not how NZ schools work. You bring a packed lunch every day, or buy something at the school canteen (IF your school had one).

However, when we worked at a boarding school in England, we had school dinners. Generally we thought they were pretty fantastic (they sure beat sandwiches), especially roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings. Worst thing: turkey twizzlers. Jamie Oliver would have kittens!

4. Two Harry Potter inspired questions now. If you had Harry’s cloak of invisibility, what educational event would you like to unobtrusively observe and why?

I think ISTE. It’s huge, which I find a bit intimidating, and I don’t know very much about it. All the more reason to go!

5. What aspect of education or the classroom would you most like to wave your wand over and why? Educatio revisiorum!

Urk. What to choose? Probably standardised testing, especially when having to handwrite exams. I see the insistence on handwritten tests/exams to be outdated and unfair. Students should have a choice.

6. For any historical figure of your choice, what might they have tweeted at a significant moment for them?


Kate Sheppard – Check her out!

7. What’s your favourite online video (for any reason) and why? (A link would be good)

So very many to choose from, but Miss Representation needs (and deserves!) a wider audience.

8. In Horizon report style, which technology-enabled educational activity is likely to be becoming more mainstream in 3-ish years?

Gaming. Hopefully games for change. I’d encourage all teachers to try out gaming (here’s a good place to start looking if you want to use games at school). It’s a lot of fun, and you can even learn a thing or two!

9. Which fictional character would you most like as a work colleague and why?

My work colleagues are pretty amazing, I have to say! Perhaps Hermione Granger, on account of her vast knowledge, and, let’s be honest – it’d be cool to have a wizard on your team.

10. What educational movement or initiative, currently in its infancy, will endure and why?

I hope the equivalent of Google’s 20% time: Passion Projects. I hope that students will be encouraged to delve deeply into their passion, and that it will be seen to be of value both for the students themselves, and the people with whom they share their passion.

11. Which educator (dead or alive, real or fictional, famous or not) would you most like to interview or enjoy the drink of your choice with and what would you be chatting about?

Dead Poets Society

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by jdxyw: http://flickr.com/photos/jdxyw/4887363555/

John Keating, the amazing teacher in Dead Poet’s Society, played by Robin Williams. It’s one of my favourite movies ever. I loved the way John Keating diverged from the text book and made poetry and other literature come alive for those boys. When they all stand on the desks and say, “Oh captain, my captain,” it gives me shivers every time! I’ve watched it countless times.

The bonus is, I wouldn’t say no to chatting with Robin Williams either, so this is kind of a 2 for 1 deal for me.

What would we be chatting about? If it were John Keating, poetry, books, pushing boundaries, connecting with students, fabulous plays… If it were Robin Williams, well, anything he wanted to! He’d have me laughing regardless, I’m sure.

Are you still with me?

If so, here are my 11 Questions:

  1. Who was your most memorable teacher, and why?
  2. Who is one of your educational mentors, and what makes them so special?
  3. Which song describes how you are feeling today? Add the youtube clip if possible 🙂
  4. What is your favourite restaurant/place to eat in the city in which you live, and why?
  5. Which video is *cracking you up right now? (*making you laugh) Give us the link!
  6. What is one thing you learned recently, that wouldn’t have been possible without technology? How did you learn it?
  7. Can you please snap a picture of one of your everyday views, and share the photo here?
  8. What is the next place you want to visit and why?
  9. Complete this sentence: Teaching is a wonderful profession because…
  10. Can you please list 5 of your favourite movies? Feel free to elaborate on why you like them. Or not!
  11. How do you unwind on a Friday after school?

Ok peeps, I’d love to hear from the people below (and anyone else who is brave enough). Please know I understand how busy you are, and that this may be too much right now. I hope it’s a bit of fun we can share. No. Pressure! Post a link to your post in the comments so we can track them easily.

  1. Nicki Hambleton @itsallaboutart
  2. Holly Fairbrother @MrsHollyEnglish
  3. Stephanie @traintheteacher
  4. Shruti Tewari @sbtewari
  5. Erin O’Rourke @eorourkeca
  6. Joe Sergi @pep073
  7. Louise Phinney @louisephinney
  8. Dave Caleb @davecaleb
  9. Uzay Ashton @uzayashton
  10. Mel Shurtz @melshurtz
  11. Megan Graff @megangraff

Twitter: A Cultural Guidebook

Since attending the ADE Global Institute in Cork, Jabiz & I have been working on an iBook aimed to help educators get started with using Twitter for Professional Development.

We enlisted some of our friends in the Asia-Pacific region to help us make videos explaining how they use  Twitter, so it’s not just a case of, “Oh, there’s Keri-Lee going on about Twitter again.”

We built on the work of Rodd Lucier and his Seven Degrees of Connectedness, which we felt accurately described the stages one goes through when developing an online PLN with Twitter.

We worked with two talented and humble individuals: Rob Appleby, who created all the illustrations for the book; and Dave Caleb, who helped shoot our videos and intro media. Thank you both for your input! It was invaluable.


We are going through the process of publishing  now have the book published in the iTunes Bookstore!

If you can’t access it, download it from Google Drive via this link.
In order to read it on your iPad, you will need to:

1. Download the .ibooks file
2. Open iTunes and add the .ibooks file to your Books
3. Sync with your iPad to read it

We hope you find it a useful resource. Below is the trailer for the book. I hope it gets you interested!

Twtter: A Cultural Guidebook from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.

The Link

I received this in my Twitter feed today:


It made me think a lot about the power of a network. If I didn’t know Jabiz, this could be evidence of spam. It could contain a virus. Something that could do serious damage. It’s a single link, no explanation.

But because I know Jabiz, because I have a history with him, I know when he sends me a link, that no explanation is necessary. I need to click it straight away and see where it takes me.

Which is why, at 8am, while still in bed with my PJ’s on, during my holiday in New Zealand, I found myself looking at a blog post from a former student of mine.

So go on, click the link. You won’t be disappointed.


Building Capacity with Tech Mentors

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

I was lucky enough to participate in a 3-day retreat with 25 teachers from across UWCSEA’s two campuses, designed to build capacity in the college with regards to coaching and mentoring in general, and technology in particular. We have had a lot of requests for more details about the retreat, so I thought I’d outline some key aspects:


The planning committee comprised of the Digital Literacy Coaches, Teacher Librarians & our Tech Director. Andrew McCarthy (DLC at Dover) created a wonderful Google site for the retreat, then we divided into groups to plan and populate the site according to interest/level of expertise.

The retreat focused on Cognitive Coaching and Mentoring (facilitated by the dynamic duo of  William Powell & Ochan Kusuma-Powell) in the morning sessions, together with afternoon sessions exploring strategic technology themes at UWCSEA. We wanted to build in a culture of sharing and team building throughout. To this end, we incorporated an optional Photo Walk with Dave Caleb (Grade Four teacher and photographer extraordinaire), time for sharing best practice from participants and a social dinner one evening.

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Bill & Ochan really did a spectacular job of setting the tone of the Retreat. They had a fluid, natural style which contributed to a relaxed, engaging atmosphere throughout. Their coaching sessions focused on the following:

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

Wednesday – 8am – 12pm

Surfacing assumptions about adult learning — preconceived notions vs. what the research suggests

Four support functions: Coaching, Consulting, Collaborating, and Evaluating

Trust and Rapport

Thursday – 8am to 12pm

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

Self-Directed Learning: how does a Mentor support it

Coaching as Mentoring

The Planning Conversation – how to support a Mentee in planning

Practice with specific coaching strategies

Friday – 8am to 12pm

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

Situational Leadership for Adult Learning: Directive and Supportive Behaviors

Feedback: The Breakfast of Champions and Losers — how different types of feedback affect the recipient.

Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development and how they impact learning.

The Reflecting Conversation: how to support a Mentee in reflecting and evaluating technology use.

Things I learned:

If you effectively double the number of devices people have access to, you will break the wifi

iPadsOne exciting aspect of the conference was that we were able to give each Tech Mentor a new iPad. There were several reasons for this, including the fact that teachers who play with technology in their everyday lives are more likely to use it in the classroom (and beyond), as well as the opportunities for meaningful and detailed assessment for learning that the iPad affords. Not surprisingly, the iPads were very well-received by the Mentors, and they dove headfirst into exploring it for note taking, capturing images, creating iMovie trailers and much more.

The downside to that is that although we factored in the number of people coming to the Retreat, we didn’t take the number of devices they would be connecting to the wifi into consideration. Lesson learned.

People Really Matter

Screen Shot 2012-06-05 at 1.24.07 PMFrom the feedback we received, the chance to meet and get to know people from the other campuses repeatedly came up. Both our campuses are HUGE, and it is not unusual that people can work at the same campus for years and not lay eyes on one another. Just taking the time to sit down and really learn about some other people was a considerable benefit. We know that magical things happen when you put passionate and interesting people in the same room together, and the Tech Mentors’ Retreat certainly confirmed that.

Pedagogy First, Technology Second 

DSC_6243This Retreat was not designed to teach the teachers a whole lot of technology. The people who were there were already keen on the tech – we didn’t need to shove it down their throats. What made it so successful in my mind was that it was grounded in research and emphasized technology as a tool for learning, rather than an end in itself. In fact the majority of the conference involved best practice for interacting with others – social skills 101 if you like – and would be useful for any individual! It gave a lot of insights into the reasons people can be reluctant to use technology, and provided some techniques to deal with these sort of issues at school.

I Still Love to Share

And so it seems did our Mentors. It was neat to have the showcase sessions with interesting things people are doing in their classrooms. Learning from the experience in the room made people feel valued, and reminded us that there are so many wonderful things happening already at our school, we just need to provide opportunities for people to share with a wider audience. 

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

[Please check out our Storify collections from Day 1, Day 2 & Day 3 if you would like to see the collective knowledge of the group as we went along.]

Getting off Campus is a Good Thing

A new location can help us to switch our mind from the pulls of day-to-day teaching, to focus on new learning with fewer distractions. It felt like we were at a conference in another country.

Visual Literacy is Important for All

Many Tech Mentors mentioned Noah Katz‘s work on Visual Literacy as a highlight for them. Noah (DLC at Dover) reminded us that we all have a role to play in helping students learn how to share information in the clearest, most visually appealing way possible. We hope to get Noah’s presentation up for you soon, so you can all benefit from his knowledge in this subject.

Passion is Infectious 

Photo by Louise

Photo by Louise Phinney

When we are passionate about something, it really shows through in our presentations. Watching Noah talk about design, Katie Day talk about literacy or Dave Caleb about photography, well, you can’t help but get sucked into that vortex of awesomeness. How are we making this happen for the students we teach? For our teaching colleagues? For ourselves? These are questions worth considering as we look ahead to a new academic year in August.

Thank you!

I couldn’t let the opportunity to say a couple of thank yous go by…

Andrew, thanks for coming up with this genius plan in the first place; and Ben, thanks for having the vision to support it and help make it happen.

To our new Tech Mentors, working with you was an absolute pleasure, and I am grateful so many of you are on Twitter etc so we can keep the conversations going.

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Twitter For Teachers #Learning2

Keri-Lee and Clint met on Twitter in 2008 and have since spent numerous holidays, along with their families, together across Asia. Cross posted at Learning on the Job.

To help facilitate our Twitter for Teachers session at Learning 2.011, we have decided to post the general outline of our presentation and any resources on both of our blogs. We’d love to hear your feedback and how you are using Twitter to interact with your PLN. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments as well!

(Mis)Perceptions of Twitter

We’ve all heard the “I don’t care what you had for breakfast!” diatribe against Twitter. We’re curious to know what the perceptions our participants have about Twitter.

How We Use It

Twitter, like anything else, is simply a tool. Use of that same tool will vary widely from person to person and Twitter is no exception.

Top Tips

For those just starting out in the Twitter game or for those that started an account years ago but never really got into it, here our some of our top tips for using Twitter to expand your PLN:

Public, Personal, Private – Just as we would tell our students, it is important to understand the distinction between public, personal and private information.

BPLBio, Photo, Link. It’s hard for others to separate the gold from the spam when you don’t fill these things out!

Tear Down That Wall! – Don’t protect your tweets! Again, it’s hard for others to decide to follow you back if they can’t see what you’ve added to the conversations.

Go Beyond Basic – While Twitter as a service is fantastic, Twitter as a website is less than desirable. Try a Twitter client like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or Echofon (just to name a few!) that allows you to separate your Twitter feed into easy-to-monitor columns.

Lists Twitter lists allow you to create groups within your Twitter stream. You can even include people that you do not personally follow. Even better, you can follow lists that others have meticulously created. (Kim Cofino has a great International Teachers list.

Hashtags#learning2 #edchat #scichat #mathchat #kinderchat These are all examples of hashtags. Hashtags make it easy to group and search for tweets about a specific topic. Using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, you can even use a hashtag to create an easy-to-follow column in your client. @cybraryman has a comprehensive list of education-related hashtags.

Search For It – Is there something that you’re passionate about? Chances are there are others on Twitter who are passionate about the same thing. Use the Twitter Search function to find people who are talking about your hometown, your favorite sports team or anything else you might be interested in.

Lurking (aka Legitimate Peripheral Participation) – One of the best and easiest ways to learn Twitter etiquette is to lurk amongst some of your favorite lists or hashtags. Once you see how things work, it’s a lot easier to join in!

Retweet and Reply – For some, the highest compliment you can pay them on Twitter is to retweet them. For others, they prefer the conversation that comes along with an @reply. Either way, it is a great way to engage others and to add followers to your PLN.

Conversation is King – Twitter, first and foremost, is about connecting with people around the world who can help you grow as a teacher and as a person. This happens through conversation and through getting to know one another as you would a fellow teacher on your campus. Sometimes these professional relationships develop into personal friendships that last a lifetime!

While it is extremely well-used and on the verge of becoming cliche, the best metaphor for your Personal Learning Network is that of a garden. It takes time and energy and patience to cultivate a PLN. But if you stick with it, it can be a very beautiful thing!

Image Credits:
Squawk! by Kevin Collins licensed under†CC BY NC
Looking Up†by Louise Docker licensed under CC BY