Friday, October 23, 2009

Are you using Twitter yet? Why not?

I'll be the first to admit that I was a little skeptical about using Twitter. What's it going to do for me? Who cares about what I have to say? Why do I care about what people are doing? At first glance, it does seem like Twitter is just one more way for people to "lifecast" (broadcast their life). However, throughout the last few months I've learned that Twitter is so much more than just a way to talk about yourself--it's a way to build your own PLN (Personal Learning Network).

What is it?

Twitter is a free online service that lets you broadcast (very) short messages to your "followers". Sometimes, it's promoted as a microblogging platform (regular blog = long, descriptive; microblog = short and sweet). It also lets you "follow" people so that you can see their updates.

Anything else I should know?

  • Twitter updates are limited to 140 characters, so you don't have room to say a lot. That's actually one of the greatest features of Twitter. It's easy to glance through your "updates" to get a snapshot of what's going on. You can usually click on links within the updates to learn more about the topics. It's kind of like perusing the newspaper--you can look at the headlines and 0nly read the stories you're interested in.
  • Once you have an account, you'll have your own Twitter username (e.g. @cclancy) and your own Twitter page (e.g.
  • You can have Twitter updates sent to your cell phone. Login to Twitter and click "settings" to set it up.
  • I think that Twitter is all about who you follow: the better your network, the better your updates, the better it will work for you. Your best bet is to find someone worth following, and then look at his or her list of followers.

How can Twitter help me in school?

Twitter has been an amazing tool to help build my PLN. Your current learning network might be limited to your grade level or department. Need a new idea? Ask the Twitterverse for help! Or, search for keywords, like "socialstudies" or "geometry" at

You can also use Twitter to follow world they are happening. Search for keywords like "H1N1", "balloonboy", or "northwest" and you'll see realtime updates from people around the world as they tweet about Swine Flu, Balloon Boy, or the status of the crew from the Northwest flight that extended their trip...

How can I get started?

  1. Go to
  2. Register for a free Twitter account.
  3. Find people to follow using Twitter's search button.
  4. Start tweeting!

Twitterers you might want to follow

(Click on their name to go to their page. click "follow" underneath their name to follow them):

Still want more? Check out my Twitter links or this Twitter Help for Educators!

Good Luck!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

MuseumBox: Virtual Learning Boxes

What items would you put in a box to describe your life? What about the life of a Civil War soldier? An ancient Egyptian?

What is it?
Based on a real box that was created by Thomas Clarkson, a British abolitionist from the 19th century, MuseumBox is a website that lets you build an argument or describe an event by placing items into a virtual box.

Each box can have between one and 24 compartments for users to place "objects". Each compartment has a virtual "cube" that holds the objects. A wide range of objects can be added to the cube faces, including images, video, sound, text, web links, and PowerPoint, Word, and PDF files!

High School social studies teacher Mrs. Mary Tully contacted me recently about doing a MuseumBox project with her 9th grade Global Studies classes. She was looking for a different way for them to demonstrate their understanding of the 5 Themes of Geography. Working in groups of 2 or 3, they used Google's Advance Search features to research, Image Search for pictures, and cited everything with Citation Machine!

Click here to see one group's MuseumBox! Make sure you click on each of the cubes!

How does it work?
  • Teachers need to register their school with the MuseumBox website. When students create their accounts, they will select their school and be identified by it on the site.
  • Students open the Creator, build their box and cubes, and save it at the MuseumBox website. Objects can come from the MuseumBox gallery, or they can be uploaded.
  • When students are finished with their boxes, they "submit" them virtually through the website. At that point, teachers can log in, view, and evaluate their class' boxes. If the box is approved by the teachers, it becomes part of the school's gallery of MuseumBoxes. UPDATE (1/5/10): Once boxes are submitted, teachers need to review and approve or reject them within 2 weeks. After that time, any boxes that have not been reviewed will be forwarded to the e2bn (MuseumBox) administrators. You'll have to email the company to get them back.

Anything else I should know?

  • MuseumBox is a UK site, so many of the images in their gallery were UK-based.
  • If students are collaborating on one box, it's important that only one student is modifying it at a time. If more than one person opens the box, it's possible that work could get accidentally deleted.
  • The entire project (with Mrs. Tully's students) took about 2 block periods, or about three 45 minute sessions.
  • MuseumBox is not just for social studies teachers! It has lots of applications for other classes as well!

I found MuseumBox to be VERY user-friendly, reliable, and engaging for the students. I was impressed with how much they were able to do in such a short amount of time.

Please let me know if you're interested in doing a MuseumBox project with your class!

Good Luck!