Regular Radical Readers know (see here and here) that I’ve accepted Kyle Hamstra’s #hashtag180 challenge. That means I’ve been sharing regular content in my Twitterstream highlighting the work that I’m doing in my classroom with specific curriculum standards.
I’m a month into the challenge, so I figured some reflection is in order. Here are four lessons that I’ve learned so far:
I really HAVE looked at my curriculum more this month than I have in years.
One of Kyle’s central arguments is that #hashtag180 work matters because it makes teachers more familiar with their required curriculum. That’s definitely been true for me. Because I know that I am going to make new posts each day and that each of those posts needs to be tagged with a standard from my curriculum, I’ve opened my state standards and unpacking document every work day for almost a month.
And that’s had a huge impact on my instruction. Specifically, I’ve discovered things that I’ve taught for the better part of a decade that aren’t really emphasized in my curriculum AND things that ARE in my required curriculum that I didn’t even realize I was supposed to be teaching.
I guess I should be embarrassed about that confession — but my guess is that MOST teachers don’t spend a ton of time revisiting their standards after they’ve taught them for a few years. Participating in #hashtag180 has changed that for me.
Recording video posts and aiming them at my students and parents was a great decision.
Many of the people who are sharing content in the #hashtag180 stream share still shots of students working on projects or evidence of their standards in action spotted in their day-to-day activities. While I respect those posts and recognize that those teachers are learning just as much about their required curriculum as I am, I decided early on that my #hashtag180 contributions were going to be short (less than two minute) videos aimed at my students.
My reasons were simple: I knew that if my #hashtag180 efforts were going to be sustainable, I had to get as much value from the time, energy and effort that I was investing in making posts as possible. By creating videos, I knew that I was also creating interesting content that my students and parents might be interested in watching, too. That turned each #hashtag180 post into more than just a learning opportunity for me. Each post is now a learning opportunity for me AND a review tool for my students AND a communication tool for my parents.
And I know it’s making a difference: First, more than one student has come up to me to share that they are always excited to see the newest video that I post. In fact, one complained after I missed a day last week. Then, a parent at our rising sixth grade open house Tuesday night approached me and said, “I follow you on Twitter. Love your videos. Made my kid watch every one of them already!”
That’s totally worth the time that I spend working up #hashtag180 posts each day — and my bet is that video content is the reason that my posts are gaining attention. If I was sharing still shots, I’m not sure that parents or kids would be all that interested.
Adding our school’s hashtag to each #hashtag180 post adds vibrancy to our school’s social presence.
As I mentioned in an earlier bit here on the Radical, I’m working hard to market our school to interested parents in our local community. To help with those efforts, I’ve started adding our school’s dedicated hashtag (#SalemProud) to each of my #hashtag180 Tweets.
Here’s why that matters: Now, any parents who follow our school’s hashtag will see MORE than just scheduling information or celebrations of school happenings. They will ALSO see teachers sharing academic content in an approachable and engaging way.
That SHOULD leave them better prepared to understand just what it is that kids are learning in our school. More importantly, that SHOULD leave them with the feeling that teachers in our building are passionate about communicating their content to kids — and that’s a feeling I want everyone in our community to have about our school.
And what does it cost me? Nothing. I’m making #hashtag180 posts anyway.
That gives me yet another stack of added value for every post that I make.
I love (like seriously LOVE) my growing digital portfolio.
Another great decision that I made was to figure out how to use IFTTT to automatically cross-post each #hashtag180 Tweet to a dedicated blog sorted by standard.
The result: I’ve got the beginnings of an AWESOME digital portfolio that I can use to PROVE that I know both my content and the kids that I teach.
Notice how each video is neatly embedded in new posts? See how every post that I’ve made is sorted by standard in the sidebar? ALL of that happens automatically every time that I make a new post in Twitter. IFTTT searches my Tweets, finds posts with standards-based hashtags, and adds them as a new blog entry WITH the correct labels. The entire process is automated. It takes me no time at all.
Like zero. None. Nada. Absolutely zippo.
Think about how valuable that all is. Not only can I go back next year and review the questions that I asked and demonstrations that I did, I can prove to my principal — or to anyone that I interview with in the future — that I understand my standards and have developed effective ways to teach those standards to my students.
And better yet, I’m not the only one that benefits from my digital portfolio. I’ve shared the link with the parents and students of my team again — figuring that most are unlikely to follow me in Twitter or to spot the posts that I’m sharing their regularly. Now, they don’t have to worry about joining a social space they may not be interested in (or old enough to join) to see the content that I’m creating. They can bookmark my blog — or subscribe to get new posts delivered to their email inbox — and see everything that I share.
Other teachers who are responsible for teaching similar standards or concepts can also learn from my digital portfolio. Maybe they will see a demo that they hadn’t considered before. Maybe they will hear language that they hadn’t considered using to explain individual concepts before.
Either way, by using IFTTT to cross-post content on an outward facing blog, I’ve created opportunities for sharing that cost me absolutely nothing because that sharing is done automatically.
So let’s summarize: By accepting Kyle’s #hashtag180 challenge, I’ve committed myself to five minutes of extra work every day. That’s it.
I am always on the lookout for something that I am doing with students in the classroom that I can turn into a video. After recording — which I do directly from my phone in the Twitter app — I have to open my standards (which are also downloaded to my phone) to be sure that I am adding the right standard hashtag to my Tweet.
That’s it. That’s all I do.
The hardest part of the entire process is holding the “record” button on my phone with one hand while trying to conduct a demonstration with my other hand.
And in return, I get:
- A stronger awareness of my required curriculum.
- Final products that students can use to review important concepts covered in class.
- Final products that parents can use to better understand what their kids are learning.
- Final products that add a sense of vibrancy to our school’s social presence.
- A digital portfolio that demonstrates my mastery of my required curriculum
- A collection of resources that other teachers can learn from.
Not bad for five extra minutes of work each day, huh?
So when will YOU accept the #hashtag180 challenge?
Related Radical Reads: