Tag Archives: Twitter

Twitter for Parents in the Eduworld?

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Image Credit : http://www.sxc.hu/

The Journey to Finding Your Voice and Place on Twitter

When I first began my Twitter journey, I was consumed by all the information available. I drank everything in; constantly re-tweeting posts so I could have a record of articles I wanted to read, jumping on every chat that showed up in my feed, and reaching out to authors and other individuals that I had respected from afar. The experience was exhausting, but so worth the late night info binges!

After much time, I feel that I have finally found my Twitter voice. As a parent interested in education, it has been a windy road. Finding a chat that genuinely wants, not just welcomes  a parent’s lens is not a given. There are certainly educators who are not interested in conversing with non-educators.  I may have also brought my baggage with me. I spent just as much time looking up terms in the beginning as I did sharing my thoughts. Cutting through the edu-jargon and acronyms took time.

One thing I had to remind myself as I got more into the Twitter world, which is easy to forget, is that there are people behind those posts. Some are nice, some not so nice.  Some with valuable information to share, some….. And some individuals have agendas that don’t include me or other parents. Twitter is a reflection of the workplace for educators. Some strongly hold on to hierarchies, even antiquated ones. Some really want to change those paradigms and reshape education as a true partnership with not only parents but students as equal players.

All those hours sifting through chats, hastags, and follows, I have found people that really challenge my mind, respect my input, and encourage more interactions. I have found educators who respect parents making the effort to learn more about education. I have found chats that appreciate and seek parent points of view. I am always appreciative of educators who are evolving and refining their perspectives. Those are the people I want to learn with. Those are the people who inspire me to push myself to reach for more.

One of my goals as a Parent Leader has always been giving parents a voice; enabling them to have a seat at the table. Twitter has been an instrumental tool in allowing me to contribute in conversations with teachers and administrators. In order to successfully find your way, you have to hit a few bumps and then pick yourself up and carry on. The journey is part of the prize.

Some of my favorite chats include:

#PTChat, #NYEDchat, #COLChat, #ArkEdChat, #TMSHawkChat, #FinnedChat

This post is dedicated to some truly special educators:

@TonySinanis, @DaisyDyerDuerr, @thomascmurray, @JohnFrtisky, @donald_gately, @timdwalk, @DavidHochheiser

Thank you!

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School Transparency; For or Against?

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Over the past year our principal has made transparency a top priority in my children’s elementary school. For us, transparency looks like: multiple emails throughout the week highlighting the learning taking place on all grade levels, daily tweets by both the principal and classroom teachers, frequent blog posts by teachers and students, and opportunities for frank and honest discussion at PTA meetings. This format has been so successful that it seems the other schools in the district have decided to implement similar tools as well.

As schools shift to implementing more technology and social media, it seems to bring forward reasonable anxieties. Parents are very cautious about the privacy of their children as well as what this new push means in the classroom. Parents question the need for such transparency and have concerns about the possible effects of this new media format.

As a proponent for transparency I would like to layout my argument for not only accepting it, but encouraging it.

My analogy – Transparency at school is like a newspaper; there is so much information available, yet you choose what is most important to you. If you are interested in the weather – proceed to the weather section. If that’s not for you, you might choose to focus on local news, and of course there is world news. You get my point – we sift through information all the time. School transparency is the same concept. Whether it is test scores, curriculum changes, in-class lessons, etc. information is available for parents to see.

As principals and teachers incorporate transparency, there is often a push towards new technology options. Learning programs, apps, and social media sites require a growth period. We need to allow for schools to get comfortable with these new tools and customize them to our needs. Also, districts need to determine and publish guidelines for how and when these new technologies are used. As with any tool, they are only as good as the user. Making technology meaningful and useful is a challenge for all those involved.

It is my firm belief that when schools offer to share information with parents, don’t say no. Never close the door to information about your child. While you may not want that information today, it might not be available tomorrow if you change your mind. Collaborating with administrators and teachers by sharing concerns while maintaining the flow of information is key. Most importantly, it gives us a seat at the table.


The ParentCamp Experience

ParentCamp

Below Lisa & I have shared our ParentCamp experiences

We first began discussing the idea of hosting an un-conference at our school for parents in the fall, at one of our monthly home & school meetings. Our principal, Joe Mazza, had attended something similar for educators called EdCamp, and hosted an EdCamp style staff meeting for the teachers. We all agreed that this style of learning could greatly benefit the parents not only in our school, but in our community. For me, I envisioned all of those parents who aren’t on Twitter, experiencing the learning and sharing like those of us who have connected on and participated in chats such as #PTchat…only this would be live, face-to-face two-way discussions.

I’m not going to go into all the planning details in this post – but I will say the hardest part was explaining what ParentCamp was about, and how it could benefit those attending. For educators, many have heard of, or attended this style of conference – but for parents this was a foreign concept.  Because this was so new to parents, we decided that it was best to line up session leaders in advance. (At actual EdCamps attendees write in sessions that they wish to lead once they arrive at the “unconference”) It wasn’t until we shared the session descriptions, that we really began to see people registering. As far as educators participating in this, it didn’t cross my mind before the event that some (or maybe many) would be uncomfortable with this style conversation – especially face-to-face with parents. We did have far fewer educators than parents attend, but the ones that attended added great balance to the conversations they participated in and were excellent leaders of discussions and not just lecturing.

At our school, we see some of our most diverse and largest turnouts at educational focused events. This was no different and no less awesome and amazing to see so many people from all different cultures, communities, beliefs and lenses sharing their thoughts and asking questions, all while not judging the other’s because of their opinions. Not only did parents attend together, but we also had a few Principals attend with their parent association leaders (the ultimate sign of wanting a home-school partnership).

To start the day off, we had Melissa Bilash as our keynote speaker. She shared snapshots of what role parents, from all around the world, play in their child’s education. This would have been a great presentation no matter where it was shared, but with such diversity in the room, I feel it was a homerun.

In the sessions I attended, I witnessed parents from different schools learning together about the potential of parents connecting through social media to how to plan for the big expense of sending their children to college. I caught a few minutes of parents and our district admin learning about iPad apps together; a custodian sharing one of the most powerful first-hand experiences with losing a child to drug use and ways we can hopefully prevent that same tragedy in our own homes or community. There was another session with teachers learning with parents about better ways we all can support our children’s emotional well being together inside and out of school (this was one of several sessions that had pro-active parents of children not starting school until this coming September).

In the session I led with a few other members of our home & school board, we started out with sharing the ways live streaming our monthly meetings has improved participation, communication and relationships in our school and finished up with the importance of, and ways to successfully lead positive, productive and constructive meetings. These views, ideas and suggestions came from a room of parents, other PTA/HSA leaders, teachers and principals from our district and a few others. I was only a portion of the conversation, everyone contributed their thoughts and experiences, and we all took away pieces that we felt would improve our own schools.

I love participating in chats on Twitter. It really is something else (and almost addicting) to be able to learn about how other people view and approach the same task as you from other parts of the country or world. BUT….I also think it’s as equally as powerful in building up a community when you have a physical room of people together sharing thoughts on how to help each other with an issue, learn a new way of communicating, or improve on current efforts.

I hope after leaving #ParentCamp, if they didn’t already, people saw the benefits of ongoing communication between one another, at all levels. That speaking with each other a few times a year is not enough. That, conversations need to be on a deeper level, where schools and families come away with new knowledge. These conversations can and should be had, as often as possible in our communities. They don’t need to be big, grand events, nor do they need to be limited to face-to-face. The more often we all speak AND listen to each other, the better we can make decisions on what’s best for our family, schools and community.

I can’t wait for the next #ParentCamp. It is energizing and exciting to families and schools learning and working together to build stronger partnerships.

keynote

My Experience as a Parentcamp Presenter and Attendee

After being invited to lead a session at Knapp’s first Parentcamp, my reaction was – of course! It was after that immediate YES that I thought, what can I talk about? Joe and Gwen decided a good topic would be “The Blue Ribbon Experience”. While I was first uncomfortable with the topic (only because it could come across as arrogant or elitist), I realized it was a great way to highlight and discuss all the wonderful things happening at Cantiague. So, while the focus would be on the award process, the meat of the discussion would be the characteristics and evidence of excellence taking place at my school. It would also be an opportunity to hear how other schools were approaching the same tasks. At Cantiague, there is always an interest in improving, never settling for status quo.

