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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sound, Salt, and May the (mechanical) Force be with you!



Okay 6th graders, what is sound anyway? They brainstormed. They took a pretest. (They will laugh SO HARD when I show them their pretest answers/drawings/reasonings at the end of the unit. Ha!)

They know that sound and light are forms of energy.

We gather around the CART of SCIENCE.

Question 1: Kids, what will happen to this salt when I shine light energy on it? They predict, then I shine the light. Hmmm. Nothing happened. Light is energy, though, so what's it doing??? Hmmm.

Question 2: What will happen to this salt if I send sound energy towards it? They predict. I pull out my big megaphone and position it near the salt. I push the button and send a high pitched and loud sound at the salt....and the salt goes crazy. The kids eyes are about THIS big. Next I scream/sing into the megaphone "DANCE SALT DANCE, AHHHHH."  The kids take turns doing the same. 6th hour piped up and suggested the ENTIRE class scream/sing at the salt at the same time. They wondered what would happen. Here is the result. (1 min. 10 seconds)

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Sights and Sounds of Student-Centered Inquiry: Scientific Method (6th grade)

My husband watched the first video below and said that he did not remember ever having an experience like this in science where kids were able to talk, experiment, and do...and have fun. He commented on the activity level and noise level right away. I found his response interesting. The system is set up for teacher-centered learning. Who is doing the learning is the question I ask myself as I plan lessons. I try to think 'student-centered' and push myself to set up opportunities for the kids to DO.

The kids had time to choose, create, and write their own experiments by themselves or in groups of up to 4. These two videos are from the day they actually carried out the experiments. The student-created experiments using a WIDE variety of things including, but not limited to, the following: Skittles, chocolate, marshmallows, hammers, cars, timers, M&M's, bubbles, straws, bubble gum, water, beakers, and graduated cylinders. Wow! The experiments are more relevant to each kid (differentiation) than any one experiment I would set up for all of them.






Here is a student talking about his experiment! :)




Here is a picture from one of the M&M experiments! Interesting how the color swirled off the M&M! Science can be beautiful!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Community Service Strange but True Multimedia Story: 6th graders!



Strange but True: This is what can happen when adults set up opportunities for kids to serve the school and community within the school day. I vow to focus on this this year!
  • Tell 11 year olds to clean their rooms and you get long faces, sighs, and often uncleaned rooms. (Impacts only the child and parent/teacher)
  • Tell 11 year olds to go outside the school walls together (social) and pick up as much trash as possible to keep it out of the streams, rivers, and oceans and well, you get get kids exploding out the doors with energy, enthusiasm, and vigor. Say what?
           (They can impact more than just themselves and parents/teachers. They can interact with their classmates and talk,           
            observe, and problem solve; participate in an event that impacts others; find 'biggest' piece of trash or most trash.)

Watch these VIDEO clips of my 6th graders to see for yourself. You might get a chuckle out of this.
Note the level of enthusiasm and effort by kids. There's something good about serving others. We need to set up more of these opportunities for kids at school. (Is it a TV or a MONITOR? LOL)



GenerationOn website  We picked Operation H2O from the Teen tab as the inspiration for the community service. There is a stream in the woods by our school. We have not started the actual service learning part of it yet. Students will be choosing service learning projects from here 3rd quarter (classroom set of iPads starting 3rd qtr) and taking off on them. They can choose projects around topics that matter to them. 

Generation On Service Certificate for kids I print these for the kids as we do service.
I created a service club for my school on GenerationOn.org. I log our total hours and more data. 

We will move from doing COMMUNITY SERVICE to SERVICE LEARNING by doing some of the following:
  • Separating trash into biodegradable vs. not, organic vs inorganic, plastics #1-#7, and more.
  • Mass of trash
  • Volume of trash
  • Observe/note path of water erosion on property
  • Set out a piece of trash and mark it. Plot where it ends up each day. What forces moved it there? Why did it go THERE and not elsewhere?
  • Talk to school district and news reporters about findings
  • Create PSA's
  • Create a plan for keeping the stream in these woods clean year-round.

