Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

March 19, 2015
by leesensei
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New to Twitter? – Tips on the Journey from Lurking to Listing to Chat…

Twitter_bird_logoI have seen a lot of new faces in the #langchat discussions lately and its a reminder that educators are continuing to discover the benefits of what a Twitter Personal Learning Network can be. Learning to manage your PLN, can take some time – as you configure what works for you. I wanted to repost some tips that I gathered as I began my Twitter journey and hopefully they will be helpful to you too!

Who you are – I noticed that I followed people that shared a bit about who they were – and what they are interested in. I made sure my profile tells a bit of that. Also I quickly learned to get rid of the egg. If you don’t want to share your photo there are lots of publicly licensed images to draw from. People share a lot on twitter and your profile is an indication that you will too.

Who You Follow – As I began to build my personal learning network (PLN) I didn’t know a hashtag from a MT. But I knew something exciting was happening for educators on Twitter. So I began with a direct search (‘languages twitter teaching), then I learned about hashtags. I followed a few who seemed to have something to say. I also look to who they follow for more possibilities. Tailor your PLN to what you want easily this way. You may at times edit who you follow – and this is okay too as it shows you are becoming more purposeful in constructing your PLN.

Turn Off Retweets? – This is a personal choice decision. I was finding that my Twitter stream was crowded with tweets that were just simple ‘retweets’ (RTs) . I’m not talking about RTs that feature comments added by the people I follow. Just RTs with no context or comment. For me they clutter up my Twitter stream. So when I follow someone I choose to “Turn Off Retweets”. I get a lot of what is retweeted still – but with pertinent comments by my PLN – reasons, according to them, why I should look at what is being retweeted.

Go Public – Initially the temptation is to ‘lock’ your account – it allows you to determine who follows you. The control is initially key. But – and it’s a big but – it also locks you out from participating in general chats because only your followers will see what you tweet. Yes there will be spammers – those who follow you for reasons other than ‘learning’. All you need to do is click on the ‘wheel’ next to the follow button on their profile and ‘block’ them. The rewards of being public outweigh the annoyance of the occasional spam follower.

Listing – As you follow I recommend that you start to list. Make the lists based upon why you chose to follow in the first place – if you looked at the profile. Maybe you follow for more than one reason. As you follow more and more lists make it easy to cut through the noise and get a ‘hit’ of what you want. For me  – I visit my ‘edtech’, ‘langchat’, and ‘japanese teachers’ when I can and I love that my stream is sorted into these convenient categories.

Lurking – Most of us start as ‘lurkers’…watching the stream, finding out information. Initially maybe I wasn’t sure that I had much to say. I was excited to see what was out there – so I watched, found people to follow, expanded my PLN gradually and thoughtfully. Lurking is the first step as you take time to learn more about what Twitter can offer. I know many who right now only lurk – but I’ll be eventually they will be confident enough to begin to share!

Chat – The scheduled ‘chat’, for me #langchat, is the most powerful pro-d I know of – each week something new to learn and discuss. We often work in isolation and the chat gives us a community to share and learn from. I use Tweetdeck or Tweetchat during these to allow me  to follow the stream exclusively. Introduce yourself and your reason for being on the chat. Some chats are huge and the stream flows – but keep with it and gradually you’ll find your voice in the discussion. Many chats will publish a digest – like #langchat does – that allows you to see the ‘big’ takeaways from the time. If you find yourself noticing certain tweets more than others that just may be someone to follow!

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…I encourage you to dip your toe into Twitter and begin constructing a PLN – your teaching will be the better for it!

Colleen

October 5, 2014
by leesensei
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Thoughts/Considerations On Starting a “Class” Twitter Account

4786110042_43c31cc235Many teachers are making the foray into using social media with their students. I am at the point of ‘dipping’ my toe in. There’s a number of things I’ve learned, and found out, as I have started tweeting to students and wanted to collect my thoughts on keys in beginning this path.

Set up a dedicated class account – I am an active user of Twitter in my professional life. But I do not want to have my students involved in my PLN and the learning that I do online. So I have a separate identity for my class account. I recommend that you talk to students about it and the boundaries that you have established. I know that when a couple of my students tried to follow my ‘professional’ account, I had to speak to the groups about this. I talked to them about my personal PLN, and why I had blocked them from that account. At the same time I extended the invitation to follow the class account. So if you are already on Twitter and, like me, feel strongly about separating your professional and in-class life – I recommend that you do the same.

