Monthly Archives: December 2009

New Year’s Community

Gone is the world where my computer was about me withdrawing from the world, the real world of human interactions to do work, play games or simply avoid other interactions. The 2.0 world is all about community. The internet is now a place where I go to build and maintain friendships and professional relationships. 2010 is going to be about continuing to take seriously the new relationships that I am building and to work on them with as much commitment as I do with my face-to-face ones.

What that means specifically:

1. Regular, if not daily, time spent on Twitter. This has been invaluable as a means of beginning my new relationships. I can’t wait to meet some of them in person at Educon at the end of January.

2. Reading and leaving comments on other people’s blogs. I have only just started to do this, but it seems to be an important part of being in a community – reading what others write and offering my thoughts about their ideas. It continues the conversation, and it makes me spend more than a few seconds with their thinking. When I respond, I have to take time to think about what has been written and integrate it into my own understanding. At times, I find this scary, because the process keeps forcing me to be public with my thoughts and my writing. It’s important, though, so I am going to keep working on it.

3. Integrating my students into more of the web than Facebook. I want to continue to teach them about being safe and responsible on the Web. I also want to teach them more tools to use to express themselves and to learn. I would love to find a classroom to collaborate with in another part of the world. Big Goal for 2010! Building an online, learning community for them is important. If I can coordinate it, I want to have them watch another #edchat on Twitter. My 8th graders loved watching the conversation.

4. Being an enthusiastic proponent of what online communication can do for education. I want to try and build and support the community of educators by making it as accessible as possible to other teachers who haven’t gotten engaged yet. This is one of the challenges that I know many of us are wrestling with, how to draw others into the conversation.

Happy 2010 to all!

8 Possible Comments to My Students in 2010

After reading Michael Gorman’s list of possible headlines for the coming year at, I felt inspired to write this, comparing what we say quite comfortably today with what reaction we might have gotten had we said the same thing 10 years ago.

1. Remember that you may not talk or pass any notes during this collaboration. Is this a sign language class?

2. Make sure that you post on Wallwisher. You can slide each one around to place it correctly. How does one slide a post on a wall?

3. Check your privacy settings. Privacy setting? Like on the alarm system by the front door?

4. Your homework is on the ning. After reading it, leave a comment. Who made up a word like ning? And why would I want to have anything to do with it?

5. Make sure to finish creating your avatar for Edmodo. I am not 10! Why do I need or want an avatar? And what world is Edmodo that I have to use one there?

6. If you build a wiki, they will come. Why would I want one? Please make anyone who would want one stay away!

7. You can follow me on Twitter. Do I want a teacher who is a twit? Not quite sure if this is an obscene comment or not!

8. Each group will create a blog to share information and build your argument. Is a blog something that comes out of the mud? Will it eat me if I argue around it?

Not only have we learned so much in the last decade, but we have created and are continuing to create, a whole new language to talk about what we are thinking and what we are doing.

Where Will We Go From Here?

If someone had told me that in 2009, I would build an online community and start blogging, I would have looked at them with a puzzled expression on my face. I knew what Twitter was at this time last year, but I certainly saw no value in it. Who would want to know the ridiculous aspects of people’s lives that I had heard were being tweeted: going to get milk for the cat; lost my cars keys; have a runny nose. I have enough trouble keeping the details of my own life straight. I did not need to know about other people’s.

Then I learned about how to use Twitter as a tool for professional development and as a means to share ideas with people who are interested in topics that I care about. It only took one #edchat, and I was hooked. As of today, I have 430 Followers; I follow almost 450 people; I have tweeted over 1,400 times in the last 6 months. Wow! That is a community of people whose faces I know, in only the single expression of their photo, but whose ideas connect me to them. Who knows how that group will grow in the coming year? I have no idea if I will continue to follow more and more people, or if there is a saturation point, where there are as many ideas and information sources as I can process coming in. I am wondering if I will need to cull through the people I follow for the most significant. I will be interested to see how it evolves. I would love to know other people’s experiences.

Then there is this blog, a new and fascinating place to express my thinking and explore the world of 2.0 in my life and in Middle School. I want to continue the conversation that goes on here and on Twitter. My first 2010 goal is to put together a Survey Monkey for the 8th grade to do on their use of Facebook and other online tools. I will post those results when I get them.

Happy 2010 to all!

End of the Year Thankfulness

I got this idea from my Twitter friend, @lasic, and am stealing it, because it is so good. He is making a list of all of the people that he is grateful for this year. I am simplifying that to merely review the major categories that have made my life rich this year. My mother always told me to count my blessings, to remember that even in the midst of trials and stress, there is much to be thankful for in this world. An End of the Year List is a good start. For the purpose of this blog, I will stick to its focus on Middle School teaching in a 2.0 world.

1. My most basic appreciation – the internet and its ability to link people from around the world. When I post on this new blog or tweet on Twitter, people all over respond. I am not limited by my own knowledge or abilities. I can ask questions or pose new ideas, and those who know the answers or have an opinion respond. The more connected that I become, the wider and richer my world has become.

2. Twitter and all of the amazing people who are now in my PLN: I never knew there were so many people passionate about enriching the loves of students. The dialogue that goes on every day, every minute, among the people I follow on Twitter has changed my way of thinking. I am constantly learning and growing from what is posted there. Three cheers for #edchat especially! When people are willing to take time to share their ideas and ask their questions, we all become the lifelong learners that we want to be. I have experimented with new strategies partly due to the support of the people in my PLN. If it works, they cheer; if it doesn’t, they reflect with me on how to make it better.

3. Springside School – I teach at a school where I am encouraged to experiment with new technology in my classroom, where any new idea that will help the girls is supported. The Administration believes in using technology to expand the learning and successes of every student. They support the education of the faculty, so that we can incorporate new strategies in our classrooms. We also have the most amazing Tech team, who simply solve any and all problems and help me to bring my fledgling ideas to reality.

4. My students – They so willingly go on this adventure with me. They experiment and engage in collaboration with enthusiasm and interest. Their feedback helps me to figure out what is working and what still needs development. I think they find it slightly amusing that their 55 yr. old teacher knows more about 2.0 tools than they do.

5. My family – They all are getting used to the new world that I inhabit and enthusiastically cheer me on. My son tried following me on Twitter, but decided to stop since all I tweet is about education and technology…not his subject of choice.

Facebook Request

Last night I got my first Friend request on the new Teacher Facebook page. It wasn’t from any of the 8th graders that I talked to about Facebook and how to change their privacy settings. It was from one of my 6th grade students. I have to say that it made me pause for a number of reasons. The first was totally personal, in that I hadn’t really put any effort into my page. It had my picture, and that was it. It is definitely not a model of good use of Facebook. Today, I have to develop it to show the kinds of positive connections that a person can have in a 2.0 world.

Second, a 6th grader is so different from an 8th grader. The student is a cheerful girl who hasn’t begun to shift away from loving her teachers. There are implications for her that she is probably not aware of. What will her friends think about her opening the door to their Facebook world to a teacher? It is my responsibility to think about that. I hadn’t been planning on making lots of posts, so it might go unnoticed. On the other hand, if the goal is to model good use, then I need to be active in my participation. There are layers to this interaction that I can truthfully say I didn’t think about when I started the dialogue with the 8th graders. In many ways, for the 6th grader, it is a perfect time to become a Friend with an adult who can walk with her through the transition.

Warning: When I had both accounts open on the same computer, Facebook seemed to be giving the student access to both my Personal account as well as my Teacher account. I am testing this out with a Friend from my PLN who is now a personal Friend. More on that in later posts.

Time to go build a more appealing and interesting Facebook page!

8th grade Responses to Facebook Conversation

Because of today being the beginning of our Winter Break, there wasn’t much time to follow up on the conversation that I had with the 8th grade about Facebook and their privacy settings on their accounts. The two conversations that I had, however, were very enlightening. In the first one, held with my 11 advisees, I asked them who had changed their settings, and all of them had. Not bad for 2 days! They clearly had heard the message and responded. This morning, with the entire grade, I asked again. The reaction was very positive; lots who had changed theirs and others who were frustrated with themselves that they had forgotten.One girl stated, “When I saw the “Everyone” setting before, I thought that it meant “Everyone of my Friends.” It reminded me of how innocent they are in spite of beginning to look and act like high school Seniors. Getting the message out is now clearly a priority!

I then asked if they had any reactions to the issues that were raised. One girl spoke up and said, “You made it sound so scary.” I had to pause a moment to collect my thoughts. Fear was not the goal.

“I don’t want you to be afraid. I want you to be strong. Strong, young women in the world, interacting from positions of strength. The only way to really be strong is to be able to guard your backs as you tackle challenges in front of you. It is about being aware, taking time to guard against  possible problems before they even come up. It is about power, not fear!”

I then gave them an assignment to go into the Applications Settings and count how many Applications they have given access to their information. I will show them how to change those settings in January, but I thought it would be interesting for them to see the number of applications to whom they have given permission.

And that idea sparked another one. I am going to work over Break to put together a survey for the 8th grade about their Facebook use and their thinking about it. If you have any thoughts for questions, please comment or send me a Tweet at @hadleyjf

Behind my Desk

School has given me a wonderful, wooden desk. It is big and solid, with lots of space to hold my papers. Yesterday, I discovered that for my students, when I sit behind my desk, it is as if I have gone into a sound-proof chamber and drawn the curtains. It is My Space to them, a place where I work on my work. It is not Our Space, where we journey together on this adventure of learning. At times, it is a good place to be, when I want them working independently, reading or writing. At other times, it is the wrong place.

My 6th graders were working on their African Village drawings, the culmination of a study of the Yoruba of West Africa. They had collected details about the village for the last month from readings and images. The girls were all spread out around the room on the floor. While they were drawing, I was reading aloud to them. Without paying any real attention to what I was doing, I went around and sat down at my desk. It seemed to make sense to go there to get out of the way, even though in the past, I had pulled up a chair into the middle of the room. I started reading, giving it my full attention: dramatic pauses, voice changes and vocabulary instruction. But instead of a rapt audience, which was the norm, there was an ongoing, whispering buzz.

My response: to simply keep telling them to be quiet. I put it down to being the week before Break, but after years in the classroom, I should know that an ongoing buzz can mean that a class has lost its sense of direction. Behind the desk did not break my connection with them, but it did break theirs with me. I was no longer present for them, having left our mutual space. They felt it, even if I didn’t.

Looking back on it made me realize that what we bring to our students when we are our most effective is our presence with them. We look them in the eye, and they feel seen. When we step back, consciously or unconsciously, the connection is lost. We know the teachers who “saw” us. We worked and learned from them. Doing that for my students has to be one of my goals for the next year and every year.

Talking about Facebook

I started the day with a wonderful conversation with my MS administrator, talking about the possibility of getting a Facebook account to use as a teaching tool. The past policy has been that teachers may not connect with students on FB. I totally agree with this policy for my personal account. I have no desire for my students to know about my personal life, but as an educator who is committed to introducing my classes to the tools of the Web, I feel a responsibility to teach them how to protect themselves out there. My administrator understood. Three cheers for her! She said that in the past, it was forbidden, but that the world is changing, and we need to meet the needs of the students. I told her she would be my first, and perhaps last, friend on that account.

I set it up and went before the 8th grade. I pulled up my new homepage on Facebook on the SmartBoard. They immediately recognized the photo, as it is the one that I use on ning and edmodo, etc. with them. Then they realized that it was Facebook. I wish I could have taken a picture of their faces. The shock and awe! A definitely successful military strategy to get their attention. I explained my initial mission, which was to teach them how to change the various privacy settings on the FB pages. Only one of them even knew that they were there. I went through each one, describing why they would only want their friends to see their information. I talked about how they had a responsibility that in the past didn’t come to someone until they were an adult, but that with the internet, they were out in the adult world and needed to know how to take care of themselves and their information.

I asked them if they had ever seen a picture of themselves or someone else on FB that was embarrassing, told them not to raise their hands. They all smiled. Then I told them that even if that photo was taken down, it still exists at Facebook, that what goes up there is officially out of their hands and belongs to Facebook. They can protect it there, but they need to act. “Not  creature was stirring, not even a mouse!”

I ended by telling them that if they wanted to Friend me, they could. I am not expecting it, but it may provide a possible avenue for a child who is being bullied to protect herself. We hear about that going on a lot, and I am hoping to provide an escape.

I think that there may well be other ways to use the account for school, but right now, it is where I can show them ways to be responsible and engage with them where they love to be.

Starting Out!

I want to write about teaching in middle school at this time in history, when the world and especially the world of education, is changing so rapidly. What my students needed 5-10 years ago to succeed is still relevant, but there is a new set of skills and ways of thinking to which I need to expose them. A set that is changing and evolving every day! As someone who received my Masters in Education over 30 years ago, I have had to take an incredible journey, learning about what a 2.0 World is and how to function in it. Originally, I thought of myself as the immigrant, to use the common language, but as I worked with my students, I have begun to see that I am a tour guide to a world that they know exists but that they rarely visit – except for Facebook and games. In many ways, I know this world better than they do, because I am a constant visitor, tasting the food, tripping down the stairs, meeting new people.

I want to use this place to share my explorations, to identify the tools that enhanced the learning in my classroom, and to learn from those who comment and guide my journey. I would not even be trying this if it weren’t for my PLN on Twitter, which has taught me to reach beyond the walls of my room and make deep, real connections with the world.

Hello world!

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