Thursday, September 22, 2016

Three Ways to Elevate EdCamp With Schoology

Cross-posted on my Schoology Blog

Educators are expecting professional learning to represent the ideals of modern education. Attention is focused on reimagining physical learning spaces in schools. What about digital learning spaces, how can we reimagine them? One way is to take a traditional learning activity, such as a professional conference, and give it new life with inviting and engaging digital spaces. Here are three ways you can raise your EdCamp game using Schoology.


  1. Use Schoology to "flip" the essential introductory material. Last Saturday, we hosted EdCamp Illinois at Palatine High School. Our three-hundred ticketed attendees received an email message a few days before our "unconference" containing a course code and simple instructions for creating a Schoology account. The first folder of course materials included maps, schedules, and instructions for making the most of the EdCamp experience. This strategy helped us shave ninety minutes off of our day-long program while preserving face-to-face interaction time. There's no need to have meeting time to discuss what learners can review on their own. From the start, attendees are better prepared to engage and contribute having been welcomed virtually.
  2. Use Schoology to give participants opportunities to contribute to learning. EdCamps are popular events for educators to connect and learn through an organically created agenda. First-timers and reluctant speakers can contribute to sessions by sharing ideas and resources in Discussions, Updates, and Media Albums. Embedding interactive web objects in Schoology is easy. We integrated a Padlet wall so participants could share favorite resources and takeaways from the morning sessions. We also embedded the session schedule, a published Google Doc, so members could access all of the collaborative documents and have real-time awareness of schedule adjustments. You can view our EdCamp Illinois Schoology course because we can share materials transparently by adjusting the course privacy settings.
  3. Use Schoology to support your mobile learners. The three must-haves for a successful EdCamp are meeting space, food, and wi-fi. Mostly wi-fi. Some would add coffee and restrooms to this short list. Some attendees bring laptops, some bring tablets, and all bring their smartphones. Our attendees could choose between the Schoology web application, or the Schoology mobile app to stay connected and engaged with the various EdCamp activities. Like our 1:1 students, EdCamp participants can use their digital devices to capture and share learning experiences as they happen. With everybody in seemingly constant motion, it's important to have a virtual meeting place available. Most importantly, our attendees had opportunities to provide feedback and reflect upon their EdCamp experiences through embedded forms and discussion boards.

Schoology, our digital learning space, allows EdCampers to connect and learn far beyond the constraints of time and physical location. Our attendees were prepared to connect, contribute, and engage more deeply in personalized, professional learning. Whether you're a host, organizer, or participant, Schoology can elevate the effectiveness of your EdCamp.

What other ways can Schoology be used to take EdCamps to another level?

(Your comments help drive this discussion; they're appreciated!)


** Thank you Schoology for co-sponsoring our event, your generosity made breakfast and lunch free to our appreciative guests. **

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Why Do We Give a Tweet?

"Academic research from Rutgers University examined the characteristics of social activity and patterns of communication on Twitter; a prominent example of the emerging class of communication systems that is called “social awareness streams.” The rise of social media services has contributed to the altering of many people’s communication patterns and social interaction." - Te@cher Toolkit

I was using Twitter to backchannel interesting ideas from a conference session I found engaging. Part way through the gamification workshop, my friend Chris, who was looking over my shoulder asked, "Whoa, twenty-five thousand tweets! Why do you tweet so much?"

Until then, I hadn't given much thought to the frequency or purpose behind my tweets. "Sharing is caring, and it helps me process the experience.", I said.

After the session, we discussed gamification strategies and circled back to the learning value of tweeting. I contend there are small, but significant episodes of reflection that take place during the act of tweeting, or at least there should be.

  • It can be challenging to articulate big ideas into 140 characters or less.
  • Using links, graphics, and media demonstrates digital fluency
  • Digital contribution takes digital citizenship to a higher level of interaction and interdependence


Feeling good about our conversation, we left to grab a bite to eat. While Chris was scrutinizing the dessert bar, I decided to check the RSS reader on my phone; pretty much the same items on the menu. Wait, what's this? Ross McGill is sharing "Twitter Research", conducted by Rutgers University. They challenge us by asking, "Is Twitter just all about self-promotion?

The Rutgers research identifies two common types of behavior from those who tweet:

  1. Those who share themselves; Ross calls them "Meformers".
  2. Those who share information; called "Informers".

Four categories were used to describe tweeting behavior; information sharing (IS), opinions and complaints (OC), statements (RT), and "me now" (ME) tweets. Interestingly, the research indicates a majority of Twitter users are meformers. Ross challenges us again,

"Social media: do you share ideas, or just share yourself?"




I decided to review older tweets and examine my tweeting behavior using the criteria from the Rutgers study. My first conclusion, I typically exchange information through my tweets, but I need to include opinions and comments at times, so followers get to know me on a more personal level. Second, my life is pretty ordinary. I wouldn't garner much of a following with a steady barrage of meformer tweets. I believe there is a balance available to us. If the purpose of engaging on social media is learning, then sharing quality information should drive our tweeting behavior.

Twitter can be part of a powerful personal learning environment, but many educators are reluctant to give it a try. Do they get "turned off" by meformer behavior that can dominate the Twitter stream? I think savvy Twitter users rely on hashtags and lists to filter the noise while elevating substance, isolating more informers, in their feed. 

What about the young people in our lives? Are they primarily informers or meformers? Is digital citizenship enough, or should digital contribution become a better target? As Tom Whitby reminds us regularly, If we are to better educate our kids, we need to first better educate their educators.” When we look at research and gain insight into our use of social media, we become better equipped to help others reap the benefits of socially networked learning.


References and Related Reading


Is it Really About Me?... - M. Naaman, J. Boase, and C. Lai, February 2010

Twitter Research - Te@cher Tool Kit

Twitter for Teachers - Kathy Schrock



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Out of the Mouths of Babes; 3 Reasons Why Teachers Should Play Pokemon Go


Curiosity got the best of me. For the past few weeks, neighborhood kids by the dozens, maybe hundreds, are heading outdoors, riding their bikes, meeting friends for a walk. Eagerly walking their dogs without provocation. What is the cause of this activity, this wellness revolution?

If you haven't heard about #PokemonGo, then you have been in perpetual airplane mode, or trapped beneath a large immovable object. At the urging of my kids, I downloaded the augmented reality (AR) app a few days ago and captured four Pokemon within a few minutes. I play a few minutes per day so that I can speak somewhat intelligently about the game if asked about it. I also find the learning potential of this very intriguing. Instead of getting on my soap box about the newest tech craze, I decided to ask local experts, 

"Why do you think your teachers should play Pokemon Go?"

My son, Trevor, 16, said, "Pokemon Go helps people learn about geography, relative location, distance, and global positioning."

My stepson, Billy, also 16, said, "This game can help teachers understand what augmented reality (AR) is. Teachers who want to gamify their classes have a good example to learn from."



Jamie, 14, was holding her iPhone while roller blading with several friends through the neighborhood park. She said, "Pokemon Go gets kids out of the house. It gives teachers something they can talk about with their students."

She's right. Every evening, several families can be seen walking down our street, their phones poised to capture a prized Snorlax or Mewtwo. Recent news reports indicate the number of daily Pokemon Go users exceeding 21 million players. For reference, that's more daily users than Twitter, Minecraft, or Netflix. Last week, a few thousand people converged at "the Bean" on Chicago's lakefront as part of a Pokemon meet up. In addition to the obvious competitive fun, collaboration, and teamwork is integral to this gaming experience.

Teachers and parents should play Pokemon Go so they can promote safe practices and guide moderation. The potential hazards of walking, riding, or driving while looking at your phone are easily understood. I'm spending quality time with my kids as they teach me rules and strategies to become a better player. Like other forms of social gaming and social media, Pokemon Go provides a way for teachers and students to interact, build relationships, and engage in relevant learning experiences. 


Related Reading



A Beginner's Guide to Pokemon Go - USA Today, Brett Molina