Don’t make joining mandatory – I am loath to require students to sign up for social media. And I know that there are parents out there who would be concerned. In addition Canadian privacy laws also require parent approval. So following my class account is not required – if I post a picture or info my students can ‘search’ it under the established hashtag. Right now I have a whole 2 student followers but I know more have checked out posted photos etc. Early days yet…and fine by me.

Establish a hashtag – and use the school one too –  In order for students who are not on Twitter to locate items you post – establish a consistent hashtag. For me it is #ptjapanese (Pinetree being the name of my school). All of my ‘tweets’ include it. If I post photos of class activities or other interesting things that happen in class I also include my school’s hashtag as well. It gets the word out about what we’re doing – both to those who follow the school and to one of my administrators who administers it.

Start with key ‘student-friendly’ TL and TL-related Follows – If students are going to see who I follow then I have to be comfortable with what they see. So I am careful to comb the feed for inappropriate posts. For example, Time-Out Tokyo looked great for city interest but the repeated beer-related and adult-level tweets meant I couldn’t follow them on the class account. I follow a couple of pop stars, some language related accounts and – most popular – fast food/international items with lots of visual posts. I’m also careful to check the feed occasionally to block any ‘promoted’ but inappropriate accounts.

Get permission to post pictures of class activities  – In my district, parent permission is required to show pictures of any student in a public way. Before I began posting pictures of class activities I obtained permission – signed by the parent and student to do so. I don’t publish names and try not to publish close-ups. I also maintain a list of who has not given permission which I check before posting photos.  And don’t forget to link your phone to your class account – I like to quickly upload photos once I’ve taken them. When I started the new account I forgot to add it to my ‘phone’ so that I could easily and directly upload to the class account. Don’t forget to do this – you will always be asked which account you are posting to so you won’t make a mistake!

Tweet a variety of things –   I do post to a website as well but have started tweeting out the homework. I’m always looking for another way to ‘meet students where they are at’ and tweeting out the homework is just another way to ‘get the word’ out. Sometimes I even tweet out a preview of the next day’s class, or next week’s song of the week. I am also big on taking photos of my ‘whiteboard notes’ as well – and often post those so I am starting to add those pics as well to the tweets.  When I’ve posted pictures I tell the class (I try to take them when they are ‘actively’ learning and don’t notice) to check the hashtag to see if they are ‘in the picture’!

I am looking forward to the evolution of my class account – and where it will take us, as a group, in the future.

Colleen

January 1, 2014
by leesensei
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Language Sensei: Most Popular Posts of 2013

MP900289582Language Sensei is a forum for me to explore both teaching an MFL (modern foreign language) and work to integrate/explore technology both in my classroom and for personal development. It has been my project for the past 2 (almost) years and it is the contact into the greater PLN that I have enjoyed the most. The people who take the time to comment, Tweet and Facebook ‘like’ only serve to confirm to me that we, as teachers, are at our best when we collaborate to learn (and share with others).  So what were Language Sensei’s most ‘popular’ posts of the year?

MFL/Foreign Language Teaching:

No. 1 Conversation Circles…or “I spoke in the TL for 45 Minutes?!” – ideas/tips for conversation circles in class

Runner Ups:

Edtech/Twitter:

No. 1 Homework? A Quick Phone-Recorded Conversation Please! – using smart phones/digital recorders to demonstrate learning

Runner Ups:

I am looking forward to where Language Sensei will take me in 2014 and welcome the comments/suggestions that come from my PLN. If you want to connect more as a modern foreign language teacher why not join in on #langchat? We ‘meet’ Thursday at 8pm and information on the how and when can be found here.

Happy 2014! I’m looking forward to another great year.

Colleen

 

 

 

Two Ways To “Power” Up MFL Students’ Learning

Visual Learning – Visual Cues

 

November 19, 2013
by leesensei
0 comments

Leaving the Lurk Behind

Balloons in SkyIn my last post I talked about joining Twitter and the inevitable question “what do I do next?” It’s natural to spend some time exploring Twitter and its usefulness as a Personal Learning Network (PLN). But there comes a time when the lurking in the shadows – being a passive user – must give way to a more active process. But how to step out from and step into being an active participant?

