Tag Archives: Twitter

How Twitter Helps Me Grow

Yes, I love Twitter. In 2006, I thought it would be cool to sign up for an account and share with the world my actions and thoughts…

One post.

Yes, that’s all I entered. I don’t really think I understood it at all. Why wasn’t anything showing up in my Twitter stream? Who do I ‘follow’? I had no idea. Then I decided to return to it in April 2011. I remembered a local teacher who I had heard talk about cell phone use in his class, found his webpage/blog, loved it, and then saw that he was on Twitter.

He was my first ‘follow’.

One thing led to another. More teachers began showing up. I followed them as well. Then I saw principals, superintendents, consultants, professors and (gasp) even students on Twitter. I learned really quickly how valuable it could be. I was invited to a local #edcamp (unconference) in Boston and then met hundreds of educators, all sharing resources, providing feedback, and collaborating together on different projects. It was like some kind of PD heaven!

So, on to tonight. I saw that there was an AP US History chat being moderated at 7PM EST and, yes, its summer. I had the time and really wanted to connect with APUSH teachers. We introduced ourselves and the discussion began: “How do we help our students in the beginning of the year without overwhelming them?”

Some ideas shared on Twitter #APUSHchat:

  • Get PSAT data from students and compare with a diagnostic US History test, then make groups 3-4 strong with middle and developing students in each group.
  • Ask students what they want to get out of the class and then pretest them to see what they know and where they are at.
  • Give students an organized day by day agenda so that they know what to expect and set deadlines.
  • Create a pacing/reading guide for students for the whole year so they can plan their schedules.
  • Identify class and personal goals, as well as reading and learning goals.
  • Sharing the ‘top 10’ pieces of advice given by last year’s APUSH class.
  • Using formative assessments on a regular basis to inform instruction. Here are some notes shared by one teacher: http://bit.ly/NfkBxq
  • Letting students know about (and practice) different note taking strategies, such as Cornell notes, The One Pager, Havard Outline, Dialectical Journals, Levels of Questions.
  • A learner profile and a technology survey for students.

We also discussed field trips and their logistics, syllabus design, Socratic seminars, edcafes, parent meetings, parent resources, edcamps, and fact vs. opinion vs. inferences. It was one hour of pure ‘teacher-helping-teachers’.

In my 16 years of teaching, I have definitely found this to be my strongest form of collaborative professional growth.

How to connect?

So, if anyone is interested in finding out how to use Twitter as a teacher, go to Twitter.com, create an account, click ‘compose new Tweet’ and send a message to @thalesdream (me). If you’d like to find other Social Studies and History teachers relatively quick, type ‘Hello, I’m new to Twitter and looking to connect with other history teachers.’ and then add #sschat, which is the chat channel for Social Studies on Twitter.

Here are some other really useful #sschat links:


#APUSH on Twitter

All I know about test taking I learned from kids. Maybe there’s a deeper wisdom that comes through in the middle of the night when the pressure is on. Now, thanks to Twitter, I have a window into the madness. Take a look! Is this you? (more coming…)
  • Trying to explain to your parents why you’re not studying for #APUSH and all you can come up with is “it’s just an exam…” #badexcuses
  • How am I supposed to remember 200+ years of history if I can’t even remember what happened last year #apush #helloaptestfail
  • Communists are out to steal Christmas #apush
  • I got 99 problems, and the lend-lease-act aint one #apush
  • I feel so old with all this historical knowledge. #apush #final
  • I love the low-key sarcasm in my cram book #APUSH
  • it’s that really awful moment in life when you realize that sleep just doesn’t fit your schedule.. #apush #icanteven
  • All of the followingare true EXCEPT A) i hate apush b) i hate apush c) i hate apush d) i hate apush e) i love apush #APUSH
  • Haven’t used my stereotypical consumer culture iPhone apps in a couple of weeks. #APUSH #facepalm
  • Well at least I don’t live in Italy. We have 300 years of history. They have 5000… #APUSH #newishcountry
  • You know what? I’m done. I’m sick of this. I’m breaking up with #APUSH. Peace out, girlscout.
  • the day I learned that re-writing notes is how I study best was the most regretful day of my life #sotired #phyiscs #apush #death
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “The only thing we have to fear….is scary stuff.” #APUSH
  • I smell like highlighter ink pen and Reese’s #yum #apush
  • Who needs sleep when you have sharpies an a shower curtain? #apush
  • US flirted with china so they gave us panda bears. “AWWWWWW” no. They were sterile. “those bastards.” #apush
  • Hell week is upon us. #apush
  • I would have been done with this DBQ a long time ago if I didn’t have the attention span of a 2 year old -_- Omg. #apush
  • Sleep is a distant friend. #sleep #apes #apush #aplang #finals #aptest #junioryear #junioryearsucks #stressed #studying #dying #why
  • Crawling in a hole and dying see ya. #apush
  • “I Like Ike” vs. He stabbed a child 19 times, raped 4 women, and kicked puppies on a weekend pass from jail. Ok politics. #APUSH
  • Failing a test doesn’t really phase me anymore. Thanks #APUSH
  • does anyone remember learning about kennedy? cause i sure dont #apush problems
  • My secret is speaking it out Loud with a knowledgeable adult. #apush
  • You know #apush sucks when the Role of Women in the War section is longer than the actual War section
  • That weird moment when you discover a somewhat sarcastic, humorous tone in your #APUSH reviews…
  • I bombed that test as bad as we bombed Japan… #APUSH
  • Chapter 40… #apush should die.
  • 405 years of history in one night #challengeaccepted #APUSH

