Can Educators Flourish Without Twitter? | Blogger of the Week

“But the biggest return on my investment – I started using Twitter. It took me completely out of my comfort zone, and this is when my professional life really began to flourish.”

-Kim Sivick

Kim Sivick, K-5 technology coordinator and teacher of the fourth grade international culture studies bloggers, shares her insights on technology integration and resources, professional learning networks, and more.

1. What advice do you have for teachers and administrators getting started setting up their professional learning network?

Building a network takes time. It may take just a few minutes to get started but to really connect; you will need to become an active participant. I did not ask for comments on my students’ blog until I felt I had become an active Twitter participant, contributing information, re-tweeting valuable links, and providing positive feedback.

There is a multitude of “getting started” resources on the web. My favorite article about setting up a PLN is in this month’s ISTE’s Leading and Learning with Technology Magazine, Join the Flock by Hadley Ferguson.

2. Many teachers want to integrate technology more fluently and frequently in their classes, but simply don’t have the resources. What advice do you have for teachers in this situation?

Don’t let the status quo stand in the way of achieving your academic goals. Ask yourself, “How can I/we make this happen.” Sometimes this involves overtime – if you are not willing to invest some of your personal time to accomplish your professional goals and your goals for your students, then you are in the wrong profession.

When I started my current position in the fall of 2008, I was working with PC laptops. While these machines were satisfactory for the types of projects that were in place, I knew that I would need Macs for the types of projects I envisioned. I also knew that the students loved computer class and wanted more time than I could provide.

Being a parent myself, I knew that creative and fun afterschool and weekend workshops are in high demand. I went to my administration and proposed that new Macs be purchased for my lab with the understanding that I would run afterschool and weekend workshops for students in grades 2-5 until the Mac debt had been paid.

To my great delight the administration agreed. That got me my first 10 Macs. Once the excitement over technology grew, it was not hard to convince the administration to purchase a few more Macs to complete my lab. I am blessed to work with an administration that listened to me and supported my vision.

3. What other successful techie projects have you done with your students?

I’m a big fan of the iLife and iWork applications. We use iMovie for digital storytelling, Pages for student designed yearbooks, and iPhoto for basic photo editing. The 5th grade used to do a PowerPoint presentation for an explorer project; now they use iMovie and trace the path of their explorer around the globe. It is so easy, and yet the finished projects are astounding.

Last year I connected with a teacher in the United Arab Emirates. We created a Ning and our students exchanged photos and answered questions about themselves and their schools.

Last year I also assumed responsibility for the 5th grade yearbook and decided to entrust my students with creating their own pages. I gave them the freedom to express themselves as they wished and it’s been a truly empowering transformation.

I recently set up a Twitter account for our 8th grade students who have a project called Peace in the Middle East. The Twitter account enables them to follow major news organizations in the Middle East and the UN. The teacher assigned them the task of reading tweets and articles referenced in tweets that originated in those countries to get a better understanding of their point of view. The students then traveled to the UN to meet with delegates and were well prepared, in part because of the knowledge they gained through Twitter.

4. What are a few of your students’ favorite web tools or web 2.0 tools to use in the classroom?   

My current favorite is Kidblog.org because of the ease and safety for the elementary age students. The students love Storybird, which enables them to post stories and receive comments. The ability to get outside feedback makes the process more exciting and meaningful. They care more about their work when they know they are reaching a wide audience. I’m just beginning to use wikispaces, and of course I use Twitter to demonstrate global connectiveness.

5. What 3 words would you use to describe education today? 

  • Revolutionary
  • Participant-driven
  • Connected

6. Anything else you want to add?

I want to reach out to all those tech “newbies” and say welcome. I am relatively new to education and just in my second year as a technology integrator. In my first year I made some changes to my program and was able to build my resources. This year I reached out to individuals beyond my school, attended any conference related to technology that was available to me and voraciously read tech blogs. But the biggest return on my investment – I started using Twitter. It took me completely out of my comfort zone, and this is when my professional life really began to flourish. 

-Kim Sivick

Photo from kjarrett

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