Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 Breakout Sessions

Wondering what else we have waiting for you? Here is a peek at the 2012 Breakout Session Schedule.

Be sure to mark your calendar for January 28th and register soon!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Free Technology Tools that Increase Your Productivity

Because there was such a high demand for "staying organized in a digital world"on our conference survey, Dr. Frank Buck, organization expert,  will be presenting two different sessions at our conference on January 28th. Here's a preview of his other session. We know no one wants to miss out on this exciting session. Be sure to register for the conference soon!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Movie Not to Be Missed

While attending the NBPTS Conference in DC, the movie trailer to MITCHELL20 was shown. Immediately, the viewer is taken in by the overwhelming factors faced by these teachers. As a teacher, you immediately identify with the struggle, frustration, and challenges of teachers at the Mitchell School in Phoenix, Arizona. However, before you feel that all hope it lost, you see 20 teachers decide to change the one thing that they can control....the quality of their teaching. They are hardworking, dedicated and passionate about what they are doing and how that can positively impact their students.

As soon as I returned to my laptop, I looked for area screening. Unfortunately, none of the screenings scheduled were anywhere near Birmingham. Then, my path crossed with Kathy Wiebke, a board member of NBPTS and... the film maker of MITCHELL20. I inquired of Kathy about the possibility of bringing MITCHELL20 to Birmingham. The Alabama NBCT Network was moved by the story told in the film and thrilled that we can bring this amazing film to our annual conference on January 28th.

We are pleased to announce that Kathy, who is passionate about accomplished teaching that reaches every student, will be our other keynote speaker. She will be sharing stories from the film that all of us will find inspirational. Then after lunch, MITCHELL20 will be shown and there will be a question-answer session with Kathy immediately following. 

We are happy to let you know that your registration cost will also cover the cost of the movie screening until all seats are sold out. Any seats not sold for the conference, will be available for purchase. If you have colleagues, that may not be able to attend the conference, but would like to attend the screening, there will be a charge of $5. Don't delay in registering. We're sure no one wants to miss this exciting opportunity. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Listen Up, Montgomery!

Photo by Jo Jakeman
The voices of Alabama NBCTs have been heard over the last several months. But, who is listening? Other NBCTs? Is that the audience that we need to have our voices heard? Will that affect change in Alabama for NBCTs and ultimately our students?

When I was at the National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards Conference in Washington, D.C., I met Michelle Felis Accardi, an NBCT and elementary teacher from Albuquerque Public Schools. One is immediately impressed with her enthusiasm and passion for teachers, students and ongoing school improvement. She led the charge in making a difference with the state legislators in New Mexico and was recently named Director of State Policies and Advocacy for NBPTS. (The official press release can be found here).

We knew that Michelle's enthusiasm, passion and experience was just what Alabama NBCTs needed. We are thrilled that Michelle has agreed to join us this year at our annual conference. She will be delivering a keynote speech as well a breakout session where she will be assisting us in making sure our voices are heard beyond Alabama NBCTs and in impacting positive change in the state of Alabama for teachers and ultimately our students.

I'm sure all of you will want to make plans to join us on January 28th at Spain Park High School. More details can be found on  "Our Annual Conference" tab at the top of the page.

Monday, November 28, 2011

QR Codes in the Classroom and School Library

Here's another preview for our upcoming conference. When evaluating the data from our conference survey, "quick and easy technology tools" was highly requested. Michelle Wilson, NBCT and School Librarian for North Highland Elementary, will be presenting a session on QR Codes in the Classroom & School Library. Below is a preview of her session. I'm sure all of you will want to be sure to mark your calendar for this event.

