The Blog A Month Challenge

This week I posted a blog The Power of the PLN which you can read here.  In this blog, I discuss the tremendous learning, sharing and collaboration I have experienced during the last 6 months that has had a tremendous impact on my classroom and students.  Joining Twitter and sending out those first tweets were  leaps of faith in many ways for me, but it was the beginning of many more risk-taking opportunities that have led to personal and professional growth.  One of these risks was starting (and posting-the scary part :D) a blog.  My blog is called Partnerships in Learning and chronicles my reflections on my growth as a classroom facilitator of learning and as a professional educator.  The reflection leading to a blog post helps me move my own learning about my practice in an immediate and long-term way.  It enables me to get feedback from the incredible educators and parents in my PLN, which gives me a new lens to view my thoughts about education and the classroom instruction highlighted in my blog posts.  Lastly, the blogging world enables me to learn from others, a learning that is personalized to my interests.  Recently, I have had 2 opportunities to join Blogging groups to reflect, learn, share and support others.  This #blogamonth challenge is one of these opportunities that I am really looking forward to.  Thanks to Jordan Beel @jordanbeel for nominating me for this group, here is his Blog a Month Post.  The people I am inviting below have either expressed a desire to blog this year in a Twitter chat or on Google plus or are bloggers that I have learned from this past month and hope they will consider sharing their learning/thoughts with the hashtag.  If you decide this challenge might be a great community to join to share and learn with then here are some recommendations for the first blog, then a #blogamonth after and support other Blog A Month bloggers by commenting on and retweeting their posts!

The Recommendations  for those new to blogging or trying to restart the habit

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

11 Random Facts about me @tdishelton

1.  I am a high school science teacher from Kentucky.

2.  I am “in love” with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

3.  I am relatively new to Twitter (summer 13) but have found it to be the most amazing professional learning experience of my life.

4.  I am obsessed with teaching students how to think and communicate their thinking through multiple vehicles.

5.  I am a HUGE college basketball fan!

6.  I am an introvert who plays extrovert all day when I teach.

7.  I love to experience nature-especially the beach and hikes through the beautiful hills of Kentucky.

8.  I love to stretch and challenge myself to be “better” and appreciate the collaboration and learning from others–a different lens to move my thinking.

9. I am addicted to coffee 🙂

10.  I cherish and appreciate time with family and friends.

11.  I am so glad I discovered Google Hangouts!

Answer the 11 Questions

1. Who is your favorite actor of all time?

I agree with Jordan–Tom Hanks

2. If you could have attended any historical event, which one would you choose and why?

As science teacher—of course, I want to land on the moon!

3. What is your favorite movie and why?

Movies like The Sixth Sense that have surprises and unexpected endings.

4. If you could invite anyone to dinner who would you invite and why?

My best friend—busy lives and never enough “friend time”.

5.What is your favorite form of caffeine?


6. Do you sing along to the radio, if yes, what is your preferred music genre? If not, do you make fun of people who do?

Yes-but I am a terrible singer so only in the car or occasionally in front of students : ) so I never make fun of people singing.

7. What is your favorite Twitter chat?


8. Best place to be quiet and reflect?

In front of my computer at 5 am in the morning.

9. Favorite book of your life?

In 2013—Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain or Whistling Vivaldi by Claude Steele

10. Do you prefer salty or sweet? What is your favorite salty or sweet and why?

Salty –blood sugar issues : )

11. What is one thing you never/rarely share that you are exceptionally proud of?

Stories about my family

11 Questions–Answer some or all

1. Describe something that “moves” you.

2.  Name a critical practice for an educator.

3.  If you could visit any place in the world–where would it be?

4.  What is something new you learned today?

5.  What is the title and author of the best book you read in 2013? (or a few if there are ties :D)

6.  What is your favorite Twitter chat?

7.  What new skill do you want to learn this year?

8.  Describe an class experience with your students that really lifted you.

9.  What is something most people do not know about you?

10.  Aside from the basics (food, water, shelter etc..) what is one thing you could not do without?

11.  Why do you blog? (or want to)

Recent Bloggers or Bloggers who have expressed the desire to Blog more regularly 🙂 Sign Up Here  and post your blog or make your first blog following the recommendations  above.

