When I get the opportunity, I encourage others to “get connected” and tap into the nearly unlimited potential of the community of educators that can be accessed through social media. There are countless incredible educators connecting and sharing on Twitter, but many more that aren’t. Many, like I was, are just unaware of the community that exists on Twitter (I thought it was mostly a place for celebrities and athletes to say stupid things in public). Others just don’t see what can be gained and don’t feel it is a valuable use of their time. To those who don’t see what can be gained, this is a small sampling of what I gained in my first year on Twitter.
Getting started: We were lucky to have @stumpteacher in for an inservice day in my former district and he gave a fantastic presentation on what it meant to be a great teacher and encouraged all of our staff to start on Twitter. The best advice he gave about Twitter? Be patient and give it 30 days. It takes some time to build a PLN (Professional Learning Network) that makes time on Twitter productive. Without that advice I may have quit in that first couple of weeks.
November 2012- It was funny how spot on the 30 day advice was. For 30 days, it pretty much felt like Twitter was ignoring me. After that, things started to change. @twhitford responded to something i had asked or said to him and we started to chat. He helped me out with some basics about connecting on Twitter and pointed me in the direction of some great chats where I was able to make some more connections and things multiplied from there. Making that one connection made all the difference. If we really value new educators getting “connected”, we all have to do what we can to be welcoming and helpful to newbies. Tom did that for me and it made all the difference.
Since then, I continue to be amazed by the power of the PLN. I have instant access to resources recommended by experts, inspiration, and support. Here are just a quick brainstorm of growth that has been sparked in me from my interactions on Twitter.
*I attended my first Edcamp last year. It turned my idea of what Professional Development in Education could be on it’s ear.
*I have started to reflect regularly in a blog. I have realized that not only can the connections I make really benefit me at my school, I also can have a voice that extends far beyond the walls of my school building. I have something to offer the conversation. Twitter has given me that voice.
*I have learned to question a lot of practices we use in school and if they really benefit our students. What if we radically changed the way we grade/give feedback to our students? What if we stopped giving homework? What kind of assessment leads to improved instruction? What should the role of the teacher and student be now and in the future? What kind of skills are most relevant for today’s student? How can technology fundamentally change the learning taking place in schools today? What role do rewards play in education? How are rewards and punishments actually killing our students’ passion for learning and natural curiosity?
*I have connected with a community of great leaders joining the conversation most Thursday nights with #atplc. I have learned a tremendous amount about how we can build a school culture that will unleash the power of Professional Learning Communities.
*I was introduced to the concept of Instructional Coaching and the wisdom of many additional great leaders at #educoach, which I follow regularly, although the chat time of 9 p.m. is past my bedtime most Wednesday nights. 🙂 It has made me change how I approach teacher evaluation and giving feedback to teachers in general. I still am striving to continue to grow and develop especially in this area.
*I have become passionate about how I can increase the love of reading in my students and teachers as the lead learner. I have consumed a lot of great books for kids and am talking a lot more with my students about what they are reading.
*I know that I am never alone. I continue to be amazed by the many smart and generous people who are willing to listen and respond with a listening ear, a word of inspiration, or a great resource that I can share with teachers and students.
*The bar has been raised for me. I care a great deal about what I do and want to be great, but greatness is now in a different place for me. The incredible educators on Twitter push me to want to be even better.
What have you learned lately through your PLN?
Still on the sidelines? Start a profile on Twitter and give it a try. Start by joining me this Thursday over at #atplc this Thursday at 8:00 central time. Let’s inspire each other and learn together!