Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

According to Wikipedia, as of February 16, 2014, Tumbler had around 172 million registered blogs, and WordPress had 75.8 million blogs in existence worldwide. These are only two of many blogging platforms available around the world, so you we can only imagine the true number of blogs being published on the Internet each day.  A blog, short for web log, is basically a website updated periodically by the author that shares information, a person’s interests, or…well, anything really.  Updates to the blog are called posts, and they’re arranged on the site in reverse chronological order.  Blogs are powerful tools because they allow for discussion and collaboration through commenting features.  Most blogging platforms will also allow you to add collaborators in order to create a shared knowledge base.

bloggingAs many teachers are discovering around the world, blogging is not just for people looking to share what they know, it’s also a great tool for motivating students to write and for enhancing a student’s writing abilities.  According to Alison Sawmiller, author of the 2010 article “Classroom Blogging: What is the Role in Science Learning?”, blogging has many benefits for students including giving the “silent student” a voice by providing a medium where they are not interrupted or talked over, encouraging critical thinking by requiring students to actively think about and reflect on what they’re learning in class, and allowing for differentiation of writing assignments.

As with any implementation of technology, the focus should be on sound pedagogical practices, not the technology itself, and this is true for blogging as well.  Our students already know how to use the technology tools, they’re just not familiar with how it can change their learning and their understanding.  That’s where we, as teachers, come in.  “Well, what, Lauren, can I get my students to accomplish through blogging?”  I’m so glad you asked!

The first thing we need to do is to make our learning activities and writing prompts are authentic and meaningful.  If our students can’t connect what they’re learning and doing to their real life, we’ve already lost them.  Allowing our students to become invested in what they’re writing by providing them with an opportunity to share what’s meaningful to them, we’re creating in them an interest and motivation to do more and learn more.  Next, we need to give them a real-world audience…other than you, Mom, and Dad.  Publishing a blog to the Internet does that!  Share your students’ blogs with colleagues at other schools.  Get them to share the blogs with colleagues in other states and countries even.  Encourage those readers to comment by posting feedback and asking probing questions.  As soon as your students know that they’re writing to a broader audience, they’ll begin to pay more attention to spelling and grammar.  You’ll also begin to witness them experiment with developing their own voice as an author.  Eventually, through consistent and structured blogging, you’ll notice a shift from self-centered writing to audience-centered writing.  They’ll remember a comment and tie it in to a new post, or let a conversation spark an idea for a new topic.  Everyday experiences now become spring boards for new posts, your students actually become excited about writing, and you’ll see their abilities begin to bloom.  Encourage your students to take risks, explore using humor, and share their own opinions, not just the facts that they’re learning.

What are some ways to get your feet wet without diving into the deep end of blogging?  Start by creating a class blog rather than having all of your students blog individually.  Post questions about a book you all are reading, an experiment you’re conducting, or where students are using the math they’re learning in the classroom in the real world.  Have your students blog by commenting on your questions and responding to other students’ comments.  Just get the conversation started!


Reciprocal teaching is a great instructional strategy to use with blogging!  Mainly used as a guided reading strategy in elementary school, students follow a series of activities before, during, and after reading.  A different student is responsible for each step in the series.  The activities are 1.)  Questioning, 2.)  Clarifying, 3.)  Summarizing, and 4.)  Predicting.  Why not designate students to blog specifically about one of the processes above.  It doesn’t even have to be about a book you’re reading.  You could use the four steps of Reciprocal Teaching with any subject area!  That gives your students a leadership role in the classroom by making them responsible for consulting the class before making their post.  Also, classmates will be responding to their (the student’s) posts, not just the teacher’s, which will also give them a sense of importance and purpose.

My point in writing this post (other than the fact it’s a grad school assignment 🙂 ) is to get you to think about blogging as something other than just students jotting down their thoughts of the day.  Get them involved in research, give them a specific purpose, and give them an authentic audience.  If you’re strategically planning your blogging activities/projects, students will be able to learn about giving credit to other people’s work through citations and linking, they will be able to develop their own voice as an author, they’ll begin to understand what it means to write for a broader audience, and they’ll hopefully begin to understand the power of communicating to a global audience.  When blogging, students are utilizing skills such as critical thinking, questioning, working with others, providing constructive feedback through commenting, and (hopefully) proofreading.  So give it a try.  Below I’ve linked to some easy-to-use blogging tools that will help you get started.  Please consider leaving a comment below if you’re already blogging with your students, if you use a different tool than one listed below, or if you have any questions about how to get started!

Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, wikis, and the list goes on and on.  In a previous post, I talked about how easy it is in our digital world to get totally overloaded and overwhelmed with the constant barrage of information coming at us from all directions.  Especially those I just mentioned, which seem to be favorites of connected educators everywhere.  Being able to locate information that is pertinent to you and access it when it is convenient is a very important skill for both you and your students.  The process of locating and organizing information is called “content curation“.

If it were up to me, I’d classify content curation as the fifth C.  I feel that with easy access to more information than has ever been available before, finding and organizing all of it is just as important as creating, thinking critically, collaborating, and communicating.  In fact, reflecting on  the original 4 Cs, being able to curate content is a skill necessary for each of them.

The two tools that I am currently using to help me curate the ginormous amount of information that catches my eye each day are Evernote and HootSuite.  Let’s start with Hootsuite.

I love HootSuite because I can have access to all of the Twitter hashtags I follow, all of the blogs I follow, and my Google+ connections all in one place.  Plus it’s FREE!  HootSuite looks a lot like a browser within a browser because, like Chrome, you create tabs.  Each tab can be labeled with a different topic you’re interested in, a different social media platform, etc.  On the tabs, you add columns with hashtags, lists, blogs, etc.  You can organize your tabs and columns in a way that makes sense to you, and everything is in one place!  You can tweet or post directly to your Google+ page or profile from HootSuite, as well as use the favoriting option in Twitter (this will come in handy in a moment).  Here is a screen shot of my HootSuite dashboard.

Screenshot of Hootsuite dashboard.

Screenshot of Hootsuite dashboard.


Evernote Evernote is probably my favorite tool of all time!  I love it because I can have it on all of my devices, no matter what the operating system (Apple vs. Android), and when I update on one device, my account updates on all of them.  In Evernote, you set up notebooks, and then add notes into those notebooks.  Notes can be text, images, and if you upgrade, voice memos.  All notes are searchable, even images of handwritten notes!  How cool!  Within my Chrome browser, I’ve added the Evernote Web Clipper extension, so when I find a website or blog article that I want to save for later, I just clip it from the web straight into whatever notebook I designate.  I have set up an IfThisThenThat recipe so that when I favorite a tweet from Twitter that I want to read later, it sends it straight into my Evernote.  I can then read those articles off-line on my phone or iPad at my convenience.

Please give these two tool a try, and let me know what you think.  If you need help getting things set up, please email me at or connect with me on Twitter: @BoucherLauren.  Let me know what you think of these tools below in the comments section!

Chalkboard Twitter 2-128x128

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We’ve all heard the abbreviation “PLN”, which stands for Personal Learning Network.  If we take each word separately, we can easily define a PLN as a network of people and resources used by an individual for the purposes of learning.  If we use the definition of a PLN provided by Wikipedia, which states that a PLN is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from, we see that Twitter definitely fits the bill.  In “The Blue Birds are Tweeting” Parts 1 and 2 I introduced you to the Twitter basics and how you can search Twitter for topics that interest you.  Now I want you to consider utilizing Twitter as part of your own PLN.

I know it may be a stretch for you to think of a social media outlet as a meaningful source of information.  After all, you’ve been using social media, like Facebook, mainly as a way to connect with friends from the past, stay up-to-date with far away family, and as a way to be nosy and see what other people are doing.  At least, that’s how I used social media up until recently.  That is, until I discovered how remarkably valuable social media, especially Twitter, can be since its a giant hub of information geared towards educators at all levels and content areas.   As I mentioned in Part 1, it’s the educators who are the most passionate and knowledgeable about their field who are sharing on sites like Twitter and Edmodo (I’m dedicating a whole new series of posts to Edmodo, so stay tuned).  Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to connect and communicate with the best and brightest the world has to offer?!  Have a question about something or need a lesson idea for next week?  Post it! If you make use of those hashtags mentioned in Part 2, you’ll have many tips and suggestions in no time.

Let me give you an example.  Last week I was having some issues with syncing our school’s iPad carts.  My frustration level was through the roof!  I jumped on Twitter, sent out a request for help, and in less that 5 minutes, I had 7 responses.  One gentleman even went so far as to email me a step-by-step guide (with pictures!) to help me out.  I was able to use the responses to solve my problem, and I was oh-so happy to finally have syncing those darn carts down to a science…after 7 months.

In addition to receiving responses and feedback super fast, Twitter has become my go to source for news on the latest educational apps and websites, as well as a curator of sorts for blogs that are useful to me.  Instead of spending hours searching for an app or website to use, or combing through blog posts for something applicable to my situation, I spend 15 minutes a day on Twitter and get more ideas and information than I can use in a month.  As a PLN, I’ve not found any website or community that is more active than Twitter.  The tweets never stop!    So, it’s time to bite the bullet and set up your account!  Its free, by the way.  Who doesn’t want free professional development?!?  What are you waiting for?

I’ve listed some of the educator-gurus that I’m following below.  Check them out, and don’t forget to connect with me: @BoucherLauren!

People to Follow:

Kevin Honeycutt:  @kevinhoneycutt

Shelly Terrell: @ShellTerrell

Jerry Swiatek:  @jswiatek

Jayme Linton:  @jaymelinton

Lisa Johnson:  @TechChef4u

Sean Junkins:  @sjunkins

Steven Anderson:  @web20classroom

Vickie Davis:  @coolcatteacher

Richard Byrne:  @rmbyrne

Popular Educational Twitter Hashtags

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Did you miss The Blue Birds are Tweeting Part 1?  Read it HERE!

In my last post, I introduced you to the idea of trying Twitter.  I suggested using to see what people were tweeting about and how many resources are being shared.  I sincerely hope that after exploring Twitter, you are eager to create your Twitter handle and start tweeting!

The purpose of today’s post is to introduce you to the must-know lingo that any Twitter participant must know.  Although Twitter has developed an entire Twitter Glossary, I’m going to give you just the basics…you’re welcome! 🙂

Twitter Handle:  This is basically the same thing as your user name.  Your handle is what people will use to tweet to you directly, and it will always be preceded by the @ symbol because you are either directing a tweet “at” someone, or someone is directing a tweet “at” you.

Follow:  Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows for one-way “following”.  On Facebook, in order for someone to be able to communicate with you and see your information they have to be your “friend” and you have to be theirs.  On Twitter, you can “follow” someone, but they don’t have to “follow” you back.  When you follow someone, that person’s tweets will show up on your Twitter timeline/homepage.  Found someone you want to follow (like @BoucherLauren)?  You can search for them in the search bar at the top right of your screen, or you can click on their Twitter handle in a post.  Doing this will take you to their profile page where you can click the “Follow” button.

Tweet:  A tweet is a cuter way of referring to a post or message.  You are free to tweet about anything as long as you keep it to 140 characters or less.  *If you’ve gone over your character limit, think about using abbreviations and symbols. You can also put words/phrases together by capitalizing the first letter in each word and removing the spaces between.  An example would be “Im going 2 attend SimpleK12s webinar: GoogleAppsForEducators n ab 5 min”. That one would actually fit without the abbreviations, but you get my point.

Hashtag:  By using the # (hashtag) symbol, you are categorizing, or including, your tweet in a particular topic or conversation.  Hashtags are used to search for specific topics, and can be created by anyone.  For example, I started #sgechat, which I use when I tweet information for teachers at my school, South Greenville Elementary.  For more information on hashtags, click HERE.

Twitter Chats:  Chats are ongoing conversations about a particular topic.  They’re denoted by the # (hashtag) symbol.  Some chats have specific days and times where followers of that topic will “meet” online.  A moderator will pose a question or two to get the conversation started, and then everyone puts in their two cents on the topic.  These can be extremely overwhelming for someone just getting started with Twitter because you can have literally hundreds of people posting at the same time.  My advice would be to “connect” to one or two people and join their conversations.  The chats start with a question, then branch out to more personal, in-depth conversations.

How do you join a Twitter chat?  Simply search for the chat name (#edchat) in the search bar at the top of your screen.  Click “Tweets” in the results box at the top and the conversation will update in your browser window as people begin “chatting”.  When you find that mini conversation you want to be a part of, it may be easier then to search for their names and just follow their tweets.

@cybraryman1, Jerry Blumengarten, has put together an awesome website as a resource for teachers interested in joining conversations centered around educational topics.  View his list of Twitter Chats and Hashtags, then connect with him on Twitter.  Don’t forget to connect with me as well!  @BoucherLauren

Want more information on Twitter?  Read the final post in this series:  The Blue Birds are Tweeting Part 3.



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I often hear veteran teachers refer to their higher level students as the “Blue Birds”.  I guess that’s a reference to reading group names or something like that.  We all know that in addition to having those higher level learners in our classrooms, there are those higher level teachers in our schools and districts.  These are the teachers that I always went to for advice or saw presenting at local conferences.  I would often think, “I want to be her (or him) when I grow up.” 🙂  These teachers have so much to offer!  My advice to beginning teachers is to find one of these “Blue Birds” and be a sponge.

The “Blue Bird” teachers of the world, are “Blue Birds” not only because of their knowledge and expertise, but because of their willingness and desire to share what they know.  Social media has given us access to these teachers and their wisdom 24/7.  The place I find myself going to more and more often is Twitter.  Please don’t think of Twitter as “that place where people are updating their every movement and thought”.  Honestly, that’s what kept me away from it for so long. It may have started that way, but like all things, teachers have taken it and made it work to their advantage.  Educators from all over the world are constantly sharing ideas, links, and other resources on Twitter.  If I have a question or need advice, I can post to Twitter and have an answer almost immediately!  I can also choose to follow conversations on topics that I am most interested in.  Still skeptical?  Go to and search for a topic that you are interested in.  You might try “educational technology”, “common core”, or “technology integration”.  See what people are saying about the subject and grade level you teach.  I guarantee you, before long, you’ll be tweeting along with everyone else.  I’ve listed the conversations I’m following below.  Also, don’t forget to connect with me: @BoucherLauren, and come back for “The Blue Birds are Tweeting Parts 2 and 3“.

*Special Note:  conversations are denoted by a Hashtag (#).

Conversations I’m following:









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