Donald Gately @donald_gately

Wanda Battaglia @weezywalker1

Dr. Kimberly Haverkos @kimhaverkos

Kent Polen @KentPolen

Kelly Stidham @kastidham

Bloggers I have learned from this past month and support! (Here is the Weebly to start posting your regular blog-you can skip the above if you want : )

Scott Kley Contini @continicorner

Amanda Meyer @AlynnMeyer

Darin Johnston @AnIowaTeacher

Caitlin Conroy @EduCait_Tech

Jessica Worley @edtechartist

Lisi Feit Gopin @edtechtoday

Traci Logue @Fearless_Teach

I am looking forward to blogging, learning from and supporting others participating in the Blog  A Month Challenge!

Tricia Shelton

The Power of the PLN

Today is the last day of our winter break –extended just a bit due to the cold weather.  As I begin the new year and set new goals for myself, I find it necessary to look back over the last year to put my new goals in context of my previous growth. Reflecting on how transformative the last 6 months have been is amazing! Most of it is due to the Power of my PLN: Professional Learning Network which includes those face to face network connections as well as the virtual ones through Twitter and other forms of media/technology. This blog is about how my PLN impacts my journey and now my students’ journeys as they build PLNs- partnering in learning together by being connected through media and technology.

This past summer, I joined Twitter. Mostly this was because I heard a few instructional coaches talk about how they use it to learn, and because I attended a conference that used Twitter as a backchannel for participant involvement. That first month in the summer was all about trying to understand Twitter, so I was a lurker-no tweets. I watched others use Twitter and gathered resources to use in my classroom, but did not engage in the conversation. It is helpful now (through Twitter) that I found resources for those new to using technology to network written/compiled by other PLN members that I now share when a colleague tells me they are thinking about creating their own PLN. I started with the following:

“Introducing Twitter to Educators and Scientists” by @2footgiraffe

How to create a Twitter Account”  by Brenham ISD technology department (This does a great job walking teachers and students through how to set up an account and the basics of using Twitter)

“Twitter is a Teacher SuperPower” by @AppEducationFox (A great blog about how educators can use Twitter particularly two of my favorite uses: the power of the hashtag and Twitter chats)

These resources are powerful tools to build a foundation of understanding. I had to figure it out on my own by “lurking” (watching my friend @kastidham interact on Twitter and learn), which took longer.  At the conference I attended, although I didn’t tweet, I enjoyed watching the hashtag and appreciated the links being shared.  At this conference, everyone was encouraged to share a promise they would make for the upcoming year.  After the conference, I decided that my promise, my goal,  would be my first tweet-that would be the way I would really enter The Twitterverse. Here was my first Tweet

Tricia Shelton ‏@TdiShelton 28 Jun

My promise: To work in partnership with students to grow our learning.

Little did I know then that my first tweet would be the beginning of a trajectory that would lead me to learning, sharing and collaborating in a way that I never could have imagined. As my tweeted promise communicates, that learning, which helped me grow, is actually all for my students. I wanted (and still want) to be a better teacher for them.  Using this first tweet as a guide has kept me on this focused path-it has become “My One Thing” (from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan).

After deciding on my path, I started to build my PLN to learn by interacting with people I followed and who followed me, participating in Twitter chats, and using the power of the hashtag.  We knew we would be BYOD for the first time for the upcoming school year and my students expressed interest in using Twitter and Instagram in class.  Using technology to support science education then became my learning goal when building a PLN. During this process, I found so many amazing educators willing to share and help a newbie.  One contact in my new PLN,  @2footgiraffe, shared so much learning through his blog and Twitter interactions that my communication with him has led to my students participating in #scistuchat- a Twitter chat between students and scientists . This also led to my  learning about multiple ways to use Twitter to connect students with experts and students in other classrooms- a key piece in building PLNs and learning the skills and benefits of collaboration.  I used his advice and my students’ feedback to set up the Twitter Scaffold for introducing students to Twitter and a way to use Twitter in the classroom to extend learning discussed in my blog here.  My students now have professional Twitter accounts and are building their own PLNs.  Some of them have now even helped co-moderate a Twitter chat.  They see learning as not just taking place in our classroom, but beyond.  I believe this to be a foundation to true life-long learning.

Another PLN member @mrPiercey has helped and is still helping me learn “all things Google”. Besides Chrome extensions which have become a necessity for collecting and organizing curated resources from Twitter to enhance my classroom, I am in love with Google Hangout. A great introduction to GHO is by @davidtedu. Not only has GHO led to the best most efficient collaboration I have ever experienced (a PLC meeting at 8:30PM when the kids are in bed in my PJs!), but it has enabled me to partner with teachers and an entrepreneur from other states. As @jstevens009  expressed, my PLN is no longer at arm’s reach or just in my building, it is global.  On January 4, I participated in #edcampHOME, the most amazing Professional Learning experience ever.  I am still learning with the posted YouTube sessions here: Session 1 and Session 2  so a detailed blog post coming! My students are also getting in the GHO mix.  We are participating in classroom to classroom GHOs to learn and will collaborate with a 4th grade class in a PBL unit called “The Invertebrate Games.” Students will be learning about and using engineering to design contest venues and stadiums for the Invertebrate Olympic Games, biology to care for and train the inverteathletes, and media (Twitter, Instagram, video, and GHO) to collaborate and share between our classrooms (a project created by the genius of Matt Guenther).  Olympic teams will be comprised of 4th grade students and high school students who will work together through media preparing their team as well as engineering the products needed to host the games.  In another collaboration, we will participate in a PBL unit with two other high school classrooms in Berea and Nashville to study watersheds, conduct a watershed assessment and share/ discuss results with each other and our communities.  In both examples, through my PLN, I have been able to work with other fantastic educators to create and facilitate experiences in the classroom that enable students to learn with others and share learning with authentic audiences.  In all of these partnerships with PLN members, “Twitter was the first date” as described by @ugafrank.  Through the Power of my PLN and those I met on Twitter, I have extended our technology collaboration to other vehicles and we, as professional educators, are engineering engaging project-based learning for our students and listening to their voice to guide us on our path.

Walking down the technology media path, determined to connect it to my passion of facilitating student thinking, has been so exciting.  However, I have had many failed attempts in the classroom.  It took me a month and half to send out that first tweet and I still looked at it multiple times before sending (still remembering that adrenaline anxious feeling today!).  I was following 1 person, my friend who was following me back.  A few seconds after sending that first tweet, someone favorited it and retweeted it, then they DMed me–what was that?  It was so exciting; I was hooked.  I decided at that point to be brave and practice what I preach with students.  I was going to try new things no matter how uncomfortable it made me.  I knew I would have support.  Reflecting back over the past 6 months today, I couldn’t have imagined how that tweet could have transformed my life: new partnerships, new projects, new opportunities, a ton of learning, and most important (to come full circle back to my first tweet!)– a classroom full of engaged students excited to learn using media and technology.  This technology use has become an integral part of our daily learning experience, and opportunities for them to extend their learning beyond the four walls of our classroom and continue to develop.  The best part–it’s still just the beginning.

Please share your PLN journey and how it has impacted your classroom and Professional Learning by commenting or tweeting to @tdishelton.

Here’s an example of a story recently shared by @2footgiraffe  “6 Degrees of Twitteration: Connecting a Science class with a scientist within 6 people on Twitter”

You can follow our class story using our PLN to impact learning at @bchsstory where we will share our collaborations and how we are building our classroom PLN.

Join us for #scistuchat the second Thursday of the month at 8CT/ 9ET.

The teachers I have supported in my district new to Twitter have said it was the stories of the fantastic learning opportunities for themselves as well as their students that sparked their interest in forming a PLN.  We would love to interact/collaborate with your class to extend our learning and perhaps create “sparks” of creativity for each other.

Tricia Shelton