Sunday, June 28, 2015


Each Sunday evening at 8:00 PM Central Time a group of individuals who care about education within Oklahoma gather for a Twitter chat. There are faithful regulars, there are semi-regulars (like myself), there are infrequent visitors, there are pure lurkers, and other classifications I'm sure. All using the common hashtag of #oklaed within our postings, the volunteer moderator of the week posses a series of questions around his/her choice topic and then the various active participants respond. Most often there is lots of favoriting, retweeting, and side-bar conversations around the issues raised. As far as interactive and conversational professional development goes I find these sessions, more often than not, highly worthwhile.

The session that finished just a little while ago was led by Scott Haselwood, a math teacher in Edmond, OK. Through my time interacting with #oklaed I have learned that Scott is #Amazeballs in his incorporation of technology into his classroom instruction and is encouraging of other teachers as they seek to incorporate more technology into their classrooms or even just to stretch themselves by trying some new teaching strategy which they've never explored before. A theme which he uses as part of his encouraging spirit was the underlying theme of tonight's chat: #1CoolThing. To get an idea of these chats visit this archive on storify of tonight's chat.

Scott's final question of the night was more of a challenge. "Q8) Reflection makes us better - blog about your #1CoolThing lessons and share them with us! #oklaed."

So here is a sampling of #1CoolThing ideas through which I have had success engaging students.

Twitter Chats: Modeled on the idea of the #oklaed Twitter chats, I've incorporated Twitter chats into my AP United States History class. Throughout the course we use "Opposing Viewpoints" primary source documents as we explore a particular historical concept or idea. Students read the two perspectives overnight and the past I would have them discuss the documents within a small group following a list of questions...I moderate the Twitter discussion during class-time using pre-selected questions and then as students answer I provide additional prompts to individual students or the full class as needed to insure that full understanding is obtained. Here is a sample Twitter chat on the debate between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson on the question of having a national bank (archived on storify). One of the flaws which we've encountered is that not every student's posts show up in our hashtag feed. I know students' individual phone/tablet or Twitter account settings can impact this, but even when all else seems "right" there are still a couple which don't show up. Perhaps there is a Twitter expert our there who wants to share her/his thoughts with me??

Speed Dating: You have three minutes to get to know each other. DING! Now swap partners. Another three minutes. DING! Repeat... No my purpose is not to help my students find a prom date nor the love of their lives. But the idea of timed conversations between two individuals is a great way to have students teach each other. I used this conversational format as a way of teaching the various leaders of the Progressive Era Reform Movements to my AP United States History students. Each student was randomly assigned an individual reformer and then given time to research this person and his/her reform efforts/successes/failures so as to become an "expert" on this individual. Then during our "speed date" session each student is paired with another and in three minutes they rapidly teach each other about their reformers. DING! Switch partners. Repeat. This is a great way to cover a large number of important figures from a specific era in history within the short amount of time available for teaching in a survey history course.

Student Created Websites: Do you use a portfolio concept or have some other type of large project to be completed over time? Why not allow students to develop some 21st century skills along side the learning of the necessary content? Within my AP Human Geography course I have my students create a website which enables each of them to compare four countries (different regions, different cultures, different economic standings) as we progress throughout the units of our course. For each unit, students will add new information relevant to each of their countries and to study at hand (population demographics, cultural issues, political structures, agriculture & rural issues, economic development & industry, urban life, etc). While there are various platforms for creating free websites, I've come to enjoy weebly. Click here for examples created by my students. In the future I need to incorporate more of the blogging feature for students to better reflect upon their learning; I can also see students interacting with each other via the blogs to compare their personal findings with the findings of their peers.

Now It's Your Turn: If you're a teacher, what is #1CoolThing that you've used to successfully engage your students in learning? If you're not a teacher, think back to when you were in school...what was #1CoolThing one of your teachers did to help enhance your learning experience? Feel free to share in the comment section below or compose your own blog post and add the link in the comment section below.


  1. I love your "speed dating" activity! Definitely going to use it. Thanks!

    1. Joan, I'm glad you like it! It can be used in a variety other courses as well. I can see transcendental authors intruding themselves and their works. I can see characters in a book/play recounting the story from their perspective. I can see periodic elements in science discussing their chemical makeup and use. It's a great activity!