Twizza: Reheated

This was honestly one of the busiest days of the last several months for me as a teacher, starting with my impromptu, albeit productive, Google Wave session with @ShellTerrelland @MrR0g3rsat 5:30 in the morning and ending with my Twizza in-service. If you are just reading for the first time, you’re probably thinking something like: “Twizza? That sounds kind of like Twitter.” You’re on the right track. Twizza is an idea I blatantly stole from @lasic(with his blessing) whereby I introduced teachers to Twitter in an informal setting and gave them free pizza. I would like to thank my principal for buying the pizza and @WadleyMoosefor baking a nice pineapple upside cake.
Before I can really explain how Twizza went, I need to give you brief outline of the many obstacles we had to overcome to even have this meeting. First, 3 weeks ago, the director of technology agreed to review Twitter. I gave him some literature about how it could be used for professional development and for educational purposes. I plead my case in every way I know how. He came back with a decision that the school district is not ready to unblock Twitter. I am not here to speak poorly of my administration. I disagree with him, but I respect his decision. I invited him to my Twitter in-service nonetheless; he declined to come and told me to follow the proper channels. I did. My principal supported us and my assistant principal in charge of professional development registered the session with the appropriate people over a week ago so that teachers could get in-service credit and the site could be unblocked for a few hours. Having gone through such channels, we were fairly confident. Around noon, I received an email that said we could not meet as an in-service because Twitter is not considered as useful for professional development at this time. Twitter will remain blocked completely.
Of course, I already have people coming in from 4 different schools. There are Twitter apps that are unblocked that work, but they don’t work without an account. No matter what I tried, I could not figure out a way for teachers to make an account. It was too late to change venue. Plus, we just got back from a 5 day weekend because of snow days, so everyone forgot (including me until @WadleyMoosebrought in a cake at 6 am). Because of the snow days, I didn’t ask everyone to make an account at home.
So, we went on without accounts. Everyone had a good time. There was a lot of good discussion about the power and potential of Twitter. Almost everyone seems excited to try it and has agreed to give it a shot and send me their usernames, which I will add to the #cmcss directory. We went over how it works, how to use it in school, why to use it, how to find followers, and I even gave them a TweepML list to get the started following some helpful people. We also looked at last night’s #edchat, the quality of which impressed many. All in all, it was a success. We only have about 10 people show up, but if most of them start to use it well and spread the word, then I consider it a success. Even if they don’t, a good time and a good discussion took place, which is an accomplishment.
There was only one person who seemed to be less than excited. She was interested, but not being able to sign up for an account was a great hindrance and it kept her from being able to really participate well. She kept an open mind and agreed to seek help from @hankbat her school, so there is hope. Unfortunately, some people will not be able to fully utilize the power of social networking while most social networks are blocked, which is the real shame.

  • Debra Ann Gottsleben

    Jason so sorry to hear about the obstacles. I don’t consider my district to be very technologically advanced (tells you something when I am one of the most techie people there!) but I have to say although they don’t get my devotion to twitter they do NOT block it, I did do a twitter inservice and today one of our administrators talked about using twitter during our PLC (professional learning community) time as being a constructive use of this time. From twitter I have gathered (and annotated almost 1000 websites) for the teachers of my district. They are collected there for all to see and use. But as I find interesting information not only do I retweet it to people in my district (#msdthink) but I send an email directly to those teachers/admins who I think will find the information most useful. I am appreciative that my district has supported this effort. I hope that your district will reconsider. I frankly consider twitter to be one of my most powerful professional development tools. If I haven’t shared my diigo site with you let me know. Maybe if they could see all of the resources that come from twitter they’d reconsider.

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    I’m really glad your admins are supportive. Mine would be if they weren’t undermined by the technology dept. I’d definitely be interested in looking at your Diigo site. Twitter really is the best professional development I’ve ever gotten. Thankfully, most of the people who came today really seemed to catch on to that.

