Category Archives: Kinderchat

Cameras and Kindergartens

IMG_0036Today I learned a valuable lesson: if you want to see what your students see, give them a camera. Today we went outside and took the school iPads with us to photograph what we see. I am truly awed by the images some of my students took, and I am laughing at some of the videos they filmed. I can’t post the videos on here, but let me tell you, I have some funny kids in this class. I didn’t help them with the images and none of them are edited. These are simply the things my students saw through the lens today. It has inspired me. Enjoy.

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That Prickly Tech Feeling

Tonight I spent an hour of my evening, as I often do, engaged in the Kinderchat conversation. Tonight we were discussing Google in the Classroom. It was a quieter chat for me. I didn’t engage as much as usual, and the evening chat left me with that itchy, prickly feeling like Leonard’s sweater from a Big Bang Theory episode. (The Itchy Brain Simulation) It took a bit of DMing a couple of friends to work out that prickly feeling.

There was a great deal of conversation at first about teachers using Google to collaborate with other teachers, parents and admin. I don’t have any problem with that. I love using Google with my tiegrad classmates and friends to communicate, share and do projects together, If I had parents who were willing to share their email address with the school, I would gladly start up a gmail account and Google calendar for the class.Some of the things that people were discussing were fabulous and noteworthy. My itchy sweater feeling wasn’t coming from there.

Then the discussion started to veer into how we as educators use Google and the Google Apps with the Kindergarten kids. Again, I think there are some great features within Google to use with the littles. We look for the provinces, states and towns where our twitter friends are on Google Maps. We search out places we want to travel to and places we are from on the map app. It is a great adventure for my kids to see the world spinning and to see how the other side of our planet is dark while we are sunny. So cool when you are 5 (or 41). We use Google images A LOT. Whenever we are not sure about some information or what something may look like, the cry is roused by small voices, “We should Google that!” and we often do. Google images has some amazing visuals for kids and I don’t want to stifle anyone’s passion for using Google in the kindergarten classroom.  But, when I hear of quizzes being made for and marked on Kinders in Google Sheets and the workbooks being made in Google Slides, it does makes me cringe. But again, the itchy sweater isn’t coming from there either.

Kinderchat talks a lot about issues close to our hearts. Two of my issues, play and the natural world, are topics we cover in the 8 week cycle of chat topics. My friends, Mardelle and Amy, really helped me to identify the itchy sweater tonight. When we talk about PLAY in the kindergarten classroom, there are many people who express why they aren’t able to play in the classroom: School regulations, testing, Common Core, and more. We try to provide advice, research and help for those who are advocating for play in their classes. During the NATURE chats, there are people expressing why they can’t take kids outside for play: there are no green spaces, school regulations, outdoor play is seen as unimportant and more. Again, support is provided and advice is given to those who need it.  But when the topic of technology comes up, there seems to be very little “I can’t” in the chat.  Tonight, a debate started over typing vs printing. Is typing important? Probably. Is it important to the fine motor muscles of a 4 or 5 year old? I would say no. Kinderchat co-creator Amy happened to have the research to show supporting her “teach printing” belief, and I am thankful for that. Somehow my “because my gut says so” defence seemed to lack something in the debate. But when I watch the finger muscle development of my students as they work with clay and plasticene, as they try to manipulate chopsticks this week, I know in my heart of heart, that they are not ready for typing in Kindergarten. Mardelle asked me a question that really defined my itchy sweater: “Why is tech such an easy sell when play, and being outside, is such a tough one?” The more research I read about anxiety and stress in young children, the more I wonder why we aren’t outside every single day. I am absolutely not against tech with the littles. It has it’s place in the school classroom and the natural classroom. But if it is simply becoming another workbook, worksheet, or flashcard tool, then we are not considering what is developmentally appropriate for the age. If we are willing to jump into technology with 2 feet, shouldn’t we be jumping into play and nature with our everything? I think you know where I stand. What do you think?

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Binoculars, Bears, and Campfires- Oh My!