A few weeks after confirming attendance, we found out that Tony Sinanis, my principal at Cantiague, would be joining us. What a wonderful opportunity for parents and educators to have the perspective of both home and school in one discussion. This was going to be a great session.

The discussion was very informal and fluid. It was constant stream of questions and answers, with not a second of empty space. We began with a description of what the Blue Ribbon award is, and moved onto the award process our team embarked on.

The most enjoyable part of our session was when we spoke about our teachers and staff, the programs used at Cantiague, and the fostering of literacy as a core of what we do. I felt that we were able to present a window into our school – highlighting the relationships between families, teachers, staff, administrators, and students.

I learned from our session as well. There was a principal and incoming H&S president in our discussion. Seeing that team work and dedication was inspiring. A dedicated 5th grade teacher from NJ joined us as well. While many questions did become professionally directed, we were all at the table. This was a wonderful chance as a parent to hear the discussions that often take place in a staff meeting between professionals. The conversation was authentic and real. Everyone was genuinely invested in creating the best learning experience for their students, and it was beautiful to see.

In the end, I hope that attendees were able to take away a few concepts – passion is the foundation for making a truly special school and experience for students, anything is possible – relationships can always be built and fostered, and transparency and educational opportunities that promote constant learning for all parties creates an opportunity for wonderful, creative, holistic learning.

As an attendee, I really enjoyed the ParentCamp experience. I participated in a Parent Engagement discussion led by Dr. Mazza and Tony Sinanis, and the presentation on live streaming Meetings by the Knapp H&S. I loved the format of the ParentCamp. It was very informal, with discussion continuously shifting and changing to address the questions and comments of the participants.

In the first session, the presenters began with the description of a Partnership School from Beyond the Bake Sale. Conversation quickly customized to the parents and educators in the group. Each person shared questions, experiences, and thoughts. It was a very rich experience, with many takeaways to think about.

The next session was about the benefits of live streaming H&S meetings, and bringing meetings and information to all families. The H&S shared their experiences of taking their meetings to the community. It was enlightening and inspiring to hear the benefits of meeting parents in their comfort zones, and how the experience built trust in the school. The live streaming opportunities also bring information to parents who once were unable to participate. We also discussed the importance of keeping meetings timely, respectful, and meaningful for all involved. We were fortunate to have many H&S leaders in the group. Each shared their most positive events and strategies to engage families and bring them into the fold.

Overall, I left ParentCamp feeling more strongly than ever, the importance of empowering families to engage in home/school experiences. I left with abstract and tangible ideas on how to create positive relationships with all home/school players – students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators. Learning with like-minded parents and educators fueled my desire to always improve our efforts as leaders in the parent community. I can’t wait to try some of the ideas at my school!

H&S 2.0 Building Partnerships

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Twitter Chats – Why and How

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Image Credit: http://www.freestockphotos.biz

When the principal of my children’s school first recommended Twitter to parents, I honestly thought he was crazy. Twitter is for celebrities, students/kids, and people who like to foursquare check-in and Instagram, or so I thought. I remember the day I asked my co-President how she felt about creating a PTA Twitter account; she and I agreed to go for it. That began my Twitter education.

Once online, I quickly learned about Twitter chats. I was hesitant but intrigued by the concept. An online discussion led by moderators where participants from all over the world share ideas. I had to try it. After the first chat, I was hooked. #PTChat, a discussion between Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Student, and guest speakers, has become a weekly ritual I look forward to every Wednesday. Chats are great opportunities to see issues through a different lens. As a parent, this opportunity has been not only helpful but enlightening.

To begin, the easiest way to chat is with a third party app like Tweetchat or Tweetdeck. Both allow you to sign on through your Twitter account. By typing the hashtag (#) of your chat, you will be brought into the discussion.