Expand Who You Follow – One way to be more active is to find more people to potentially interact with. But how? As I mentioned in my previous post, I turn off retweets but if you don’t you can find other people to follow by reading those retweets. Another suggestion is to look at who you are following follows. The vast majority of Twitter educational users have unlocked accounts and this allows you to read their bio and see some of their previous tweets. Finally many tweet out on #FF (follow Friday) and offer suggestions of who they think you, as their follower, might like to follow.

Discover the Hashtags that You Care About – Hashtags are the topic definers on Twitter. Although anyone on twitter can create their own hashtag there are many standard ones out there.  Watch what those you are following use as a first source. You can also do a search of ‘educational hashtags’ and you find a even more. Cybrary Man’s Educational Hashtags is a particularly comprehensive source.  As a world language teacher my top two are #langchat and #mfltwitterati.

Watch A Twitter Chat – Many of the common hashtags are also used for a regular Twitter chat. Moderators of the chats regularly tweet out the ‘when’ as well as the topic. The Thursday #langchat, which I am privileged to help moderate, typically tweets out a link to the topic poll from Monday to Wednesday and the topic early on Thursday. When the chat begins (#langchat at 8pm EST), there may be introductions and then it is off! Some chats are very structured and you put begin each tweet with the question you are answering. Other chats are more ‘organic’ and ideas, questions flow in a less organized way.In order to just see the tweets for the chat many find it useful to use a ‘chat’ following program such as Tweetdeck or Twubs where the hashtag chat is separated out from your regular twitter stream and easier to view.

Join Into a Chat – You have searched out new people to follow, found some key hashtags and lurked around a chat. Now you are ready to step in. For me it is critical to be using something like Tweetdeck. The program  lets me see not only the chat but any responses to my tweets that I may want to further respond to.  Some of the large chats may not do this but if there are introductions at the start of your chat let the moderators know it is your first time joining in. Once you are ready tweet your thoughts or respond to what someone else has posted. If you think its going by too quickly relax – and realize that chats such as #langchat will publish a summary of key points.

Realize That You Do Have Something To Say – I think that this is the biggest hurdle for educators to overcome; the feeling that you don’t have anything ‘new’ to add to the conversation.  Just like everyone you are following you are an educator who has experienced the highs and lows of the classroom. You are working in a place governed by the educational policy of the day. You mentor and lead students. What you find of interest is most likely interesting to others like you – educators. So send out a retweet, share a success, pose a question (directly to someone or to all your followers) and see where it takes you.

For me Twitter as personal professional development does not work unless you are actively involved. If you aren’t your interests wanes – after all a one-sided conversation doesn’t benefit anyone.

Colleen

November 12, 2013
by leesensei
0 comments

I Signed Up for Twitter…Now What?

Okay – so half shyyou listened to all those people who go on and on about their personal learning network (PLN) and signed up for Twitter. You still aren’t sure ‘this is for you’ and so there you sit – with your ‘egg’ profile picture, following 5 or 6 people and you’re thinking “What’s the deal?” How do you make the leap from admittedly passive Twitter newbie to ‘active’ participant? This post deals with some things to keep in mind as you grow your PLN.

Ditch the Egg and Tell Us Who You Are: If you met a new professional wouldn’t you introduce yourself? So please do the same on Twitter. You don’t have to upload your own photo – but at least start with an image. I know many key people – great people to follow – who block ‘eggs’ not knowing who they are. The same goes for a short ‘introduction’. Who are you and why are you on Twitter? Providing some basic information like “French teacher in BC new to Twitter – curious about EdTech” let’s the PLN know that you are safe to have as a follower – and can even result in a follow back.

“Manage” Your Twitter Feed: For me this is two things – “Lists” and “Turn Off Retweets”. If the Twitter stream is the general feed then lists are your ‘channels’. Create lists that are meaningful to you by answering the question “Why am I following this person?” When you answer (to yourself) – they are good with ‘educational technology’ – then that’s your list. (More info on ‘Listing‘ is here). I also ‘turn off retweets (RT)’. I know that I RT and so do many but I find that I am very interested in who I follow and what they have to say – and not so interested in a multitude of ‘retweets’ to wade through. So I make the choice to turn them off. I don’t feel like I miss too much – and it prevents me from being overwhelmed by posts.

