TPD – The Twittersphere and the world of Twitter Professional Development

As school budgets are increasingly over-stretched, with the challenge of the ever changing curriculum and the looming new exam specs (for some of us both GCSE and A Level in Sept 2016), surely TPD (Twitter Professional Development) is more important ever.
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With time and budget restraints external CPD opportunities beyond school, courses etc.  are far less than they ever have been for many of us. Many of us get flyers for courses on a weekly basis but how many just get binned without a second look? I suspect this is more the acceptance that there just aren’t the resources to even consider them not that they wouldn’t be welcome as  fresh updates. With the pressures of the new GCSEs and A Levels fast approaching, any funding and time there is will inevitably need to be targeted at days out run by exam boards and supporting organisations to prepare for these. With TPD, ‘continuing’ professional development’ really does take place, on a ‘continual’ basis! Rather than going on one specific course, the twittersphere exposes educators to a plethora of resources and knowledge which can enrich your professional development far more (and for free!) on a daily basis.

twitterSo why engage with twitter – what actually are the benefits? One of the best justifications is given here “Why twitter matters in education” Supporting collaboration between departments, facilitating the sharing of resources and ideas and engaging in professional dialogue not just on subject specialist areas but wider pedagogical development and education policy changes are but a few reasons ! I am very lucky to have a large department, but if you are in a small department then twitter can lead to world of possibilities and ideas that would have been difficult as a small department ploughing a lonely furrow. With TPD you can ‘pay it forward’ and collaborate – learn every day, share every day.

TPD doesn’t have to just be ‘virtual CPD’, for me it has lead to many contacts that have been followed up with emails, visits and collaborative projects and most importantly dialogue. Dialogue with other professionals with a diverse range of experience to share and from countries across the globe! Sharing ideas and discussing pedagogy with teachers from Australia, America, Indonesia, to name but a few is now part of my daily professional development.

So how do you get started with twitter? How do you really start to engage with it and for some of us, how do you convince sceptics to also give it a go! For a number of years I was that sceptic – I didn’t see how sharing my every movement in a 140 character tweet would be at all beneficial and was indeed just a waste of my time! Thankfully I listened. I realised it wasn’t about that at all. I listened and gave it a go. I realised that, like most things, it all comes down to how you use it. Social media can be used for a variety of purposes and as a professional you choose the tool which best first the purpose you wish to use it for. I use Facebook for my ‘social connections’ and twitter is my professional development outlet.

Yes you can easily spend hours on twitter but “why would I? I have a life” is often used as just an excuse not to try it. Time is undoubtedly the biggest barrier for all of us, with so many pressures, but you don’t have to be the person that tweets frequently or is always sharing resources. You can be someone that checks once a week when you might have 5 minutes. If you choose start by simply following a few people with similar interests / subject focuses it can have quite an immediate impact in terms of practical ideas that you can try out in the classroom. If it doesn’t work after having given it a proper go (investing just a little time to use it properly) then you haven’t lost a lot and you can go back to what works for you but I firmly believe that TPD has a lot to offer and shouldn’t be dismissed (or worse mocked) without at least giving it a go!

There are so many excellent starting points for teachers wishing to engage with twitter – here are few of the best ones…

10 steps to creating the perfect educational twitter account

10 Tips for Tweeting Teachers

Beginners Guide to Twitter

A longer list of useful links to support the use of twitter in education can be found here supporting both beginners and the more advanced.

Don’t forget that twitter can also be used in the classroom – not just for professional development. Many educators across the globe now utilise twitter in and out of the classroom (remember to check your own school policy with regard to twitter use). This site provides links to 100 ways to teach with twitter.

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CanaryFlow

Since taking on my new responsibility as Head of Geography from September, I haven’t had much chance to post, but finally half term has arrived! Although my school responsibilities have changed, my philosophy hasn’t and I’m committed to continuing to explore ways in which new technologies can help support teaching and learning. One of the areas I hope that one day I can myself explore is the use of one to one devices. I am not in that position at the moment but it is interesting learning from others who are currently in this position and exploring new apps and programmes that can support with this.

CanarOne which I have recently discovered through my ‘TPD’ (Twitter Professional Development) is CanaryFlow from Canary Learning. I can’t try this one out myself because not all my students have devices but it certainly looks like it has great potential for those of you who are in that lucky situation. Hand out assignments which are are automatically downloaded to student devices and students can work on it even when they are not on-line. Students then submit and everything is automatically downloaded to your device. Comment you add are remembered so for ‘common’ mistakes or comments they can reused across student work if necessary.

More about the CanaryFlow plans is available here and CanaryFlow Teacher is free.  Student and Teacher apps are available on itunes.

Canaryflow example

Student’s see all the content teaches want them to see and there is a useful calendar view as well (photo below – taken from Canary Learning website).

As CanaryFlow works completely offline you don’t have to be online to work.

The following video gives an introduction to Canaryflow 2.0

iDoceo – Starting the new term…

I never thought I would get rid of my paper planner but discovering iDoceo last year was a revolution and now I wouldn’t be without my electronic teacher planner! Planner, gradebook, calendar, seating plan, diary etc.. all in one. I can even upload or link resources to my plans and I have been able to export all of last years plans for each year group as a .pdf. Whilst it has taken me the morning to get set up for the new year with my new calendar, new timetable, new groups, new seating plans etc. it has been well worth it and will save me lots of time and make things more efficient over the course of the year. It is definitely worth investing the time.

For those of you who have already discovered the joys of iDoceo here is a useful for link for getting ready for the new term.. including information on how to archive last years classes, add a new timetable etc.

A full list of links for ‘how to‘ in iDoceo can be found here.

Beginners Guide to Blogging

Start BlogBlogging is a fantastic tool for supporting teaching and learning as well as for personal professional development and reflection on areas of particular interest. With many online blogging sites available such as wordpress.com you don’t need to be a computer expert or understand .html to set up your own blog. If you are interested in keeping a blog or using blogging in the classroom check out http://startbloggingonline.com/ an excellent beginners guide on how to set up a blog by Mike Wallagher – very user friendly and everything you need to know! With the new academic year not far off maybe a blog is part of your new years education resolution!

Revision strategies and support in and beyond the classroom – VERSION 2!

RevStrategy - v2Further to my last post introducing a document I have written called “Revision Strategies in and beyond the classroom”. Lots of people have kindly made other suggestions for good ideas to add. I always intended this to be a ‘live’ document that will hopefully continue to grow so please do send feedback or other ideas of good practice which could be added to share with the education community. In the meantime, here is Version 2 of the document – Part 1 has been significantly updated with new ideas and I would like to thank those people that have contributed, both from St Ivo and from the Twittersphere!

As before please do email any feedback or suggestions to me (contact at side of blog).  Ideas can also be sent via twitter to @RobGeog.

Revision Strategies in and beyond the classroom

Revision Strategies and Support in the ClassroomThere are lots of websites with ideas for students on revision strategies and how to structure their revision. However, with the exam season rapidly approaching, course content nearly if not already taught, and a focus on revision in lessons over the forthcoming weeks, I thought it would be useful to try and compile ideas for teachers with regards to planning revision activities for both in and beyond the classroom in one document.

Some of these ideas are for activities which could be adapted and used in lessons whilst others are for creating revision resources which could then be shared with students via email, the school network or online (for example on blogs) to help them with revision beyond the classroom.

I am also interested in bringing together ideas on how new technologies can be used to support staff in creating and sharing revision resources with students. I have therefore written this document which I hope can be updated with suggestions of strategies that have worked well for you which you would be happy to share with others.

Please do email any suggestions to me (contact at side of blog).  Ideas can also be sent via twitter to @RobGeog.

Above all – I hope it is of some use to you in preparations and planning for the forthcoming revision period!

Imvoto – student response system – using mobile devices to assess learning

ImvotoImvoto is another very useful system enabling immediate assessment of learning to enable teachers to quickly intervene where required to help students progress, tackle misconceptions and move learning on.

This is definitely one to have a look at – you can easily write your own questions to assess your class and students can use a variety of devices to take the assessments, mobiles, tablets or desktops. Questions can also be differentiated depending on student responses.  A particularly useful aspect of this tool is that as well as writing your own questions you can share your questions and also discover and use other teachers questions. Another benefit is the ability to include a range of media in your questions, including audio, video, images or LaTex.

Here is a quick introduction video:

There is also an excellent dedicated Imvoto Youtube channel with an excellent collection of videos providing a guide to creating assessments, interrogating data etc.

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