Moving the blog

I will now be working on a collaborative blog at:


Getting teachers on Twitter

This fall one of the goals of my buildings tech plan that I helped create had the goal of getting teachers to start to use social media for professional development.  The most success so far has been in getting our staff on Twitter.  Here is who is now on Twitter:

In the above list there are teachers who have:

Made the account, haven’t tweeted but rather have “lurked.”  And that’s OK:

Others who have joined a grade level chat:

Some are tweeting student learning during the hour of code:

While others are participating in collaborative math projects with other classrooms:

Here is what helped get so many staff on Twitter:

  1.  1 on 1 training.  What staff knew about Twitter was too varied for an after school training.  Some were tweeting before me, others did not know what Twitter really was.  What helped was to make it fun–in October I had a “Twix or Tweet” campaign.  Signing up for Twitter with me 1:1 got you a Twix.


2.  As you sit with the teacher, make sure they are running the device.  It takes a bit longer but watching someone set something up for you isn’t helpful after you leave.

3.  Set up the teacher with a “seed” PLN (personal learning network)

I help the staff member connect first with other staff on Twitter in our building and our district and then with at least three people in their area using: and for grade level teachers

4.  I then showed staff the basics of navigating Twitter:

How to add/remove those you follow

How to follow a hashtag

When a chat, e.g. a grade level chat, happens.  Also what “Q1” (Question 1), “A3” (Answer 3) means in an overlapping Twitter Chat.

5.  Some recurring questions from staff have been:

Why bother?

The main reason I tell them about the value to educators of Twitter–or other social media–is the PLN–your Personal Learning Network.

One example would be the #4thchat group.  It’s great to connect to other 4th grade teachers to share ideas, challenges, and connections.  Many of the mystery skypes I have done were connected through the PLN.

Over winter break, a weekly #4thchat turned into a Google Hangout with ideas about how to share student publishing.  One of the members created a internet Google doc on which our students are working to share their book reviews.

The main purpose of Twitter is rather than going to Google, you go to Twitter where you often find things you didn’t even know you were going to search/Google.

There are many ways to connect, but it has been fun to help get people started.




Extending your classroom beyond your walls

Below are notes that I shared after a staff development training that a colleague, Melinda Talamantes, and I gave last week.

Quick summary/examples

Scenario 1:  You take ~15 minutes during morning meeting and using Skype video call another teacher in another state at a prearranged time.  Your class has their TCI maps, whiteboard markers, example questions, atlases and other resources out.  Students have generated example questions using their TCI maps, TCI textbook chapters 4-13, and Benchmark guided reading books about the regions of the US.  In a “20 questions” format classrooms take turns asking each other questions until you determine which state the other classroom is in.  Depending on how long the mystery takes, you may share information about your city, your school or your classroom.

Scenario 2:  You take ~25 minutes of your science time and use Skype to connect at a prearranged time to a National Park and have your students learn about the rock cycle, the water cycle, rocks, or minerals by asking the National Park Ranger questions at Yellowstone National Park.  Your students have generated questions from their Pearson Science book chapter 5 and are using vocabulary from Anna Nordlocken’s science vocabulary list.  (Add link).

Scenario 3:  You take ~20 minutes of your writing time and use Skype to connect with an author at prearranged time whose book you have read during read aloud.  Students ask the author about the writing process based on their experiences reading similar books and their Benchmark writing projects.

These are not things you do daily, but as you can make connections.

Quick setup:

Make a Skype account, make a profile at, connect with other educators there or on Twitter.  Download the free Skype program, check out a webcam from the media center, set up and schedule a time.

Extended examples of connected classrooms

How can you use Skype and Google Hangouts in the Classroom?  Here are some examples:

  1. Mystery Skype example with video example:
  2. Author Skype with video example:
  3. Visiting an with a technical person with video example:
  4. Taking a virtual field trip to a national park/science location with video example:


There are so many other ideas out there!

  1. Virtual field trips:
  2. Connecting with professionals:
  3. Mystery number:

What do I need to do to get set up?

Gather Materials


  • Webcam installed on computer.  Many of the document cameras teachers are using have video and audio and so also can work as web cams. Also some of the media centers have web cams available for checkout.
  • A USB extension cord if you do not like where you webcam connects
  • Curriculum resources, e.g. TCI maps, textbooks, whiteboard markers
  • List of example questions students have generated
  • Smartboard projector is optional
  • Chromebooks are not necessary


Set up your computer

  • Install webcam onto computer
  • Download and install (free) Skype software onto computer
  • Create a free Skype educator account
  • Create a free Skype educator profile.  You can edit this one for mystery Skypes (When signing up you can mention “Minnesota” in the text, but don’t put “Minnesota” in the Skype signup form–otherwise “Minnesota” shows up at the top of your Skype call screen):

Minnesota 4th grade (ages 9 and 10 years old) class looking for “classroom without walls” opportunities.

Sign up to mystery Skype with us!

I am a fourth grade teacher in Albert Lea, Minnesota, USA. We are in the CST/UTC -6 time zone. We are looking for mystery skype partners, guest speakers, virtual field trips, etc.

