A screen capture of Rick McCleary's Twitter interface.
The Agenda is asking teachers to send in photos of a tool they can't do their job without. It's a small part of our new, year-long series, Learning 2030. Anyone can check out what photos teachers have sent us on our Pinterest page.
One person who sent in an image was Rick McCleary, who teaches at Burford District Elementary School. His image: Twitter, a social media program -- not your conventional teaching tool. Interested, we asked him to explain to us in greater detail why he sees Twitter as so useful to his work. Here's what he had to say:
I've taught elementary school since 1986 – but nothing has reformed my teaching as much as Twitter. No, I don't follow the drivel that has made Twitter famous; in fact I follow very few celebrities. But I do follow many experts in my fields of interest.
These people have become my Personal Learning Network, or PLN. These people care deeply about the subjects I do, and we share and learn together, no matter what our location. I exchange information with friends from my own town and from as far away as Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. On Twitter, there are no geographic boundaries – the world is my playground and my classroom. This morning I had a problem with my computer and I received advice from 24 different people from around the globe.
As the only sixth-grade teacher in our school this year, I don't have a grade partner to work with. So last August, I tweeted asking if there were any grade 6 teachers in our area that would like to meet to discuss planning for the year. That Wednesday, six of us had lunch in Ancaster and discussed our upcoming plans for most of the afternoon. This was a great discussion among several experienced teachers that will produce much fruit this year and beyond.
I now follow and interact with some of the world's greatest educational minds on a regular basis. Through my PLN, I demonstrate that I'm a lifelong learner, to myself and to my students. Through Twitter, I've learned to transform my program into an Inquiry Based Learning Environment by implementing a Flipped Classroom concept. Last year, Twitter made my Grade 6 Explorers Unit come alive. I connected with current-day explorer @felicity_aston, the first person to ski solo across the Antarctic. This is a sampling of some of her Tweets that we viewed:
- It's a cheerful blue sky day but the sound of the wind makes me feel cold, lonely and reluctant this morning.
- Great mileage today but paying for it now; knees are throbbing, cramp in thigh and it hurts to stretch my legs out.
- Despite constantly dousing them with lipbalm, my wind scoured and frost nibbled lips are now looking very sore - ouch!
- Strong winds this morning sent more snow streaming across the ground than usual. It felt like the whole of Antarctica was on the move.
The imagery in her daily tweets brought her adventure to life for us. And finally, after two months of following Felicity, we felt like cheering when we received the following tweet:
- After 1744 km and 59 days I arrived at Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf and completed my crossing of Antarctica.
In class we’ve also connected with authors, biologists, NASA employees, and professional athletes. These contacts lead to Skype sessions where students interact with incredibly interesting and informative people. I share with my students how they can safely set up PLNs of their own based on their interests, and how this could impact their future.
The future strength of our country will depend on how we create innovators that utilize collaboration and problem-solving, and Twitter is a communication tool that inspires this future.