Tag Archives: social media

Bring Presidential Debate into the Classroom

by Elizabeth Liberatore

A presidential debate is like a job interview. It is the final opportunity for a candidate to distinguish him or herself from the competition to earn the majority of votes. After two fiery debates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have one more showdown before the public heads to the polls and the Electoral College fills the position of president.

Presidential debates are significant in both the political landscape and classroom. As a learning tool, presidential debates aid in comprehension about the American government and democracy. Additionally, classroom debates enhance students’ critical thinking and public speaking.

With the debates between Trump and Clinton in full swing, there is no better time than the present to teach students about the debates and host debates in the classroom. Here are some ways to put past and present debates at the forefront of a lesson:

Political ethnographers

Designate different sections of a debate to small groups. The groups should be silent ethnographers, and take detailed notes on the content of the each candidate’s answers and the style of his or her performance. What is his or her tone of voice? What mannerisms are present? Does either candidate’s inflection change during the debate? Does this signify anything? Students should also identify the main idea of the argument and fact-check the information presented to ensure that it is sound. After students have completed their research, ask them to present their findings to the class.

Reference past debates

Watch the Debates is an archive of every presidential debate since 1960. The site allows students to easily navigate through more than five decades of election issues. Microsoft Pulse, an audience response tool, allows students to agree or disagree with the candidates’ responses and lets students compare their responses to those of other viewers. Watch The Debates is ideal for social studies teachers as it allows students to not only evaluate presidential debates but also understand the nation’s most serious issues. Students can use this site in conjunction with Google Newspapers to compare and contrast past election issues that dominated the headlines.

Create a classroom Twitter account

The first Trump-Clinton presidential debate was the most streamed debate ever. Twitter and Facebook’s live video feature allows audiences worldwide to watch the debates on their computers, tablets, and smartphones. The feature also allows viewers to participate in live conversation. In preparation for the final debate on Oct. 19, create a classroom Twitter account or Facebook page where students can interact with one another during the debate. Students should evaluate candidates’ answers, pose questions to their peers, and compare and contrast the first two debates to the third. Do the debates reveal what each candidate stands for? Are candidates being consistent? Are the candidates’ responses thoughtful? Were any of the candidates’ responses surprising?

Classroom debates

Another fantastic resource that both social studies and English teachers can benefit from is Join the Debates. Join the Debates gives teachers curriculum for free so that their students can have civil conversations in the classroom about the issues in the campaign cycle. Classroom debates enable students to become engaged listeners, collaborators, expand their vocabulary with domain-specific words, practice the art of persuasion, and become more proficient in public speech. Students learn all of this while also learning how important presidential debates or ‘interviews’ are in every election.


How to Start a Class Blog

by Hope Morley

class blog

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A class blog is a great way to connect with parents, inspire your students, and meet the Common Core standards. The CCSS Writing standards require students to produce and publish writing on the Internet, as well as adjust writing for different audiences and purposes.

According to a study done last year by the Pew Research Internet Project, 96% of teachers agree that digital technologies benefit students by helping them share writing with wider audiences. Students are writing and reading a lot online, but that language often isn’t appropriate for the classroom. Increasingly, students are using the same general voice whether they’re texting their peers or writing a formal report. Many students are unable to distinguish when to adjust voice and tone for audience; others simply don’t know how. As students prepare for college and the workplace, however, attention to audience may mean the difference between getting a job and offending a boss.

How do you go about preparing your students for college and career while hitting those technology standards? With a class blog of course!

Getting Started 

First and foremost, get permission from your administration and parents before publishing any student work online. Set ground rules, such as no last names for younger students.

Choose a Platform

There are plenty of options out there, but here are a few good options for teachers and students.

  • Blogger: Google’s free blogging platform is user-friendly and easy to set up if you already have a Google account. This platform is best for one class blog. While it is fairly intuitive, save this platform for middle or high school students.
  • Weebly: Weebly is ideal for teachers who want each student to have their own blogs. The teacher creates an umbrella site for the whole class, and then creates individual blogs for each student. Weebly’s drag and drop design is intuitive and easy even for younger students. Weebly has the option to password protect your class blog, which is a great privacy feature.
  • Edublogs: Edublogs are made for teachers and provide plenty of protections for students, though most of the best features require a paid account. Paying teachers can easily monitor comments and blogs from a master account. Edublogs is powered by WordPress, which can be a difficult platform to master.
  • Pen: Do you want students to post their work online only once or twice during the year? Try Pen. This easy website allows anyone to post work online to a unique URL with no log in required.

