Category Archives: twitter

A PLN Connection…11 years in the making!


Each time you make the conscious effort to follow someone, you do it for a reason…at least I do.  For over a year, I have been building my PLN (personal learning network) on twitter with educators, principals, edtech people, or basically anyone that I think I can learn from in education.  I spent time following conferences, attending virtual conferences, following blogs, joining nings, and participating in a variety of chats to connect with people across the world who are passionate about the world of education.  Professionally, I have learned more this way in the past year than I have in any grad class or professional development workshop.  In my opinion, online collaborative learning is the most individualized and inspiring instruction a person in education can get.

Along the way, I’ve met some people that I have truly connected with.  I think of them as my colleagues and wouldn’t hesitate for them to write me a letter of recommendation…they know me that well.  One of those people is Lisa Dabbs (@teachingwthsoul).


Lisa immediately embraced me in the beginning of my twitter experience.  She encouraged me, retweeted my tweets, asked about me if  I hadn’t been on twitter for a few days, commented on my blog, and even began deeper conversations with me over emails.  I think of Lisa as a mentor…someone that I look up to.  I am a few months away from finishing my Master’s in Educational Leadership and my PA Principal’s Certificate.  Lisa has made a career of being an educational leader and was a principal for many years.  I love her strong, open, and caring leadership style.  You can easily pick up on that if you follow her on twitter or read her blog.  Over this past year, these little connections have connected us.  Not only would I call Lisa a colleague, but I would call her a friend.

Now…here’s where things get interesting…

grandpa erin visit 098

Two weeks ago, my Dad and my 17-year-old sister were visiting from California.  The above picture is the moment just before my sister and I realized that we had this unbelievable connection with Lisa.  This is how it looked on twitter:


lisa 1


YES!! Yes, she was her principal!  You can imagine the look on my sister’s face as she was watching this bizarre exchange happen in front of her!  She could not even fathom how her sister in Pennsylvania could be friends with her elementary school principal!  To tell you the truth,  Lisa and I were more than a little freaked out about the situation! After the initial shock, we had a really nice conversation about Erin as a little kid and now a girl on the brink of adulthood…connecting to her childhood through her sister and twitter.  Erin had a fun time remembering things that really made an impact on her…a lot that was Lisa’s doing.  She remembered the caring environment, the multicultural inclusion, the murals on the walls of the school depicting children from around the world, and…her favorite memory…raising the most money for the jump rope for heart contest.  Interestingly enough, I remember sending Erin a check to support her in her jump rope-a-thon.  Here she is when she was in first grade with Lisa on that very day:

Erin - Allendale 001

The connections that we choose to make on twitter are not just random.  We connect with those that we want to learn from, we want to learn with, or want to teach and encourage.  This experience has reminded me just how connected we can be as educators.  Not only have I learned from Lisa on twitter, but my sister learned through her leadership, the teachers she hired, the murals on the wall, and from her heart and soul.  Lisa not only teaches with soul, she shares that soul…that passion…with everyone around her, regardless if it is in the real world or in the virtual world.  For those who think learning or socializing online is cold, isolating, and perhaps even de-humanized, all I can do is encourage them to try it.  Those of us who participate and learn from it daily are transparent…there is no digital divide…we are who we are regardless of the format.  Thank you, Lisa, for reminding me how it is possible to have real connections, friendships, and experiences even if you live 3,000 miles apart!

Educon 2.2: Professional Development in my pj’s! #educon


Sounds too good to be true, huh?  Professional Development in your pajamas?  That is exactly what I did this weekend.  Unfortunately, I did not get tickets on time to go to educon in Philadelphia, so I had to go with plan B.  I had my laptop up and running with my #educon twitter feed running in one window and the Friday night keynote panel discussion:  What is Smart? streaming on in another window.  Here, I heard Loren Brichter, Martha Farah, Happy Fernandez, Eddie Glaude, and David Shenk discuss their thoughts on what they thought smart was.  While the discussion was going on, I was having other discussions about the topic on twitter.  What did I learn from the keynote panel?