It’s Okay to ‘Unfollow”: I know that it is a courtesy to follow back who follows you but – it also has to work for you. If you find that someone tweets the majority of time about things that don’t interest you it’s okay to “unfollow”. Construct your PLN in a way that works for you and provides you with the information that you need. If a person you follow is more about the personal than the professional then they may not be for you. There’s a reason you are their ‘tweep’ (or not) Following takes time, and management to get right – think about your reasons for joining in the first place. You will tweak your ‘following’ list more than once and that’s okay. However the more you step out as a participant in Twitter – the more you will begin find more reasons to follow a person than not to.

To “Public” or “Protect”?: That is a good question. Most people new to Twitter start with a ‘locked’ protected account. It’s safe – and you control it. With the protected account you must approve followers and that keeps you safe from ‘spam’ followers. But there is a downside to the protection. For example, only your approved followers will see your tweets and they won’t be able to share anything you tweet with their PLN via RT’s. Being ‘public’ allows the twitterverse as a whole to benefit from what you share. Sure the odd student or weirdo spammer may find you. But you can ‘block’ anyone you don’t want to have follow you – and the benefits of public tweeting can really outweigh the private.

Find Some Time: Nobody has “time”. We are all busy, with too much to do and seemingly no time. So find some time for this new PLN. Some new users set aside 10 minutes of quiet time (not in the middle of class or the rush at the end of the day) to look through their feed. This is a scheduled amount of time – specifically set to develop this new Twitter habit. Gradually many users find those natural times/breaks in the day when they are receptive to what their PLN has to offer. So recognize that you are developing new pro-d habits and give it a little time to grow.

Welcome to Twitter….we in the worldwide PLN look forward to seeing you there! Next week – a look at leaving ‘lurking’, finding people to follow and stepping into the ‘chat’….

Colleen

September 23, 2013
by leesensei
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“We Have Nothing to Fear (but Teachers on Twitter)”

Twitter_bird_logoOkay – I’m not political, and not really looking at my blog as a place to rant. I have used it to ‘wax poetical’ about the amazing things that happen on Twitter for teachers who actively use it. The PLN has done more than give teachers access to an international cohort but has, myself included, helped rejuvenate teaching and challenged us to improve what we do.

It’s also a place where a teacher, faced with many challenges both in the classroom and from educational leaders, can find support. There are few jobs in the world that seem to be so collaborative that are, indeed, a solitary pursuit. The minute a class begins it is the teacher, alone in the room, who must juggle the learning needs of students and the various ‘policies of the day’ while delivering curriculum. Teachers, good teachers, active teachers, know what works and doesn’t in a classroom. Twitter has given a collective voice to this somewhat surprisingly solitary pursuit.

Lately, however, I have heard of a disturbing trend that is working to silence the voice from the classroom. Administrators have been confronting teachers who tweet. Well not all those who tweet, just those who may be tweeting an opinion on current policies and practices. Some of these administrators have combed through feeds seeking evidence of what they seem to believe is some kind of insubordination. Not only that, educators who are targeted are made to believe that their evaluations will be affected by their publishing of 120 character missives.

It seems to me that, instead of censure and intimidation, educators who share their experiences working within prescribed “policy” should be thanked. It is these teachers who share the reality of decisions, who are in a position to offer feedback from the reality of their classrooms. These administrators should take a page from “Undercover Boss” and treat the tweets as direct and meaningful feedback. Start a dialogue, visit those affected and maybe, just maybe, rethink a policy or rule as a result.

Muzzling never works, and doing so to teachers who use twitter to learn and support each other is short-sighted at best.

To my PLN affected by this I raise a Vernors to you and show my support. Regular tech-oriented, Language Teaching-focused post will follow.

Colleen

August 27, 2013
by leesensei
0 comments

What Exactly Are They Reviewing?

Football teamThere is a lot of talk in my professional circles at this time of year about ‘review’. With the two month holiday drawing down and the Sept.3 start of classes looming the question of whether to/how much to go over is always a timely one. Last week my #langchat PLN spent time discussing it – and, true to form, my personal view of the role of review came to me in one of my quick and spontaneous 120 character tweets.review tweet

So what are my “Rules Of The Road” that need revisiting at the start of the year?

