To Tweet or Not to Tweet

twitterThis past fall, I have truly embraced the power of Twitter as a form of self-directed, job-embedded professional learning.  It was back in 2008 when I first created my account. My first tweet was “Smile…. Enjoying the first day of 2008”.  I had no idea who I was sending it to as I didn’t understand the concept of “following” or “followers”.  My account sat dormant for the next 3 years.  In the fall of 2011, in an effort to explore another method of engaging our parent community, we created a school account and added the Feed to our school website.  I used the school account daily to send out messages about upcoming Parent Council meetings, exciting learning activities which were happening, school events and welcoming messages ~ one way communication!

Within a few months, I returned to my personal account and started to “lurk” and follow a few others.  I can recall the excitement of the first time someone “retweeted” a comment, or favourited something I had tweeted.  There is such a feeling of validation when another educator publically shares that they agree with something you’ve said.

Within months, my irregular visits to Twitter became a daily part of my professional life.  I would start my day reading articles, blogs and comments and then retweet those that had an impact on me or might assist a colleague.

During the March Break, I had my first Twitter conversation with Dave Burgess (Teach like a Pirate) which resulted in him coming to our school for a professional learning experience which helped in transforming how many of staff reflected on their practice.  I then started to see how Twitter could become more than one way communication.  It could become a conversation and hence, a wonderful window into deep professional learning.coverpic3d

Within the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of my international Twitter “peeps” in person and I’ve pushed myself to not just retweet but to comment on the articles and engage in online conversations. There is such a tremendous amount of information available to use. But just as we tell our students, we need to be able to critically analyze the information that is coming at us at exponential speeds.

Last month, we started a Twitter Challenge within our school board.  We have over 80 educators who are excited about exploring this form of social media to enhance their professional learning. Some of our participants are brand new and others are seasoned users who are assisting as mentors.  We are thrilled with the level of professional dialogue, the exchange of information, the sharing of pictures of student learning and the amount of reflection that is occurring and being documented through this process.

Within my career, I cannot recall a time when I had more access to the latest research, such a broad professional learning network, daily opportunities to challenge my thinking or more intellectual connections to my colleagues.

Are you using Twitter to enhance your professional learning?

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Lots of Blossoms = Less School

When I saw all of the blossoms on the trees in the spring, I thought “Oh No!”


I had never imagined in what context that statement would have made any sense to me and yet after my visit to Summer’s Corners, one our schools, just outside of Aylmer, I came away with a new appreciation of the duality of the meaning of a good crop. By the end of my visit, I knew exactly what that teacher was referring to.

Summer’s Corners is a large elementary school, where many of the local Low German Mennonite children attend. For many of the farming families, it is customary for the children to take part in the planting and harvesting of their crops. A chore which takes them out of school for most of May, June, September and depending on the abundance of the crop, into the month of October. As one can imagine, such an extensive absence can have a significant impact on the academic and social achievement for these children.

The meeting at Summer’s Corners was initiated by their concerned ESL department and administration, who were looking for alternative ways to support these children when their family responsibilities kept them from attending on a regular basis. In my role as Learning Supervisor, with ESL responsibilities, I was invited to attend this initial brainstorming session, along with Jeff Robinson, our ESL/ELD Learning Coordinator.

Recently the same community had implemented the ASPIRE program for Secondary students, who find themselves in a similar situation of having to work on the family farm and yet still want to earn enough credits to graduate with a diploma. This program opens the doors of East Elgin Secondary School, the local library and Summer’s Corners during the evening hours and teachers are on site to assist students with their school work. Some of the dedicated staff members even travel to coffee shops and the homes of the students to assist them with their learning.

In light of the success of the ASPIRE program, the elementary school is now looking to replicate a similar program for their intermediate students. I was so impressed with their strong level of dedication to do whatever it takes to provide these students and their families with as much support as they could, knowing all too well the responsibilities that these children have when it comes to working on the family farms.

We ended the meeting with a definite plan in place, which included collecting some initial data, looking for a way to fund it, ways to welcome the families into an information session and possible locations.

One of the perks of my new role is that I’m enjoying multiple opportunities to tour and visit schools and see the impressive work that our teachers do as they meet the needs of our students.

Do you have a student population that struggles with consistent attendance? What are some of the strategies that your school board is using to reach these students?

Come write with me…..