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NTO principal employing Twitter for professional development - Odessa American: News

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NTO principal employing Twitter for professional development

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Posted: Thursday, July 4, 2019 3:30 am

As a way to familiarize George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa teachers with Twitter and using it as a resource, Principal Gerardo Ramirez used Twitter chats as professional development this summer.

Ramirez said he wants facilitators, as the teachers are called at NTO, to be familiar with the social media platform, and as a New Tech Network school, he wanted to make sure the staff was modeling technology and showing how it can benefit teaching and learning.

Some chat topics were using Twitter and social media in the classroom, “Why Project-Based Learning?;” developing project ideas; school culture; school wide learning outcomes; and how to start and roll out a project.

Ramirez added that it was something he was trying for the first time and it was voluntary.

“… As we started the first session, facilitators joined in and I think the word spread to the rest of them to go in there and share their ideas and collaborate. I am counting it as exchange days,” Ramirez said.

These are specific to technology exchange days, so if teachers take part they can be off March 6 before spring break next year.

“… It was a little bit out of my comfort zone. I had never tried something like that. I was a user of Twitter, but I was never a leader as far as doing a PBL (Project-Based Learning) chat or school chat, so I just decided to try something different and kind of continue the learning through the summer. That way the teachers still stay connected to me,” Ramirez said.

“It was really neat to see some of our new facilitators join in. They’re getting acclimated to it. Some of the terminology might be new to them, but I think it’s kind of easing them (in) before we go to the New Tech conference in July with that group. I think it’s kind of just breaking the ice with them and … bringing positivity, building momentum. I’m kind of getting to know them through Twitter, as well,” he added.

Ramirez said it has enabled him to share his philosophy as a principal, for facilitators to learn the culture of New Tech and share advice and ideas.

It also provided a way for facilitators who have taught in project-based learning to refresh.

“If I expect my teachers to push their practice — whether it’s technology, whether it’s a high-quality project, whether it’s strong assessments — I have to model it first as a leader. One thing that’s part of our culture at New Tech is when we talk about parallel process so whatever the administration team feels the teachers are going to feel it, so it’s important to model good behavior. It’s important to model strong instruction because we’re setting the tone as administrators for the teachers and the teachers, in turn, set the tone for the students,” Ramirez said.

When the New Tech Network has project-based learning chats, they use #pblchat.

The hashtag Ramirez uses for NTO is#teamecisd, which is the district wide hashtag, and then #ntotwitterchat.

He’s been averaging 14 to 15 facilitators out of a staff of 24.

“They can do it from home. Usually it’s tied to a resource, so I share a link with them. Maybe it’s a link to some research that’s been done on the topics; maybe it’s something for the New Tech Network; maybe it’s looking at rubrics. Then I send them some of those resources ahead of time for them to look at it and then they join in one of those evenings at 8 o’clock from the convenience of their home and then they chat away with me. It’s been kind of neat. It’s been very different,” Ramirez said.

Twitter has increased the characters you can tweet from 140 to 280. Ramirez said that number is OK. Sometimes it prompts him to refine what he’s saying in fewer words.

“But it hasn’t been that much of an issue. I think Twitter’s really rich in resources, so I think it’s kind of like brainstorming. If somebody throws (out) a question or an idea … you can actually see the threading that happens. There’s different threads and then people respond, and before you know it, the conversation keeps going and it keeps going,” Ramirez said.

Depending on the hashtag that’s used, the discussion may bring in other educators across Texas, the rest of the country or the world.

“Last night, I added the PBL chat hashtag and actually we had other people from the New Tech Network chiming in and adding to the conversation, which was pretty neat. So it’s not just something that our staff is conversating about. Even other people outside of our district, outside of the state can add their thinking,” he said.

AVID Coordinator and facilitator Tara Wein and English Language Arts facilitator Cheraldin Celis say they think the Twitter chat idea is beneficial.

“The 280-character limit makes you really think about what is important about what you want to say. There's been a few times during the #NTOTwitterChat that I've had to reword my answers to the tweets to include everything without running out of characters,” Wein said in an email.

“My learners will be tweeting some exit tickets, positive shout outs, and maybe even do a scavenger hunt this year. I’m really excited to include Twitter in my teaching toolbox!” Wein added.

Celis said it is a great initiative from the administration because it encourages facilitators to connect, build professional relationships with each other, share ideas and strategies and have conversations about what works in the classroom and what engages students.

“We all know social media has become part of lives, whether we like it or not,” Celis said in an email. “Students constantly use them to stay connected with peers and stay informed of current events, but one of the things we have discussed through the chats is how to use social media for the benefit of the students’ learning experiences beyond the classroom setting. Second, having conversations about PBL and accessing resources that keep us updated with the best practices, also counts as a necessity for a teacher. As a result, thanks to these chats, I am more connected, informed, and even fascinated with all the advantages of Twitter, for example. I realized it is as a learning tool for facilitators, as well as for learners,” Celis added.

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