QR Codes are popping up everywhere in mainstream culture. Churches, grocery stores, restaurants, retail stores and airports are using them. I've seen them on everything from mobile netbook carts to raisin boxes! What's the big deal about these little squares? Attend my session at the Alabama NBCT Network Conference on January 28th to discover the power of QR Codes in the hands of your students.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Digital Teacher

Our annual conference, which will be held at Spain Park High School on January 28, 2012, will soon be upon us.  After evaluating the online survey, the overwhelming number one topic requested was "staying organized in a digital world." We are fortunate to have Dr. Frank Buck, the get-organized guru, presenting two different sessions. Here is a preview of one of the sessions that he will be presenting. I'm sure none of you will want to miss it. Be sure to mark your calendar now.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What Does National Board Certification Mean to You?

I've seen many distressed people posting about the loss of stipends for being a National Board Certified Teacher. Which makes me wonder… why do people go through the rigorous process? Is money the primary motivation?
So I asked NBCT’s on Twitter and Facebook to answer this question and these are the responses I received.

ü  I was looking for a way to increase my salary since I was close to the top of the payroll chart, and was not receiving any salary increases.   I investigated both pursuing my doctorate or NBPTS.  I chose to pursue national boards for 3 reasons.
1.Applicable Professional growth: I felt it would be more directly tied to my work in the classroom.
2.Time commitment: It would not take me as long as a doctoral program.
3.Financial: I would get more money annually than with the step increase with a doctorate, and I was able to receive grant monies to pay for my NBPTS application, while I would have had to pay for my courses.

ü  When I did my student teaching I asked my cooperating teacher what made her decide to get her Ed. S  instead of doing national board.  She said, “Because it’s guaranteed money.”  I always kept that in mind, so when I decided to do it I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t always receive pay for it.  Like most people I don’t know if I fully understood what all I was undertaking when I began this. I had heard people say, “That was the best professional development I’ve even done.” As I was in the middle of it I thought they were crazy!  It just seemed like a lot of work and not professional development.  But, the more deep into the process I went, the more I reflected on my practice and the more I began to grow as an educator.  Now that I’m on the other side of national board certification I can say it truly was the best professional development I’ve ever done.  As a result, I am much more reflective on my teaching.  I completely believe it’s made me a better teacher because the effects of it are long-lasting.

ü   üFor me, it was a professional goal that I wanted to reach.  I knew the biggest benefit would be to my students, and it has been!  I thought I was a pretty reflective teacher beforehand but the process has helped me be even more purposeful and reflective in my teaching.

ü   üTo me it was the greatest PD I’ve ever done! I learned more about myself as a teacher and continued to grow and make changes since I now know how to deeply reflect on my teaching and its effect on my students. I got my masters after NB certification and the NB process definitely changed and improved my teaching more than my master’s degree -Although, my family did depend on the stipend – it may be a “little bit,” but with teaching we don’t have much – so a little means A LOT to many of us!!!!
üWhen I went through the process there was no stipend, or rather we didn’t know there was.  We were given a $5000.00 check at the governor’s mansion with no stipulations as to how to use it.  I guess that was the beginning, but it was a surprise, so it was not the reason I pursued National Board Certification.  I have always had this inner motivation to be the best I can be in whatever I try to do, and this was a means of self-validation.   I am an avid reader, reflective practitioner, and  passionate about my profession, but it feels good to be validated with other professionals in your field.

ü   üI pursued NB certification because I felt like it was the most powerful way to impact students' learning. The stipend was a nice addition, but it was not what motivated me to go through the certification process.

ü   üI'll be honest. I did it for the stipend. I'm a better teacher because of the process.

ü   üI did it because Tammy Dunn is an amazing educator and a NBCT. I wanted to be that kind of teacher.

ü   üI did it so I could get certified to teach Art, and get out of 1st grade :) but I keep working with candidates so I can keep what I learned at the front of what I do every day. End result, I feel terribly guilty when I waste a class period for stupid administrative duties.

ü   üI took a professional development session called Intel: Teach to the Future, and loved it! The instructors commented that the project-based learning the course promoted closely aligned with NBPTS, so my interest was piqued. A few weeks later I heard NB-certified school librarians at a conference sharing how much the process refined their practice, and as a natural lifelong learner, that hooked me. The scholarship and stipend were just the icing on the cake. Don't get me wrong, I think stipends for NBCT's is the best "merit pay" (Did I just open that can of worms?!) concept out there!