Our ideal times are:  8:25AM-8:45AM, 10:05AM-10:15AM, and after 2:15PM.

(All times Central/Chicago/CST/UTC-6)

  • My email is:
  • My skype name is: mark.nechanicky
  • My twitter name is: marknechanicky

Start small and try out ONE thing.  Here are some ideas:

When do you do this?  (The average mystery skype lasts 15 minutes).

  1. Snack break
  2. Morning meeting
  3. Social Studies
  4. Science

How do you plan ahead:

  1. Do a mock mystery skype for morning meeting where you pretend to be the other class.  Work on expectations and routines
  2. Set expectations with students
    1. How do you start, e.g Skype rock/paper/scissors, defer to other class, etc.
    2. Have students walk over to webcam and practice being loud enough to be heard.  
    3. How do you ask a question “Hello, my name is _________, “Does your state border Canada?”
    4. Answering questions (often as a group), “No, our state does NOT touch an ocean.”  so that the other class can hear the answer the first time.
    5. Limiting noises from the audience (talking over each other) (movement noises)
    6. While the mystery skype is going on, have two to three students lined up at the webcam to ask questions.  Ask students to let you know what their question is–not to correct–but rather to make sure they really have one.
    7. Practice how questions can be redundant.  If first question is, “are you in the western region?” and the answer is “No” then a follow up question of “Do you border the Pacific Ocean” is redundant.
    8. Avoid questions like “Are you in Iowa?” “Does your state start with ‘M’?” “Does your state have “5 letters?” etc.  Use social studies knowledge to generate questions.
  • List of questions (ongoing)


    1. Guided reading books about each region help students find questions
    2. TCI student books help students develop questions
    3. TCI maps and atlases help students develop questions
    4. Listening to the questions that students from other states is helpful. (“Is your state west of 85 degrees north longitude”?)
    5. Here is a list of questions we have generated:

  1. After mystery skype (even next morning meeting or social studies time) reflect:  Did we get any new questions, what questions helped narrow down the location, did we have any redundant questions?

Student role during skyping:

Keep track of the answers and information the other class provide. Locate or eliminate areas according to the information provided.  Try to identify the other class’s location before they identify ours.

Teacher role during skyping:

Having two teachers running the same activity from each side can cause pauses, be assertive and facilitate the pace with the other teacher, e.g. “It’s your turn to ask a question.”  or “We have 5 minutes left.”

Tips for connecting with other educators for mystery Skypes:

  1. Before the Skype make sure you:
    1. Confirm the date
    2. List the time zone when confirming your time (CST/UTC -6)
    3. Exchange Skype contacts with the other teacher

I just write the information on the whiteboard–class gets busy!  On the whiteboard is the day of the week, date, time, Skype name of the teacher and their first name.  (You may build up several Skype contacts and will want to easily find the teacher you are mystery Skyping with).

Other Mystery Skype ideas and resources:

Why bother?  Why is this important?

There are two models that help teachers integrating technology into their classrooms and helping students learn 21st century skills.  

The first is the “4C’s” 

More information about the 4C’s:

The second is the “SAMR” model )

SAMR Overview:

Building tech coaches are working on ways to incorporate 21st century skills into student learning.  This is one example of a way to create a connected classroom.

4Cs and SAMR

There are many places to find a new way to view integrating technology into the classroom.  This blog post by Lisa Lund has a great flow from beginning to specific examples for each of the letters in the SAMR acronym.

I have liked how some caution that SAMR is helpful for the reflective teacher rather than for evaluating that teacher:

and also:

So it’s important for technology coaches to focus on using the SAMR model with colleagues in a way to reflectively think about how technology instruction–to view SAMR as a shift from a social tool and technology consumption and switching over to ways that technology can help students learn.



Google Certified Educator Level 2


I went through the Google Certified Educator Level 2 training and passed the certification exam.  The Google training and exam are located at:

In addition to the applications covered in the level 1 certification, I liked the additional training in Google Classroom, Google Drive, Google Sites, and Google Sheets.   This training flowed well from where the Level 1 training left off.  I am looking foward to using and sharing what I’ve learned in these two trainings.


Google Certified Educator Level 1

Badge-GCE-Level1 (1)

I went through the Google Certified Educator Level 1 training and passed the certification exam.  The Google training and exam are located at:

As far as self guided online trainings go, this one is very thorough and helpful.  Our district switched to using GAFE (Google Apps for Education) this fall and last spring I was on the grade level team that piloted a 1:1 Chromebook pilot.  This training is good for anyone who is starting GAFE from scratch and for others who have already started using GAFE.  It filled in holes and showed me new applications to use while using GAFE.  The part I liked was that during the tutorials and practice quizzes–and even on the certification exam itself–I could Google any steps to make sure I could complete the scenarios.  During the certification exam I had a a temporary Google account and rather than explaining tasks, I had to do them.  I would recommend this training for anyone who is using GAFE or anyone who coaches people who do.


Lakeview Elementary, Albert Lea Area Schools, Minnesota. Views expressed are my own.