Last week we went outside. Don’t get me wrong, the kids go outside every day for recess and lunch in the cold, the wet and the horrible. We tend not to have inside days at our school, and have adopted the mantra of “You are not made of sugar; you will not melt.” But last week was beautiful: clear skies, sun shining and, for us, cold. With the wind chill, it felt like -15 on certain days. On this particular day, we were at a nice, warm, breezy 0 degrees.

I need to take a step back to earlier in the day. Our letter of the week was B. We were learning about bears, the colour brown, bananas and of course, we made binoculars. Let me tell you, 2 toilet paper rolls hot glue gunned together can actually make binoculars. In the imaginative minds of the 4 and 5 year olds, those binoculars worked. I mean, they really worked. Add a piece of string to wear them around your neck and those things are golden. Of course, the next question from every single child in my class was, “Can we take these outside for recess?” Well, I had bigger plans.

       

After lunch, we put on winter coats, mittens, hats, and scarves and we looked like we were heading out into the frozen wastelands instead of just the bottom field. A guest was with us this time. Our wonderful First Nations EA was coming outside to teach us a song about a bear, complete with sign language. Doing music outside was a gift. Our voices could be as loud as we wanted with no one shutting the door on our melodious singing.  It was quite exciting to have new binoculars, a new song in a new language and a glorious weather day.

Once released to go off and explore, my amazement at my small humans grew. My ELL boys decided they could see everything through the binoculars, and the vocabulary they were using made me smile. Apparently, 2 toilet paper rolls could help them see the lights at the buildings across the street, the wings and beaks on the geese flying overhead, and the waving hands of passengers in the plane who may or may not have been flying to India.  Other children could see the birds hiding in the trees, the squirrels hiding their winter “stuff”, and even the treads on my rubber boots.

At this point, I noticed my one 4 year old girl, kneeling in the mud with some sticks. I went over to talk to her, to make sure she was okay. What I found, reinforced my belief that we must, as teachers, get children outside. She was building a campfire. No, not a real one with flames and dangerous sparks, but this creative mind was trying to bend and balance sticks on top of each other to make a dome for her campfire. Slowly other children came over to check her campfire out, and the collaboration began. Bricks of frozen mud were chiseled out of the ground to support the wood, rocks were brought in from the gravel pit, and eventually 3 different campfire sites were created by these fabulous minds.  No, not every child was engaged in this, but the others had discovered that you could create a gravel angel by lying in the rocks just like you do in the snow. Some were climbing trees, and some were solving the mysteries of why the mud was frozen.

                      

People passed by our school while this 80 minute exploration was occurring. Many probably saw children playing on a sunny day, and I am sure that some even thought, “Why aren’t they learning?”   I honestly believe that the development I witnessed on the lower field that day cannot be replicated in a classroom.  It needs the room, the fresh air and the freedom to explore that outside affords. I witnessed collaboration between students, a bravery to reach out and create with someone they didn’t know very well. I heard language and vocabulary that I didn’t know these students of mine had.  I saw negotiations, reasoning and engineering achievements.  And all of this simply grew on a field of frozen grass and mud, beside a bunch of gravel and a few big trees.

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Bibliography on Technology in Early Childhood Education

I chose to do my bibliography for EDCI 591 on Technology and Early Childhood.  My focus right now has been a little scattered on this topic, so instead of focussing on just one area of technology with young children, I tried to find articles on the “big” picture. I hope to read many of these as I  discover exactly what direction I want to take and what my big question will be on this MEd journey. (It is not in the formal APA format at this time, as I could not figure out how to format WordPress for it. Apologies.)

Bibliography

Alper, M. (2013). Developmentally appropriate new media literacies: Supporting cultural competencies and social skills in early childhood education. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 13(2), 175-196.                             doi:10.1177/1468798411430101

Blackwell, C. K., Lauricella, A. R., & Wartella, E. (2014). Factors influencing digital technology use in early childhood education. Computers & Education, 77, 82-90. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.04.013

Blackwell, C. K., Lauricella, A. R., Wartella, E., Robb, M., & Schomburg, R. (2013). Adoption and use of technology in early education. Computers & Education, 69, 310.