Pictures from our five 30 minute service sessions in September and October.
Posing after trash pickup on day 1 out of 5 so far! (Went out 2 days in September and 3 in October so far.)

Coming up the hill and out of the woods with their haul! (September 2012)

Look at all the bags of trash in just 25-30 minutes. 2 barrels in one day. Look at the smiles; pride in helping and BEING a part of this activity.

Is it a TV or a monitor? LOL
The trash haul after the 1st two days (30 minute sessions) of trash pickup on school grounds; serving the school! Yes, there is that 1988 Commodore monitor. LOL



There's a helmet in here! (October)


They found a dented bat! They used this as a tool to pry a tire out of the ground.

Check out the tire the kids pulled out of the ground in the woods; first of 3 tires they've found.

Wow. Big haul.

Lots of plastic (that is made to be used once and then recycled or into landfills) and also metal mattress springs.

We filled 2 more barrels in 30 minutes (October). The kids will be calculating total volume for the 5 pickup days via  Mr. Rhode, our math teacher, during 1st hour! Team teaching with both classes and teachers. (Math and Science) We will see what else the kids want to record, calculate as well.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beginning Edu-Tweeter? Watch 3 hashtag streams here for a few minutes! Find RESOURCES, IDEAS! (#edchat, #edtech, #satchat)

Image: Brad Currie, @bcurrie5
Image: @cybraryman1,
Jerry Blumengarten's
outstanding website
You can scroll through these strong educational hashtags and 'see' one way to learn from Twitter--mining from hashtag streams. I did this before I ever tweeted or replied to anyone...and I still do it. I can't imagine life as an educator without Twitter and the WORLD of ideas out there.

If you want to interact with people, jump on at the times listed above. You can reply and hear back again from educators right then. It's awesome, cool, and fun. Oh yea, you learn and grow, too!

Variables, Bubbles, and IdeaPaint: Engagement in a 6th grade classroom



The setup: The kids did a bubble exploratory lab the last day with our 'old' science tables. I posted a bunch of open-ended questions on the projector. They explored and they oohed and ahhed. This was the setup for the variables lesson and the upcoming scientific method experiments they'll be designing.
"I can make bubbles on my arm and connect them!"

"Look at the colors and how they swirl."
                                                    
"When two bubbles join,
a flat 'wall' forms between them instead of a rounded 'wall.' " Hmm.

"Bubble inside of a bubble!"
"Hey, you could actually measure a bubble after it pops instead of before it pops! Look at the table!"
                         

The 1st Science lesson with the new IdeaPaint tables: A first for the kids and for me as a teacher: I introduced the idea of the Independent Variable (IV) and the Dependent Variable (DV) to everyone. I told the kids: You will be creating your OWN bubble experiments soon. To do that you need to have one variable you change and one you measure. Student tasks today at tables: Brainstorm things you could CHANGE (IV) and things you could MEASURE (DV) in an experiment about bubbles. DO THIS ON YOUR WHITEBOARD TABLES!

These are the benefits I see (after only one week) with the IdeaPaint tables:

Working on IdeaPaint tables vs Paper:
--I hear kids 'talking' science with each other as they're writing on the tables;
--Each child has something to DO while talking & working in the group and this something involves color and creative CHOICES on the table--choices with color, size of space, organization format, and more.
--I hear kids answering questions, helping each other, practicing social skills
--I see visual expression along with writing--drawings, sketches, arrows connecting ideas, metaphors
--I see fun moments occur between kids/teachers; increased social interactions and chances for new friendships
--kids peer edit writing and comment on work/writing on tables--and they don't balk at it
--IdeaPaint tables are gross motor, hands-on, interactive compared to paper's fine motor, individual
--I see kids smiling and laughing; they are animated while expressing themselves on the 'canvas'
--I see kids not wanting to erase their work/art/display/creation, taking pride in their work. I take pictures this semester and kids with phones may do the same. Next semester kids will have iPads and can take pictures and KEEP their work/art in digital portfolios!
--I see kids WANTING to write, draw, and express themselves and their thinking on the tables. The cool thing is that they don't care if it's paragraphs or sentences or metaphors! They just want to DO/CREATE on the tables and talk it over at the same time.
--Writing on the tables is motivating and engaging and relevant to kids.
--We will still write on paper and on the computer at anytime, but brainstomring, drawing maps, drawing metaphors, and starting rough drafts (not to mention doing math!) is FUN, engaging, and hands-on on the whiteboard table spaces! It's an amazing new tool to be able to differentiate with!