Self-Sufficiency – Your teacher is a resource, a guide and someone who can clarify and support in the classroom. Most of your real use of the language will happen outside these 4 walls. So, you are the person who must know where your resources are, how to locate what you need and, most importantly, when to go to them for support.

Supportive Sustained Interaction – You will not always understand what is being communicated to you, and someone will not always understand you. How do you make it work? What are your strategies? Do you repeat? Use gestures? How about rephrasing or supplying examples? How do you sustain a conversation – what are your follow-up questions to learn more about the topic/person?

Target Language Work – You are being asked to work in the Target Language (in my case Japanese). Your partner, or group, expects you do this, just as you expect it of them. You will not be asked to do something that you do not have the skills to do – so relax and use what you have in your head (and at your fingertips). You will improve your skills, accomplish the task, and – unbelievably – have more fun if you stay in the target language.

Incidental Chatting – If you finish something when others are busy you are to not to sit there mutely awaiting instructions. No – this is your time to practice those ‘small talk skills’. What is your partner doing after school? What did they do this morning? Do they like broccoli? How do they feel about a particular subject? If you’re stuck you can use some of  the ideas on our conversation sheet. Imagine – you can sit and talk with someone about everyday things…just like a real person might!

Welcome back to the journey…glad to have you on the road again!

Colleen

 PS If you are interested in connecting with other MFL teachers – why not join us for our weekly #langchat Thursday at 8pmEST? Topics discussed are suggested by participants and are voted on weekly. It’s the best personal Pro-D you can do from anywhere!

August 20, 2013
by leesensei
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“Let Me Check My List” – A Tip To Manage Your PLN

Business woman standing outside in front of office building, using mobile phone One of the greatest boosts in my teaching career has been the development of my Twitter PLN/ALN (as per a previous post – mine isn’t just “Personal” it’s an “Active” Learning Network). It has been amazing for me to see who I have followed, what their interests are, and more importantly who their contacts have led me to.  But even judicious building of an ALN/PLN can lead to a large, and unwieldy stream of tweets. Especially as many of those I find key to my learning often participate in their own chats.

So my key to maintaining my control of my learning network is the list.  If the Twitter stream is the filing cabinet of my PLN then the List is the “label” on the drawer (the person I follow is the “file”). The list, then, is my way to organize HOW I use Twitter. In my case it is a simple list of categories such as “Edtech” or “Langchat”. Instead of viewing my Twitter stream as a ‘whole’ – which can be overwhelming – I tend to use the lists for the ‘hit’ that I feel that I need. If I am looking for Edtech ideas then that list is where I go. MFL/Language issues are my “Langchat” group. And, as many of us are not just one dimensional, its nice to be able to put them on as many lists as I like.

In an ideal world you would have created your lists categories before building your network. That way when you are following 400 people listyou won’t have to take time to ‘re-list’ them. Mine certainly didn’t work that way and I did have to go back and add a certain number after the fact. Now as I add people, I try to remember to list them at the same time. As for the categories themselves – I answered the question “why am I following this person?” and they quickly became evident. You can access your lists either via the gear icon on the drop down menu (top right – navigation bar) or from your profile page.

Lists are the quick way to find professional development ideas, encouragement, connections and even a laugh on a topic that you have created for you – with content (people) that you have put there for you – and if that isn’t Personal – I don’t know what is.

Colleen

May 28, 2013
by leesensei
0 comments

It’s an “ALN” not a “PLN”….or it should be…

MC900438747There’s a lot made about the Personal Learning Network (PLN) these days. I know it isn’t a new idea. For years teachers who wish it, have taken personal time and initiative to connect, learn and expand their professional skills. In some schools this is easier than others to do. Many of us work in schools that do not give a lot of personal learning time – and instead favour group Pro-D. Others have the freedom to spend much more time on personally designed pursuits.

Enter Twitter and suddenly, regardless of your school’s focus, the ability to connect and learn on your desktop. Twitter has proven to be revolutionary for many of us -and we enthusiastically search out people, and links to others, that add to our professional lives.