Cicconi, M. (2014). Vygotsky meets technology: A reinvention of collaboration in the early childhood mathematics classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 42(1), 57-65. doi:10.1007/s10643-013-0582-9

Dooley, C. M., Flint, A. S., Holbrook, T., May, L., & Albers, P. (2011). The digital frontier in early childhood education. Language Arts, 89(2), 83.

Eagle, S. (2012). Learning in the early years: Social interactions around picturebooks, puzzles and digital technologies. Computers & Education, 59(1), 38-49. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.10.013

Guomundsdottir, G. B., & Hardersen, B. (2012). The digital universe of young children. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 7(3), 221-226.

Hardersen, B. (2012). Digital competence in the kindergarten sector. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 7(3), 227-230.

Howard, J., Miles, G. E., & Rees-Davies, L. (2012). Computer use within a play-based early years curriculum Routledge. doi:10.1080/09669760.2012.715241

Lin, C. (2012). Application of a model for the integration of technology in kindergarten: An empirical investigation in Taiwan. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(1), 5-17. doi:10.1007/s10643-011-0494-5

Lynch, J., & Redpath, T. (2014). ‘Smart’ technologies in early years literacy education: A meta-narrative of paradigmatic tensions in iPad use in an Australian preparatory classroom. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 14(2), 147-174. doi:10.1177/1468798412453150

Mohammad, H., & Mohammad, M. (2012). Computer integration into the early childhood curriculum. Education, 133(1), 97-116.

Northrop, L., & Killeen, E. (2013). A framework for using iPads to build early literacy skills. The Reading Teacher, 66(7), 531.

Parette, H. P., Hourcade, J. J., Blum, C., Watts, E. H., Stoner, J. B., Wojcik, B. W., & Chrismore, S. B. (2013). Technology user groups and early childhood education: A preliminary study. Early Childhood Education Journal, 41(3), 171-179. doi:10.1007/s10643-012-0548-3

Peluso, D. C. (2012). The fast-paced iPad revolution: Can educators stay up to date and relevant about these ubiquitous devices? British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(4), E125.

Plowman, L., & McPake, J. (2013). Seven myths about young children and technology. Childhood Education, 89(1), 27-33.

Sandvik, M. (2012). Digital practices in the kindergarten. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 7(3), 152-154.

Siegle, D. (2013). iPads: Intuitive technology for 21st-century students. Gifted Child Today, 36(2), 146-150. doi:10.1177/1076217512474983

Turja, L., Endepohls-Ulpe, M., & Chatoney, M. (2009). A conceptual framework for developing the curriculum and delivery of technology education in early childhood. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 19(4), 353-365. doi:10.1007/s10798-009-9093-9

Zaranis, N., Kalogiannakis, M., & Papadakis, S. (2013). Using mobile devices for teaching realistic mathematics in kindergarten e

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In A Normal Year, In A Normal June.

In a normal year, in a normal June, I would have been busy this weekend. I would have been at my desk at home, reflecting on my students and the work they have done. I would be writing my comments about how much I have enjoyed their humour, their effort, their loving hearts, and their helping hands. I would have written about how much I have enjoyed the gift of being their first teacher. For some of them, I have been their only teacher for two whole years, and I would have written how they hold a special place in my heart.

In a normal year, in a normal June, I would have been building their photo albums to send home. I would be spending nights putting pictures into Comic Life of our field trip to the farm, of Halloween costumes, crazy hair day, math explorations, artistic endeavors, of Vaisakhi, and Christmas. I would have documentation of learning to send home with each child to share and remember for years to come;  a book of memories of their time in Kindergarten and Grade 1.

In a normal year, in a normal June, we would have celebration days to be together and laugh and play. My children would have Sports Day and decorating bikes for bike parades.  We would have counted to the 100th day of 2014, and celebrated by making 100 necklaces, eating 100 kernels of popcorn, and laughing as we imagined ourselves 100 year old.

In a normal year, in a normal June, I would have the time to say goodbye to each and every child in my class. I would have the time to look at them and reflect how they have grown and bloomed. I would have the opportunity for last hugs and for a few tears as the little ones I have taught for 2 years leave me, to brave the new world of Grade 2. I would have their certificates of accomplishment made and gold stamped, I would have the time to let each and every one know that I cared for them, was proud of them, and that they would always be one of my kids.

