Miss Night's Marbles

Musings, mumbles, marvels, and sometimes mockery, live from kindergarten.

All Day PD With Me!

I spent all day today in 4 great PD sessions:
1 – Helping Kids Cope With Anxiety
2 – Bullying and Harassment in Schools
3 – Self-Regulation
4 – Occupational Therapy 101 for Teachers (this was not the real name, but is the best possible description).

In my usual style, I took notes by tweeting. The sessions were SO GOOD that I storified my tweets, just to share with all of you!



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#edcampkinder reflections: But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it.

(Introductory note: #edcampkinder was a live meetup, in Las Vegas, earlier this week, attended by 10 teachers who are frequent fliers on the #kinderchat hashtag. Basically: we chose a destination, a hotel, and we hung out for 3 days. It was an ongoing conversation about What We Do, interspersed with pool-lounging and show-watching and buffet-eating, spread over the hottest 3 days in recent memory. A few of us had met in person before. Most of us hadn’t. It was amazing and weird and terrifying and awesome.)

I was telling a friend — a good friend, who knows me well and shares some of my homebody-introvert tendencies — about #edcampkinder, and she commented: “I’m impressed you went, especially all by yourself. I don’t know if I would be able to do that.” Fact: it never occurred to me NOT to go. The timing worked, the cost worked, the destination worked. I went. Not only did I go, I helped plan the thing. I chose the hotel (FYI: there was shade at the pool!).  I encouraged others to go.

With all of this being said, there is no denying: #edcampkinder was, for the most part, a big fat blind date. And, if you know me like my friend does, you know this: I hate dating. HATE. IT. I hate small talk and chit chat and all the things that you do to make it feel okay that you are sharing a meal with a stranger. I hate strangers. In university, I had a roommate who talked all the time about how she LOVED meeting new people. Me? Not so much. I like MY People, but I do not find myself on a constant quest to have more People. It makes sense that my friend was surprised at my trip.

World’s biggest blind date? Surprisingly non-awkward!

I do want to be clear, especially to my dear  #edcampkinder and #kinderchat friends who are reading this: I did not, for one moment in all of this, consider you true “strangers.” We know each other. We talk nearly every day.  We tweet and e-mail and Facebook and google doc. We collaborate and cooperate and dream and scheme and plan together.  In 140 characters, you can know a surprising lot about a person.

But also: in 140 characters, you know everything and nothing about a person. Ditto for e-mail, Facebook comments, and online chats. Far too many years of online dating and internet-based camp staff hiring have taught me that. Lots of people give good e-mail/Facebook/Twitter. But until you see them, face to face across a hamburger or a latte or a cold Corona, the possibility remains that it is all just smoke and mirrors.

You see, I believe in chemistry, and not just in a romantic setting. I believe that there is something that happens when you are smiling and making faces and raising your eyebrows and pointing your fingers and waving your hands around when you talk to someone LIVE AND IN PERSON. At least, if you are me, you do all of those things when you talk. It’s who I am and it’s how I am and it surprises some folks when they meet me in person, but there it is: I’m a hand-talker. If that doesn’t work for you, we probably can’t be friends. Or something.

For all that I hate “getting to know” people, I love KNOWING people, and I love when people KNOW me. I love that spark of “oh, wow, dude, you totally GET me.” I love discovering My People. And the very possibility – the still, small, hope of REALLY SEEING and being REALLY SEEN by another person… that’s what got me, with all of my weirdoms (or what my #kindertwin, @matt_gomez, generously refers to as my “quirks”) on a plane to meet 9 other teachers — 6 of whom I had never met — at a mid-range hotel on The Strip, in Vegas, for 3 days. The desert, in July. Dessert (preferably of the frozen variety) in the desert. With strangers.

And what did I find there? People I knew. People who knew me. Spine-tingling moments of “oh, wow, dude, you totally GET me.” I REALLY SAW, and was REALLY SEEN. Hand-talkers. Finger wavers. Eyebrow-raisers. Sh*t disturbers. Smartasses. Kind hearts. Generous souls. Shared laughter. Some of it inappropriate. Oh yes, these are My People.

I have a list, on Twitter. A pretty darn short list, called “People I Actually Know.” That list is a little longer than it was a week ago.  If you know me, if you REALLY KNOW me, you know: that, all by itself, is a pretty damn big deal.

Thank you, My People.


