Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pushing Boundaries

As I started to leave a comment on one of Aviva Dunsinger's blogs I couldn't help but stop to think about how discovering twitter for educational purposes has really changed me as a teacher. Prior to twitter I was a hard working teaching who questioned things and looked for ways to make things better. But with the discovery of educational twitter and connecting with such incredible primary educators my questioning and desire to get better has exploded.

For example two weeks ago Aviva @grade1 posted on twitter that her 1/2 class was going to have a game of I Spy using the hash tag #Ispy2011.  It was a way to get her students to write for an audience as they provided clues describing common objects around a classroom.  Aviva invited the rest of the world to try to guess the answers, and write clues for her students to try to figure out.  Seeing that on twitter finally prompted me to create a class twitter account @MsLsClass so that my class could play along.  While Aviva had her students do this activity on their own as part of a literacy rotation, we did it as a group activity.   My students loved trying to guess what was being posted. It was our very first twitter experience.

Aviva's activity made me think about what I was doing with my class and how I could integrate technology into it.  Each year  around Christmas time I have my students create secrets about Santa.  I have a little paper form where we write and illustrate our secrets.  We post them around the room and some years around our school so that others can read our secrets.  Having just played I Spy with Aviva's students on twitter I decided to create the hash tag #santasec2011 to have my students share their secrets about Santa.  I posted it on twitter and invited the world to join in with us.  The world came, or at least a few other primary classes came.  Twitter is a powerful tool and I look forward to getting my students more involved with it.

This past week I set up a closed facebook group for my class to help encourage more of my students' parents to be involved.  The facebook group will not replace the classblog It will only provide another avenue to the blog.  I figured if my parents are regularly checking their facebook accounts for their day to day lives why not connect them on facebook and provide them with a direct link to our class blog every time it gets updated.  So far I have three families in the group but the notice only did go out yesterday and we have just started school holidays.

In addition, with the iPad that I was given to use in my classroom, my use of technology integration continues to explode.  In the two weeks that I've had the iPad it has constantly been in the hands of my students.  As I said in another post we are using it to read, write, do math, create, explore, and discover. I even took it on our field trip and we practiced math facts as we waited for the performance to start.   I have discovered wonderful apps that will help my students with their individual learning needs.  For example I have one student that is a selective mute. I've down loaded Talking Tom as a way to get her to speak at school.  Granted the speaking will be done in complete privacy but if I'm lucky the motivation of having the silly cat repeat her words may help her take that first step of talking at school.  Right now she is giggling like crazy when others talk to and are repeated by Talking Tom.  Then there's Dragon Dictation. I have another student with severe speech language issues and a severe learning disability.  He will be using Dragon Dictation to practice speaking clearly.  If he is successful with his speech he will be rewarded with personalized typed text that he can then use to write his journal entry.

My list of examples of change and growth because of inspiration or knowledge I've gained from twitter goes on and on.  Just getting me to think like this has been 100% inspired but what I've learned and read on and via twitter.  The connections I've made with like minded educators  has introduced me to so many new things I would have never known about without it.  It is pushing my boundaries far further than I every thought I'd want to go.  It has made me realize that twenty years into the best profession in the world, I still have so much more to learn and discover.  It has reminded me that need never be a dull moment in my career.

With that in mind there are still several things I'd like to integrate into my teaching or classroom.  This list is far from complete but it is a place for me to document what is spinning in my head these days.

I want to...

- use our big buddies to teach and help us learn how to use storybird (with hopes that my students will be motivated to use it on their own)
- show my class audioboo and use it to digitally document their oral reading and post it on our class and/or their individual student blogs
- revisit Voki as a tool for demonstrating our learning
- create QR codes for my classroom books stored by author providing direct links to the author's website to hear stories read by the author or to learn more about the author
- introduce Voice Thread, ShowMe, ScreenChomp, Explain Everything,  Puppet Pals, Toontastic, Sock Puppets, Wordle, as a way of documenting and sharing our ideas with others
- get my students tweeting our class happenings independently
- *find ways to get more technology permanently into my classroom
- create a google doc list of apps I use for teaching and provide the link to other educators and to the parents of my students
- continue to expand my Personal Learning Network and find a way to stay on top of all the amazing information coming my way
- continue to share my learning with anyone who will listen, and provide support to others where ever I can

As  I begin my well earned two week school holiday I will continue to ponder, discover, explore, and push my boundaries.  I'm curious to know how your teaching has changed either because of your interaction with other like minded educators, or your experiences on twitter.  I'd love for you to share too.

*Right now I have my school's one portable smart board and projection device in my classroom but I am only allowed to keep it for one term.  That term has just ended and I am pretty bummed to know it will be gone (but happy to know that other like minded educators in my school will get the chance to use it).   I will canvas my new administration for my own projection device to use with the ipad I've been given, but if I'm not successful there I will be looking at other avenues to get a permanent projection device into my classroom.  Having to sign out the school's shared one will totally mess the spontaneity we've had with having the portable smart board in our class.  Knowing that I'm about to loose it makes me realize how valuable it has been.


  1. Karen, thank you so much for mentioning me in this post! I love how much you push yourself, and how excited you are to try new things. You continue to inspire me, and I can't thank you enough.

    Looking forward to hearing more about how you use the iPad in class! Have a great break!


  2. Thanks for your comments Aviva. I look forward to trying out so many things with my new class ipad. I'm also hoping that they don't take it away from me at the end of this school year. They've allowed me to cross into the land of the iPad and I don't think I can ever go back. I can't tell you how much it will change/improve what I'm already doing.

  3. Hello fellow 1st grade teacher! I am new to Twitter and I've seen some of the posts from you and others. I am overwhelmed! I love your blog and your observations. I am in awe about all of the things you are doing with your students. I just created my first website/blog and plan to write some grants for iPads that will hopefully get funded. Thanks for allowing a glimpse of what can be accomplished. - Patty (@coogsoccer on Twitter)

  4. Patty thank you for your kind words. I too was totally over whelmed with Twitter when I joined in July but with time things got a lot better for me and I was able to figure it out. It still can over whelm me and leave my head spinning, but it's so exciting for me to read and learn from others. Twitter is such an amazing place to meet like minded individuals. I'd love to check out your class blog (I'm trying to encourage my grade students to check out other grade one blogs). Please let me know if I can help you in any way on your journey. Karen