Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our Third All-School Twitter Chat

This past week, the teachers, students, and principal of LearnQuebec's online school had our third all-school twitter chat. Three is a magic number. Once you've done something three times, it starts to become a habit. You also start to notice trends, behaviours, what works best, and what doesn't. Most importantly, you get an idea of how it's evolving, if it's gaining traction, and we are all now convinced we are onto something!

A little background: 
Our classroom (students' names appear in chat area at
lower left, hidden here of course.)

  • We're synchronous online classroom teachers. Our students are in brick and mortar schools all day but when it's time for Math, Science, Physics, or Chemistry, they get online with us. They are from all over Quebec, many in remote areas. We're all pretty used to interacting live online, in fact, we pretty much crave it due to the lack of f2f time.
  • By "all-school", I mean all of our teachers, all of our students, and our principal.
  • 3/5 of the teachers already use Twitter with their students, so most of them already had accounts and were comfortable using it.
  • At the beginning of each year, we get permission from the parents of our students to be online in many sites - google drive, twitter, blogs, geogebratube....and the list just keeps growing every year. So that part was already taken care of.
  • For non-Tweeters: A twitter chat is what happens when a bunch of people all get on Twitter at the same time to tweet at each other. It's like a party that happens online, except that you can actually have way more conversations with way more people at a twitter chat than you could ever manage at a party.

The story so far:

We started having these twitter chats in February of this year. Our purpose was to create a stronger sense of community amongst our online students, whom we almost never get to see face to face, and who almost never get to see each other. Here's a quick synopsis of the first two chats:

Chat 1: Feb. 5, 2014:  If you'd like to read all the details of this wonderful event, including the actual tweets that happened that night, I blogged all about it here. If you'd rather not read that whole chapter, allow me to summarize: It was great! We decided on 5 questions, the theme of which was online learning - the one thing that unites all of us. The participation rate was very encouraging - we had about 35% of them there, and by the end of the evening, there were about 700 tweets with the #lqchat hashtag. The staff were all so thrilled by the event that we spontaneously had a staff meeting immediately afterward to debrief! We were so blown away by how enthusiastic our students were about the opportunity to interact this way. It took a while to calm down! My takeaway was that every human needs to connect, regardless of age, academic interest, or what medium you use. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Chat 2: March 12, 2014:  Unfortunately, I didn't blog about this one, not because it wasn't great or important though! You can see the complete chat here, separated into questions. Summary: This time we used some of our students' suggestions for chat topics, like career plans. The theme was still online-based, but also looking to the future - theirs and ours. Once again, the staff met afterwards to take it all in together. Chats can be quite overwhelming. Not only is the sheer volume of tweets impossible to keep up with, but the stimulation generated by all the ideas and connections can be quite overpowering as well. We had about the same amount of participation, and we were once again thrilled by it all. As a side note, suddenly there was more tweeting happening on a daily basis from some of the more reluctant tweeters on our staff! My takeaway - sometimes to get from A to B you have to aim for C, and then unexpectedly end up at B on your way there.

Our latest chapter:

Chat 3: April 22, 2014: This time, we asked for the students ideas in a more concrete way. Peggy Drolet made a google spreadsheet for them in which to give their input. The staff met, and together came up with the questions, using as many of their suggestions as possible, while keeping it safe, appropriate, non-academic, and interesting. Unfortunately, as I write this, Storify is not fully cooperating, at the moment, in giving us the full set of tweets for all the questions, so I have had to take a few snips to give you an idea of the flavour of the responses.


Here the Storify for the prechat chatting that took place. As it happened, that night there was also a very important hockey game happening at the exact same time as our chat. This hockey game happened to involve the Montreal Canadians. Have I mentioned we are all Canadians? Living in Quebec? So, of course, we get a little excited about hockey. More than a few people were, um, multi-tasking during the chat! These happened before and during the chat:

And finally here are the actual chat questions, with a few of the answers:

Q1 What is the happiest/proudest you have ever been in your life?

Q2 What is the coolest thing about math/science?

Q3 What is your favorite pastime/hobby?

Q4 What tech tool is your favourite & why?

Q5 What about you would people find the most surprising?

Q6 What is something you are not learning presently in school that you want to learn?

This last question took an interesting turn toward the end:

A few other things that happened:

An idea for us all to do our own version of Pharrell's Happy video!

Lots of personalities, senses of humour revealed:

Our fabulous principal, as always, was there and supportive like a boss (get it? haha)

Finally, the day after the chat, we all asked our students to type their reactions on the eboard in class. I have taken snips of those and put them on this padlet wall, word for word. Yup, I really think we're onto something!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Learning How to Be

Wade Deer, one of my facebook friends, posted this status this week, and with his permission, I'm posting it here. I love it because of how it's written, what it says, and how it addresses so many issues that educators everywhere are dealing with. Here it is:
I remember when I was 18 years old with a baby on the way and I needed a job. That was when I first started to do carpentry with my Dad. How I hated it. I knew nothing,not how the nail,how to cut with a saw and no basic knowledge of what the hell I was doing. I dreaded waking up and going to work where I was nothing more the a extra pair of hands or worse in someone's way. With time and some patience from my father I slowly started to learn. I could hammer a nail. I learned how to read a tape. The more I learned,the less I dreaded getting up to go to work.I was no longer a helper,no longer in the way. I was making a real contribution at work. Now I sit here close to 20 years later with another new baby, I love my job. The key for me was to learn how to work. Once I did that my job became easier and now I can look at all the houses I had a hand in building and be proud of the work we had done. Not many people have the ability to physically see all their hard work as a finished product. All I have to do is take drive all around this town to see houses and projects that we have done,from my first house I ever worked on to the one we just finished months ago. I had a hand in making someone's HOME,just not a house. Now I sit here and think how I started out hating it,and now I am proud of the work I do. It may never make me rich,but I like to think I am good at my job,which is why I love doing what I do.
I'm not going to blather on about what it means for me the teacher or me the parent, suffice it to say that Wade's words stopped me in my tracks. This writing speaks for itself, but if I had to pick one favourite line, it's "The key for me was to learn how to work." This man didn't just learn how to be a carpenter, he learned how to be.

Thanks for posting this, Wade.