Of bellybutton lint & glitter…

So, you teach. (At least, I assume that most of my readers teach.  Those of you who don’t teach, this is still good, I promise.) You are tech-friendly, as evidenced by the fact that you read blogs. (Or, at least, you read THIS blog, which seems like a good first step.) Maybe you LIKE some teaching-related stuff on Facebook. Maybe you blog yourself. And maybe you have heard or read a little bit about how teachers are using Twitter for professional development. And you think it sounds sort of cool, but it’s also like trying to decode a whole other language. What in the name of heaven is a hashtag? What’s with the @ symbol in front of everything? With 100 million users, how do I even FIND these amazing teachers?

Alternatively: you teach. You are tech-friendly (if not downright tech-crazy). You blog and you read blogs and you belong to 856 Facebook communities related to education. You are on Twitter and you LOVE it, and you sing the praises of your PLN to everyone who will listen. The problem? No one will listen, because “Twitter is just a bunch of celebrities tweeting about their bellybutton lint and what they ate for breakfast,” and they “just don’t have time to figure all that out.”

Whoever you are, this, my friends, is for you:
(Watch it in full-screen, if you can; it’s better that way.)


So you want to tweet with kindergarten…

So, based on the response I have had to my recent media exposure, it seems that another how-to post is in order. Many people have asked me how to get started tweeting with young students, and honestly, the responsibility of guiding you through this is sort of daunting. To simply tell you: “Set up an account and go!” is woefully inadequate, and possibly negligent. As I have described in previous posts, my own decision to tweet with kindergarten was slow, thoughtful, deliberate. Your decision should be, too. With that said, this is my attempt to walk you through Twittergarten (as it has been coined by a reporter I know…). This process remains equally true if you are tweeting with any grade level, by the way, so don’t be turned off by the frequent kinder-references. Also: I stand by my statement that this is not a how-to blog. I don’t think I tweet with kindergarten any BETTER than anyone else.  This is just how I do it, and this is the only way I can, in good conscience, advise you to do it.
**An opening sidebar:  If you are tweeting with just one other class, in the context of Kindergarten Around the World, I’m not sure that ALL of these steps are strictly necessary, and some of them have been done for you, by me. In fact, Kindergarten Around the World would be a great way to start tweeting with your class, and then move on to tweeting with multiple classes. That said, effective 2012-13, participation in Kindergarten Around the World has required teachers to have their own twitter account, independent of their class account, for all of the reasons listed below. End of sidebar.**
  • Step 1 – Get on Twitter yourself. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are not active on Twitter yourself in a professional capacity, I’m not sure that it is responsible for you to start tweeting with your class. From perspectives both technical and ethical, I believe it is important in this situation for teachers to KNOW the medium. Create a personal account, start building a network. Start with me, @happycampergirl, if you don’t have anyone else to start following. Other good choices are @hechternacht (my partner in #kinderchat crime, more on that in a  second), and other #kinderchat stars: @mattbgomez, @mr_fines, @mathmurd @tori1074, @havalah. Follow us, interact with us (we’re nice, I promise), get a feeling for who is who and what is what. Follow links, read some blogs (and comment, too!), make some friends. Participate in a chat or two (the Newbie’s Guide to KinderChat is here, and holds true for other chats, too). This is important for several reasons: a) you will learn HOW to interact on Twitter; b) you will develop some instincts for who your “people” are, and when something is just not right; c)people will get to know you and trust you, which you will need once you start tweeting with your class and are requesting to follow other teachers’ classes. Let’s put it this way: I do not accept follow requests for my class if I have never interacted with their teacher, and (to be completely honest) my class interacts more with the classes of teachers I know well.


(And, all of this aside: even if you do not want to  or cannot tweet with your class, get yourself on Twitter. It is truly the greatest, free PD you will ever find. If #kinderchat doesn’t float your boat, find a chat that does. There are chats for most grades and subject areas. @cybraryman has a great guide, here.)


  • Step 2 – Think through the logistics and reality of tweeting with your class: When will you do it? Do you have the technology? I honestly can’t imagine tweeting with my class without having an Interactive White Board. If you don’t have one, how will you facilitate students’ interactions? (A good PLN can help you figure this out, by the way.) When in your day can you work it in? Twitter is only meaningful if your kids are building relationships with other kids, and that means tweeting regularly. Are you, yourself, completely sold on this medium as a meaningful tool for young children? (Obviously, I am, but you need to draw your own conclusions on this). Read some of the criticisms, here, and here, and think about them, please.


  • Step 3 – Figure out your curriculum connections. What are your goals for tweeting with your class? These will provide you a road map for how you will use twitter in your classroom. Are you focusing on geography and social studies? Literacy and literature? Second language development? Math and numeracy? Intercultural awareness and internationalism? It is okay if your answer is “all of the above!”, just be sure you know where you are going.  Again, there are teachers around the world who are using Twitter for all of these things, and being active on Twitter yourself will help you find them.


