Tips on building a personal learning network on Twitter

Learn how to leverage Twitter’s 140-character microblogging platform into your global Personal Learning Network (PLN)

personal-learning-networkI live and work in rural Maine, the northeast corner of the United States with New Hampshire our only tether to the rest of the country. To our north, Canada. To our east, the Atlantic. It is a beautiful place to live, a perfect place to raise a family, and with a robust statewide one-to-one technology initiative and dedicated professionals throughout, a pretty darn good place to teach.

Unfortunately, our geography and lack of population density makes it difficult for educators to connect with one another and even more difficult to attend professional development opportunities.

Quality events such as the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine’s (ACTEM) statewide tech integration conference, Maine Learning with Technology Initiative (MLTI) workshops, and Google Apps for Education Summits certainly exist. However, districts struggle to support Professional Development (PD) funding and the individual educator must often brunt the costs of attending. The possibilities of national connectedness feels remote.

Hello, Twitter.

In just a few short months, I have leveraged the 140-character microblogging platform into my global PLN. Twitter chat communities such as #edtechchat and #PATUE discuss technology integration, while #Satchat and #Sunchat explore a wide range of pedagogical topics both practical and philosophical.

(Next page: Successful Twitter networking tips)


China retains supercomputer crown in latest Top500 list

A supercomputer built by the Chinese government has retained its place at the top of a list of the world’s most powerful systems, the BBC reports. Tianhe-2 can operate at 33.86 petaflop/s – the equivalent of 33,863 trillion calculations per second – according to a test called the Linpack benchmark. There was only one change near the top of the leader board. Switzerland’s new Piz Daint – with 6.27 petaflop/s – made sixth place. The Top500 list is compiled twice-yearly by a team led by a professor from Germany’s University of Mannheim…

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Women gain in some STEM fields, but not computer science

A few weeks ago, I wrote about ways to get more women interested in computer science, The New York Times reports. One of the points that came up frequently in my reporting is that some other STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have actually been quite successful attracting more women. A report this week from the National Science Foundation lays out these trends nicely. As you can see, a majority of bachelor’s degrees in some STEM fields — psychology, biosciences, social sciences — were actually given to women in recent years. And women’s participation in these fields has also risen, on net, since 1991, even if there has been some erosion in biosciences in recent years. Women receive less than half of physical sciences degrees, but they earn a much higher share than they did two decades ago…

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In New York City, all-male public schools aim to help at-risk boys

Once seen as sexist and outdated, the all-male educational model has been resurrected to serve New York City’s poorest boys, a group feared to be more likely to go to prison than to college, the Washington Post reports. The Eagle Academy for Young Men was the city’s first all-boys public school in more than 30 years when it opened in the Bronx nine years ago. “It’s a movement to try and save our sons,” said David C. Banks, the founding principal of the first Eagle Academy, who is now president of the Eagle Academy Foundation, the network’s fundraising arm. Banks just opened his fifth Eagle Academy, in Harlem, and hopes to open two more New York City schools for a total of seven serving 4,000 students, all in high-poverty neighborhoods…

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3 big Facebook policy changes

Facebook users beware: Your posts and likes can be turned into ads shown to your friends and others, depending on your privacy settings, InformationWeek reports. Facebook announced that it has moved forward with changes to its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which were first announced in August. By owning a Facebook account, you’re allowing the company to use your posts and other personal data for advertising. Shortly after Facebook revealed the proposed changes to its policies this summer, privacy advocates chastised the social network and petitioned for the FTC to step in and block it. The changes, privacy advocates said, violated Facebook’s policies and the 2011 Facebook settlement with the FTC. That settlement stated that the social network deceived consumers by failing to keep privacy promises…

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4 steps for supporting, strengthening principals

A number of actions can bolster school principals and set them up for success

principal-stepsEnsuring that principals are prepared for success via access to resources, solid evaluation systems, and other measures will lead to successful teachers and students, according to a new report from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that aims improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis.

Laying the Foundation for Successful School Leadership offers four recommendations to build a foundation that will support school leaders.

“It’s widely known that teachers influence student achievement more than any other aspect of schools,” said Susan Gates, a senior economist and director of the Kauffman-RAND Institute for Entrepreneurship Public Policy. Gates co-authored the report along with Laura Hamilton, a senior RAND behavioral scientist specializing in teacher and principal evaluation, educational assessment, and accountability, and other RAND researchers. “Research focuses a lot on teachers, but far less on school principals—but actions of principals directly influence teachers. One effective principal can promote the improvement of dozens of effective teachers. One terrible principal can drive dozens of talented teachers to leave the field.”

(Next page: The four steps to success)


Putting augmented reality into practice

A classroom is transformed, and student engagement receives a boost, with new augmented reality technology

augmented-realityThis year, when I introduced creative writing to my students, I wanted to do it a little differently than I had in years past. This year I wanted to use the awesome power of augmented reality to engage my students and inspire them to be creative and have fun. Augmented reality takes something in the static world and brings it to life. It gives the end user an additional and engaging experience.

I started by giving my students a choice of three different coloring pages from the colAR Mix app. They had a choice of a dragon, a girl in her room, and a hot air balloon. Their directions were to take their time coloring the picture and have fun.

After students had plenty of time to color their pictures, I told them to come have a seat on the carpet and to bring their pictures with them. I asked them: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could bring these pictures to life?” At that point, I took one of each of the three coloring pages and, using an iPad, I brought them to life using colAR.

Educators can connect and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #eSNBestPractices.

(Next page: How did students react to the augmented reality?)


The road from Legos to engineering starts here

When Christos Speros was a little boy, Legos were his favorite toy, the Tampa Bay Times reports. “I loved the way that you can build something from your imagination,” said Christos, 15. As a student at Bayonet Point Middle School, Christos, who wants to become a military engineer, learned that a robotics club was being founded at the school, and that the club would compete in a tournament that involved robots built with Lego parts. “I said, ‘Thank you God,’ ” he said. Christos joined the Bayonet Point Middle robotics club, which last year won two honors at the first annual Robots At Rushe FLL (First LEGO League) Qualifying Tournament. In the Project Category, the Bayonet Point team Patriot Robots took first place and got the Rising Star Award…

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