Set Rules and Expectations 

Before mentioning a blog to your students, figure out what the rules and expectations will be. Are comments allowed? If so, what happens to students who post mean-spirited or offensive comments? How will students be graded? If there’s a rubric, share it with students. How often and when do students need to post? Should students be reading and providing feedback on each other’s posts? Put answers to all these questions in writing (hey, that sounds like a good first blog post!).

Start Posting 

Once you have a blog up and running, set a schedule for posting. Will students post a reflection on the blog every Friday about what they learned? Is the blog a forum for book reviews or short analytical essays? (Be aware that not all students have Internet access at home and should be given time in class or after school to post their work.) What’s the process for corrections?

Have students think about their audience when they post. Who might be interested in reading this work? Who might stumble on it from Google? Bloggers should always have their audience in mind before they start to write.

Do you use a blog in your classroom? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

5 Tools for Successful Teacher-Parent Communication

by Erin Dye

communication tools parents

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s back-to-school time! As you establish new routines with your students, it’s also a good time to think about how you’ll communicate with parents during the year. Parental involvement is a key factor in student achievement. Regular communication with parents keeps them informed about activities and assignments in your classroom as well as their child’s performance.

The following tools can make teacher–parent communication easy and effective:

1)   Create a class website or blog.

A class website is a great way to give parents an overview of your class. For example, you can post your contact information, a syllabus, classroom rules and expectations, and a schedule with important due dates. Weebly and Blackboard Engage are helpful resources for setting up classroom websites. Depending on how you want to use your site, you can keep the design basic or set up interactive features, such as discussion forums.

You can also create a class blog using a site such as Edublogs or Blogger (Google’s free blogging service). On your blog, you can post written updates, photos, and videos of what students are learning. Parents who read the blog will get a glimpse of specific classroom activities. 

2)   Use social networking sites.

Many parents check social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter regularly. Why not create a class Facebook page and Twitter account for parents who are on these sites anyway? This allows you to share frequent, quick updates about classroom happenings. You can even link your Twitter account to a Facebook page to make communication easier. Just remember to check your school’s rules regarding social media before posting anything.

3)   Give parents ongoing access to grades.

To minimize surprises at the end of a grading period, consider giving parents open access to their child’s progress. Many data management systems used for recording grades, such as Rediker, have secure portals for parents to view grades. If your school doesn’t use a system like this, then you can create a grade book online using a site like Edmodo or Engrade to share grades with parents.

4)   Text parents important information.

Using texting services such as Remind (formerly Remind101) allows teachers to communicate quickly with parents on their mobile devices about upcoming events or assignments without sharing their personal phone numbers. It’s also a great way for administrators to communicate time-sensitive information such as weather-related school closings.

5)   Don’t forget about emails, phone calls, and conferences.

Despite the many new methods of communicating with parents, sometimes emails, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings are the best ways to share information. Even if you update your blog or send out tweets regularly, not all parents see this information. Many parents appreciate getting regular email updates, such as newsletters, with important information in one place.

For emails or phone calls with individual parents, be sure to share your policies at the beginning of the school year. For example, let parents know if you return phone calls or emails within a certain time frame or if you have office hours when they can best reach you by phone. In addition, consider face-to-face meetings with parents as your schedule permits; sometimes these meetings are the best way to address specific questions or concerns.

What tools do you use to communicate with parents? Leave a comment to continue the discussion, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAErin Dye is Manager of Consulting Services for Green Light Professional Development. She has extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.

How to Build a PLN this Summer

by Hope Morley

Build a PLN this summer

Build a PLN in addition to sandcastles this summer | Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The sun is shining, the days are getting longer, and the end of the school year is fast approaching. In addition to some much-needed R&R, summer is a great time to work on building your personal learning network (PLN). Here are four things to try over the break.

1. Attend an Edcamp or summer workshop

Find a local Edcamp, a self-proclaimed “unconference” organized by local educators. Edcamps are a great place to network and learn from other teachers.

If there isn’t an Edcamp near you, search for education workshops in your area using Google or EventBrite. Local colleges and universities are often a good place to start.

If you can’t find one locally, try a virtual workshop, such as one from Google. Then join one of their communities to discuss what you learned.

2. Spend time exploring Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever social network interests you

Summer is the perfect time to devote ten minutes a day to participating in professional conversations on social media. Start slow, by finding new people to follow. Then try commenting on articles or resources you like. Set a goal, such as one comment per day (and follow through if a conversation ensues!). By the end of the summer, you could have started 50 or more conversations. Even if most of them don’t lead to anything, a few might inspire great connections!

In addition, share the posts you like or what you’re learning. Make your Twitter stream or Pinterest boards worth following.

We have lots of detailed tips about social networking here, here, and here.

3. Find new bloggers to follow

Find some new blogs that interest you. You can start from a directory such as Teach100, or try Googling your subject and grade level. If you find a blog you like, leave a comment or reach out to that person on social media. Or simply start loading those blogs into an RSS feed or reading app such as Flipboard to refer to during the school year.

4. Join a teacher community on Ning or Google+

These communities are specifically set up for conversations and sharing ideas. Join a few and see what your peers have to say. (Try starting with the wonderful and huge Classroom 2.0.) These groups can be easier to jump into than one-on-one forms of social media, especially if you’re creating a new account.


Once you have the foundation built, it’ll be much easier to keep up with your PLN when August rolls around. What are your PLN plans for the summer?

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT


How to Build An Online Brand

by Hope Morley

how to build an online brand

Image courtesy of photoraidz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In spring, as the saying goes, a young person’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of graduation. For many graduates, that means preparing for the next phase of their lives as college students or as young working adults. Whether they’ll be interviewing for jobs, getting ready for college, or just relaxing over the summer, students should be prepared to take control of and build their online brands.

Young people are deeply invested in controlling the impression they make on their peers in the moment. But they may not be so good at anticipating the effects their speech and actions may have in the future—or on third parties who may be witnessing the conversation or behavior from the outside. For that reason, it’s never too early to talk to young people about building an online brand they can be proud of. Take advantage of existing lessons from Common Sense Media. The American Civil Liberties Union also reminds students that it is very easy for potential employers to access whatever is publicly viewable.

What is an online brand?

Your online brand is what people see when they look you up on the Internet. It’s the sum total of the information that’s publicly available about you and your online activities. And there may be more than you think there is. Have you Googled yourself lately? If you haven’t, do it now. Don’t worry—I’ll wait. (Hint: Use private browsing to see what a stranger sees.) Were you surprised by what you saw? If you were a student, how would you feel about a prospective employer seeing it, or a college admissions officer, or a coach or teacher?

Why does it matter?

Making a good impression is always a good idea. For jobseekers and students applying to institutions of higher learning, it is of the utmost importance.

Although it may feel like digital interactions take place only in an intangible cloud, that’s not the case. Our online presence can have real and lasting effects on our offline lives. Digital permanence means that the brash outspokenness of today could be the embarrassing fiasco of tomorrow. You only get one chance to make a permanent impression: the Internet is forever. Other users may take screenshots, make local copies, or otherwise preserve posts and tweets. So even if you delete your own regrettable content, a permanent record of its existence may remain.

How do I build an online brand?

Students should follow these basics for successfully building an online brand.


  • use available privacy settings to control your broadcast range on social media sites
  • differentiate between content you post publicly and what’s only appropriate to share privately
  • have your own website (about.me or Google site, for instance) where employers and recruiters can easily find, learn about, and contact you
  • actively participate in public forums authentically and constructively
  • highlight your skills and accomplishments
  • know the terms of service (TOS); be aware of what you’re signing up for


  • share your passwords with anyone: it makes you vulnerable and may be a breach of TOS
  • make available anything you wouldn’t want to talk about in a job or school interview
  • post anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers, or the rest of the Internet-using world to know
  • publish anything that probably won’t be true in six months, two years, or twenty years down the line

How do you cultivate your own online brand? How do you get students to think about developing theirs?

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

4 Tools for Integrating Social Media into Professional Development

by Hope Morley

social media professional development

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Participating in professional learning communities (PLCs) allows teachers to share ideas, resources, and strategies that support and enhance learning outside of traditional professional development seminars. Previously, we’ve talked about building an effective PLC and how to integrate technology into a PLC. Today, the focus is on four social media tools to explore for personal professional development: Edmodo, Google+ Communities, Pinterest, and Twitter.


Edmodo is an educational website that functions as a social network. Most teachers use Edmodo to communicate with students, but it also is a great space for interacting with other teachers. Think about it, with all those educators in one place, don’t you think they’d start talking to each other?

To get started, check out Edmodo’s list of Teacher PD groups. Search the list to find one that relates to you and request to join. You can also create your own group to connect with teachers within your school, district, or PLN. If you’re looking for advice surrounding a specific device or program, such as ClassDojo, search for the company’s publisher page. Many of them cultivate good communities, or at the very least provide a space to discuss with other teachers.

Google+ Communities

Google+ Communities are groups built around specific topics and interests. There are Communities for every topic you can think of, including literature, math, science, and more. Community members share information, post comments, and ask and answer questions. A moderator likely reviews all posted content and can take action to address anything that’s irrelevant or inappropriate.

If you have a Gmail or Google Apps account, then joining Google+ is easy (and possibly already done for you). Mashable has a helpful beginner’s guide for Google+ Communities. You can search by subject area, or start with this list of more than 190 education-related Communities.


Pinterest serves as a virtual bulletin board where people can “pin” images and other digital content that they want to save. You can create different Pinterest boards for different topics and follow others’ boards to see what they’re pinning.

Pinterest is a lot more than recipes and ways to repurpose mason jars. It has a very active teacher community sharing lots of great activities and tips. Find educators to follow and search your subject or grade level for new ideas.

For more, visit Edutopia for one educator’s perspective on using Pinterest and a video overview of what the site is and how educators are using it.


An executive at Twitter recently said that educators are an essential part of the network’s base. Anyone who hangs with teachers on Twitter already knew that! Twitter can be a busy place—let hashtags help you sort through all the information. (For those who don’t know, a hashtag is simply a keyword or phrase, no spaces, preceded by the # symbol.) Use hashtags to find educator chats and find people worth following. You can also create your own class or school hashtags (e.g., #leydenpride) to organize tweets and build community. If you feel overwhelmed, try a tool like TweetDeck (my favorite) or Hootsuite to organize hashtags you like into streams.

For more, check out our complete post on using Twitter to form a PLN. Also check out this comprehensive list of education-related hashtags and guide to Twitter lingo.

What social media tools do you use to connect with other educators? Leave a comment to join the discussion.

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

Online Safety in School: Setting Rules

by Hope Morley

online safety rules for schools

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s no question that digital technologies can enhance students’ learning experience. Computers, tablets, and smartphones have made it easier than ever for students to explore the world from the comforts of their own homes and classrooms. For example, connecting with peers around the globe through Mystery Skype can spark an interest in other cultures. Blogging encourages students to participate in an open dialogue with a wide audience while sharpening their own writing and research skills.

Since students use technology on a daily basis, they may already see themselves as experts. But they may not understand why it’s important to stay safe online. That’s why it’s crucial to create and maintain an online safety policy. Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind while teaching students how to use technology safely and responsibly.

Safe Use of Mobile Devices

  • Set rules for the use of devices. Clearly state when a device should be used in class and when it should be turned off and put away. Remind students that they should only use their devices to access online content that’s been approved for in-class activities. Work with administrators to draft a written policy and have students sign an agreement to follow the rules.
  • Keep track of devices at all times. Explain that students are responsible for any devices that are brought home, and teach them the best practices for taking care of each gadget. To reduce the risk of theft, make sure that devices are never left unattended in an unlocked classroom.

Safe Blogging and Social Networking

  • Remind students to avoid sharing personal information in posts or comments. This includes surnames, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, details about family members or routines, and school name and location. Consider assigning each student a nickname to safeguard privacy.
  • Monitor blog posts and comments for potentially unsafe content. Be sure to explain to students why such posts pose safety risks.
  • Keep social networking platforms secure. If you use a web-based social learning platform such as Edmodo in class, review their best practices for safety. Make sure that students understand these practices as well. 

Safe Video Conferencing and Chats

  • Inform students, staff, and parents about all conferences and chats. Detail in writing who will participate, when the conference or chat will take place, and its purpose. This can be done in an email, such as this one from Crescent School in Toronto, sent at least two days before the event. Give parents the option to excuse their children from participating, and provide an alternate activity for these students.
  • Work with the outside participant(s) to set ground rules. Rules may include who will be present and whether the conference can be recorded. You may also want to discuss avoiding the use of surnames to protect students’ privacy.

Once you’ve developed your online safety policy, share and discuss it with students. Consider asking them to help you come up with additional guidelines.

How do you encourage your students to stay safe online?

Hope MorleyHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

Twitter: How teachers can use it as a PLN

by Luz Chavez

Part two of our series on teachers and social media. For Part 1 on LinkedIn, click hereInfographic source

Oh Twitter. Using it can be like flipping through radio stations on an old static-y radio. How do you cut through all the crappy commercials and music to get to a song you like? Streamline the noise by using it like Pandora. Let’s start with the basics first.

