Approximately 2 years ago, I signed up for Twitter in preparation for attending a conference and was curious what it meant to follow a conference hashtag. In fact, at that point in my online learning development, I didn't even know exactly what it meant to use a hashtag. During the conference I found a few people to follow and this interested me enough to keep using Twitter. I spent months reading other people's tweets to get the hang of Twitter. I'm sure most people don't need months before they begin to share but this was my first experience in using social media so I was a bit intimidated. After a few days, I was amazed at the information and articles that I found from around the world. I wanted to share back but was still too uncertain.
Then, one day, I received a tweet about pre-ordering a book . The book, Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education, by Will Richardson (@willrich45) and Rob Mancabelli (@RobMancabelli), transformed the way in which I thought about connecting globally. As an educator, I felt an obligation to begin learning and being involved with the online connected world. For two reasons: 1) to share and learn from my peers, and 2) to learn and be able to lead teachers in my district on how to guide students in this process. My thoughts went something like this, it does not matter what I feel about online sharing. Our students are sharing online everyday - some without guidance and knowledge of what this really means. It is my responsibility, as one of the lead learners in my school district, to learn about social media and to model using it in a professional and productive way. We owe this to our students, who will never know a world without social media. How can we wait another day?
The true learning began when I started collaborating and connecting with my PLN on Twitter, rather than just consuming information. I began asking questions, participating in Twitter chats, and reading and responding to blogs. Every day I find information to help me do my job better and would have never found most information on my own. Twitter has actually saved me time, connected me with some amazing people and challenges my thinking.
Asking Questions: When I sent out my first question on Twitter (with about 20 followers), I was disappointed when I did not receive a response back. I did not understand the purpose of a hashtag. After an Internet search, I quickly learned. Once I figured out the popular educational hashtags, I was able to connect globally to specific people/groups about initiatives within our district. Here is a resource by Cybrary Man (@cybraryman1) that you might find helpful when choosing chats and hashtags.
Twitter Chats: My participation in Twitter chats depends on the topic being discussed. I tend to gravitate toward chats where people are sharing practical ideas and resources that will assist in the work that I am engaging in with teachers. Recently, I participated in the #21stedchat, #satchat, #iledchat, #1to1chat and the #whyschoolbook chat. The #whyschoolbook chat is based on Will Richardson's new book, Why School: How Education Must Change When Information and Learning Are Everywhere. I co-moderate this chat on the 1st Thursday of the month at 8:30 P.M./CST with Nancy Carroll (@ncarroll24). Come join us - here is the wiki. If you have not participated in a Twitter Chat, here is a resource by Cybrary Man and another one, Utilizing Twitter Chats for Professional Development to explain the process. My advice is to "just do it"! You can let others know that you are new to Twitter or new to chatting. People will help and guide you through the process.
Blogging: This is a new adventure for me but one that is rewarding. Blogging has helped me to reflect, to share and to receive feedback from others. It is important that we support each other by posting comments that will help us to reflect and grow. If you find a blog post inspirational or helpful, share the blog link on Twitter so that others can learn from it. After all, don't we want to build up a network of global contacts so that resources can be shared and viewpoints can be heard? This Google Doc of educational blogs was shared during a recent #satchatwc. Perhaps you can try a few out and even take it one step further and comment! Below are a few tweets from that same chat that supports these points.