  • Howard Gardner was right.
  • Dewey is still awesome.
  • Smart means different things to different people.
  • It is really hard to follow a neuroscience professor.
  • Passion for something is vital for being “smart” in it.
  • Elementary teachers resonate most with “smart” people.
  • My favorite question posed:  How do we make smart?

I woke up Saturday morning to watch the vokle stream of the morning keynote Marilyn Perez.  I found myself more concerned about what conversations I was going to attend than listening to the stream.  It was a good thing, though, because I got into my first choice conversation for session 1:  Teaching Big Ideas to 21st Century Learners with Ben Hazzard and Zoe Branigan-Pipe.  I will have to admit, that the technology of the elluminate session was painful at best to begin with.  So, while they were working on that, I was adding to my PLN (personal learning network) by searching through the #educon twitter feed.  Wow!  I am blown away by the people that I met and what they have to say about education and learning.  So, what did I learn from Zoe and Ben?

Ask yourself these questions when thinking about Big Ideas..

  • What are the relevant topics you can address with your students?
  • How can you make learning meaningful?
  • What are the Big Ideas your students will find relevant?
  • What 3 takeaways do you wish for your students.  Answers from the session can be found here.

During lunch, I followed Will Richardson to a demo by Jeff Han via ustream of the perceptive pixel, a multitouch interface that was amazing.

Next, I decided to multitask and attend two conversations.  The first was by Christian Long with the Alice Project.  The second was by David Warlick about Learning 2.0.  What did I learn here?

  • If you don’t establish boundaries, you can’t release creativity.
  • Ask students great questions and demand they prove it in public.
  • What does great learning look like?
  • Wow… The Alice Project
  • There are cool new tools for Blooms that were introduced here.

My last session of the day was with Chris Lehmann, the principal of the Science and Leadership Academy called, Leadership 2.0:  Who do we need our leaders to be?  Currently, I’m finishing my Master’s in Educational Leadership and working on my principal’s certification, so this one was the one I was really looking forward to.  There are some people that are born to be leaders; Chris Lehmann is one of them.  What did I learn from Chris?

  • Leaders need to use inquiry, technology infusion, and communities of care.
  • In inquiry learning, follow the lead of the students.
  • Technology should be a part of every day and transformative.
  • A caring community is one that is 24/7…in school, out of school, online, and off-line.
  • Character education needs to go deeper than the posters we hang around the school.
  • Teachers need to know the vision/mission of the school in order to incorporate it into their lessons each day.
  • Servant leadership is top down support for bottom up ideas.
  • Leadership is being able to get everyone on the same common ground, then move them forward.
  • You can’t bully teachers into caring for students.
  • Every good teacher knows how to outlive a mandate.

So, my mind was absolutely spinning from the day.  I took the kids out to Target and out to dinner.  When I got home, I went back to the #educon twitter feed to see what I could catch up on.  This community of learners were now synthesizing the information they learned in the other sessions that I couldn’t attend and were sharing it with all of us…now those are some great teachers/learners/leaders/collaborators!  I came across an ebook that was made in Ben Hazzard’s second session here:

Amazing how a group can collaborate so effectively!  Thanks to all who helped create the field guide.

Now it is Sunday morning…unfortunately, I won’t be attending any virtual conversations today because I have to catch up with the real world and everything I ignored yesterday.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  This was an amazing learning experience for me.  I have built a personal learning network that I will be able to learn from every day.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to meet them in person next year!

So….what did you learn this weekend???  ;o)

TKAMB21: To Kill A Mockingbird Meets the 21st Century

cover copy

So how to you take a classic book and make it relevant to kids today?  You include facebook, twitter, and im into the project.  My 8th graders ate this project up!  If you want to see if your students truly have a grasp of character development, have them write tweets as that character.  Check out my students’ TKAMB21 projects here!  This project idea can be used for social studies as well…imagine creating a facebook page for a historical character! Click here to see the original instructions.

2011 Update:

Since we’ve moved to a Google Platform, I formatted the assignment for Google Docs and used a Google Site to showcase their work. Templates for Google can be found here.

Also, I just read two books that are not appropriate for students, but a total riot for adults that explore this type of writing: