Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Call for Attending More Small EdCamps

Yesterday I attended #EdCampJoplin with my wife and met up with a few other attendees who go to several edcamps a year. Since this was the first year for this particular edcamp, I wasn't surprised to see it had a small group show up. This seems to be the norm for most first edcamps.

What did surprise me was that I had a really good time. I was able to meet several educators that were new to me and have some really great conversations. There was no pressure to 'keep moving' in the overcrowded hallways because they weren't overcrowded. There were no huge tables of swag with crowds hovering around. Even though the welcome was done with a microphone, it surely wasn't needed. As a person who has lots of trouble being comfortable in large crowds, I felt really comfortable.

I discovered that one of the major (percieved) negatives of a small edcamp, the much fewer number of sessions to choose from, was actually a real positive. It was much easier to choose a session to attend and the one time there wasn't a session I really wanted to attend I picked one anyway (a session on applications which I would almost never go to) and was able to share a few really great apps, as well as hear the teachers talk about how they used their apps with their students. There is real value in hearing that.

I have attended many large edcamps over the last few years including #EdCampStL which had over 500 attendees. While I will still continue to go to them, they are a great place to meet up with my friends, I will honestly be looking at attended more of the smaller edcamps. I think maybe you should too. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Grammarly Grammar Checker

A couple weeks ago I was approached by Grammarly to review their software and write about my experiences. I was given a premium account and have been using it for the last week. I haven't used every feature of the software yet, and I am approaching this review as I do everything with classroom use in mind.

I don't usually worry too much about my grammar (or spelling for that matter) because I am much more interested in getting my ideas across than I am in being perfect with grammar. To be fair, I don't like to misspell words, but when I am writing on social media I don't worry too much about it. For example, I have sworn off changing my teh's to the's on Twitter because it slows me down too much (and it makes me look a little like a digital gangster ;) The one exception is when I write comments on students' posts. Below is a series of pictures of Grammarly helping me out with a comment on a student post.

As you can see from the pictures, Grammarly was pretty useful to me. It helped me quickly identify some problems I had with my comment and suggested how to correct them with just a click. Pretty handy, eh?

There are a couple ways you can use Grammarly, the most useful is as an extension, or plug-in, on the browser. I use Chrome and the set-up was quick and easy. If you look at the picture below you can see how many errors I corrected in the last week; and to be fair, I haven't written much over that time period. I have learned a few things about my writing; the most obvious to me is that I have no idea when it is appropriate to use a semicolon. 

So, the question is: Would I recommend the premium version for classroom use with students? I can see a real use case for this application if you want students to be less worried about getting the grammar, punctuation and spelling right as they compose at the keyboard. I also think that the best time for students to learn about grammar, spelling and punctuation is when they are using them to write with and this software makes it easy to identify mistakes (or in my case a series of the same type of mistake) which can be addressed naturally during the writing/editing process.

If I were using this software with my students, I would have them write their posts and then record their errors (perhaps using a Google form) to help students identify their weaknesses. I know that for the last week I have become much more cognizant of my poor use of semicolons and I am being much more careful because of that. I can really see how beneficial that would be to them, because it has been beneficial to me.

There is a lot more to Grammarly than just things I have addressed here in the post. For more information go to to check out the other services. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Don't Call Twitter a Community

Beth Still recently wrote a blog post, Special #FF Request, where she asked her network to add teachers from Beth's district she was trying to get more involved in Twitter. In the post she writes:
'Now for my special request. Please make some room in your PLN to connect with my colleagues. Follow them. Tweet them. Encourage them. And please be patient and forgive them if they don't reply right away. A few of them are Twitter pros but others are just getting started. It takes a while to get Twitter and that the more we interact the more likely we are to realize the power of Twitter. Please help me give this fantastic group of educators a reason to stick around.' 
I saw the tweet yesterday but didn't have the time to read the post so I read the post this morning and went through and followed her suggestions. I noticed many didn't have a lot of followers, many only in the teens. Then I checked their followers and mostly it was the others from the list. I didn't see any of Beth's Twitter network following any of them.

This is the difference between a network and a community. A network loosely follows and interacts. They often only engage when it is something that benefits them. On the other hand, a community is different. A community realized their responsibilities to each other and, as I often explain to my students, being part of a community sometimes means doing things you don't really want to do because it is best for the community and not ourselves.

Am I calling you out? Maybe, only you know where you stand with your use of Twitter. Just don't call it a community if you use it like a network.