ü   üDr. Betsy Rogers was working at my school and talked to me about the process and how it would impact my teaching. She said it would be the best professional development I would ever participate in. She was right! I didn't even know there was a stipend until I went to my first STELLAR session. So that was like the cherry on top of my sundae ;-)

ü   üThe process was the best professional development I have ever been through. I received the state grant to fund my process. Originally, I went through certification for the stipend (which is still disappointing that it has been cut). Afterward, I did it for the impact it had on my teaching. I feel like I become a better teacher each year because I constantly assess my teaching based on the NBCT standards.

 üü  I started looking at National Board Certification as a challenge for myself and as an endorsement/confirmation of my teaching abilities. How do I compare with other teachers across the nation?  This comes across as being self-important, but this is  not my intent.  When we speak of comparison and how we qualify, I think of several veteran teachers who excel in their field, have won numerous awards for their efforts, but had to take a test (PRAXIS) to determine that they were indeed highly qualified.  With National Boards, you demonstrate your abilities in a holistic manner on film and paper and it is reviewed by your peers.  With all of this said, I find it rather ironic that National Boards is highly praised by lawmakers… almost to the point of having bragging rights as to which district or state has the most National Board certified teachers, yet the state is decreasing funding of the program.  The monetary cuts speak volumes as to the true importance of National Boards in the eyes of those who control finances  within the district and the state. 

ü   ü$5,000 IS INDEED A LOT OF MONEY and it WAS PROMISED for the LIFE OF THE CERTIFICATE. I was encouraged to go through the process by a professor at UAB.  I wanted to get certified to be “set apart” from other educators.  The money helped validate that I was “set apart” and had worked hard to be that way.

ü   üThere was no stipend when I first applied.  I think at the time I just wanted to have some way to confirm that I was on the right path to being a good teacher and I wanted something that was not based on the politics of a state department of education.  I don't sign my name NBCT, nor do I think there's anything wrong with that, but I am proud of the accomplishment and sometimes in difficult teaching situations I remind myself of that fact.

ü  I did it for several reasons. I like a challenge. Also several of my cohorts had attempted it and I didn't want to be left behind. I also was counting on the stipend to boost my retirement income. I should add that i am a better teacher and person because of the process.

ü  I went throughout it before we were promised a stipend. I had read it was the "bar exam" for teachers, and I wanted to see if I had what it took. I knew very little about the process and didn't know anyone who had already done it. I was obviously pleased when I was given a stipend plus $5000 for my classroom. I'm very disappointed that it has been reduced the last few years. I renewed a couple years ago, not knowing if I would still receive any stipend at all. I've been leading mentoring sessions in NE Alabama for 11 years, and this year's group is much smaller than any year before, which I'm sure is due to the dwindling stipends.

Many of the responses I received indicated that indeed the stipend was part of their motivation to pursue motivation.  Personally, I did not know about the stipend when I began the process.  I genuinely wanted to be a better teacher and thought this was a great way to improve my practice.  A coworker reminded me today that I have never turned down the stipend.  That is true and I have appreciated getting it and would hate to see it go away.  My friend also reminded me that if it had not been for the stipend, I might not have been able to pay for my renewal. 

Several people mentioned that they were also motivated by a fellow educator and/or mentor. This is huge!  I think it is our responsibility to encourage our fellow colleagues to pursue certification.  What we say about certification and the certification process could determine whether or not a colleague decides to improve their teaching in the most powerful professional development out there. 

Everyone agrees that going through the certification process improved our practice and continues to help us keep student learning at the forefront of everything we do. Research shows that students taught by NBCTs make higher gains on achievement tests. Many of you have had leadership opportunities because of the certification.  Parents are aware whether or not a teacher has been through the process and what it means. I encourage you to remember that you are accomplished teachers and unlike the stipend, this designation can never be taken away from you.