However a PLN doesn’t end with following people on Twitter. I would argue it’s not how you construct it but if, and how, you use it. To me the most important part of the PLN isn’t the Network or the Personal at all. It’s the Learning that is key. And it cannot stop there. To really have a PLN that counts, I believe, you have to be an ‘Active’ Learner. This isn’t about tweets or retweets at all. What do I mean by “Active Learning”?.

Trying Something New You Got From Your PLN: It may be taking something that is shared with you, using it, testing it, maybe even adapting it and then, and this is the most important part, offering up your view/experience with it to the Twitterverse. Would you consider that someone had mastered a skill if they never had to demonstrate that they could use it?

Attending a Hashtag Chat: I admit that some of these chats are so big that the ability to put in ideas, and even see what’s going on is difficult. But there are so many out there that finding one that fits for you is possible – and many lists of them exist if you search for them. For me #langchat,  (Foreign Language teachers) on Thursday is the one. It’s an easy first step to lurk at these chats but to be actively participating, even if it’s just tweeting your presence, is activity- and maybe the first step to joining in.

Check In On a Regular Basis : Active also means that you make a concerted effort to check in on your PLN on a regular basis. I find it ironic that so many educators moan about no time to learn but, when it is as easy as following a list on a subject, seem overwhelmed at ‘how much time’ they may need to invest. Yes it takes time, any learning does if it is to be meaningful.

Many teachers are the first to say that they want to expand their skills and try new things. Creating a PLN using Twitter is a good first step…then making it an ALN is the next…isn’t it?

Colleen

January 25, 2013
by leesensei
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From Lurking to Listing to Chat – The Twitter Journey

As I began to build my personal learning network (PLN) I didn’t know a hashtag from a MT. But I knew something exciting was happening for educators on Twitter. The road to a robust PLN begins with the signing up for Twitter – then the journey begins…

Who you are – I noticed that I followed people that shared a bit about who they were – and what they are interested in. I made sure my profile tells a bit of that. Also I quickly learned to get rid of the egg. If you don’t want to share your photo there are lots of publicly licensed images to draw from. People share a lot on twitter and your profile is an indication that you will too.

Follow – As I began to build my personal learning network (PLN) I didn’t know a hashtag from a MT. But I knew something exciting was happening for educators on Twitter. So I began with a direct search (‘languages twitter teaching), then I learned about hashtags. I followed a few who seemed to have something to say. I also look to who they follow for more possibilities. Tailor your PLN to what you want easily this way. You may at times edit who you follow – and this is okay too as it shows you are becoming more purposeful in constructing your PLN.

Lurk – Most of us start as ‘lurkers’…watching the stream, finding out information. Initially maybe I wasn’t sure that I had much to say. I was excited to see what was out there – so I watched, found people to follow, expanded my PLN gradually and thoughtfully. Lurking is the first step as you take time to learn more about what Twitter can offer. I know many who right now only lurk – but I’ll be eventually they will be confident enough to begin to share!

List – As you follow I recommend that you start to list. Make the lists based upon why you chose to follow in the first place – if you looked at the profile. Maybe you follow for more than one reason. As you follow more and more lists make it easy to cut through the noise and get a ‘hit’ of what you want. For me  – I visit my ‘edtech’, ‘langchat’, and ‘japanese teachers’ when I can and I love that my stream is sorted into these convenient categories.

Retweet then Tweet – I started with easily with a few RTs (retweets) – something I felt was pertinent and relevant. At first I wasn’t confident enough that I had much to say. Then I began to MT – modify the retweet and add my own quick thought or perspective.   Finally I found my voice and started to share thoughts, resources and ‘finds’ that inspired me in the classroom.

Chat – The  scheduled ‘chat’, for me #langchat, is the most powerful pro-d I know of – each week something new to learn and discuss. We often work in isolation and the chat gives us a community to share and learn from. I use  Tweetdeck or Tweetchat during these to allow me  to follow the stream exclusively. Introduce yourself and your reason for being on the chat. Some chats are huge and the stream flows. Many chats will publish a digest – like #langchat does – that allows you to see the ‘big’ takeaways from the time. If you find yourself noticing certain tweets more than others that just may be someone to follow!

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…I encourage you to dip your toe into Twitter and begin constructing a PLN – your teaching will be the better for it!

Colleen

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