Sunday, April 29, 2012

Twitter Across the Curriculum

On April 14th, the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, @TwitterRealTime (The History Press) tweeted Titanic's journey with minute-by-minute tweets as if the person tweeting were on board the ship. I followed this Twitter feed (thanks to a tweet from @web20classroom) and got to thinking about how under-utilized Twitter is as a teaching and learning tool. There's so much more to Twitter than most people think. Many educators have discovered the tremendous potential of Twitter for building and maintaining a Personal Learning Network, and some have tapped into its potential for use in the classroom. I'd like to explore some possibilities for using Twitter across the curriculum.

English Language Arts
Similar to the minute-by-minute "real time" tweets on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, students can use Twitter to retell important events in a piece of realistic or historic fiction. Not only could the tweets capture the important events, but they could also reveal changes in characters' attitudes and perceptions as well as relationships among characters. To set up this learning experience, the teacher would need to create a Twitter account for each character. Students could work in collaborative groups to write a Twitter script and could even support their tweets with evidence or quotes from the text. A Twitter retell would work beautifully as the final product of a literature circle or novel study. 

Stepping a little further outside the box, students can use Twitter to bring inanimate objects to life or give a voice to animals. Twitter provides an easy tool for writing brief thoughts from the perspective of a classroom object, an important object from a text, an object in nature, or an animal. 

Teachers can use Twitter to develop students' vocabulary. Students can tweet definitions, synonyms, antonyms, examples, and non-examples for key vocabulary terms. A class or a small group could build a Twitter glossary for a specific content area or unit of study. Teachers can provide vocabulary instruction by tweeting a mystery word of the day. This daily tweet could be a sentence with a blank where the term would belong, a rhyme that would provide hints to help students figure out the word, or a list of synonyms or antonyms.

Twitter can bring science notebooks into the 21st century. There are countless scientific concepts and processes that can be explored through a Twitter project. Students could construct a Twitter feed that represents the water cycle from the perspective of different components of the cycle, describes properties of each element in the periodic table, write a script for a severe weather report, or demonstrates the steps involved in a chemical reaction. Prior to constructing the Twitter feed that will be documentation of students' learning, students can conduct research and connect with scientific experts and organizations on Twitter.

Social Studies
Twitter provides a handy tool for reconstructing a timeline or sequence of important events, like The History Press did with the Titanic Twitter feed. Students studying an important historical event or series of events could construct a Twitter feed to document causes and effects as well as individuals' contributions to or perspectives on events. An autobiography could be written as a series of tweets from an important historical figure. Students can also post tweet from others who were close to the person or involved in key events in the person's life. 

Teachers and students can use Twitter to post mathematical problems and represent multiple strategies and solutions to problems. Vocabulary Twitter feeds can help students develop an understanding of key math terms and create a database of vocabulary lists students can refer to later. Students can attach pictures to tweets to provide visual representations of math concepts. 

If you have your own ideas for integrating Twitter across the curriculum, please share!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tech Integration Advice from Pre-Service Teachers

I am nearing the end of my first semester teaching Technology in the Classroom, a course designed to teach pre-service teachers about technology integration. You can read more about my learning goals for the course, our focus on TPACK (technological pedagogical content knowledge), and how we're using Twitter in my guest post on Richard Byrne's Free Tech for Teachers blog. The most recent assignment my students have completed is a multimedia project, which was designed to give them an opportunity to put some of what they've learned into a format that can be shared with future colleagues. My hope is that once my students become beginning teachers, they will be teacher leaders in their schools and help their colleagues embrace instructional uses of technology. 

Assignment description:
Work in pairs to create a multimedia presentation you could use to teach future colleagues about how to integrate a specific technology tool into their classrooms. Your presentation must give teachers a rationale for why they should use the tool, sample ways to use it, and technical instructions for using it. Include at least four different types of media, such as images, text, screenshots, screencasts, podcasts, or videos. You will be responsible for providing feedback on your partner's work as well as your classmates' presentations. A few possible tools to use to build your presentation: VoiceThread, Animoto, Prezi, Popplet, Glogster EDU, Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, Photo Story.

As my students' completed projects were submitted to Edmodo this week, I have been blown away by the quality of their presentations, and I've learned about some new tools along the way. (Read more about how I use Edmodo as my learning management system.) I've gotten my students' permission to share their projects so other educators can learn from them. They have allowed me to build an extremely useful database of instructional technology resources for teachers, and I hope you'll find something here that is helpful to you.

