Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

March 19, 2015
by leesensei

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!


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November 17, 2014
by leesensei

Opportunity, Advocacy, Connecting: My First ACTFL Conference

actfl_newOkay – I’m excited and a little bit nervous. Why? Well I’m off for my first big, really big, languages conference ACTFL 2014 (American Council on the Teachers of Foreign Languages) in San Antonio Texas. It’s the largest teaching conference I’ve ever attended, and my opportunity to hear and learn from some amazing teachers. Nervous also as I am helping to present the benefits of the #langchat PLN on Saturday (10am) to people who are interested in learning how Twitter can be a great source of Pro-D. I’m not nervous about presenting the information but I’m excited/nervous about the opportunity to meet my #langchat co-moderators in person. They are people who I look up to and respect but have never actually physically met before. What are they like in person? Are they taller than me or not? What do they sound like? Questions Questions! It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Opportunity – I’m so excited to be able to attend workshops to learn. One of the thrills of a conference is to be able to hear and ask questions of someone who is doing something that you hope to one day be able to do. It’s the energy and the confidence of presenters that often help to carry me into a new way of thinking and doing. Information I get at any time but it’s the personal input, the stories and the ‘cheerleading’ that makes all the difference and a conference is a great way to charge the batteries!

Advocacy – It’s no secret I am a big big #langchat fan. It has revolutionized my teaching and made me a way better teacher. I used to think I’d be content with a textbook, a workbook and some master copies – but nope, not any more. I’m making big changes in how I approach teaching, in small manageable ways, because of what I learn. The #langchat hashtag is my go-to for the latest ideas, problem sharing and food for thought. The #langchat chat is my go-to for diving into specific topics in a more detailed way. Both are essential to me as a professional.

Connecting – This year I was so lucky to be able to take a Pro-D day and drive 1 1/2 hours south of Vancouver to visit with Catherine Ousellin in Mt. Vernon (@CatherineKU72). When the border agent asked me how I knew the person I was going to meet in the US I replied sheepishly “I met her online”.  Ultimately I was allowed through and spent a morning with Catherine and her French classes – what a treat. There are many #langchat peeps who I will have the opportunity to meet in person – to actually speak to. They are the people who have supported me, laughed with me and provided me with inspiration and resources and more. I look forward to meeting them and thanking them – thanking them for being so willing to share and grow as part of the #langchat PLN!  I’m even going to seek out Joe Dale, the first person I ever followed on Twitter and my first resource for technology ideas for the language classroom.

meSo look for me at the conference, I’ll be wearing my #langchat T (red or black) and hopefully will get to say hi. If you see me – tshirt redplease say “Hi” too. If you know of any teachers who are curious about what #langchat is, or how to follow the chat etc., come see us Saturday at 10am. If you are a #langchat regular watch for tweets about our ‘in person’ meetup on Thursday night.

I look forward to reporting out what I’ve learned. See you in Texas y’all!








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October 5, 2014
by leesensei

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.


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November 12, 2013
by leesensei

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’….


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