When you first join a chat, it is a good idea to tweet that you are participating in a chat and that your comments will be pertaining to the questions and comments for the allotted time. Once there, you will be asked to introduce yourself. The moderator will then begin the chat with Q1 – question 1. The appropriate response should begin with A1 – answer 1. This way the discussion is more easily followed by participants. When you see the answers, you can choose to favorite, retweet (quote the post to your account), or respond to the post. Oftentimes conversations will linger throughout the discussion as more thoughts are shared in response to original answers to the questions. The more participants on the chat, the quicker the chat will move. This is one reason I enjoy reading the transcripts or Storify after the chat concludes.

If you feel overwhelmed or unsure of what to say, you can always log on and read the chat as an observer. There is no harm in seeing how things work before jumping in. That being said, I wholeheartedly believe that the more you participate, the more you gain.

Please share your advice and thoughts on Twitter chats here!


Connected Parents and the Power of Twitter

Twitter Meta Moo! too far?

(Photo credit: Josh Russell)

Once I decided to give Twitter a chance, it took me months to figure out how it might be of use to me as a parent. To start I sat through a Twitter 101 night at our school. I went because I wanted to learn how to use a tool that I knew my children will be using sooner or later, whether I liked it or not. I will warn you that a 1 hour crash course is not enough time to learn a new language. It is a start though. Twitter, just as a new language, is best learned when you are immersed in it.

The first few months went by and I enjoyed seeing snippets of the school day as the principal and a few teachers tweeted…but was this it? Was it just about following celebrities and watching what happened at school? After a few months, I joined in on the weekly #PTchat. Although the title stands for “Parent-Teacher chat”, it was mostly educators (not to say they weren’t also parents – but they were speaking mostly from the educator’s perspective). As great as the topics were, just sharing out from a parents lens wasn’t going to keep me interested in using this tool…I had to get something from it.

The more people I followed, the more I participated, the more I realized that everything that is shared could also be used by parents to help their children continue the learning outside of school, educate ourselves to be better advocates for our children, and provide insight on how to improve all of our home and school partnerships. Twitter has given me tools and ideas on how to help my children get more from their studies. Ideas that I possibly could have gotten from reading dozens of books, but realistically don’t have time for. One of my biggest takeaways so far (remind you I’m only a year in) is my recent discovery of the literacy powerhouses we have access to (this sentence can be translated to whatever your interest is). It is through Twitter that I found several phenomenal books on reading comprehension; given the opportunity to observe another school’s reading workshops; and connected with and learned from literacy experts from all over the world on how to help my children improve their reading skills and then bring those ideas to the attention of our school for all students to benefit.

So where can parents start? Who can they follow? Below are two places I found people who I have drawn from. These are just a few – I encourage you to share those who have inspired you.

If your school and/or teachers, principal and fellow parents are on Twitter – follow them. The glimpse into the school day provides you with great conversation starters outside of “how was school?” and it is nice to see what other classrooms are doing. For me it was @knappelementary, @joe_mazza, @miss_a_abel and @lspencerslp. (This list has grown since then – but too many to list)

Check out chats. The first one I joined in was #PTchat. Not only can you share and get some great info/ideas from these – but you also can find other people to follow that share similar interests. This is my number one source to finding great minds and inspirations. It also provides you with the opportunity to interact with people you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance. Some of the people I have pulled the most info and ideas from are: @lisaodavis (my partner in this blogging adventure and a role model for advocating for our children); @lornacost, @drpricemitchell, @smconstantino, @drmerylain and @larryferlazzo (connecting parents and schools); @sirotiak02, @coachyetter and @johnfritzky (teachers who share the ways they inspire kids to want to learn and how they include the families in the learning); @pennykittle, @kylenebeers, @sharonletslearn (literacy superstars); and @freeingyourmind, @micheleborba and @annie_fox (pros in the mental well-being of our children).

Twitter didn’t make me a connected parent or an advocate for my children’s education – but has made me a more effective one.


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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