We need more markers and cleaning spray! Wow!

I send home notes to parents in our daily news asking for donations of markers either to their own kids and/or to the class. It won't be long and our markers will be DONE!

Kids are starting to bring in their own markers sets so they have many color choices!

I set up Mrs. Gilchrist's Donorschoose account with the help of NKC Schools counselor, Carol Cobb (@mommacobb), to help get the markers and cleaning spray we need!

Any one donating can type in one of these matching codes, and the donation will be doubled:
mall10 or HoraceMann12


Picture Time!
See how the learning 'looked' during class.

 Here are some pictures from their brainstorming on IdeaPaint tables instead of paper. 
This group of 4 worked together on different parts of the table as a whole.
Colorful; complete chart; BUBBLE LETTERS (ha!),
pictures of bubbles















Lots of ideas here! 


Bigger writing; bold! Black and red.


Black and blue. 
Measure and change instead of DV and IV.


Pictures to go along with ideas


This group planned a theme; sectioned their table into triangles!

Here is another view of that table!
They added a Spongebob to each section. We had some laughs. :)


Neat and tidy. Two colors.


Lines drawn with ruler. Neat. Orderly.
Black and red. Free form.
Extra time spent making it stand out. :)

A student's note about IdeaPaint in our classroom. 
You mix THIS into THAT to paint the tables! You can see the reference to it here. :)






Sunday, September 30, 2012

How Twitter (and IdeaPaint) are transforming my classroom.



This summer I was looking for IDEAS; ways to make learning more engaging, collaborative, hands-on, and student-centered. I was specifically looking for a for new classroom arrangement to facilitate all this.  I found my inspiration via Twitter, and then I found some more inspiration from Twitter. The wealth of knowledge and ideas on Twitter amazes me! All this inspiration led me to IdeaPaint and now my room looks different than it did in May of last year, and I'm pleased about it! If you'd asked me back then what my room would look like today, I wouldn't have guessed it would look like the pictures you see below and the CLASSROOM VIDEO from Thursday, Sept. 27, shown at the end of this blog post!

Here's my Twitter/IdeaPaint story!

This was the arrangement of my room for years. All tables were in the middle of the room in 7 sets of 2 tables each; extra space was segmented around the outside of the room. It's not a complete room picture but you get the idea. I would rearrange occasionally but not for long. Too stale. No room for 'activities.' :)



I read this room arrangement blogpost from Miles MacFarlane (@milesmac) via TWITTER early this summer and I clipped it immediately, June 18th, into my Evernote account. In July I looked up my @milesmac note and committed to giving it a try. My tables are now arranged like the ones in Miles' pictures--around the outside of the room.  Kids can use the whiteboards on the wall or chart paper (since there are only 2 whiteboards)--as collaboration space. Bonus: The middle of the room is now available for 'activities' such as Philosophical Chairs and Socratic Circle and much more, actually.




Then I saw this on TWITTER: a blogpost about Evernote and IDEAPAINT in a classroom. Check out the pictures in the blogpost and watch the video below! 




After watching the video, I wanted IdeaPaint in my classroom. So I did what any resourceful teacher would do. I went to the IdeaPaint website and clicked on Chat. Since my Science funds are already spent, I threw out the question: Can I get some IdeaPaint to TRY out free and then share my story with my district and the world via blogging/tweeting? The answer from IdeaPaint was a YES! Many thanks to the person I chatted with and to Chris Doney, Sales and Operations Manager at IdeaPaint.

Chris sent 100 Sq Ft of IdeaPaint, 8 eraser cloths, 3 bottles of cleaning spray, and 4 boxes of IdeaPaint markers. With 100 Sq Ft, I did the math and I could IdeaPaint all my tables. I described my IdeaPaint plan and reasoning to my principal, Terri Stirlen, and to district operations and maintenance directors. They were curious about it and gave the green light. THANK YOU! The one catch: I would need to find different tables to paint. The Science tables in my room could not be painted due to the special surface on top. They will be used by another Science teacher.

My principal told me to contact Rick Gentry, director of purchasing/warehouse. Rick invited me out to our North Kansas City Schools district warehouse. I met with Rick and picked out 6 eMINTS tables that were simply there in storage. The tables were shipped to New Mark. Mark Hogge, our head custodian and all around great guy, stored them in a hallway until we were ready to paint.
Gray eMINTS tables waiting for IdeaPaint!

My husband came out to school two different days to prime (day 1) and IdeaPaint them (day 2). Thank you, dear! We did all the priming and painting on the dock at school. We lucked out with nice weather. Mixing the IdeaPaint on day 2 was easy. You pour THIS into THAT. Not kidding. Apply the IdeaPaint, then let the tables cure for 4 days!  As Kuzco says in The Emperor's New Groove,  "No Touchy. Nooo Touchy"


50 Sq Ft IdeaPaint Box
(also comes with a roller and a lid opener!)
Stirring This into That!
You pour THIS into THAT!


Tables are now painted and
ready to cure for 4 days inside.



Mark had the tables moved into my room last Wednesday night, all ready for Thurday morning! These two fine ladies volunteered put all the chairs around the tables before school started. They were just fine  being the FIRST students to try out the tables! It WORKED, it ERASED cleanly, and they LIKED IT!

I like the layout/flow of my room with these tables; less clutter. 6 tables instead of 14 smaller ones. Lots of space in the middle to do activities.
The WHITE tables result in a brighter room! I start class with the overhead flourescent lights off; lamps and projector on. What a difference a white, reflective surface makes. IdeaPaint really is a 'bright' idea. :)


The first assignment was collaborative in nature. Since 5 kids sit at many of the tables, I added a 5th job to my usual 4. Each group identified their top rules for the IdeaPaint tables and their top ideas for creative use of the tables. Then they got to individually write down and come up with mnemonic devices to remember the steps of the Scientific Method and the 3 variables in experiments.  It was cool to see the different ways the kids arranged their work and ideas on the tables!

The kids reported at the end of class and in their Science 'Smash' Journals the next day that writing on the tables was helpful, fun, and cool. They couldn't wait to do it again. They thought it was hands-down more effective than if I'd had them use paper. They said they liked sectioning off their area, writing their names, being creative in that large space, and learning from looking at others' work and and listening/speaking with them. I see all sorts of usefulness when we WRITE. Kids WANT to write on these tables. Kids can write/respond on the tables and then peer editors can walk around the room and edit in a different color. I'm just getting started with ideas. I'm curious about how gross motor (writing on big table with whiteboard makers) and fine motor writing (with pencil on paper or typing) impact learning/memory. Is it different? What research could I do on this?!

Here is the slideshow video I made using iPhoto on my MacBook Air. I used an iPhone 4S to shoot all pictures and video. Enjoy!











Sunday, September 16, 2012

LIFT: Get in the HABIT of using this APP!



LIFT!
I need all the help I can get to balance my home and school/tech life. I saw this app mentioned somewhere, most likely on Twitter, and I checked it out on my iPhone.





I downloaded this immediately and selected tasks to start tracking. I chose 4 tasks to begin: Take multivitamins, Do laundry consistently, Clean up email, Evernote, DBox and finally Blog more.

I am happy to report that LIFT has increased my productivity at home. 

I am adding daily school tasks to LIFT this week that will make me more efficient at school.

Here's a quick video using the screenshots on my phone. Lift is easy to use.



I took screenshots of the app on my phone and then uploaded the pics to iMovie to create a quick video. Trying to increase my iMovie fluency!