  • Step 4 – Talk to your administrators. I want to be clear that, while tweeting with kindergarten seems  to be considered cutting-edge, and, in some eyes, makes me some kind of rebel (if I figure out what exactly I am rebelling against, I will let you know), my boss (and her boss) has always been completely, 100% aware and supportive of what I am doing. Another good reason to be active on Twitter yourself is that it will help you build your case with your admins. Long before I wanted to tweet with my class, my boss knew about all the great ideas and support I was getting from teachers I knew through Twitter.


  • Step 5 – With your boss’s help, think through privacy and security questions. Will you tweet photos/video/audio that shows your students? Your classroom? Your school? How will you identify your students? Full names? First names? Initials? Can you/should you name your school and/or city?  Will your class account be private or protected (I highly recommend private to start, but I know of classes for whom a public account best meets their goals, and I know their teachers are handling safety and privacy very well.) Who will you follow? Who will be allowed to follow you? A good PLN can help you think through these things, and share samples of their own policies/consent forms (are you starting to notice a pattern, here?)


  • Step 6 – Talk to your students’ parents, preferably face to face. Even if your school already has a photo/video/online release policy that covers the use of Twitter (this is pretty unusual, by the way), talk to parents and get their written consent. My students’ parents KNOW what we are doing, they signed written consent forms, and about 1/3 of them are following our class. Before I created my class account last year, I added twitter to my agenda for our November parent-teacher conferences. I explained it to parents, encouraged them to talk/think about it, and to follow-up with me with any questions or concerns.


  • Step 7– When ALL of this is done, and (as my grad school advisor would say:) all of your ducks are in a row: create your class account. Share your screen-name with your admins and your students’ parents.  Use DMs (a DM is a direct, private message on Twitter) to share your class screen-name with teachers you know and trust through twitter, yourself. My class’s screen-name rarely appears in the public stream on Twitter, because I don’t want to field follow requests from spammers or people I don’t know. I share our screen-name only via DM. With your students’ help and input, write your twitter bio, choose an avatar, and send your first tweet.
With that, you are off to the races. I trust that you are all competent teachers, and capable of creating your own activities, organizational systems, and management tricks (although I’m happy to share my own, if you ask.) If all of this sounds a little confusing, and you are wondering why I kept putting a “#” in front of kinderchat, and you’re still not sure how a DM is different from a regular tweet, well…. I would suggest you are not ready to tweet with your class. There are lots of situations where I am completely in favour of learning alongside our students, but, given the attention span of 5-year-olds, and the (manageable, but still present) risks of a social media environment, my position here is that Twitter is not one of those.
For perhaps the 347th time: If you want to get your class on Twitter, you need to get yourself on Twitter, first.


Quite some time ago now, the Toronto Star published this article: How a Kindergarten Class Uses Twitter to Learn About the World, about my use of Twitter in my classroom.  It was tweeted and re-tweeted for a few weeks after it came out. Most of the response was overwhelmingly positive (I did a lot of blushing), but some of it was critical. Much of the criticism was along the lines of the Projects By Jen post I responded to in my own very first post about Twitter in kindergarten. This is a kind of criticism I can respect, as it comes from a place of honest reflection, and leaves room for ongoing dialogue.

One tweet, though, rankled, because it included an accusation of recklessness. I followed up with the tweeter (@ginrob_PT), and after some back-and-forth, he offered to write a blog post explaining why he thought my use of Twitter with my young students was dangerous. His post can be found here: Should Kindergarteners be Using Twitter?

I wanted to know what he had to say. I was honestly worried that he was going to present some incontrovertible evidence that tweeting with kindergarten was profoundly threatening to my students. I had already prepared myself to share the link to his post with my administrators, and to engage in a discussion that might lead to the discontinuation of our kindergarten twitter accounts. I was willing to cancel the entire Kindergarten Around the World project, which would have involved disappointing some 60 teachers all over the globe. THAT is how seriously I take my students’ safety.

Seeing his post on the screen, I was relieved. There was not an argument there that I have not encountered before.  The criticisms raised were not new, not scary, not earth-shattering. Furthermore, they were not even particularly TRUE. Indeed, I found (and still find) it hard to read his post without feeling like there was some deliberate misunderstanding of what Twitter use in kindergarten actually LOOKS like. That said, as this year’s round of Kindergarten Around the World begins to take flight, it seems timely for me to share my rebuttal.


Argument #1: the “Terms of Use” argument.
It’s true. Twitter’s previous terms of use state that users had to be over 13. Their new terms of use require that users be able to “form a binding contract with Twitter and are not a person barred from receiving services under the laws of the United States or other applicable jurisdiction. You may use the Services only in compliance with these Terms and all applicable local, state, national, and international laws, rules and regulations.” These new terms of use are considerably more ambiguous than that previous “13 and older” policy; however, even if they are interpreted as conservatively as possible, and taken to mean that only adults over the age of 18 can access Twitter… my situation with kindergarten is not in violation of those terms.

I created our class account. It is linked to my e-mail address. I approve every single one of our followers, and I choose who we follow. I type every tweet we send, and I read every tweet we receive (in advance of sharing it with the children). My students are not operating a twitter account when we tweet with our friends, any more than they are driving the car when they ride in the backseat, strapped into their car seats (to be clear, they do get considerable input into which roads we follow. More on this car metaphor later). They are not being let loose on the Great Wide Internet. The account was created and is completely managed by, me, a 30-something adult. If what I am doing is violating the terms of use, than so are parents who create twitter accounts to record the cute things their young children say, and pet owners who create accounts as if their golden retriever or Siamese cat were tweeting the minute details of life in their household.

Argument #2: the “You don’t really UNDERSTAND what you are DOING” argument.

This whole argument is condescending, and based on assumptions about me as a teacher and a person. Mr. Tucker never entered into dialogue with me about why/how/when I decided to use Twitter with  my students. He made no effort to get to know me as an educator or a user of social media. If you know me, if you get to know me, it becomes (I hope) very clear, very quickly, that I am a deliberate, intentional, and thoughtful, teacher and social media consumer. I do not dive into tools/toys/ideas/techniques simply because they are New! And! Shiny!, or because I talked to someone who was doing it. The decision to create a Twitter account for my class was made slowly, thoughtfully, deliberately, with much conversation with my administrators, my colleagues, my PLN, and my students’ parents.  My colleagues tease me constantly about my first response to any issue: “Let me do some research.”

And so, while I will not subject the entire Interwebz to the details of my process, let me just say this: I did the research, I did the reflection, I thought carefully about how/why/when to fit Twitter into our classroom culture and routines. My entire approach to teaching is tied to developmental appropriateness (backed by my graduate degree in child development), so Mr. Tucker’s argument that the Twitter environment cannot be cognitively understood by 5-year-olds does not hold water with me. My students understand Twitter as a giant bulletin board, where we post notes to our friends, and they post notes back to us. They know that what we post can be seen by ALL of our friends, and that what we post therefore needs to be kind, respectful, friendly, and safe. (This, honestly, is a better understanding than most adults have of Twitter, in my experience.) We talk about internet safety and digital citizenship, and I know that they “get” it, because they go home and tell their parents how “we have to choose our words carefully so everyone understands us, and we don’t have a lot of words, so we have to say what really matters most.” That seems pretty clear evidence of comprehension, to me.

My reasons for using Twitter in my classroom have never included the “eventual participation” argument referenced by Mr. Tucker. That said, I think it is sadly misleading (and deliberately melodramatic) to lump social media in with drinking or sexual activity. While there is NO appropriate way for kindergarten children to participate in either one of those activities, there are many appropriate ways for young children to reap benefit from careful, thoughtful, integration of social media into the educational environment. The third activity mentioned by Mr. Tucker as something “children will eventually do” is driving, and to that comparison, I will simply say this: an argument that children should not be exposed to Twitter until they are of an appropriate age to operate it independently is analogous to saying that children should not be allowed to ride in cars as passengers until they are old enough to drive. To continue that particular analogy, it would seem to me that children who ride in cars operated by careful thoughtful drivers, and who engage in conversations about road signs, traffic laws, and safe driving habits, are better equipped to become safe drivers, themselves.

In re-reading Mr. Tucker’s post, and this response, for the umpteenth time before clicking “publish,” what comes to me is this: Mr. Tucker opened his criticism with a tweet accusing me of recklessness,  and his post, while perhaps more diplomatic than his original tweet, remains essentially that: an accusation. It is one thing to say: “I have done the research and reflection, and I came to a different conclusion than this person.” It is entirely different to say: “Because I do not agree with this person’s decision, she clearly did NOT research and reflect.” The first builds a bridge to a  shared space for deeper understanding. The second builds a wall.

It is my sincere hope that this blog is, and will always be, more about bridges than walls. Respectful conversation makes us all better. Your thoughts and comments are welcome and encouraged, as always.