Class Dojo by Caitlin Jones & Erin Schudde

Edmodo by Michael Judd & Jordan White

Edmodo by Alex Hughes & Jeremy Smith

Glogster by Caitlan Reese

Glogster by Taylor Oliver & Cara Zell

Google Earth by Brenna Poole

Livebinders by Megan Turnmyre & Lauren Walker

Popplet by Chelsea Hill & Erica Schroeder

Popplet by Sarah Cody and Carlee Carpenter

Prezi by Erin DeBord and Cregg Laws

Using Web Tools in the Classroom (Prezi, Symbaloo, Google Earth, & Glogster) by Ashlee Greer & Katina Peck

Virtual Field Trips by Krystalle Hewitt & Amber Miller

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Technology for Formative Assessments

In my experience, teachers tend to rely more heavily on summative assessments (assessment OF learning) than formative assessments (assessment FOR learning). There is power in formative assessments and their ability to inform instruction and improve student learning. Take just a moment to reflect: How often do you go through this process?

1. Give end-of-chapter tests, unit tests, vocabulary quizzes, etc.
2. Record the grades.
3. Return the papers.
4. Move on.

Who benefits from this summative assessment process? No one. What if, instead, you give an assessment BEFORE the unit to determine what students already know and don't know and DURING the unit to track learning progress and make teaching adjustments? This formative assessment cycle feeds into planning and instruction and has much more meaning for both teacher and students.

A couple of weeks ago, my pre-service teachers and I were discussing formative and summative assessments. I gave them a short quiz using Socrative and asked them to determine whether they would identify various assessment formats as formative or summative. Their results were mixed, which led to a meaningful conversation about what makes an assessment formative or summative. Through the discussion, my students came to realize that whether an assessment is summative or formative depends on what the teacher does afterward. Can a chapter test be formative? Absolutely, if the teacher uses the results to identify gaps in understanding and provide instruction to help students meet learning goals for the chapter. Can a pre-test be summative? You bet, if the teacher doesn't change his/her plans for instruction based on data from the test.

The beauty of formative assessments is that they can be informal and easy to implement. A formative assessment can be as simple as a ticket out the door or asking students to hold up 1, 2, or 3 fingers depending on their understanding of the lesson. Technology can make the formative assessment process even easier and provide tools for analyzing data quickly and painlessly. There are many free web tools that allow teachers to create and deliver formative assessments in just a few minutes and collect student results instantly. Keep reading to learn about a few of my favorites.


Socrative is hands-down my favorite online assessment tool. This free web tool has lots of capability and works across devices. Teachers can create self-paced quizzes, exit tickets, and quiz games, or deliver stand-alone multiple-choice, true/false, or short answer questions. Students respond to questions using a computer, tablet, or phone. A variety of devices can be used during any given assessment. My favorite Socrative feature is the report that is generated immediately following each assessment. Each assessment generates a detailed report automatically and instantly. Teachers can download reports or have them sent via email. Learn more and get some great ideas by visiting the Socrative Garden.

Poll Everywhere

Another assessment tool I use regular (with my pre-service teachers and during professional development for in-service teachers) is Poll Everywhere, a free polling site that allows you to poll the audience with multiple-choice or open-ended questions. Students can respond via SMS, Twitter,, or a private link. As you create a poll, you choose how you would like to receive responses. You can give students a few options or narrow their choices to one or two. When you display the poll, on-screen instructions will assist students with responding. Poll Everywhere saves your previous polls so you can review past results at any time. Following a poll, you can instantly generate a word cloud from responses. You also have several options for displaying your questions: embed in a blog or other website, share via Twitter or Facebook, share a live link, embed in PowerPoint, or download for Prezi.

Google Forms

Google Forms are my personal favorite among the types of Google Docs available to Gmail users. Google Forms allows you to quickly create an assessment with a variety of question types: multiple choice, short answer, checkboxes, choose from a list, scale, and grid. You can deliver an assessment via Google Forms by sending the Form through email, sharing the link, or embedding it into a website. The ultimate feature is that Google automatically generates a spreadsheet upon creation of a Form. As soon as you create and save the Form, Google Docs adds a spreadsheet to your Docs list. Each time someone fills out the form, a new row is entered into the spreadsheet containing that individual's responses. Data within the spreadsheet can then be sorted and analyzed quickly and easily. You can also view a summary of responses with just one click, which provides percentages and circle graphs of data collected. If you're interested in using Google Forms for formative assessments, be sure to check out Flubaroo, a script that will enable Google Docs to automatically grade responses to your assessments.


Wallwisher is another great choice for informal formative assessments. Teachers create a wall, post one or many questions or prompts, and share the link with students who then post their responses to the wall as sticky notes. Teachers have the option to moderate responses, which keeps all sticky notes hidden until approved by the teacher. Sticky notes can contain text, images, video, and links. These media options allow teachers to post image or video prompts or direct students to a website. Students can also include these different types of media in their responses, allowing them to respond creatively. Wallwisher works great as an exit ticket, a warm-up activity, a status-of-the-class, or a progress check. 

Each of these free web tools enables a teacher to create an assessment within just a few minutes, deliver the assessment through a variety of devices and platforms, collect data instantly, and analyze results to inform future instruction. While these are my top choices, there are many other web tools that would be a good fit for formative assessments. Please leave a comment and tell me about your favorite technology for formative assessments.