Starting from the beginning…let’s see…

It’s not very linear, this journey, or this blog post. At the time it all started, I felt like I had walked into a room with a whole bunch of strange controls and buttons and not understanding any of them, started randomly pressing them, slowly learning the functions of each and how they could help me or how it all added to the confusion!

It All Began with Twitter

After much hesitation, I joined Twitter sometime in the spring of 2013 thanks to a former colleague of mine Sharyn Skirtic (@Shaza33). Reading through Jeff Utecht’s first two chapters in his book ‘Reach’, I could relate to a lot of it, most especially the parts about how to truly get engaged in Twitter and start to build my Twitter PLN (Personal Learning Network). I can tell you, it wasn’t easy and I completely understand how people who have signed up never get into it. In fact, if I remember correctly Sharyn told me that she had previously deleted her Twitter account twice before finally giving it a third try and really getting the hang of it! By the way, if you’re just starting out on Twitter, Sharyn (@Shaza33) is a great person to add to your PLN, especially if you’re working in the PYP! Now that I have my Twitter account and my growing PLN, I cannot imagine teaching without it! I have learned so much in the past year from such amazing educators around the world, it still amazes me.

Jeff mentions an example in his book about a teacher who uses Twitter to help her kids learn more about the weather in different parts of the world. I recently did something similar with a project about trees around the world for our science unit on Trees, Wood and Paper. I tweeted out asking for pictures of trees because my students were wondering what trees looked like in different places. Just like Ms. Hellyer, I started getting pictures of trees from everywhere! My students were so engaged! They looked carefully at the trees observing, comparing, and asking questions. They found the locations of each tree on a world map and also communicated back with everyone who had tweeted us. Learn more about the project by clicking on the photo:

Click here to see the full post on ‘Trees Around the World’

How I Discovered COETAIL

Twitter eventually led me to connect with Ben Sheridan (@B_Sheridan) through a project he was doing with his Kindergarten class at the time. They had created a stop motion movie and tweeted it out without audio asking the world to add their own audio and send it back. At the time it was a perfect way for my students to inquire about ‘perspective’  under our unit on ‘How We Express Ourselves’.

Click here to see Ben’s post on the project

Click here to see my class blog post on how we went about interpreting the movie, then adding audio.

I noticed ‘COETAIL’ in his blog URL address and wondered at the time what in the world COETAIL was, but thought nothing more of it. I started to notice the #coetail tag on twitter from a few people in my PLN, and wondered again, but I just wasn’t really intrigued enough to go and search for an answer. Now, fast forward to the beginning of this school year where I have just started teaching at Taipei American School. This is when I met Bob Kowalec (@bobk) through his wife Carlee, who is my team leader. Carlee tells me that Bob’s doing this course called COETAIL and suddenly the whole thing clicks, “Oooooooh…so it’s a course!”, I think to myself. More research and discussion with people in my school led me to believe it was something I’d enjoy doing and benefit from, so here I am!

New Learning and Questions

Now let’s circle back to our reading ‘Reach’ by Jeff Utecht (I told you this post wasn’t very linear!), the one thing in there that I’m completely new to is RSS feeds. Last November Bob and I went to the iPad Summit at AES in New Delhi. On our flight there, he introduced me to Feedly and tried to explain to me the general concept behind what it’s for and how it works. What I remember most from that conversation was that he had chosen Feedly because he wanted to be able to read not only on his computer but on his iPad so he could take his reading with him wherever he went. So, when our first course assignments started, I decided not to go with Digg, and see if I could fiddle around with Feedly on my own because I’m like Bob, I want to be able to have access and read wherever I am. So far, I think I like it! I’ve been able to sort through posts quite quickly and see clearly who’s posted something new.

What I’m still confused about is that I see that RSS symbol on a lot of sites, what does that mean? Is it a ‘click to subscribe’ sort of thing? What if I want to add it to my site? How do I go about that? I’ve noticed in the Sixteen Theme Settings that there are ‘Social Settings’. I’ve already connected my Twitter and Google+, as you’ll see on my header. Then there’s an option for ‘Feedburner’ which I assume is for this RSS button to appear but I haven’t got a clue what to put in that box! Can anyone help? 🙂

8 Responses

  1. Isn’t it interesting how things come around again and again until you figure it out – it is like the universe is making you take notice.

    I was with Feedly previously, and thought I would give Digg a go just to see its capabilities. I do like it, it is similar to Feedly in many ways, and I can access it via the ipad, thanks to your comments, I have just tested it out.

    To get your RSS feed from websites with the RSS icon, when you click on it it will give an option for your own feeder, choose it and you then have the ability to add it to your feed. very simple and easy.

    1. I actually wondred if it would be worth signing up for Digg as well and just seeing which one I was more drawn to (then delete one of them later). Hmmm…you’ve given me more to think about. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Hi Pana, I’m so glad I found your post in my feed on “The Old Reader” that I set up after joining COETAIL because – for purely selfish reasons – I used the same template for my blog and I couldn’t get the right sidebar to appear on the main page, it only shows up on the blog posts – and Dianne (who I have learned from already!) suggested I needed my name and a photos on the front page and I didn’t think I could do it but now after seeing yours I know I can – so thank you! so much new learning!

    1. Hi Louise, so glad that my site was able to help you figure out what you wanted to do with yours! This community really is a great resource for new learning, I look forward to all the things I’ll learn from you!

  3. Hi Pana,
    I love the Trees project you mentioned in your post. What a wonderful way to utilise Twitter and to connect globally to gather the resources the students would otherwise find impossible to find.
    You can subscribe to other RSS feeds and have them email you the content. I have done this before I discovered the magic of Google Reader or Feedly. Not having looked as yet, there may be a widget you can add to your site that lets others add the RSS feed. I found sound How did you get on with Feedly? I swore by Google Reader, before it closed, to track all 250+ student blogs on my school class site. It was seamless and you could add a blog roll to the side of the site for easy viewing. I am gutted that this has gone and am not convinced of one or the other as yet. I guess only time will tell! Let me know how you get on.
    I look forward to reading your next instalment!

    1. Hi Nicki! Feedly is going pretty good, although I feel like since it’s the only reader I’m using I don’t have much basis for comparison to the other options that we were given. So far, the left sidebar makes it easy for me to see which sites have new posts and I also like the “mark all as read” feature too. I assume that most other readers would have these basic features though?

  4. It’s amazing how responses to your tweet from teachers in different parts of the world really brought meaningful learning into your classroom! I was touched reading the questions of your students! As young children, they quickly noticed the differences in the photos such as the colors of leaves. Best of all, those were real pictures from real people in parts of the world! The inquiry became more authentic since it’s coming from students and I bet they learned more as they investigated!

    It is also interesting to learn how COETAIL came into your radar. The value of PLN cannot be overstated. This is the place where sharing and learning happens. Needless to say, it’s a place where we can keep up-to-date in our practices. It’s made easier thanks to technology.

    As you have shown, daring to tweet without any expectations is the first step when reaching out to others. Luckily, responses were what you hoped for and students learned about the process as well! As I write this, I am guilty of just being a retweeter of others’ ideas aside from my latest COETAIL posts being automatically tweeted. Sometimes I have the urge to share ‘aha’-moments to the world, but I haven’t had the courage to do so.

    Following your example, I took one baby step today to tweet one burning idea in my head. It took a while because of the 140 character limit. The message I shared: To better understand what ‘biased’ means, students should learn to analyze what ‘balanced’ looks like. Next challenge sending out requests when a real need in my classes comes up. Thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Hi Mariko! How is your Twitter experience going? I’m really glad that I got to do that tree project on Twitter with my students because after that my school asked me to hold off on using Twitter with the kids until they can come to a consensus about how it should be used in our school. There isn’t an official policy yet. So, for now, Twitter will remain one of my personal professional tools but must stay out of my classroom until further notice! COETAIL is indeed a wonderful source to build your PLN and I am very excited about how much knowledge this cohort brings. Simply being a part of the COETAIL community definitely connects you to some awesome minds!

      Do let me know how Twitter is going for you, I look forward to following your journey!

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