Category Archives: Productivity

It’s ABOUT time! How to find time to improve your educational technology literacy and skills.

Reflections from a Twitter Chat: Connected Educator Month

As part of my “celebration” of October as Connected Educator Month, I thought I would post a short reflection following my Saturday morning Twitter chat today. I like to participate in #SatChat which occurs every Saturday morning at 6:30 am Central Time (where I live). It’s pretty early, but I’m a morning person, so I’m already “up” if not fully awake…a couple little dogs are on a morning routine that helps ensure that I’m ready to go when 6:30 rolls around. So I grab my coffee and log in to HootSuite, the tool I like to use to more easily follow the chat messages as they come in. This morning, I just climbed back in bed with my laptop and participated in my pjs…now that is some convenient professional learning, right there!

As I was participating in today’s topic of “Game Changers,” I was challenged by some of the questions the moderator posed, especially Q2: How does your philosophy of education impact student success? and Q4: Does your philosophy of education make you a game changer? So I thought about how I could have an increased impact and be more of a game changer. This reflection combined with Connected Educator challenges I’ve been working on resulted in a conviction to be more reflective and regular in my blogging practices. I frequently share things from my Saturday morning Twitter chats with individual teachers or administrators in our district, but I don’t know if I have ever actually blogged my reflections for all to see. Who knows…maybe someone, somewhere will read my reflection and be challenged to impact students under their direction in a positive way. So, here is my first post reflecting personally on #SatChat October 18, 2014:

Game changers are important to keep education moving because the world is constantly changing. We’ve all seen the quotes about how industry has changed so much in the last 100 years, but if a teacher from 100 years ago walked in to a school or classroom, they would know just what to do because education has changed very little while other industries have been through total transformations. I hope in the schools I support, a similar transformation is starting. We don’t need to change everything…just the things that are not the BEST. Keep what’s best and change the rest.

A couple of quick resources to share that I gleaned from this morning’s chat:

1.  An article to read about Rigor:  22 Ways to Add Rigor to Your Classroom

Although the term “rigor” is not a new one, the emphasis on rigor in education today is high.  We see it mentioned in new standards, new teacher evaluation tools, and lots of educational commentary.  I like the definition of Rigor from  The Glossary of Education Reform which includes this phrase:

” instruction, schoolwork,learning experiences, and educational expectations that are academically, intellectually, and personally challenging”

You can read the whole article explaining rigor here:

2.  A blog post that could challenge you, but also might help you maintain sanity as a teacher:  Buried Alive:  A Cautionary Tale about Piles of Work

In this post, Starr Sackstein reflects on sharing responsibility with students as a way to both empower students AND maintain a reasonable work load for the teacher.  While she is a journalism teachers, her post has relevance for teachers of all subjects.

In the future, I’ll try to be more reflective following my Saturday morning Twitter chats, so that others can also benefit from my early, weekend morning forays into professional learning in my pajamas!

Twitter Chats for Personal Learning

My ongoing personal learning over the 24 years of my career in education has seen many changes, but one of biggest changes technology has brought to personal learning has been the convenience of learning anytime, anywhere with anyone! This month is Connected Educator Month and as I proceed through EduBlog’s Teacher Challenges, I’m trying to document my progress here on my blog. Step 3 in the Challenge focuses on Twitter Chats for personal growth.

I’ve already written briefly about my favorite Twitter chat: SatChat on Saturday mornings at 6:30 Central Time here in Kansas where I live. Good thing I’m a morning person, huh? I’ve participated many times over the last year or so in this chat. First, I just got up and made my coffee and tried to follow the #satchat hastag using Twitter itself. Not very impressive. Then I dug a little deeper and tried out HootSuite as a tool to make the chatting experience more manageable. Hootsuite allows you to open a columnar window into which ONLY the tweets with the desired hashtag will feed. They still come through pretty quickly, but this made it much more easy to keep up with. You can expect a welcome message from a moderator or two and then a stream of introductions at the designated start time. Soon after, the moderator will post a discussion topic that you can identify by its starting “Q1,” meaning “here is discussion question 1.” You may see a few “retweets” of the Q1 tweet, then you can expect the flood of responses to the question to come in labeled with “A1” indicating “this is my answer to question 1.” After a few minutes Q2 will be released and then the A2 tweets start flowing in. Most Twitter chats I’ve participated in have 4 -5 questions in an hour long chat.

The chat experience is even more powerful when you use it to make connections with other like-minded participants. It is a great way to find people to “follow” on Twitter, or even to communicate with directly in whatever way you like to communicate for other projects. Other tips I have: I have both a laptop and an iPad on which I have participated in Twitter chats. Even though I’m pretty good on my iPad keyboard, my own personal preference is still to participate on my laptop so that if I do decide to post an answer, I can most quickly get it typed and submitted. But it is pretty rewarding to have my iPad nearby and hear the notification sounds come in when one of my posts is “retweeted” or someone “favorites” or “direct messages” me because of something I posted.

If you haven’t ever tried a Twitter chat, I challenge you to try one as part of Connected Educator Month 2014. Here is a great link with a schedule of several educational twitter chats that happen regularly. Be sure to cognizant of the time zones each one is marked in. Its also a great way to find hashtags you can search Twitter for even if the time of the live chat doesn’t work for your schedule. (Thanks, CybraryMan, for the great Twitter resources posted here:!!)

Using Blogs as Part of Your Personal Learning Network

As part of Connected Educator Month, I’m participating in Edublog’s PLN Teacher Challenge. Each step of the challenge focuses on a different aspect of developing a PLN, or Personal Learning Network. Step five focused on the use of blogs for enhancing your PLN. I use as a blog aggregator to make following several blogs more convenient.
Feedly allows me to find bloggers I enjoy and have all their posts filter in to one single location so I can look at the headlines when I have time and read the posts which interest me most. I can add or remove blogs that I have “feed” in anytime, so If I’m working on a specific temporary project, I can add blogs that apply to it and then later I can remove them to help prioritize my time! Here is a screen shot of what Feedly looks like in case you’re interested:

Along the left side you see the list of blogs which I have selected to follow. On the right side you see the headline view where I see a chronological listing of the headlines from the blogs feeding in. I can focus on one single blog at a time if I want by clicking on its title of the left. There are also some controls which allow me to mark posts a read or tag them for follow up. Clicking a headline, shows an overview of the first few lines of the post in this view with links to the actual website. If I select a blog title on the left, then expanding the headline allows me to read the entire post right inside Feedly without ever leaving.

I also try to post on my own blog and share my blog with others in my PLN to be a “contributor” to the field, and not just a “taker!” I don’t know how much other educators benefit from my blog, but I do know that the process of reflecting in writing has personal growth value to me even if no one reads what I have written. Organizing my thoughts and getting them down on screen is often a way for me to plan and brainstorm and fulfills a need for creativity that I have! Even though I am a bit sporadic on my blogging, I still keep trying to occasionally post!

Sketchnoting and MOOCS

Let’s be clear: I love MOOCS. If I had unlimited funds, I would just keep taking college classes in all sorts of topics because I love to learn new things. I hope that when I am retired, I live near a campus that allows senior citizens to audit courses for free like ESU did when I was in college!! So when I heard about the concepts of MOOCS…free Massive Open Online Courses, I was elated. And not just a little intrigued by the design aspect since I was formally trained in Instructional Design and Technology during my masters work. I’ve participated in MOOCS from a a couple different platforms, but mostly Coursera. I’ve taken my first poetry class, Listening to World Music, Beginning Guitar, a course designed for technology coaches like me, and now a course specifically about how to generally coach teachers. I didn’t complete all the lessons but grew a little in courses on songwriting and something called “disruptive technologies,” too.

One of my classmates in this most recent class shared her weekly notes done in a process called sketchnoting, and I became inspired to try it myself. It reminds me of the concept mapping that I always had my science students do to make connections between concepts in class, but on artistic steroids. Visual drawings enhance the main points of the notes to help the note taker retain what they are studying. Color and doodling enhance. Here is my first sketchnote from the class:


Now granted, there are mostly just words in this page, so one of my goals will to become more artistic and graphic and less text-based as I do my next sketch notes. The app I used was Paper 53 for iPad and on this first one, I only used the free version which has limited tools and colors. I might experiment on the next one with a different tool as the add on for Paper costs about $7. It was super easy to share, though and could be emailed quite easily in a file that opened fine on my Windows laptop, too.

Now if you want to see some professional Sketchnoting, head over to the Langwitches blog and check out Silvia’s work on the same subject . . . I could let this put me to shame, but instead I choose to exercise a growth mindset and instead be INSPIRED by her work! Here is her post and sketch on the same week of the course we are taking: Sketchnote from Silvia at Langwitches

Developing Your PLN: Setting up a Feed Reader and Finding Bloggers to Follow

One of the most beneficial parts of my Personal Learning Network or PLN is my feed reader.  I use this tool to compile in one location all the updates from educational bloggers that I like to follow.  This way I don’t have to visit each blog each day to see what new information is available.  When Google Reader went out of commission as a feed reader, I had to find a new one, so I’m currently using Feedly for this purpose.

I keep my eye out for mentions of blogs to follow when I’m at conferences, when I’m reading professional paper publications (yep, I still do that now and then), or even when I’m spending time reading other folks’ blogs.  Many bloggers keep a “blog roll” on their own blog showing other bloggers they like.  If I like someone’s blog, I figure I might also like who THEY like!

Once you add the blog address to Feedly, you don’t have to keep it bookmarked or remember the web address…just go to Feedly and log in and the updates will be sitting there for you to scan as headlines and to link to if you want to read the entire blog posts.

I try to schedule 15 minute blocks of time here and there during my week to just stay current in my reading.  I sometimes have to set a timer, because it is easy to get lost in the “blogosphere” and kill an entire hour!  If you need some help finding valuable bloggers to start following, the Teach100 list at is a great place to find a few to start with.  Just pick 3 – 4 that sound good, start an account at Feedly and put it on your calendar to revist every few days for the next few weeks.  If you find it valuable, you’ve gained a new professional development tool!


Adjusting the Email Signature Line on an iPad

I remember the first time I got an email message from someone with the signature line “Sent from my iPad.”  Man, did that make me mad!  What a snotty thing to say: “Nya, Nya!  I have an iPad and you don’t!”  Then I realized it was the default signature Apple puts in on their new devices.  I think that’s a little underhanded of Apple to stick a signature line on there with out even asking me, but I don’t think they’d care if I let them know anyway.  So instead of wasting time writing to complain to Apple, I just decided to produce a video to show anyone who cares to know how to CHANGE that signature line to something of their own choosing!  The video below will demonstrate and explain how to do just that!

Adjusting the Email Signature Line on the iPad from Lisa Suhr on Vimeo.