In a normal year, in a normal June, I wouldn’t be locked out of my classroom at lunch, before and after school. I wouldn’t miss a day a week because of rotating strikes. I wouldn’t be facing a longer lockout or a longer walkout.

This is not a normal year, however, or a normal June. I am not allowed to have this time that is precious to me. I am not being given the opportunity to have my celebrations and laughter with these muffins of mine. It fills me with great sadness to see that I might only have 4 days left. Four short days. It is not enough to prepare myself to say good bye to these children who have touched my heart, and affected my soul.  And yet, I have to. I have to say an early goodbye to these 21 students. I’m not quite sure how.

 

 

 

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Mom Knows Best

I am the child of a teacher, so I have seen the hours of work involved in this job, as well as the amount of emotional and physical exhaustion it brings. I went into this profession with my eyes open. I had a fantastic role model in my mom, who I believe was a master teacher.  I started in my own classroom 17 years ago and I know I have grown and changed a lot over that time. When I tell you of probably the biggest misconception I have had in this career, I ask that you be kind.

I started in a Grade 3 classroom in a rural school. These kids came from 2 parent homes, were talked to, read to, sang with and nurtured. There were monkeys and there were those “perfect” kids who sat in their desks in neat rows of 2. I had charts on the wall, duo-tangs at the ready, and these great unit plans developed. Don’t get me wrong, these kids worked, talked, laughed and learned. But there were a lot of worksheets, a lot of textbooks, different coloured notebooks and a LOT of photocopying. A few years later, I chose to go to a full time grade 1 classroom. I thought I could continue with photocopies, workbooks, charts, and neat rows of 2. Boy, was I wrong!!

Thankfully, my mom taught Grade 1, and helped me through the transition to these very excitable, often louder than a train, busy children. The clientele changed but my teaching methods really didn’t.  I won’t tell you the many long, tearful discussions we had each night, but my mom kept telling me one thing over and over again, “Read The Primary Program, Liane. It will help you.”

I didn’t read it. I slogged through, trying my mom’s lessons (she was in a very different area than I) and I failed more than I succeeded in bringing joy to the lessons I taught. We did laugh and have fun, but after 9 years in K/1, 1 and 1/2 classrooms, with many worksheets and workbooks, I knew that enough was enough. I was not happy with the type of teacher I had become. I sat down, and I read the old 1990 Primary Program document.

The document states that the 4 year primary program is from K-3, and the goals are simple but mighty: intellectual, career, human and social development. The whole child is the most important thing through these areas of development:

  • Aesthetic and artistic
  • Emotional and social
  • Intellectual
  • Physical development and well being
  • Social responsibility

(The Primary Program: A Framework for Teaching, 1990, p. 14)

The answer to changing my teaching was suddenly horribly clear, fantastically simple and utterly frightening: PLAY. I was trying to isolate these areas of development and they needed to be explored and used in play. As the authors wrote back in 1990, “Meaningful and varied experiences in the primary years provide a strong foundation for children’s growth in all areas of development; they also enable children to benefit more from instruction. The curriculum areas provide a wealth of ideas with which to engage children so that they expand their knowledge of themselves and their world.” (The Primary Program, p.32) We had centres time, but it wasn’t facilitated or planned. It was simply a time for the children to burn off some of their energy. I needed to learn how to teach through play.

You may read this, and say, “Oh Liane, that was written back in the 1990s. Things have changed.” They really haven’t. In fact, I believe play is even more important now than ever. In the British Columbia Early Learning Framework from 2008, it states, “In playing, children express, explore, combine, and extend what they have learned about the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the world around them; about the words, signs, symbols, and customs of their language and culture; and about their own and other people’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, and sensations. In the play scenarios children invent and explore by themselves and with other children, they bring together everything they have learned and are wondering about. In play, children represent and transform the world around them, providing other children and adults with a window into their thoughts and perceptions, and often helping adults to see the world in new ways.” (British Columbia Early Learning Framework, 2008, p. 12)  Play has now become my passion, my philosophy, my educational goal. I started off believing that children were meant to absorb information, to sit quietly as I imparted the pearls of knowledge I had gained over my life and to learn to be good students. Now, I know that they need to be great thinkers, inventors, questioners and explorers.  In this new world of assessments at the age of 4, where achievement seems to outweigh curiosity and creativity, I am proud to say that I believe in play.

Oh, and I also listen to and do as my mom says now. I’ve learned: Mom knows best.

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Busy Hands

The second of the #kinderchat January blog posts is to share a goal I have for 2014. I try not to make resolutions anymore, as I tend to make lofty ones that are far too easy to break. A few years ago, I looked at my life and started to analyze where I need to repair things. My list was not long, but it did have challenges. I needed to focus on: fixing my finances, creating a living space that I could maintain order in, get into a more organized school space, become more confident about who I am, and finally, work on losing the excess weight I’ve been carrying since my dad’s passing 13 years ago. To date, I have achieved (in one way or another) all of those goals, but one.

Losing weight is a struggle for me; it always has been. I am an emotional eater. I find comfort in my lonely moments, stressful times, and joyful experiences by eating something delicious and not nutritious. I need to change. I need to find something to replace that emotional connection I have with the jar of peanut butter, block of cheese, box of Glosette raisins and more.

So my first goal for 2014, is NOT to lose weight. My goal is to find something new to do. I am looking around my house and searching my life to find things I can do to keep those hands of mine away from food when I am emotional. I’ve started a list already: iPad games, video games, playing piano, colour, build Lego. I know that people will tell me “go for a walk, do some exercise to relieve stress” but that is not what I consider a stress reliever. I’m not saying I will be a sloth. I plan to add some activity to my life, but first, FIRST, I have to work on my hands. I can’t have them reaching for food, so that, dear friends, is my first goal of 2014.

Okay, that and leaving school early, but that’s for another post……..

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2013 In Pictures

Here’s my “Wordless Wednesday” post from yesterday. My 2013 in review.

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Weeds are pretty too!

Weeds are pretty too!

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Blog Inspiration

I sat in front of my computer the other night, trying to determine Open Education opportunities I have had over the course of this term. I’ve tweeted and chatted and sat around a “campfire” with people I admire and am amazed at. One person’s blog, in particular, has inspired me to change how I view the technology in my classroom and to look at the “why” of what I am teaching.

I have followed Matt B Gomez’s blog for about 6 months now. I had heard of him, had conversations with him on twitter, and knew of him from #kinderchat. At the end of the last school year, I decided to start checking his blog posts on a regular basis.  I had subscribed to his blog, but hadn’t really taken the time to sit and really read his writing. Over the summer, when I received an email about a new post, I would give it a quick scan and go back to whatever pressing summer task was at hand. I didn’t really read the post until I saw one that I had originally skipped titled, “Living Centers in Elementary Classrooms”. It was a re-post from a year earlier, but as I read it, I started to get excited about implementing this idea into my own classroom. I realized that just skimming these posts of Matt’s was not cutting it. I had to get serious, because this teacher in Texas had amazing ideas.

I started to go back over Matt’s blog, and now when an email comes in to tell me that he has posted, I try to find an actual space of time to read and think about his post. As with everything, there are some things that I am not sure I am quite ready to do in my class, but I have started to adapt some of his suggestions and ideas to our learning environment. I recently expressed my frustration over teaching writing with my students. It has always been my weakest subject area to teach, and I was at a loss at how to help my little people take pencil to paper and express themselves.  Matt mentioned his Wonder Journals to me, which was a blog post I had skimmed. I went back to look at how he used the app Explain Everything to show a picture from Wonderopolis. Under the picture are 1-2 simple vocabulary words to help the kids recording what they wonder. I went back and read that post again and took the idea back to my class.  We didn’t jump right into the writing the first day, but looked at pictures and wondered aloud at the marvel we saw. By now, my kids are starting to record their thoughts and images in a Wonder Journal of their own, and are realizing that writing is not just frame sentences and phonics lessons.

There are so many ideas in Matt’s blogs.  He posts videos to show how he uses technology in the class and to highlight apps that he feels work in a classroom setting. He gave me the idea to plop a couple of our jack-o-lanterns into the school plant bed so that we could watch them decompose. His dance and alphabet mixes on Symbaloo get used a lot in my room, and have inspired me to start “messing around” with my own Symbaloo page. He has helped to show me that the iPad in my room can do far more than I ever imagined. I have started to refer other people to his website when they ask me for “good” apps and ideas for the limited technology in their rooms.

I would love to be able to walk across the hall or drive down the street to visit Mr. Gomez’s classroom and see him in action. But I can’t. Professional Development funds won’t quite cover the cost of a trip to Texas. His blogs are the next best thing to seeing inside his room, and thankfully, one can usually find him at the kinderchat for questions and advice.

Thanks for the learning and inspiration.

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Tools: Twitter

I have been asked to blog about my Open Education experiences as a part of my Master’s course, and this raised quite a few questions in my mind. The biggest one was: What is open education? Being me, I instantly went to Google to find an answer. It was a bit of shock to see that the majority of examples, definitions and sites I was given were for open classrooms.  The next step: ask my knowledgeable, university librarian, big sister. Her answer: “online courses or experiences where you can learn about things, but not necessarily get credit for it. A university course, perhaps, but it wouldn’t really count.” Well, that cleared things up, but then the panic hit. I needed to take another course I wouldn’t get credit in order to blog about it for a course I am getting credit in? I had no clue where to start. Thankfully, my fellow classmates were less panicky than I, and I found out I had been doing “Open Education” on twitter for a few years thanks to #kinderchat!

I am not going to talk about the wonderful group of people I have met through #kinderchat; there just is not enough time. But, for those of you who don’t know, #kinderchat is a twitter chat on Monday nights from 6:00-7:00 and it involves teachers mostly from North America who gather to discuss trends, policies and practices in Kindergarten and Grade 1. They have a hashtag which, when used outside of the chat times, is usually responded to by one or more “tweeps” who are there for support and advice.

The use of twitter for education is, I believe, a relatively new idea. When I first joined twitter years ago, I rarely saw groups gather to discuss topics and I don’t think the term hashtag had even been created. Now there are chats dedicated to many different grades, education systems, pedagogy, and even wine chats. Many have a set time, a schedule and some have a variety of moderators, while others have one or two that constantly take the helm. Both ways work, but only having one or two moderators can be a bit exhausting for the moderator, and might get tiresome for the participants. Having a variety of moderators can be an organizational nightmare, I imagine, but offers a greater variety of voice when choosing topics. Having some active participants in the chats is key. I started a chat with a friend this year, and although our groups are usually small, the chat is active. We are able to discuss the topic at hand, and have some great insights into our students’ learning, and our own. For me, having people to learn about Reggio Emilia from online is a huge help, as I am a novice with this kind of learning/teaching. Our varying areas of knowledge and our different time zones can be a great bonus, as a question or idea can be posted at recess , and all sorts of help and experience can have weighed in before the break is even finished.

No matter how great a tool is, though, there will always be some drawbacks. I enjoy the chats I am involved in, but sometimes they are just too fast for me. It can be very difficult, if it is a “burning” topic, to keep up with the opinions, ideas and yes, sometimes the egos of the chat. As in conversation, it is extremely easy to get off topic, and all too easy to be distracted by what is going on in the area around me. I sometimes come back to the chat and have to spend 10 minutes catching up. It continues to be very hard to read voice in some tweets, and I know that with a “real” conversation, I can rely on the tone and facial expressions to gather more information on the speaker. That is extremely difficult to do on twitter, and can lead to some misunderstandings.

Twitter as an open education tool is a good one, I believe. It allows so many voices to participate, and gives people the chance to “lurk” if they are not quite ready to push that “tweet” button. It is available to anyone who wants to join in, and I believe it gives people reading your feed, the opportunity to see what is going on in the lives of educators. We have had people pop in who are not teachers, but parents, who want to share their perspectives on topics.  I look at my students connecting on twitter to learn about classes around the continent and realize that I am on the same path as them with my connections to these teachers.

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