~Ellen Stubblefield
Ellen is the Early Childhood Specialist at Trace Crossings Elementary School in Hoover. You can follow her on Twitter @estubble .

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How has Teaching Changed?

I was recently asked by a mentor, friend, and current doctoral student to tell how teaching has changed over the past decade. This is what I wrote to her.

“I have been teaching 15 years, and there have definitely been changes. When I began teaching, we were taught the whole language approach. A few years later, I attended ARI training, and my approach to reading changed. Before, I was the leader, now I am a facilitator. Previously, I taught everything whole group, and instruction has now changed to small groups. The teacher has become much more of a facilitator (if instruction is done correctly).

Effective instruction is now data driven where previously it was based solely on teacher observation and weekly test grades. Data driven instruction is definitely the better method.

Although, language arts and math instruction has become better quality with the introduction of ARI, AMSTI, and data driven instruction, I feel we still lack in quality science and social studies instruction. Although we have the tools to use (equipment and teaching strategies), time has become a major factor. Standardized testing has greatly influenced this. I mentioned data driven instruction being the best. However, standardized testing is not always. It is a good starting point, but regular progress monitoring is most effective.

Long story short, I feel as if I am a much more effective teacher now than I was years ago. I feel I have received quality professional development and collaborated  with fellow teachers to achieve this. I also wonder how much is self motivation. I want to do bigger and better. I want what is best for my students. I don't want to become a stagnant teacher.”

After submitting this to her, I began thinking how the National Board Certified Teacher process affected these changes. Becoming an NBCT is by far the best professional development process I have ever received. By looking intimately at myself as a teacher and comparing it to the National Board for  Professional Teaching Standards: Literacy: Reading/Language Arts, I realized I was doing a lot of things right, but I was also doing some things ineffectively. I continually look for things I need to improve based on the standards, and I correct them. I cherish the process of becoming an NBCT, and I think that is the biggest factor in the changes of my teaching style and has refreshed me as a teacher.

~Written by Cara Whitehead
You can follow her on Twitter @WhiteheadsClass. Her class website can be found here.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How Are You Building Your PLN?

How are you building your PLN (Personal Learning Network)? In a previous post, I wrote Why Should I Tweet on Twitter? where I explained the power of finding those specific educators that you can connect with, learn from, and share your own experiences with using Twitter. Now, I want to share with you another tool for connecting with educators. This is a tool that I approached skeptically, but one that sky-rocketed my professional learning. One of the most appealing aspects was that it was PD that I could do from the comfort of my own home...it's PD in your PJs. It's where I met and connected with many of the educators that my students collaborate with throughout the school year. I also learned how to use many of the tech tools that my students love using this tool. So, have I peaked your interest? Are you open-minded?

What I'm talking about is Second Life, a multi-user virtual environment. I realize that many of you have seen the crazy spoofs of it on televisions shows like The Office and Oprah. However, being the resourceful people that we are, educators learned how to harness the power of this free virtual space in order to create a real-time learning experience. You can meet for  formal sessions, presentations, and workshops. There are informal gatherings where like-minded people meet to discuss certain topics.

For example, currently a group of teachers from Virginia are conducting a book study on the book Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing? on Thursday nights at 8pm Central. Each week, anyone interested shows up and there is a round table discussion about different chapters. On Thursday the 9th, the discussion is about differentiated instruction. Attendees bring examples, questions, comments, and challenges to discuss. And did I say all of this is free?

If that doesn't interest you, there are a myriad of other topics and discussions going on just about every night of the week. Here's is a listing of the ones held by ISTE. Discovery Educators Network also holds regular events.

Also, did you know that there is also a Second Life NBCT Network? It a network of NBCTs from around the country who meet to discuss educational issues, host speakers, promote professional growth, and support candidates. They provide a support system for NBCTs and candidates who may not have that support in their local areas.

If you are intersted in learning how to get started, check out this website.The important thing to remember is that it is no matter what methods we choose, it is important for us to continue building our PLN to remain accomplished teachers and grow great schools. As John Dewey said,
 "The world is moving at a tremendous rate. Going no one knows where. We must prepare our children, not for the world of the past. Not for our world. But for their world. The world of the future." 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Some Inspiration

As we are all beginning a new school year, here is some inspiration from an 11 year old fifth grade student from Dallas ISD. It was performed for over 20,000 educators.

If you have a favorite inspirational video, please share it with us.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teachers Supporting Teachers

How well I remember the day I received the notice that I was a NBCT. I recall reading my letter over and over, just to make sure that I was reading correctly. Aside from “Congratulations. You are a National Board Certified Teacher!” one sentence struck a chord as I read and reread: “You have the opportunity to play an active role in charting the future of American education.” My first thought was, “Who, me?” But then I began to get excited and to wonder exactly WHAT that role would be for me. I had no idea at the time that my journey would lead me down the professional development road.

It started as a simple request from my system’s Technology Director (who is also a NBCT) to help mentor prospective NBCT’s through the process. Before long, I was conducting faculty trainings, speaking at system-wide professional development meetings, and providing PD on the state level. I partnered with my dear friend and colleague Cara Whitehead (@whiteheadsclass) to present many of these sessions and even to give input to some of our administrators regarding teacher professional development.

While I never anticipated this future for myself, over the last few years I’ve realized just how important this role is, not only for the students and educators I reach, but for myself as well.
So why do it?
  • ·        Collaboration is akin to survival. No one can do it all, all by themselves. We need input from other educators who share the same passion for student learning. We need ideas, advice, and encouragement from those who know exactly what goes on in the trenches. Providing professional development allows you to network with others, gaining from them as much as you give in return.
  • ·         As a NBCT, you have a voice. The fact that you’ve earned this distinction gives weight and credibility to what you say. This influence can extend to your faculty, district administrators, state organizations, and even further.
  • ·        It’s one way to “give back.” We’ve all been there---first year teacher, not sure what we’re doing, looking for advice, looking for ideas. I’ve gleaned so much over the years from educators who were simply willing to share! Sharing what I’ve learned is the least I can do.
  • ·        You can have a hand in more students’ learning. This is the most exciting idea to me! By simply sharing with other teachers, you could influence the teaching and learning going on in multiple classrooms!

Looking back down that road, I must say that I would definitely do it all over again! The benefits far outweigh any negatives, and I have learned and grown at least as much from conducting professional development sessions as the educators I’ve helped.

~Written by : Farrah Kilgo
You can follow Farrah on Twitter @KilgosClass. She blogs at http://thinkshareteach.blogspot.com/

Monday, August 1, 2011

Who Speaks for the Teachers?

Julie Ramsay and I have just concluded attending and participating in an extremely busy but very exciting NBPTS conference.  I do believe the caliber of speakers this year (Diane Ravich, Arne Duncan, Linda Darling-Hammond, 2010 teacher of the year---Sarah Brown-Wessling and Pedro Noguera) contributed to making this an outstanding and most memorable event.

Here are my reflections from NBPTS 11:

Good teachers' voices are not being heard nationally or locally.  Over and over again at this conference I heard the question,  “Who speaks for the teachers?”  How can we stop the “beatings” (i. e. negative press) and tell the story of how teachers are helping students achieve even when faced with less and less resources? How do we best communicate that teachers are the solution and not the problem?

We must become teacherpreneurs, not only of the National Board process, but of our student successes and of the teaching profession.  We need to become less humble and more active!

Administrators and legislatures need to trust teacher voices and allow them to make policy and decisions that affect the classroom.

Teachers need to also trust student voices so that they can be given the autonomy to make their own decisions in the learning process.

 Within this decade 50% of our nations teachers will retire.  If accomplished teachers don’t find their voice, the quality of the teaching profession may never recover.

Social networking is a powerful engine for teacher voices. I have seen this first hand through the response the network has received on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.  We need more of your thoughts and comments!

Finally, my hope is that the ALNBCT Network will become the vehicle in Alabama through which our voices will and must be heard.


