Who do you follow? If you are new to Twitter, it's always a tough question to answer. Twitter can be both such a toxic place and a positive place, so following the right people can be one of your biggest challenges. The educator community is usually one of Twitters most positive situations, but it's still tough to get started. Hopefully, this list (split over 4 posts) will help you get going.
Before we get into whose on the list, I think it's important to lay out a few things. To start, this is my list. Your list could be very different. My strengths are in the ed tech community, and that's where this lists strength lies. I feel like there is a whole other community of educational leaders, but this lists only has the ones that have either crossed over into EdTech, are so prolific that they are hard to ignore, or are awesome folks that I know. I also tried to make this list a mix of super well-known people and lesser-known folks that I know are worth it. There may also be some well-known folks that I left off for various reasons.
These are the first 25. I am going to stretch it out over four posts. The list is in no specific order because they are all awesome
1. Adam Bellow: I first saw Adam speak way back at ISTE 2011, and he instantly became one of my favorite speakers to listen to. Adam is always insightful on topics ranging from student creativity to making. He also happens to be one of the founders of Breakout Edu and is one of the main reasons it has become such a force to be reckoned with in the classroom. Above all, Adam is just a terrific guy, and you can't ask much more from one of the EdTech rockstars.
2. Leslie Fisher: When I think of Leslie, I think of entertaining. I have heard some of her sessions multiple times, but I still like sitting in them because I knew I would get one new nugget and at least be entertained. I highly recommend her as a follow because she has very good relationships with several big EdTech startups, and because of that relationship she often announces product updates first.
3. Steve Dembo: Steve is a just a straight up character. His sessions and content are always fast-paced and filled with humor which puts him them right up my alley. He also posts on creativity, making, and robotics on a regular basis.
4. Eric Sheninger: This formal digital principal is what everyone wishes they could have as a leader. He is the one who gave Laura Fleming enough space and support to become a leader in maker spaces, and he spends his days helping others get to the same place. He is a great speaker, and his posts are filled with insight into how education should change and how educational leaders should be.
5. Kevin Honeycutt: Kevin is eclectic, and it makes his live sessions almost a show as well as great post. He had been in the EdTech game for years and is an excellent voice on things like student privacy, digital citizenship, and student creativity
6. Sarah Thomas: I have been incredibly fortunate to know Sarah for a few years, and I have just been amazed at the empire she is building. Sarah is the founder of EduMatch which is one of the best PLNs you can be a part of, she is incredibly knowledgeable, and she is also just as lovely as she can be.
7. Tony Vincent: Tony is another person that I have been fortunate to get to know, and he is also just a good human being. I will never forget the time I followed him at GAETC early on in my presentation days, and he stayed for my whole session. Tony recently went back in the classroom, but he still finds the time to post an incredible amount of helpful tips, tricks, and ideas all in easy to understand graphics
8. Eric Curts: Eric is my go-to Google guru. It seems like he comes up with creative ways to use Google tools almost every day. He is not the only Google specific person out there, but he is usually the only one I will use in my sessions. His content is just that good.
9. Jennifer Williams: I am just plain lucky to call Jenn a friend. Jenn is just a fantastic person who truly wants education to be what's best for kids. She had incredible insights on literacy, global education, and building a PLN, and you would be crazy not to click that follow button for her
10. Stephanee Stephens: Steph is my former boss, and me moving on certainly had nothing to do with her. She is like a sister to me, and she has amazon insights into making, personalized learning, and much more. She also operates a maker bus.
11. Monica Burns: Monica is someone I have gotten to know recently, and I can't say enough good things about her. She has incredible insight on student creativity, tech and pedagogy, and creating a brand. I have taken several little tidbits from her over the years and applied them to what I do with bigguyinabowtie. She is another one who is just a great person!
12. Courtney Kofeldt: I am just lucky to call Courtney a friend. I met Courtney several years ago at the first Nearpod summit, and I don't think there is a sweeter person in EdTech. She is a tech director in Pennsylvania and does some amazing things around empathy and blended learning
13. Billy Spicer: Billy and I just seemed to end up in the same ambassador program over and over again, and we also consistently ended up with the same friends. He is a unique guy who is always trying to find things to make learning better for the kids in his district outside of Chicago
14. Katrina Keene: Katrina is someone that I ran in similar circles with for at least a year, and then when we finally met we became fast friends. I have seen her grow and move to a couple of different places, but I think she has now found her home at Wonder Workshop. If you have questions about coding and especially coding robots, she is a great resource to have.
15. Julie Davis: When I think of Julie, I can’t help but think sweet southern charm. Julie is a tech coach at a small Christian school outside of Chattanooga, TN, and she is continually finding creative ways to do creative things with her teachers. I always love her insight into things like digital citizenship, and she is becoming my go to to find things about Amazon Alexa in the classroom.
16. Mark Wagner: Mark is the CEO of EdTech Team, and he is the epitome of California cool. EdTech team is always doing incredible things to improve the educational experience, and their insights on Google Education are always spot on. If you are fortunate enough to be part of Google Innovator, you will get the privilege of meeting Mark
17. Donnie Piercey: The king of EduSnark seems always to be doing something amazing. He is a Google expert who specializes in everything Google Geo. The former social studies teacher in me always learns something great from Donnie. He even got to go to Antarctica as part of his relationship with National Geographic
18. Sylvia Duckworth: The queen of Edu Sketch Noting is an excellent follow just to get to see her new ones. I, however, got to know Sylvia when I did Google Innovator because I was lucky enough to have her as a coach. She is as kind a person as I know, and I love running into her at ISTE every year.
19. Rabbi Michael Cohen: The Tech Rabbi is all about creativity. He is regularly posting on the topic on his accounts, and his kids in California are doing a host of awesome creative things. I got the privilege of meeting him this summer, and he just so inspired me that I went and started redoing my slides to try to get to a place that he was.
20. Jennie Magiera: Jennie is another one of the EdTech Team crew, but I have been following what she has done since her days leading in the Chicago school system. She is a master at getting the best out of kids and has always had amazing ideas to change professional development for the better
21. Susan Bearden: I have never formally met Susan, but we have been around each other a handful of times. Susan has been the voice behind #digcit chat sharing the importance on that topic even before it was widely shared, and she has done a ton of work advocating for better technology leadership
22. Amber McCormick: To start, I know Amber is going to say she is not worthy to be on this list, but she totally is. She is an incredible teacher from Florida who is always doing creative things around coding and making. She is fantastic and awesome sketch note artist, and I am privileged to have one of her sketch notes on my site
23. Kasey Bell: Kasey Bell is an incredible Google Guru. She always has excellent content teaching folks how to get the most out of Google Tools, and she is continually adding new things to her site Shake Up Learning.
24. Patricia Brown: I have seen Patricia speak at both ISTE and GAETC, and I am always impressed. She has incredible insights into EdTech and does fantastic things around digital equity.
25. Tom Murray: The leader behind Future Ready schools is doing work every day that is all about making a school better, and his insights are on school leadership are always great. He is a great follow for anyone, but if your an administrator he is a must follow
In the past couple of years, I have done my coding session multiple times, and the thing I am always surprised with is the shock that comes to some attendees faces when I mention pre-reader coding. You can tell that have not thought of children as young as Pre-K learning coding concepts. They have always thought of coding as an older kids concept. They have just never considered what coding is and the benefit that comes through it, and it's all about setting our kids up for success.
I think when you look at the need for pre-reader coding, you have to look at two things. The first is that coding is just like a world language. The younger you start, the better off you will be. In a world where computers are everywhere and in everything, we need to do everything we can to prepare our kids, and that means starting them young. Even if they don't end up programming the understanding of the concepts will help them in any role that works with developers
The other thing that is great about starting kids early is the concepts that they learn. They start to build computational thinking. They learn to put stuff in order, count, work with angles, and problem solve. In fact, I would venture to say that a tremendous pre-reader coding tool is one of the first real tangible things you can use to get children thinking critically.
There are a few tools out there that let kids do this, but I have not been incredibly impressed with any of them until now. My 6-year-old son just tried out the Tynker JR app, and it is easily the most complete experience I have seen. Most of the other ones seem to be missing something, whereas the Tynker Jr app constantly hits the mark.
From a pre-reader perspective, the coding usually goes down one of two paths. The child either draws a path or they use icon based blocks (arrows) to simulate a coding experience without text. I have seen several of the robots use the line drawing experience, and I think it is lacking. Most of the times kids see how the robot reacts. You have to have some excellent teacher instruction for kids to get concepts out of them, and that's not what it should be.
It means I prefer the icon-based, and that's what Tynker JR is. Kids basically do block coding, and they switch out the text with icons such as arrows. Where I think Tynker got it right though, is in the experience. It can be incredibly hard to build something that a six-year-old can just pick up and go with, yet I think Tynker JR has done just that.
The app consists of three different leveled pathways you can take. All of them are really fun concepts like Animals, the Ocean, and Robots. There will be some more in the future, but those three will give you plenty of coding time. Once a child starts, they are put on a leveled path that builds on the concepts they learned in the previous level. Kids who are used to being on a tablet or smartphone will have no problems navigating it. Once they open up a level, there is some excellent voice-over work that tells them what to do which usually comes down to moving bricks in order to move a character on a path. When they are finished, the character does a cute dance, the child gets stars, and possibly a badge. It becomes a full experience, which is super rare for apps that cater to the pre-reader age group.
I can't say enough good things about it, and that's directly after testing it with my son. To start, I did not have to give him any directions, and I have never felt like that's the case with the other pre-reader tools. Now I will confess that my son has had other opportunities to do pre-reader coding so he may be ahead of the curve, but I think the voice-overs in the app will make it easy on most. I was also super impressed with the animation. The characters are fun, and my son loved the little dances that they did when they finished a level. It was straightforward to move bricks around which can be hard at his age.
The best thing about it by far though was thinking that my son had to do with it. He would pull bricks in, and then he would have to count that steps that were needed. He would have to figure out what direction the character needed to go, and he immediately wanted to solve the problems when his code was just not right. My son is not known for his focus, but the attention he put into the levels just astounded me. I want more things that do that for him.
If you want to get Tynker JR, it is currently available for iPad, but I would be shocked not to see it in other forms later in the year and in 2020. If you have young kids, or you teach young kids, you can't go wrong. I think it all comes back to my first principle?" of coding tools which are, "What's the ceiling?", and on this one, the ceiling is very high
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post right after I got the Oculus Go, and I concluded that it was just not fully ready for schools yet. For those that read that post or know what the Go is, bear with me. I want to dive back into what the Go is and why I concluded, but I also want to tell you why that view is changing.
To start, the go is virtual reality. It's a fully immersive environment as opposed to augmented which is digital images overlaid on to the real world. The Go is the first attempt to hit what many thought was a sweet spot. It's not the overly expensive headset that the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are, but it is also a standalone headset unlike many of the smaller virtual reality designs which require to use a phone and a viewer. From that standpoint, it has a whole lot of benefits for the classroom. It was the content that I came down on as being lacking in my first impressions post.
The content was just not there for schools. To get content for the Go, you need to go through the go store, and understandably it's best selling apps are mostly games. Unfortunately, there is just not educational value in those. From an education standpoint, there are tons of experiences in the store, but most of them are standalone experiences that are going to require you to download that one app just to do that one thing. This includes explorations of space, natural parks, and other areas around the world. It's the biggest issue is that Google wasn't on board, and that has been the best place to go for these fuller experiences for a while.
Realistically, in schools we want VR to explore some concept that is real. It could be a real place, or it could be a model of a place we can't get to (like inside the human body), but for it has to have an educational value of learning something that will benefit the person in the real world. Google naturally has an advantage in that space because they have both millions of people feeding data to them and they have the scope to do things like street view and earth. Others don't, and that's why Oculus has to have them as a partner for Oculus Edu.
That partnership is incredibly hard though because Oculus is Facebook. It was a startup that was purchased by Facebook in its early day, and it remains a subsidiary of the company. So, to get Google products on Oculus you have to have two of the biggest companies play nice, and that becomes even less likely considering that Facebook and Google are each other's biggest competitors. It all comes down to where both companies make the bulk of their revenue: advertisements.
Thankfully, there was a HUGE change on this front recently. There is now a YouTube app on the Go! This is huge for two reasons. To start, it is a tremendous addition for the Oculus Go's EDU content. YouTube distributes a mass amount of 360 videos, and they are all free. YouTube gives you the ability to search for content that fits your needs rather than having to buy that very one specific app. It brings a mass amount of EDU particular content in one tool, and just like on other devices it's massively beneficial.
The other thing that is great about YouTube being there is that it is hopefully a great sign for other Google products. Google Earth VR has been on the Oculus Rift (the Go's expensive brother) for some time, and it makes complete sense for it to come to the Go. As the community of educators using Go grows, I think it also makes sense to bring Expeditions to the party. Using Expeditions on the Go could even eliminate some of the massive issues that come with it networking wise.
Ever since I have had a Go, I have always felt that the hardware experience is the best fit for schools. The ease of use and ability to move with the controller make it a no-brainer. It's always been the content that has been the issue. YouTube's addition means Google is paying attention, and that will help drive the content offerings.
Tech has always been able to take us into a new reality, and we are living in a time where that is never truer. We are living in the time of both virtual and augmented reality, and there are so many applications that could apply to the classroom. We now can take kids anywhere, but it can also be much more than that. This blog explores one way to make it great for kids.
To start, we are looking at two different things. Virtual Reality is putting a student in an immersive environment where they can see 3D images, but none of it is real. It is also the easier one to do, and in the long run less valuable. If a person has to take time out to interact with that piece of machinery, it can be good to take someone somewhere else and play games, but it’s not going to have any real practical uses. That’s where augmented reality comes in.
Augmented Reality is overlaying digital images on to the real world. It’s meant to add to the environment you already have. The use of the situation you are in means it can add all sorts of information to power through daily tasks, but of course, it is also harder to get that digital image overlay right. Up until very recently, there wasn't much augmented reality that was useful. Yes, Pokemon go has been around in for a long time, but is that that useful in the classroom?
The new apps that have come out especially since Apple leaned heavily into the Augmented world are what brings augmented to the classroom level. I have seen apps where you could create with geometric shapes, geocache with historical places, and more. With the focus in IOS, there are more and more every day, but what if kids could create them?
Thankfully, Tynker is letting kids do it. It's a newer course on the platform so it's always one of those things that can surprise people. It shouldn't though. Letting kids create with a future-ready skill is what Tynker is all about.
The augmented course teaches students the three main principles of augmented reality: color calibration, motion sensing, and gesture detection. It allows students to take those concepts open the camera feed and apply them. The beauty of it all is that once they create augmented it actually makes their experience more interactive because they can also get in front of the camera, and interact with them. It's truly an experience that you can't recreate anywhere else
Making and STEM have become GIANT buzzwords in education, and it’s rightfully so. It all goes back to the fundamental question of, “What is Education For?” If you said anything other than some form of, “preparing for the future,” I would argue you are wrong. No matter what state standards, test, and all the other BS out there say, the classroom is ALL about preparing kids for the future, and STEM/Making do just that.
STEM/Making is just something that is entirely natural for humans. From the beginning of time, we have been engineering ideas and making things to solve the problems that we encounter. There was always a sense of figuring out your needs through math, and a natural progression of solving those problems is trying to figure out how things work to make them better (science). The tech part of STEM has always been there (while primitive, the wheel was tech), but it has become such a need in today’s world where computers run everything. STEM and making are not new concepts; it’s just taken the computer age to show their importance.
The beauty of STEM and making is that there are tech pieces that make it easy to give something “an electronic brain,” and my favorite happens to be Raspberry Pi. Don’t get me wrong there are some other good ones out there. Microbit, Hyperduino, and Arduino all come to mind. I think Raspberry Pi is just the right mix of compatibility, relative ease of use, depth of function, and mission.
The key to PI though is the customization, and that’s what this blog is all about. There are tons and tons of things out there that let you customize a Pi. These just happen to be my five favorite ones, and of course, they have an education bend to them.