Beth Holland

Food for thought…


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Size Doesn’t Matter….

Now that I have your attention… let’s talk about PLNs!

pln-viewAs 2013 comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about my PLN (Mom, I know you’re reading, that stands for Personal Learning Network). Since I spent over half of the year on the couch, it gave me a great opportunity to connect virtually with people from around the world. In fact, I had the same view for iPad Summit Atlanta, ISTE, iPadPalooza, ADE, and at dozen EdCamps.

Yet despite the time that I’ve spent interacting on Twitter, and posting to LinkedIn Groups, my PLN is relatively tiny. I don’t have thousands of Twitter followers, LinkedIn Connections, or Facebook friends, but in the real world, I don’t have hundreds of real friends, either. I have a a core group of incredibly close friends, many of whom I’ve known my entire life.

This is why I was incredibly shocked, and totally honored, last week when eSchool News included me on a list with ed-tech rockstars Eric Scheninger (@NMHS_Principal), Erin Klein (@KleinErin), real-life friend Shawn McCusker (@ShawnMcCusker), and Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) as one of the Top 5 ed-tech Twitter accounts we follow. Honestly, I didn’t even think eSchoolNews knew that I existed!

I started writing this post with the new AT&T commercial in mind, and I have to disagree. Sometimes, bigger isn’t better. I’d like to think that my small pool has piranhas AND a dinosaur robot who can karate-chop like a ninja!

I’m writing this post on Christmas Eve morning, so for all of you who have followed me, connected to me, or even picked up the phone and called, thank you and have a Merry Christmas (yes, I said it. It’s December 24th. Seems appropriate).

For those of you who may choose to join my PLN for 2014, we may be small in numbers, but we pack a punch. Here’s what I can promise.

  • I will answer your questions if you direct them my way. If my answer can’t fit in 140 characters, I will write a blog post and tweet a link. If I can’t answer your questions, I’ll just keep asking other people until I can help you find an answer.
  • I will retweet and promote your brilliance. If you write an amazing blog post, I will share it with the world. I might even write about you or reference you, and I will definitely link back to your original and give you credit.
  • I will talk about you to anyone who might listen and always ask for permission first. If you don’t believe me, ask Kristen Wideen (@MrsWideen), Todd Curtis (@toddacurtis), Rhonda Mitchell (@rgmteach), Ben Schersten (@benschersten), Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth), Brendan Leonard (@semi_rad), Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy), Fitz Cahall (@dirtbagdiaries), and others.
  • I will be helpful, positive, entertaining, prolific, and occasionally off-color – just to keep you on your toes.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and get ready for 2014!


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Herding Followers

From time to time, my dogs guest post on my blog. They are surprisingly articulate, though their typing skills leave a lot to be desired, but I digress. Two days ago, I decided that they should also start Tweeting.

It started out as a joke. I’ve been following @IAmAGoodDog for the past few months, and found him highly entertaining, so I created @Multi_Shepherds for Zoey & Murphy. It started out all fun and games: pick a profile picture, set a background, think about a style of tweet, establish a tone…. Oh, they write in all lowercase letters because it’s too hard to hold down the Shift key with a paw.

I realized that in addition to being able to have some fun (hey, after 6 months on crutches this seemed like a good idea – don’t judge), I had a great social media curriculum on my hands. Though there is tremendous value in having students learn to blog and Tweet, some schools and districts don’t yet have a culture to support an immersive dive into social media. However, what about teaching students to tweet as their pet? What about an account from the class or school mascot? What could this teach students not only about digital citizenship and social media, but about character, tone, and voice? By tweeting from the perspective of an animal or character, students could learn valuable skills without divulging any personal information.

I’m looking forward to tweeting on behalf of Zoey and Murphy. I can assure you that the content will be appropriate to all dog audiences. They are already adding to their PLN, following @BooIzzy, @BradyTheGolden, and @NormanScooter as well as more well known canines such as Snoopy. They are learning that pictures should make a positive contribution to their digital footprint, and that they should add value to their followers. The only challenge now is for them to learn to follow without herding!


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My Week of Social Media

The only benefit to being couch bound right now is that I’ve been able to read and write – a lot. Thanks to the contributions of three fantastic educators – Kristen Wideen, Kristin Ziemke, and Jill Gough – I was able to get my first post published by Edutopia.

While I was excited about writing Teaching Toddlers to Tweet? Introducing Social Media to Elementary Students, I did not expect the amazing impact that it would have. While in the past two days, I have been contacted by two different organizations asking about guest posts, what is more exciting is The Magic of Social Media in Kristen Wideen’s class.

What has happened in the last 24 hours has resulted from the “magic” of social media:

Yesterday Beth Holland’s article was published on Edutopia titled, “Teaching Toddlers to Tweet? Introducing Social Media to Elementary Students”   I was honored to be included in this well written article and tweeted the article to our school board’s Public Relations Officer, Scott Scantlebury @gecdsbpro.  From that tweet, I received a phone call from CBC Windsor asking if I could come in to do a radio interview before school the following day.  I of course agreed!

As I was waiting to speak on the air this morning, I was approached by a gentleman at the station asking if he could send someone out today with a camera to shoot a piece for the six o’clock news.  I was flabbergasted!  I asked my principal and he said, “Of course!”  I finished my radio interview and got to school before the morning bell.

The video that was broadcast on CBC last night can be viewed below.

What an exciting way to wrap up the school year for that Grade 1/2 class! I’m honored to know that I can be along for the ride.


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Go Get a Notebook! No, Wait, Go Get a Means for Aggregating Information

It’s sailing season. We started back on the 28th of February, which can only mean one thing: I’m on the run. I’ve also become sucked into Twitter, Diigo, Facebook, my Google Reader, Pinterest, and a host of other online tools thanks to my colleagues at EdTechTeacher. So, while I’ve been writing frantically on a myriad of other tools, this blog has been lacking any articles for the past few weeks.

Back to my post…. On Tuesday, I worked with a group of new sailors. We covered some essential concepts on land – namely, parts of the boat and sail. While this may seem trivial, you try explaining to a cold, wet, 14-year old to “pull the purple line on the left side of that white thing you’re sitting on” over 10 knots of breeze and an outboard engine. About half-way through our lesson, I looked at my groups slightly glassed over expressions and said, “go get a notebook and write all of this down.”

As the words came out of my mouth, I stopped in my tracks, turned to them and then said, “No, wait, go get something to keep track of this information. I don’t care if it’s a notebook, a Google Collection, Evernote, or apps on your phone.”

Welcome to coaching in the 21st Century! To be honest, I think I would prefer that they get organized on their phone. This way, they could have all of the PDFs, Google Docs, photos, videos, notes, animations, etc. that we send them all in one place. My only criteria for how they aggregate all of this information is that it has to be mobile. When we travel, I want them to have access to a rule book, a play book, the team racing call book, a boat set-up checklist, and a host of other things. A 3-ring binder can do most of this, but a device could be even better.

Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers. Yesterday, he published a presentation file, Best of the Web 2012. It’s embedded below. The presentation covers 70 tools in 60 minutes – even more impressive than the 30 tools in 40 minutes that he discussed during our EdTechTeacher webinar a few weeks ago. I’ve added it to this post as proof for why I’ve reconsidered the concept of the sailing notebook. Personally, I think I would use Evernote