The #sschat PLC

SSCHAT stands for the social studies chat channel located on Twitter. Since April 2011, I have had the great opportunity to connect with other social studies educators from around the nation on a wide range of issues. Just now, as I am trying this, the most recent tweets on #sschat point to 1) 5 powerful strategies to empower students, 2) primary sources from Harvard University on women working from 1800-1930, and 3) a tweet on how to use Livebinders in the history classroom. In a nutshell, its the most empowering professional learning I’ve had as an educator in over 15 years.

The program I most use to access it is Tweetdeck. It’s very easy to use and is great at browsing while communicating with colleagues.

It’s also made an impact on some of my former students. After I invited him to ‘tweet in’ on one of our weekly tweet sessions (Monday nights at 7PM EST) one of them wrote about #sschat on his blog. You can read the post here:

The #sschat site has thousands of members. All of them use Twitter to connect, share lessons, inspire each other, provide classroom advice, collaborate on lesson plan feedback, and more. There are also hundreds of principals and other administrators there as well. In addition to the Twitter channel, #sschat has its own wiki page at http://sschat.ning.com/.  Click on the image below to go to the site.

I’m happy to say that there is a real world component to all of this online collaboration too. Edcamp conferences are held periodically all over the country, where members of #sschat can get together and see each other face to face. So far, I have been to four of them. Each has been better than the last. I am very excited to be traveling to Philadelphia in a week to attend the #edcampss conference!!

The professional learning community is a very strong, empowering, collaborative way for me to grow and share as a teacher-leader. I am proud to be a part of it. Come and join!

Twitter & Gdoc Collaboration

This summer, I have had the opportunity to spend a bit of time on Twitter connecting with other teachers, IT directors, education coaches, principals, superintendents, parents, and more. My PLN (personal learning network) has been incredibly supportive by providing feedback, sharing ideas and lessons, collaborating on projects, offering suggestions, giving constructive criticism, and creating stimulating discussion through provocative questions and deep insight. It has truly been empowering, and I hope to take this energy into the next school year.

Some of the projects I have worked on this summer have been shared through Google Docs. It is one of the most powerful learning tools available online and something that is simple in its design and use. Here are some of the projects:

  • Historians, and their friend Spotify – Spotify is a free program that allows you to play over 15 million songs free. The free version does contain advertising, but for classroom use, it is perfect. On this document, teachers shared their favorite songs to use in a history classroom. The list is still growing.
  • History Theater – Our school has a small theater that I would like to use as a movie theater after school for teachers and students to share viewing and discussion concerning some very powerful movies. These movies have been shared by dozens of teachers and can all be used to focus on different aspects of the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks. Again, the list is still growing.
  • Building a Student PLN – One of the most useful,  if not the most useful outcomes of Twitter is the connections that it builds for teachers (in my case) to connect instantly across great distance. I have participated (and look forward to) the weekly moderated chats on particular subjects and content areas. I have also found that if I have a question or comment, I can post it and the people following me can see it and respond if they choose. This is a perfect model for students. In a history class, how empowering and useful would it be to have students post questions or collaboratively do research with real scholars, authors and historians from around the world? Very. This document is our attempt to collect potential (and willing) individuals to volunteer to be a History PLN for high school students. It’s still being updated.
  • Current Events: Libya – As the rebels were literally moving into the city of Tripoli, my PLN and I were using Twitter to determine how to use these events and issues as a learning experience for teachers. This document represents some of the essential questions, projects, and big ideas that came out of that discussion. It was an example of real time collaboration and lesson design with dozens of history teachers. Incredible.
  • Smackdown! – I have never seen so many people collaborate at once on a Google Doc. There must have been over 100 educators adding in their comments simultaneously while also participating in a Twitter moderated discussion. It was truly empowering and engaging.  The basic idea of a ‘smackdown’ is show and tell for teachers. Share what you  have learned, what lesson ideas you have, what questions you want to ask, what teaching moments you want to share, etc. It is all moderated, so people focus on one topic at a time. It is great. One of the last comments was, “Imagine if you gave this document to a new teacher? They would be all set.” That says it all. I had the opportunity to add a bit too, under my Twitter name ‘thalesdream’.
  • Defining America – First, an idea was brainstormed on Twitter. Then it was discussed on the #sschat Ning site. Then it became a Skype session between a teacher in Birmingham, AL, Baltimore, MD and New Bedford, MA. Now it is something we are going to try in all of our history classes. The principle is to build a lesson study project, and refine the lesson until it gets better and better. We set goals. We established a vision. We agreed on a common project. We brainstormed common essential questions. We discussed how it would be paced in our different schedules. We shared ideas on how the students would connect via technology. It is still a work in progress, but what lesson isn’t? Now we are doing it as a team, and distance is no boundary.
  • Edcamps – The best part of the summer was not typing into Twitter, but actually meeting the people I have been collaborating with at conferences in New England. The basic idea of an edcamp is that it is an unconference. No fancy speakers. Only participants. There is a big board in the meeting room with assigned times and rooms. Participants are invited to host sessions. They can share ideas, ask questions, or brainstorm solutions. It’s all educators teaching and sharing with one another. Its all free. Its also guided by the ‘two feet rule’, which means if you don’t like where you are, you can always just get up and go somewhere else – no feelings hurt. Here are my notes from, Edcamp Keene NH, Edcamp CT, and EdcamAdmin in Burlington MA.
  • Moderating #sschat Discussions – So one of the cool things about Twitter is that you can follow discussions by using something called hashtags. One of my favorites is #sschat. It is the central location for history and social studies teachers to get together and share posts and do all of the things I mention above. I follow it daily. For PD, I have found nothing in my 15+ years of teaching that compares with the discussions and Tweets. So I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to co-moderate our Monday night 7PMEST discussions twice this summer. On August 15th I co-moderated a discussion on Best Strategies and Lessons for the Low Tech School. On July 18th, I co-moderated a discussion on Community Building in a SS Classroom. It was great. By the way, teachers get to vote on what topics they would like to discuss each Monday. It’s truly democratic.
  • Bringing Laptops Back to Life – This has been the most generous use of time and Twitter this summer, but not by me. I found a former IT director who is an expert in Linux, a free operating system that can potentially run on old laptops. He and I have been collaborating to find a way to get 30 unused (for over 5 years) laptops at NBHS up and running again. Here are his notes. We’ve figured out a solution, and now just need the school to support our recommendations.

#sschat 7pm Mondays

With the suggestion of some wonderful people on Twitter, I was able to co-moderate my first #sschat last Monday on July 25th.  It was a very fun and empowering experience. #sschat is a hashtag (or Twitter chat room) for educators to discuss, debate, collaborate, share, and ponder many of the issues, events and individuals in history. It is also a great place to gain real professional development. In the past few months I have been able to browse and participate in Twitter, I have gathered a list of followers who have exposed me to more positive encouragement, more direct feedback and collaboration, more lesson sharing, more technology ideas, etc. than I have in my 15 years of teaching in New Bedford High School. It is truly a great place to browse and participate and I highly recommend it.

So here’s the transcript for my first co-moderated chat, which focused on community building in the classroom.  You can find all of the archived transcripts for my Twitter discussions here on the #sschat Ning site: http://sschat.ning.com/. Come join!

eLearning by Doing

I’ve been an avid Twitter user in the last couple of weeks.  Through it, I have met and learned from some dedicated educators, authors, journalists, and others.  I have learned about the growing potential to focus on building 21st century skills in practice, not theory.

Once in my teaching career, around the end of the 1990’s, I felt as though I was on the edge of something new.  I was experimenting with technology integration and the internet.  Now I feel as though I am rediscovering it again.

Google Docs

A few years ago, in the midst of teaching AP US History, one of my students introduced me to Google Docs.  I have to rewind a bit, though, and openly state that for years I had thought of myself as a teacher on the ‘cutting edge’ of technology in the classroom.  I was wrong.  By focusing on the content of teaching an AP course, as well as getting involved in school restructuring and teacher-leadership efforts, I had dropped the ball.  Now, I was being led back – and appropriately enough, by a student leader who was sharing her techniques for effective online learning strategies.  Now, after having attended the edcamp Boston conference in early May 2011, I have been filled with many ideas for using Google Docs as a collaborative writing tool for students, a powerful peer editing tool, an efective way to provide feedback on student work, and a way for students to share in the note-taking process in class by dividing roles among students.  I have been incredibly impressed by the lesson sharing power of Google Docs on Twitter as well.  Google Docs is also a presentation platform as well as a place to create and share spreadsheets.  The potential seems endless.  If only I had a classroom with 30 laptops for all students to have access.  The only drawback here is the equity issue in my urban high school.  I plan on surveying all of my students at the end of this year and spending a good deal of time getting formative assessments about effective use and equitable access to technology in the classroom.  Next year, I plan on hitting the ground running.  I can’t believe how many good ideas I have learned of lately, which brings me to my next great self discovery… Twitter.


There are many articles on why Twitter is a great tool for a teacher, but for me, it has helped me connect to others who share the same thoughts and philosophy on teaching.  In the last month that I have been a regular user, I have found over two hundred authors, teachers, and others who have become a personal learning network (PLN) of incredible value.  I use Tweetdeck to monitor a couple of channels on Twitter regularly, but I have been able to ask for and give help in many different ways.  Twitter has allowed me to join moderated discussions (#sschat), share lesson plans, ask for best practices and ideas, and fill my Evernote page with hundreds of ideas that I can’t wait to implement.


Evernote is my new best friend.  It completes the Twitter experience by allowing me to organize and sort all of the great resources, learning materials, infographics, Google Doc lessons, and other excellent links that I find there.  Evernote also integrates their delivery, storage and organization options with my Blackberry (and soon to come, iPhone).  This way, I can scan something on the phone and send it easily to Evernote.  I can sort information from webpages into folders and also place tags.  This vastly improves the process of bookmarking, which I rarely do anymore.  I’m also considering placing a shared folder for my students next year with information, notes, graphics, websites, and more.  Perhaps I can get students themselves to keep online notebooks this way, although LiveBinder might be a better option.  Still, I can easily imagine a summer filled with edcamp meetings, Twitter finds and lots and lots of Evernote files.


At the end of the school year, my ability to integrate effective online learning tools greatly expanded, but PollEverywhere was one of the most useful ones in the classroom.  Previously, I had placed four note cards in the corners of my classroom.  I had students move from strongly agree to somewhat agree to somewhat disagree and strongly disagree.  They had to shuffle out of the seats and stand (which not surprisingly got more and more students to talk).  Now, I have set up a free PollEverywhere account. It allows me to create multiple choice questions for formative assessments, ask  my ‘four corner’ ranged positions, and encourage students to share text answers.  One thing that I find interesting is that in my trial runs of web polls, I have noticed that my students do not have the same level of enthusiasm for using their cell phones instructively as they do for social networking.  It’s almost as though a certain tech-loving teacher has co-opted their fun and turned it into something new and different.  I plan on making this format pervasively spread through my strategies and lessons next year.  I can’t wait thinking of great polls in the summer!

Google Voice




Ted Talks

Google Earth

How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education

I have recently become a convert to Twitter and although, at one point, I was a teacher on the cutting edge of technology (in the late 1990’s), I have been overtaken in the last couple years by the growing potential of technology integration within the classroom.  Twitter has put me in touch with so many other educators that I have almost instantly become a partner in the changing world around me.  Still, I need time to process all of the potential I see for students in the classroom in order to become a truly innovative teacher and leader.  So, I was even more excited to read this article and find websites I follow on a regular basis as well as new ones to add to my exploding list of classroom resources.

Please read the article and share your thoughts.  For my students, what do you think about the way the Internet has revolutionized education.  Because we are in an urban school with little to no technology resources, do you feel left out of the changes going on around you, or does your mobile connectivity keep you on the edge (where you should be), learning about the world around you?  Just wondering.

Click on the image above for the article by Courtney Boyd Myers.