If you are on Twitter, check out #alnbctnetwork and #nbct11 for the latest on all of this year’s conference activities.

If you are not on Twitter check out our Resources tab for step by step instructions.

~Nancy Turpen

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reboot! Teaching Transformed

Thursday was the beginning of the 2011 National Board Conference “Reboot! Teaching Transformed,” and so far it has lived up to the theme.

Governor Bob Wise, current president of NBPTS, kicked off the conference by outlining changes we will be seeing on the national level within the year.  The new NBPTS theme will be “Grow Great Schools.” More info will be available at growgreatschools.org by the end of December.

Governor Wise emphasized that as America’s partner in education, NBPTS will continue to:
·      Advance Student Learning and Achievement
·      Support Excellence in Teaching
·      Engage Leaders
·      Transform Education School by School

Next, we had the pleasure of listening to and engaging with Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, and Drive.  Mr. Pink pointed out that many experiments over the past fifty years have shown that motivation and positive behavior do not usually increase with rewards.  He explained that the theory worked well in the 19th and 20th centuries, but not at all in the 21st.  Research indicates that time after time, when teachers are to receive a reward for an increase in their students’ test scores, those scores do not rise.

One of the exciting takeaways was to learn about schools that have one day when students can work on any project they choose. Mr. Pink called these “FedEx Days.” Read this blog post to see how one school executed this exciting concept:  http://stumpteacher.blogspot.com/2011/03/innovation-day-2011.html. He concluded that in order to achieve enduring motivation, people need autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  You can watch a nine-minute video that captures the essence of Daniel Pink ideas at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc.

Julie Ramsay and I then headed to the Network Affiliates presentations.  The AL NBCT Network table was filled with resources and occupied a prime location at the front of the room.  We emphasized our annual conferences and social networking and the many free resources available to anyone who visits our website.  I also had the opportunity to talk with other affiliate leaders and develop a great list of wonderful ideas we may want to incorporate.  Julie and Mary also presented information about how to be involved with the Second Life NBCT Network.

Finally we all had the unique opportunity to hear Diane Ravitch.  She is truly remarkable and, as Julie tweeted, a champion for teachers.  In her opinion, No Child Left Behind is a ticking bomb that will destroy public education.  She also believes that the current Race to the Top is no better.  Using numerous examples, Dr. Ravitch argued that teachers should never be evaluated by students’ standardized test scores. She further emphasized that politicians should not be involved in education.  In closing, she issued this imperative—all teachers need to be active in order for “the beatings” to stop and to enable educators the opportunity to make vital decisions for the profession.

The conference continues on Friday. We look forward to being able to share what we are learning with all of you. Watch our Alabama NBCT Facebook page and our Twitter feed for updates throughout the day.

~Nancy Turpen


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hill Day 2011

Today, Donna Ross and I represented Alabama NBCTs in DC by visiting 8 of Alabama's legislators (the 9th received a packet of information but was unable to meet). Later in the afternoon we were joined by five additional Alabama NBCTs. We stressed the power of National Boards Certification in empowering teachers to reach each individual student  which in turn directly impacts and reforms education in each of our classrooms. Then we showed them the evidence of how a NBCT is better equipped to meet the needs of his/her students even in high risk schools. We requested that they each continue to support ESEA which continues to fund NBPTS with 1% of those funds.

We were met with a wide variety of responses. Our meeting with Congresswoman Terri Sewell's staff, Spencer Bachus' staff,  and Jeff Session's staff went exceedingly well. They were very interested in what we had to say; they listened; they asked questions. We were able to briefly speak with Representative Bachus who was very interested in what we had to say.

When we walked into Representative Martha Roby's office, she was just returning from picking up her daughter from camp. She and her legislative assistant took the time (40 minutes) to meet with us and discuss education. She is a freshman on the Hill and on the Education and Workforce Committee. She has a hearing tomorrow and asked us a lot of questions about education and the National Boards process.