I simply like the check-ins. Each morning now I do laundry before 7am. I NEVER did that before LIFT. Take that, laundry mountain!!

You can add friends or not, the choice is yours. I don't know anyone on Lift yet and it doesn't bother me. The social aspect of it is there if you want it; it is not necessary to achieve results with LIFT!



Enjoy and may your efficiency increase!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Edmodo's Healing Power


I enthusiastically rolled out Edmodo to my team of 80 6th graders on week 2 of school, just over a week ago. This is year 2 of Edmodo, by the way! The kids are embracing it and working toward beginning badges. Many have the Edmodo app on their phones and are getting started posting and replying. We're working on basic posting guidelines and will roll out our grammar pact next week.

One of our students posted on Edmodo this past weekend that he was depressed. When another student asked why, he responded that his father had just passed away. One of my colleagues who saw the post before the rest of us immediately emailed the counselor and then texted us. (We get Edmodo notifications to our phones so we see comments in real time and can monitor them.) All team teachers responded to this student with words of sympathy within a few minutes. But then the real power kicked in: comments from other students started flooding in. It was truly heartwarming to see the support for this student in what is one of the hardest things to experience in one's lifetime--losing a parent. 

How does one successfully implement Edmodo in a class, team, or group? The main prerequisite is commitment by the teacher(s) to posting, monitoring and taking part in the discussions, learning, and fun of Edmodo. Edmodo can build community and create opportunities for kids to grow, share, and lead! Some of our students right now are working hard on badges and showing leadership in that department. They will be known for that skill. Others are leading in posting, replying to others, and supporting our growing Edmodo community. That is just the beginning!

I started a new group called Quotespiration this week that team students can join with a code. Those interested in sharing/disussing wisdom and humor through quotes now have a specific forum. We will start off with a couple of quotes about loss and friendship and see where we end up going from there. 

Our student who lost his father has posted numerous times about his thoughts, his sadness, and his gratitude toward his fellow teammates and teachers. In fact he has made almost 60 posts and replies in only 1 week. He is reaching out and finding support. His mother has thanked us for the kindness extended to her son and the family. We are thankful for our supportive and thriving team of connected students and teachers made possible by Edmodo!





Monday, August 6, 2012

Why I'm using Remind 101 this year

For the last few years, I've sent parents a 'daily email' that included a link to our team announcements, homework, events, and a "What did you do at school today?" section to help generate conversation at night! I borrowed this idea of course. Parents tell us year after year they like and appreciate the consistent communication. We view it as key to a smooth and connected year with students, parents, teachers, and community. Daily routine: all 4 team teachers edit their part of our team Google Doc.  I send out the google doc link in an email to our parent list in the afternoon. (I would make a copy of our team original Gdoc that we work from daily, then set that new doc to shared/view.)

Why I am rethinking the Email ONLY method of info delivery:
  • Issue 1: Our students wanted to get the daily email but didn't!  Most 6th graders don't have their own email accounts and they can't always check their school email at school or home.
  • Issue 2: Some parents had the daily email sent to a work email and then didn't have access to it at home. If I sent it after they left work, they did not get it.
  • Fact: Kids and parents are more connected via phones now than they were in the past 3 years. Many kids and parents DO have cell phones and have the ability to receive texts. 

This year: Send out daily team 'communication' w/Remind 101
  • Versatile: Parents and kids can choose to get the daily team communication sent to their email addresses OR their cell phones as a text OR to both
  • Easy to implement: Teachers send home ONE PAPER with SIMPLE 2 step text and email directions on what to do  to get registered in the group.  (See video and link at bottom of page) That's it! No tedious codes to pass out to individual students and parents. Students/parents send a text and/or an email to the address/number given and then respond to followup text/email with their names. Voila, they show up in your group list. You do nothing. That's really all there is to it.
  • Easy to send messages: You type messages directly into either Remind 101 on your computer or Remind 101 PHONE APP on your phone. Add links, info, whatever. Just like Twitter, you get 140 characters, so links work great. Students and parents will receive message on their phones and/or in their emails (at home or on the go). You can schedule messages to go out in advance as well.
  • The fine print: 
    • Remind 101 is FREE and you do NOT have to have a smartphone to receive Remind 101 messages!
    •  Students/Parents cannot reply back to the Remind 101 texts or emails they receive. There is a solution to that. Our email addresses are all hyperlinked and they can simply click to email from right from our linked google doc. (You could also add your email address to your messages in Remind 101)
    • No phone numbers or email addresses are seen by anyone. Students/parents are identified by name.
    • If there is a field trip or other big event throughout the year, you can send out quick reminders and both parents and kids will receive that info!
  • Other Uses? Communicate with small school groups or clubs like STUCO with Remind 101. How about teacher groups/committees? Each teacher can have up to 10 different classes. If I lead a photography group like I did last year, I would set up another class in Remind 101, give the small group of kids the paper with the two ways to sign up and the codes --and then communicate away!

WATCH THIS VIDEO--1 minute Remind 101 Tutorial!




A fantastic blogpost on Remind 101 I found earlier this summer!

.✏ Mrs. Stanford's Class ✏.: Remind 101 


Thursday, August 2, 2012

No Frills Fast Guide to Edu-Tweeting!


A. Create a Twitter Account and HANDLE (ex: my handle is @lauragilchrist4) at twitter.com
  1. Be sure to include a profile picture and an edu-bio. (see other bios for guidance) 
  2. Keep it public if you want to make connections and grow your PLN (personal learning network)
  3. When making your handle, think short, professional, easy to remember. You CAN change your handle, fyi.     
B. Follow 50-100 people to build a solid HOME tweet stream which you will mine for edu-gold. 
(If you only follow say 10 educators you won't see the diversity in your tweetstream when you click the HOME/BIRDHOUSE icon, so DO IT!)
  1. Click on my EduSTARter List and simply CLICK FOLLOW on at least 50 but preferably 100 educators from my PLN. Fast and Easy. I follow lots of superintendents and principals as well as teachers themselves, consultants, university folks, too. I like a wide range of educators and views in my home tweet stream. You're now building your PLN!
C. Time to start Tweeting, Retweeting, & Replying (interacting w/yourPLN)
  1. Click HOME icon in upper left; VOILA, tweets from the people you just followed appear. Skim through these for edu-gold. This is how I started. Connects you with wide range of edu-knowledge and resources.
  2. When ready, pick a tweet you like and RETWEET IT to your followers by simply clicking Retweet button at bottom of tweet. (Hover over the tweet to see Retweet and other options.)
  3. Pick a tweet you want to REPLY to and click Reply. The handle of the person you are replying to appears automatically at the beginning. Type your reply right after the handle. Hit reply. You tweeted a reply to that person. That person sees it automatically as do your followers. 
  4. TWEET Your Own Tweet: Click the blue tweet box upper right so blank tweet box pops up. Type something you believe in or want to share. Optional: add a link, a person's handle, and/or a hashtag! Tweet it! (You get 140 characters to get your point across!)
  5. Quote Tweet: To add something to a Retweet in Twitter.com you must do something extra: Click the blue tweet box upper right so blank tweet box pops up. Copy and Paste the tweet you like into it. Then copy/paste the tweeter's handle in front of that. Type RT in front of handle, leaving a space between RT and @. At this point, you can click tweet OR you can add words of your own to the front, before the RT. Hashtags are typically placed at the end. Click here: Video tutorial: How to Quote Tweet in Twitter (RT and MT)
Retweet
I retweeted Jaime's Tweet by clicking the Retweet icon at the bottom of her tweet
Retweet
Mitsi tweeted me after Twitter class.
Aha moment that I experience as well.  I Retweeted it. 

Reply
I replied to Nikki. What a grand idea!

Quote Tweet
(I copy/pasted Joe Mazza's tweet and handle, added RT--so I could add a hashtag to it.)


D. Time to find tweets on YOUR specific topics/content by using HASHTAGS (#).
  1. Hashtags are typically added to the end of tweets. Hashtags send tweets to additional places to be seen by people w/specific interests. Let's say you send a tweet w/no hashtag. It is seen by anyone, but ONLY if they follow you or click on your name and see your tweets.  If you add #elemchat to the end of your tweet, it will also be seen by anyone that monitors #elemchat by typing it into their search bar. You HELP people find resources by adding hashtags. Hashtags we type into the search bar help us find specific info whereas our Home Stream is a wide range of edu-tweets from people we follow.
  2. Choose a hashtag from  November LearningEdudemic hashtag list  or Cybraryman's hashtag list  that applies to you and what you teach. (start w/first list) Type it in the search bar (for example: #edchat, #edtech, #sschat, #4thchat). Skim the hashtag tweet stream for topics you like/need. 
  3. Now you can Retweet, Reply, Quote Tweet and Tweet any of the tweets you see in that hashtag tweet stream. Find a person tweeting stuff you like/need? Follow that person by clicking that person's name and clicking Follow.
  4. List your favorite hashtags in a written or digital 'space' for future reference. You'll add more #'s to it as you grow in Twitter! Refer to your hashtag list when tweeting or searching for specific items--so you can find OR share your knowledge with people who want and will use it. 
  5. Again, DON'T FORGET TO ADD #'s on your tweets or RT's with info a specific community will benefit from. You can add 1 # or many more.
  6. Many of the hashtags have assigned chat times. I participate when I can in #sschat, #edchat, #scichat, #satchat, #pblchat. You can connect from all over the world at the same day/time each week about a given topic picked by the moderators or members. Chat times list: http://www.cybraryman.com/chats.html
No frills, really! Just some finer points:
  1. What is a PLN? Personal Learning Network. 24/7 access to info, people, ideas WORLDWIDE at YOUR convenience. This is REAL professional development to me. I don't feel isolated in my classroom now; I feel connected to a much bigger whole. I've found my Edu-voice after 17 years of teaching. Why? I read and view a wide range of ideas, resources and then interact with people about them. I like it. A lot. #howdidisurvivebefore 
  2. How can I use FAVORITES? If you don't have time to explore a tweet, but you want to later, click the favorite star at bottom of tweet. It is then stored in your favorites to access at any time in future. Find your favorites by clicking on your name in upper left (by your picture) and favorites appears below on left.
  3. How to check for number of retweets and favorites on a tweet? Click on a tweet in an empty space. Info will appear.
  4. There must be a space before AND after a # and @ to be clickable/linkable. (commas, ? don't affect it)    
  5. Abbreviations commonly used: Ss = students; 4 = for; 2 = to, too; tchr=teacher; and more! Ok to abbreviate and not use proper grammar. This is about max quick communication of key ideas in only 140 characters.  
  6. Direct Messages: You can Directly message (DM) someone on Twitter and only you two see it. Caveat: You must be following each other to DM with a person. To find the DM button, click on the Person Icon in the upper right and select Direct Message!
  7. To set up your notifications, change your background on Twitter page (Click display), and more, click on Person Icon in upper right and select Settings!
  8. Get the Twitter app on your phone! It has a Quote Tweet option which means you never have to copy and paste! I really like and use Bufferapp.com from my computer. No copy/paste and you can bank items to edit later as well as send tweets at specific days/times.
12 reasons to get your school district Tweeting by @Joe_Mazza
Twitter: Potential for the Exponential

I started by simply checking my home feed and retweeting. Then I moved up to Quote tweeting and replying/engaging with other educators. Don't be shy or afraid. Jump in when you're ready. Connect. Grow and throw down those classroom walls. Our classrooms can now be the world.

***Give Twitter a chance--two weeks of monitoring Home tweet stream and hashtags that fit your needs (type in search bar)After that time, reflect on your Twitter experience. Did you grow as a learner and leader? Did you feel like a Connected Educator? Did the things you find on Twitter enrich your kids, your school community, your planning, your enthusiasm, and YOU as a professional educator? #Youmatter and YOU can add to and become an important part of the thought-flow of the edu-Twitterverse.