  • Debra Ann Gottsleben

    Here’s my diigo site: http://www.diigo.com/user/msdthink

  • Robyn

    Jason,
    Wow, it seems no mater the obstacles, you manage a way around them. Do you have a “tech” posistion in your school? Agood discussion is as good as any demonstration, and you seem to have pulled it off well. For the one that wasnt interested, why not try discussing with her the difference between “doing while learning” and “learning without doing?” It seems like she is more of a visual, hands-on type of learner, as many are, and may need a bit more instruction to intrest her. For the meeting in whole, congradulations on quick-thinking and being so creative. As second thought, i do not beleieve the school districe will ever truly understand the significance of social networkling sites in the school, or at least they wont until they discoer the usefullness of the sites themselves. Good luck on this venture to having them unblocked! Keep me posted!

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Robyn,
    She is more of a hands-on learner, as most are with computers. I think she understood the potential, but was a little discouraged by the tech aspect. @hankb is at her school. I talked to him and I think he’s going to try to help her out. The district is fairly hopeless when it comes to social networking. There are official computer tech and tech integration jobs, but they are downtown at central office. I am the unofficial tech integrator and troubleshooter for anything that comes up. I don’t mind, as long as I can make the time.

  • Robyn

    Jason,
    I understand that. I am more of a hands-on learner as well, though can read a book and learn something just as easily now. I think its great that so many people are connected and can help eachother when needed. Most districts are. A friend of mine who is not as of yet on twitter told me this morning that sites such as twitter, and facebook I believe, are not blocked at her school. We always call central office “The Man” because they never seem to be around when we need them, only when something isnt going right. I think it is great that you dont mind doing that. Are there any students who particularly ask for your help in your school? Fixing computers and such? If so, did you know you could possibly get a class period just for doing things like that? Well, in some districts you can, I dont know how yours works…What district are you in?

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Robyn,
    I am in a district in Middle TN, about an hour north of Nashville. I help out students when I can. Kids bring me old laptops and computers that they need fixed, I’m teaching programming to another, and have introduced several to Linux. I’m a librarian, so my schedule is in constant flux and I can’t have a set period for anything. Usually, I’m teaching for most of the day. I can only get all the tech stuff done by getting to school about 1.5 hours early every day.

  • Robyn

    Jason,
    Wow! Do you like it? You teach programming to a student? How is that working out for you? I tried teaching a younger friend about a computer she had and she lost all interest and just asked me to finish it for her. Linux is something I have yet to try, is it worth using on a regular basis? Ah, see, with you being a librarian, it would be difficult…Do you plan and work with many teachers at a time or is it a day to day basis? Wow, getting to school that early must be a hassle! How does that interfere with the others in your life? I am only asking because at this point in time I am unemployed, having just moved and all, and would like to return to school to become an english teacher, and I read that you had been one. How did that work with the techie part of your work?

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Robyn,
    I don’t mind getting in early. It’s quiet and I’m most productive. I co-plan and co-teach daily. We have a new school with an inexperienced staff, so my partner and I are working hard to setup a collaborative culture at school.
    I am an advocate so free and open-source software, so I have some experience with Linux and minimally with programming. The student comes in with questions and I help and guide as I am able. It’s about finding and cultivating their passions and if I can help him, I’m happy to do it. Linux has come a long way and if you choose the right version, it is fully as capable as Mac and Windows. Personally, I use Ubuntu 9.10. When I was an English teacher at another school, they gave me a babysitting period (credit recovery where students do self-paced online work) so that I could help out some with the technology issues that the school had. I would encourage you to go back. Being an English teacher in particular, although any teacher really, is an incredibly time consuming job. It is difficulty, but it is worth it when you can help the students. For me, being the school librarian is a better fit because I am able to work with more students and teachers; I feel like I have a broader impact even if that impact is sometimes narrower. In the classroom, you have the ability to impact the kids on a much deeper level as you see them everyday and often spend more time with them that their parents.

  • Robyn

    Jason,
    That is amazing. For me, I like the quiet to work in, and am usually more prodctive then as well, but since I have been here in Tennessee, it has made me miss my work that much more. How inexperienced is your staff?
    It is definitely nice to see kids wanting to actually learn something, isnt it? I love working with children and teens, but it seems these days they dont want to learn nearly as much as my mother tells me kids in her day did. Finding passions in teens is a fun experience, I think, because every one of them surprise me. I remember a girl I was tutoring about 2 years ago. She was real quiet, never said much beyond hi and asknig questions, but was an avid poetry writer. It took me almost 6 months to discover this. This girl would spend hours writing things from her heart. And she was good! When I discovered this, it also helped me with her tutoring, for I could take the english she wasnt understanding, and turn it into a poem she loved to read. I actually have some of her work still with me now. But if it wasnt for finding that passion for writing, I may not have been able to help her as well as I had! I really love teaching, and am actually going to look into the teaching department at a couple colleges. Any in particular you would reccommend? I always loved being in a library, and still do. My daughter thinks its a playdate for her, when really, it is a playdate for us both! Yes, school does seem to see more of our children then we do, doesnt it? While Zoey is still young (18 months) I want to spend time now nurturing her love of reading. I have yet to see the public library here in town, I heard it was good. I live in Clarksville, TN. Do you know if the library is any good?

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Robyn,
    The library here in town is not that wonderful. There seems to be a lot of wasted space that could be put to good use. The children’s library, though, is outstanding with a lot of giant stuffed animals, toys, and colorful decor. Our daughter is 15 months and we take her there most weekends. They have some reading programs for young toddlers on Thursdays as well. How long have you been in Clarksville?
    I have yet to find a teaching program that I like, although a lot of the teachers at my school went to and liked Trevecca.
    Those are the experiences that make teaching come alive, when you can connect with a student and his/her passion. We have a handful of veteran teachers, but most (80%) are in their first or second year.

  • Robyn

    Jason,
    Well, that is a shame! It sounds like Zoey would enjoy it though. Do you knlow what time on thursdays? I have been in Clarksville about 2 months, maybe 2 and a half. It has been a very hectic place for me, and very few people who will help me find where I am going. Trevecca? How can I get more information on this and other programs? What, out of those that are here. is your favorite?
    Yes, those are the moments that make teaching come alive! Connecting with them through their passions is so rewarding, isnt it? Do you have any students who really stick out in your mind? I dont play favorites by no means, but it seems every year there is alway that one that just steals my heart…Like about a year ago I had a student who came to school almost everyday in the same clothing and wasnt always the happiest, but she never really let anyone get to her. She had her days, but usually she was a happy kid, until things apaarently got bad at home. She came to me crying oe day, telling me things no child should suffer through, and I had to report the things she told me. It broke my heart to hear thjese things…To this day I cannot find anymore information on her other than she was taken from the home. I just hope and pray she is safe. After she had left I went back and realized that through helping her with her work and not giving up on her when she gave up on herself she had come to trust me. About a week after she left we found a notebook she had left…it was amazing, Jason, the things this girl come up with…it blew my mind that someone so young could see things like she did…what saddens me is that most of what she wrote was from personal experience.
    I’m sorry for the stories, but these girls really just amaze me. I miss teaching so much!

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Robyn,
    Don’t be sorry. I love hearing stories about students and I imagine anyone reading a teaching blog would feel the same. I have many students who stand out. It is a shame how hard many of their lives have been already.
    I’m not sure about the times: there is one from 6-18 months and one from 18 and older. The times should be on the library website on http://clarksville.org.

  • robyn

    Jason,
    I understand, it is just sometimes I tend to talk to much. It is sad to hear how bad many of their lives have been, I definitely agree with you there! There are many stories I could tell you, but one that honestly scared me was when the student come in and I took Zoey to the library yesterday, she loved it! It is quite a large place…It had some imteresting internal decor and the way things were set up was for once a child-friendly place. I plan on many more trips for us in the future. Thank you for all of your help, you have been more helpul than anyone I have met in person! Have you had time to work more on your book? I have been unable to read your first chapter, but plan to today.

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Robyn,
    No problem. It can sometimes be difficult to find help in this town. I’m glad Zoey enjoyed the library. I hope to have the first full chapter out by Sunday. I’m working on it now and am about 15 pages into it. Thanks for the support.

  • Robyn

    Jason,
    Thanks! Yes, I have seen the difficulty in finding help in tis town. She did, I cant wait to take her back there. I enjoyed it just as much as she did. I’m glad your doing well with this book. Your welcome for the support, you have my full support! Any help I can give, just let me know. I’d be glad to help, I dont have much else to do what with Zoey usually occupying her self and everything.