Overall it was an amazing day. We were very appreciative of everyone taking the time to meet with us. I feel like everyone listened to what we had to say and I hope that today, we made a difference for the children of Alabama.

~Julie D. Ramsay
(Special thanks to Gene Ramsay for taking all of these photos during Hill Day.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Does Being an NBCT Mean to You?

In two weeks, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Conference will begin. With school and personal budgets being what they are now, many NBCTs are unable to travel to Washington D.C. to attend in person. However, NBPTS is providing some ways that you can still contribute and participate from the comfort of your own home.

One is by creating a video of what being an NBCT means to you. They are going to be running these videos at the conference.  Some things that you might want to consider is how it changed your teaching, how it impacted the way you positively reach your students, or how it changed your passion for teaching. It doesn't have to be a professional video just one that shares your thoughts on being an NBCT.

The videos need to be between 15 seconds and 2 minutes long. You can upload them to nbct.us/NBPTSDrop . More information can be found here:What being an NBCT means to you.

Another way that you can participate is through their virtual conference.The website states: The Virtual Conference offers all seven general sessions, two concurrent sessions to choose from during each of the concurrent session time slots through lunch on Saturday, and pre-recorded video and professional development to watch at your leisure.You can find the schedule and details at the virtual conference link above.

We hope that you will be able to participate in some capacity. Stay tuned for more updates and professional development.

Until then...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Supporting Learning with Technology

As the summer is upon us, most of us are finding ways to grow as educators and better meet the needs of each of our students. Many people set goals to evolve our teaching practice with the support of digital literacies with our learners. It can be overwhelming to know where to begin. The following podcast, created by one of our members, Julie D. Ramsay, gives advice on how to support learning with technology.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why Should I Tweet on Twitter?

I’m sure everyone has noticed how the little blue Twitter symbol is popping up everywhere from ads to businesses to celebrity endorsements. But, many educators don’t know that Twitter can be easily harnessed to build your own Personal Learning Network (PLN). Building your own PLN on Twitter can be frustrating if you don’t know a few simple tricks to get started.
Twitter is a perfect tool to use for the busy educator. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters per tweet. First of all, you need to know the difference between mentions, retweets, and direct messages. Mentions are when you want someone else to see what you are tweeting. You will see the @ symbol with their name such as @alnbctnetwork. That way you can answer a question that someone has posed and they will see your response in their personal Twitter feed. Retweets are when you find something that you like and you want for the people following you to see that tweet that someone else has tweeted. Direct messages are messages you only want the person mentioned to see.
Once you’ve set up your Twitter account, you will want to begin searching for like-minded educators that you can learn from and share with. If you have an educator that you admire, search for them. Then look at who they follow. Chances are they are someone that you would like to follow as well. By finding and following other educators, you are giving yourself a 24 hour hotline to resources, support, and encouragement for any of your educational needs…all from the comfort of your own home or smart phone for free.
I recently had someone tweet “I don’t understand why no one is answering my questions.” Many educators forget that their tweets are only seen by people who are specifically following them. If you only have two people following you, then only two people are going to see your Tweets. One thing to keep in mind is that Twitter is about building relationships with these other educators. Most people begin by being “lurkers.” They simply read what everyone else is saying and take advantage of resources that are posted, but they are not adding anything to the learning community. Many seasoned tweeters won’t follow you on Twitter unless you have interacted with them in a conversation.  They don’t know you. You need to join a few conversations or make a few comments. Once you do, a whole new cache of professional knowledge is open to you.
Did you know that most conferences now have a live Twitter feed? That’s right. You can still gain professional learning being streamed and tweeted by those in attendance in real time. In order to join that feed, you will need to find the hashtag (#) for that conference. To easily follow those hashtag groups, you’ll need to download an app like TweetDeck or HootSuite. It will then give you the ability to add an additional column just for a hashtag group. For example, if you want to follow the feed for the NBPTS Conference in Washington, D. C. this summer, July 28-30, add a column with the hashtag #nbpts11. Attendees there will make comments, give summations, and tweet resources that anyone following that hashtag (regardless of whether or not they are Twitter friends) will be able to read and keep up with the learning going on in D. C.  To make sure that your tweets are added to a Twitter feed, you add the hashtag name to your tweet and it will show up in that feed.
Using hashtags, you don’t even have to wait for a conference. Using the same principles, there are regular educational chats conducted through Twitter daily.  All you need to do is find a group that interests you. Here is a listing of the different educational chats from @Cybraryman1. Don’t be afraid to follow a chat, read a bit, and then join in the conversation.
So why should you tweet on Twitter?  With Twitter you can connect, collaborate, and work with educators from around the world. You have the power to develop your own personalized learning network of people you respect. Whatever you want to learn, struggle with, or share, your Twitter friends are there twenty-four/seven to lend a hand, provide answers, and celebrate successes. Instead of struggling to find the perfect tool to use with your students, you can have multiple answers within a couple of hours or even minutes by just tweeting your question. You may not have the time to read and search for that perfect resource, but through Twitter relevant and often groundbreaking resources are shared constantly. Getting other perspectives offers you the opportunity to see your situation with a new point of view.  So what are you waiting for? Start tweeting and be sure to follow us @alnbctnetwork. We’d love to learn with you.
Here are some additional resources on the subject of harnessing Twitter to build for yourself a personal learning network:


Sunday, May 1, 2011

What is Professional Development?

This is a question that can strike a sense of dread in even the best of educators. One of our goals at the Alabama NBCT Network is to provide support and constant professional learning. One way that we aim to do this is by sharing as many resources and ideas as we can through all of the professional development opportunities in which we engage. That was the driving force that caused us to form this blog, our Twitter feed, and a Facebook group (see the Resources page for more details). We want to create a portal that provides constant professional development not only for our network members but for all teachers.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to attend the first EdCamp Birmingham held at Samford University. EdCamps, TeachMeets, and Unconferences are a different type of  format for professional learning. They are participant-driven. Instead of a set program, attendees arrive and volunteer to lead discussions on topic about which they are passionate. A board is formed and participants decide which conversation they want to join. You vote with your feet. If there are two conversations you would like to join, you just go to that session, stay a while and then move on to another conversation.

The presenters are really facilitators. They begin by sharing a bit of knowledge and then engaging those in attendance to ask questions, draw on their background knowledge, make comments, and brainstorm new ideas. At first it may seem a bit daunting because it is different than the usual "sit and get" type of professional development that most of us have been involved in throughout our careers. However, the rich conversations that happened not only in the hour time slot continued at lunch and dinner and are still continuing today through Twitter.

We want you to benefit from the conversations from yesterday. So here are some of the resources, that we gained through our time at EdCamp yesterday:

  • http://cybraryman.com/ The Cybraryman (a.k.a Jerry Blumengarten) has been cataloging Internet resources since the mid-1980's. He has a wealth of information and resources on any subject that you can imagine. If you have a question, he (or his wife, Gail) will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.
Tools shared through the Smackdown:
  • TitanPad Need for several people to work on one document at a time and other resources are blocked? TitanPad provides that option in real-time.
  • ComicLife-Do your students enjoy graphic novels and comic books? This let's you create them digitally for free. Here's an example of one done by Nikki Robertson, Library Media Specialist at Auburn High School
  • MyFakewall- Do your students like Facebook? This tool provide your students the free space to create wall that look a lot like Facebook for book characters, historical figures, etc. Here's one on Cinderella and one on Benjamin Franklin 
  • Google Voice- Want to stay in touch with your students and their parents without giving out your phone number? Then Google Voice is for you. There is a great video on the homepage that explains how it works...for free.
  • iCivics-This site has a host of games and simulations in which 3rd-8th grade students can engage. Everything from voting, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and how people become citizens of the United States.
  • Weebly- Do you or your students want to create a website? Weebly makes it easy...and it's free.
We hope that you've found something useful in this post. Come back often as we will continue post information that we hope you will find beneficial. Until later...