Wednesday, September 28, 2011

810 Social Networks

I have to admit, I was not into the area of social networks. I was kind of a little scared after we received a few emails from my school district about "online conduct". I didn't want to chance it. After much convincing from my best friend (who lives in CO), I joined facebook about 2 years ago. So fast forward from that date to February 2011.  I attended a local  Smart Ed Free Tech Conference where I heard many speakers talk about using facebook and twitter to connect with other educators, parents, and even students. This is when my professional social networking life began. I am on facebook (Melanie Broxterman), twitter (@teachwtechbrox), Diigo (Melanie Broxterman), Technology Integration in Education (Melanie B.), and LinkedIn (thanks to this assignment -Melanie Broxterman).

My social networks fit into several categories. Through twitter and facebook, I have built up quite a professional learning network (PLN) of outstanding educators - both general and special education. The inspiring posts and willingness to interact and help problem solve has been amazing. As I have a great interest in iPads and iPad use within the classroom, both twitter and facebook have allowed me the opportunity to network with app developers to provide feedback about their apps and how well they work with students with disabilities. Through Diigo, I have been able to gain so many resources without even doing any of the searching. I follow Diigo groups for special education, Treasures reading program as well as the technology integration in education group. Often my coworkers think I ahve been up all hours of the night searching for resources and they don't believe me when I say "someone posted it on twitter" or "it was in my inbox". As for my students, I am still exploring ways that social networking can be integrated for them as most of their activities (including computer use) often needs maximum adult assistance. I know that they will need it in the future, but just not sure how to integrate it now. I do think that social networking could be a great way for the parents to interact and create a parent network. I am assisting my principal on keeping our school facebook page up to date. Also, one of the reasons I started my classroom/technology blog was so that parents could see what is going on in class and use that as a teaching tool or to start a discussion about the school day. After 7 months of being engulfed in the sea of social networking, I can honestly say, I consider my role within my PLN to be almost as important as my role as a coworker at my school.


This is a tweet I replied to the other night. It sums up how twitter has impacted me as an educator. Seven months ago, I would have never thought 140 characters could have this much of an impact!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

810 RSS Lab

For this project, the assignment was to start an RSS feed page. This summer, I became interested in following several blogs. I had trouble managing them all and often missed some very good posts, until I found out about Google Reader. Google Reader incorporates blogger blogs that you "follow" as well as other websites that have RSS feeds. I added the Google Reader gadget to my iGoogle homepage for quick access and to see the most recent posts easier.


RSS feed displayed on my iGoogle homepage

As I did some networking, I came across a teacher from Ohio with similar interests as myself. She is an intervention specialist working with primary students with multiple disabilities and she loves technology. Here is her blog Eat. Pray. Teach as it is displayed in my Google Reader once I click on her link. Most of the blogs or websites that I added to my Google Reader have something to do with education, technology, or special education. I have a few fun blogs written by friends that I also added. These are often the feeds that I am excited to see pop up in my reader.

Blog about being a teacher in Room 5

As I was researching RSS feeds and trying to find out some more information about Google Reader, I came across a great post about Google Reader from The Whiteboard Blog by D. Nicholson from the UK. I used this blog to post my comment (assignment requirement). Remember to re-read your comments more than 3 times before posting. As you can see, I needed to proofread one more time.
Comment regarding post about Google Reader
Recently added feeds for this assignment:
  • ISTE connects blog (professional organization)
  • Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (online journal) 
  • The Coffee Klatch Special Needs Radio (radio show)
I also added the following feeds per the portfolio directions:
Tracking changes within Google Reader is quite interesting. The way it is set up, it makes it easy to quickly glance and see what pages have been updated. Because my time is always short, this is a great time saver if I have blogs that I want to check on frequently for app deals or lesson plan ideas. I also like they way the reader organizes between blogs on blogger I follow and blogs or sites not from blogger. One trend that I have realized since the summer is that most 'teacher' bloggers' posts have decreased since school has started. I also know this has been the case for me. Something that I have learned with Google Reader is that if you do not check it regularly, the post can get overwhelming. For example, I have been busy with work, school, and family this past week or so and when I checked into my reader, I had about 100 unread posts. I really like to Google Reader option of placing a gadget on your iGoogle page. It is like my own personal "news" report without all the negative impact of the real news.

I have learned so much from the sites I have added to my feeds. I have several sites that are my "go to" links for special education information, especially for finding online activities for my students who need adapted access to computers. As a teacher, I am also looking for new activities to do with my students to also incorporate motor goals. Your Therapy Source has been a great resource to find some new ideas to do just that. I truly feel that the use of my RSS feeds (in conjunction with my other social media avenues) has made me a better teacher.

I think that the contents of an RSS feed is great to use as a resource for professional development. The information and solid content that is posted has helped me grow as an educator. I was really excited to figure out the ability to "bundle" my feeds and share by embedding them into my blog (see My RSS feeds page of this blog). I think this would be great way to create a list of resources for my paraprofessionals. I could create a blog, add blogs to the feed, and they could read over blog topics when they had a chance. In addition, if they had comments, concerns, or questions, they could post in comments section of blog and I could respond accordingly. This would also be a great idea for sharing information with parents as well as with other teachers. Currently, my district is working towards creating and implementing one PBL/STEM lesson in each of the grades. I have found that most teachers have limited knowledge of PBL/STEM. Creating a RSS feed of PBL/STEM resources would be extremely beneficial. It would be a great way to provide some guided learning on the topic without overwhelming them with a ton of handouts or emails of websites.

Additional resources about using Google Reader:
The Whiteboard Blog
Google Support for Google Reader
Official Google Reader blog