Twitter for teachers educational hashtagsFollow

The beauty of Twitter is that you can follow almost anyone. Twitter is all about connecting with strangers and exchanging news and ideas—all in 140 characters or less. Follow:

 Once you complete your profile and follow some users, Twitter recommends more people to follow.


Unless you make your tweets private, which defeats the purpose of social media, anyone with an internet connection can read what you tweet. So, be wise and professional. Tweet:

  • links to new apps or websites you are using with your students
  • links to resources that worked (or didn’t)
  • questions or requests for information (“Can anyone recommend resources for online primary sources?”)
  • links to important or breaking education news
  • links to online lesson plans that worked well
  • Retweet, where you share someone else’s tweet and insert a comment

Use the @

One of the wisest things I’ve heard from a social media guru is this: “I believe in the @.”

Tweet someone directly by beginning your tweet with the @ plus the user’s handle. Doing so is the difference between using Twitter as a newsstand and using it as an opportunity to engage with the people creating the stories.

There are a lot of educators out there like you in other states and countries, struggling with similar issues. What are their solutions? What solutions do you have that can help them? Using the @ can have a direct impact on how you do things in your classroom.


Okay, so now that the basics are out of the way, let’s talk about cutting through the noise.

  • Lists. Making lists is the best way to filter and organize tweets. In Twitter, you can make a list of users on a specific topic, such as elementary reading experts, IWB users, project-based learning experts, and so on. This way, when you check Twitter, you can hone in on specific topics.
  • Hashtags.  Hashtags are conversation labels. Add one at the end of your tweet to add to that conversation or search a hashtag to check out the latest news. There are tons of hashtags for education, such as #edchat and #edtech. Check out the poster for more.
  • Search. Twitter’s search engine allows you to search specific key words and save your searches. Then you can filter by top tweets or all tweets. This way you can always find exactly what you’re looking for.

Stay tuned for the next part in this PLN series: Keep your social networks organized in Hootsuite!

Luz Chavez is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development.

Getting Started With Mystery Skype

by Hope Morley

Mystery Skype map

Image courtesy of phanlop88 | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Need ideas for how to use video chats as learning opportunities in your classroom? Mystery Skype can turn your students into modern-day detectives! As you may already know, Skype is a great resource for educators; it allows your class to connect with adults and other students around the world.

Mystery Skype is generally used as a “global guessing game” played by two classrooms: each class gets 20 questions to figure out where in the country or world the other class is. However, Mystery Skype can also be used to talk to experts in subjects that students are studying or to individuals whose careers you want the class to learn more about. Finally, Mystery Skype can be used as a tool for students to practice a foreign language with native speakers and for English language learners to hone their English skills.

Before the Mystery Skype Session

To get started, follow these steps to begin your own adventure.

(1) Sign up at the Skype in the Classroom Mystery Skype web page. This will bring you into contact with other educators and professionals who might be a good resource for your classroom.

(2) Connect with the Mystery Skype community. Skype’s education page includes interested classes, virtual field trips, and experts looking for classrooms to connect with.

(3) Choose a date and time with a classroom or individual. When arranging the chat, make sure to keep different time zones in mind—and don’t forget about the International Date Line!

(4) Set rules with the other party. Will the call be recorded? Which classroom will ask the first question? What is the time parameter? Figuring out these details ahead of time will help things run smoothly.

(5) Acquire parental and administrative permission. This standard practice for any and all video chats protects the students, the instructors, and the administration.

(6) Assign roles to your students. The Mystery Skype site suggests “greeters, question keepers … bloggers, photographers, live tweeters, reporters” as options. Internet searchers and mappers are other jobs that could improve the class’s chances of figuring out the other classroom’s location or person’s career.

(7) Instruct the class to brainstorm questions. On her blog, Wisconsin teacher Pernille Ripp offers a great list of questions as well as additional tips for those new to Mystery Skype.

(8) Make a test call. To ensure that your software is working and up to date, schedule a short test run with another teacher.

During the Mystery Skype Session

If necessary, remind students to talk one at a time. Students should speak clearly and at an appropriate volume while looking into the camera.

After the Mystery Skype Session

Discuss how the adventure unfolded. With the class, create a list of questions and techniques that were most effective. Keep these on hand during your next Mystery Skype session.

By accessing the global community through Mystery Skype, you can increase student engagement and help your students improve their geography, language, comprehension, and teamwork skills.

Hope MorleyHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT