Category Archives: Technology

How to be Effective During Chats

As one of the moderators of #ohiogtchat I help to lead a chat that brings topics related to Gifted Education, advocacy, and gifted children and adults. Near the end of each chat we encourage those who participated in the chat follow each other. What I have noticed in past two years of moderating #ohiogtchat I have noticed that many new people are joining the Twitterverse.

One of my passions is advocating got gifted children and Gifted Education. So if I can, I want to help others who have a passion for gifted advocacy online to be more effective I will. Now, the few tips that I want to share are ones I have learned from being on Twitter and participating in chats.

Before we talk about the chats, let’s talk about your profile on Twitter. Here are a few suggestions:

Don’t be an Egg-Head. When you set up your Twitter account they give you a colored egg as your avatar. Change it. Add a picture of yourself, or use some of the online photo editors to dress up your picture as much as you want. If you don’t want to put a picture of yourself, then use a logo of something that relates to you. For example, if you graduated from a college then use their logo as your avatar. I use my favorite picture with my wife.

Screenshot_20160413-130334Create a Profile. When you create your profile, write your description of yourself that accurately describes you. When you leave it blank it doesn’t allow others to see who you are. I would also use hashtags in the descriptions of the things you like or follow. For example, to the left is mine. I tell what is important to me, about me, and share the hashtags I like to follow. I also have a link to my blog page. I also added a picture to top. That picture shows I am into sports, particularly high school sports.

Use a handle that represents you. Some people like to use their name as their handle, which is what I did. Some like to be more creative with their handle. Whatever you choose let it show people who you are. Don’t make it complicated. Don’t use your zip code or birthdate in it. For example, don’t use “jsh03maker12fght”. It’s too complicated. Just be yourself.

Remember on Twitter, pictures and tweets last forever. People will judge about you is the material that place online. So don’t post images or tweets when you are angry, drunk, or extremely tired. The posts won’t make sense most of the time, and you may say something you regret later.

No as it comes to being effective in chats, here are a few things I would suggest. 

Increase your PLN (Professional Learning Network). When you join in a chat you like, I will go through and follow those people who are active in the chat. I want to learn from others. 

Study Up. Most chats will post the questions a few days before hand. Check out the questions. Do a little bit of research so you can add to the conversation. 

Like / Retweet. During the chat like and retweet statuses of others. By liking the post, you are agreeing with them. Post your own original thoughts in a chat. It’s nice to like and retweet, but you need to add your opinion or better yet some of your research. Share the article, website, post, blog, or the handle of someone on Twitter that will add to the conversation.

Finally, help to promote your favorite chats. When the moderator posts upcoming chat times and topics share those with others. Get more people in the conversation. The more people you have, the diverse the conversation. Here is a link to several tweet chats that you may be interested in. 

I hope this helps to give you an idea of ways to be more effective on Twitter. Again you can always follow me on Twitter at @jeff_shoemaker, and check out the chat I moderate called #ohiogtchat. (This chat is sponsored by the Teacher Division of The Association for Gifted Children.)

If you have any other suggestions on how to be more effective on Twitter and during tweet chats please let me know in the comments section below.

Introverts and School Life

This morning I read an interesting article about introverts and college life at Ohio State University. Introversion is a topic that I wrote about a few months ago, and I think this is a topic that we will see more and more in the news as it draws more attention.

In the article it mentions that a student, Alexandra Grese, who is an introvert created a Facebook page called “Introverts of OSU”, with the tag line “A social club for the not-so-social.” College isn’t set up for introverts. There is a lot of forced socialization by living in dorms, and all of the clubs that are readily available to join.

After reading this article, I began to think about myself. I at times can be an introvert, but in college I feel like I began to come out of my shell.  Looking back college made me come out of my shell. I didn’t want to be alone in college. I wanted to have friends.

I started to think about my school and classroom. What do we do to help introverts be more comfortable? What in our school would interest an introvert? What opportunities do we give students who are introverts? What do I do in my classroom to make introverts welcome, and comfortable? Do my projects I assign give students who are introverts to be introverted? I don’t think I do enough to allow them to be introverts.

I applaud Alexandra Grese, for stepping out and taking a chance. I am sure it isn’t easy to get introverts together. I want to take her lead, and do something here in my school as well. I am not sure what it may be, but I will keep you posted.

I am interested in hearing what you do in your school, or classroom to make introverts feel more comfortable.


Addition of Complexity

I was reading a blog post from Ian Byrd today, called 7 Ways to Add Complexity. Ian does a great job of explaining ways that will add complexity to the gifted classroom. Complexity is a great way to add rigor to the curriculum.

One aspect that I feel is important to gifted children is that the curriculum be challenging and relevant. Gifted children want to be challenged. It is our job as GIS to figure out how to challenge them in a way that makes them grow, not only in learning, but as a person.

Last year I did a competition with my 7th graders. My students had to create a working simple machine based on some household items. The items changed as the challenge did each week. For one challenge I gave them a few household items such as plastics spoons, rubber bands, different sized popsicle sticks, and some pushpins. They had to make a catapult that would shoot a penny more than 10 feet. They worked with a partner to figure this out. I gave them 10 minutes on the computer to research catapults, and do make a rough design on paper. Once the time was up students had to use that materials and their simple sketch to make their model. Each of my students loved this. My extroverts loved to boast about their models, and my introverts were proud peacocks when they won.

Complexity can come in different forms. It can come in shortened time, and few resources. Complexity doesn’t have to be something over the top. Sometimes, you just have to shake things up to make them more interesting. Using items that are different from what the students would expect is great way to get complexity. For example Ian writes in the article mentioned above, that he had a 6th grader write an essay using kindergarten paper.

In our world of education, we have to push our gifted students more and more. We are expecting them to show growth through the year on standardized tests. I believe that without complexity and a good knowledge of differentiation skills students won’t progress like they should.

What do you do to add complexity to your curriculum? What differentiation strategies do you use that work best with gifted students? Share in the comments section below.

A Shameless Plug: On Sunday Feb 28 at 9pm ET #ohiogtchat will be doing a review of Ian’s work on Differentiation on Twitter. For more information follow @jeff_shoemaker and @HeatherCachat, or go to our website

Building a Culture of Creativity

Creativity is an important element for the Gifted Classroom.

I enjoy is giving students a task or project, and letting them go on to do what they want with it. I feel that it is important to let students be creative.

I feel that gifted students need to have the freedom to use their own ideas, designs, and interests in the projects that I give them. I do a lot of Project Based Learning projects. I like the real world aspect of this type of learning. So, in the spirit of real world learning, I don’t necessarily have a one correct answer. I do use a rubric to grade their work, but I don’t expect every student or groups of students to have the same answer to a project.

It has taken me a while to get students to trust me that there is no one correct answer to a project. I don’t guide them to what I think they should do in a project. Instead, I ask a lot of questions. I guide them by questions, or by challenging their thinking.

Here are a few other ways I have built creativity in my classroom.

  1. Be a facilitator: I try to guide my students when needed. I ask a lot of questions, and only give suggestions when they ask. I get out of the way.
  2. Know when to step in: I try not to rush to help a student too quickly.  I let them struggle a bit. I feel that through the struggle they will gain more than knowlegde. They will gain perserverance.
  3. Value students thinking processes: every student thinks differently. I often times will have my students take the Right Brain Left Brain test to see how they think.  Each student has a mode of thinking they prefer to use. I try to embrace that. It a student thinks better on their feet walking around I try to commodate. If a student thinks better listening to music (with head phones on), or they are verbal thinkers, then I try to embrace it without compromising other students thinking processes. When students pair up for a project, sometimes they want to work with their friends. Sometimes they work with students who think like them.
  4. Be clear / Be upfront: I give my students clear guidelines of what I expect from them. I give them a rubric that everything outlined for them except the answer. I am upfront with them that there is not a singular right answer, but multiple. They need to find the one that works the best meeting the criteria I give them.
  5. Know your students: Try to sit down with each group or individual students and have them walk through their project. Get to know how they learn, think, and what their interests are. When students know you are invested in them, they will begin to trust you. When they begin to trust you also begin to trust. Trust can go along way.

I know there are probably many other ways you may be fostering creativity in your classroom. I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.


Apps to Keep your Teens Safe

Over the past few days I have been having some conversations with my students about the material they are posting online. Sometimes, they scare me at how open they are at sharing their where abouts, and some of their habitual hangout spots, and with whom.

From some of these conversations, I realized my students may be gifted, but they aren’t thinking things through when it comes to social media. So I decided that I would share with them some tips and information about appropiate online sharing.


I started with the fact that everything they put online can be there forever. They are creating a digital foot print.  According to Webopedia, “On the Internet a digital footprint is the word used to describe the trail, traces or “footprints” that people leave online. This is information transmitted online, such as forum registration, e-mails and attachments, uploading videos or digital images and any other form of transmission of information — all of which leaves traces of personal information about yourself available to others online.”

Their digital foot print can:

  • Affect their image and reputation in the real world, and in online world
  • Affect relationships in the real world, and in online world
  • Affect their chances of getting future employment
  • Affect their chances of getting into the college they dream of

I told my students, they need to watch what they put up on line. I told them to ask themselves a few questions:

  1. Is it appropiate to all to see?
  2. How will this post, picture, or video does it respresent me properly to the online world and in my real world relationship?
  3. It is positive or negitive?

Highlighting Student Voice

This year I have decided to highlight my students’ voice. I have some great students this year, and so I thought I would try to give them a forum to share some of their interest, some of their issues with things about their generation, and some of their reflections about the work we are doing in class.

I have decided to start small, and hopefully work into something a bit bigger. I am starting to brain storm ideas with my two 8th grade classes on creating a podcast, what the topics would be, what an identity the podcast would take, and a general format for the podcast. I told them to always keep in mind this is your show, and your personality should come out. The other thing I told them is to keep in mind the audience. The audience is made of peers their age. So I told them to aim for an age group of 7th-9th graders.

So far the brain storming sessions have been good. We are making progress, and I hope that it continues so I can get them to record their first show by the end of the month. I will post the links to their podcasts on this blog.

One new piece of technology that I have been fascinated with is Periscope. It is a live streaming app that is connected with Twitter. There are many great teachers using this app in their classroom. (Check out @DonWettrick on Periscope for a great example). I am going to try to use this as well. So look for me on Periscope (@jeff_shoemaker). I would love to have some feedback and conversations with anyone who wants to jump in with us.

I also decided this year that I am making my own YouTube channel. I haven’t posted anything yet, but in the coming days, I am planning to do some updates. Mostly every two weeks. I have found that by watching Don Wettrick YouTube channel for his class he is allowing everyone to peer into his class, and get a sense of what is going on. So I have decided that I will do the same. I want to show off my class to the world. They deserve it.

What is something new you are doing this year in your classes? Any new piece of technology that you are doing that is making your classes exciting? Share it with me in the comments section.

Hour of Code in my Classroom

This week is National Hour of Code. I heard about this last year but I wasn’t sure what it was all about. This year, I my students are participating. My students have been practicing this once a week for about an hour. I have found that some of my students really like it, and some don’t.

I have some Hour of Code resources on my webpage that help my students. We started with Scratch, and Hopscotch (on the iPad), and then Tynker. We then moved to cool game with some Angry Birds. My students loved the idea of using blocks. They could see how things fit together, and change the program they are developing. coding pic

Once I felt my students had a good basic idea of coding, we moved to some things that were a little bit harder. We started with some tutorials from Khan Academy, and from Code Academy. Then we loved to Code Avengers which was teaching us Java Script.

Over the past several months, my students started to see that coding was something that was cool, interesting, and at times very challenging. Through these last few months, which culminates this week, my students have shown growth in critical thinking skills, reasoning skills, and have worked on their communication skills because they are talking to each other trying to figure out why something is or isn’t working. I am very proud of my 7/8th grade students.

If you are trying to figure out how or what to teach about coding, like I was and at times still am. Check out this article from TeachThought. They came up with 10 students objectives about coding. Here is some of that article:

10 Sample Student Learning Objectives For The Teacher That’s Not So Sure About This Hour Of Code Thing

1. Students will define “coding” as both a noun and verb, and explain–as crudely or precisely as they are able–how code works.

2. Students will compare and contrast code to poetry and cooking recipes.

3. Students will identify the pros and cons of self-directed learning as it relates to learning code.

4. Students will identify three unique resources for teaching themselves to code.

5. Students will locate and explain two different coding communities, and how they can help that student learn coding.

6. Students will identify three coding apps that work for them, and explain why that app works for them better than another. See here, for example.

7. Students will identify and define three html tags, and explain what each does.

8. Students will create three two-dimensional figures, and 1 three-dimensional figure.

9. Students will name 3 “basic coding” projects, and 3 “master coding” projects, and give examples of each. (Think shapes, bouncing balls, and basic web pages, vs multimedia pages, apps, and video games, etc.)

10. Students will analyze a simple web page for its fundamental structure.

I hope you take this week, or any week, and begin to teach your students about coding. You will find their curiosity will increase as they code using any of the resources listed above. What I loved for the past several months is seeing the coding successes. When they show off their work to others in the class, or ask for a teacher from an other room whom they are close to come see their work, I know I have hit something that may be with them for along time. Who knows, they may find a career in coding.

Have you started coding with your students?