This post appears as an article in TIE Online.
I am usually 5 years late to every party. It doesn’t matter if it’s winter ankle boots, neutral-coloured bathrooms or tablet computers…I always view a notion as utterly strange, for exactly 5 years, until it suddenly makes sense. I am not proud of this trait, nor is it an intentional resistance to change. I am simply slow to imagine possibilities until they hit me in the face.
And so it was with Twitter. I had paid lip-service to the idea of “connected educators” for several years. I followed Julie Lindsay into the wonderful world of Flat Classrooms. I created a blog with 4th Graders, which attracted comments from a global community. My class collaborated on Wikis, Nings & Weeblies; I attended meetings in GoogleHangout & BlackBoard Collaborate, and shared work via Google docs & Live Binders, in the spirit of open, connected learning.
But Twitter was dangerous territory for me. I am an extravert with a big mouth. On a daily basis, I regret at least one of my irreverent quips or exaggerated tales. Could I be trusted with 140 characters? Posted immediately? On a global stage? What if my digital footprint became a stream of consciousness about peanut butter, springtime blooms and irritating traffic?
As usual, it took a long summer holiday to give me the time, energy and courage to face my next frontier. And just as it was with ankle boots…Twitter stole my heart! If you are reading this, I am preaching to the converted.
In short, I am now connected to the greatest innovators in education, in real time! As they think it – I read it. I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for professional development – I have it all day, every day, from the biggest movers and shakers in my profession. Educational research is streamed live from academics and institutions – no excuses for outdated pedagogy. Bright, articulate teachers are editorialising education and filling my day with questions, goals and challenges. And if I’m looking for a workshop or job-alike session, #chats are just that. Led by capable moderators, they are hives of relevant dialogue and resources.
Just last week, a teacher in Jakarta tweeted a math inquiry about place value. A class at my school was studying the same strand, so they joined the investigation. Over the next week, two classes in different countries completed the same project. They are now sharing findings, reflections and further questions via their blogs. I “met” a like-minded colleague, collected new resources and offered my students more challenging learning …all because of 140 characters.
Creating a Twitter network (to learn from my heroes and peers) has had a profound impact on my teaching. I am no longer an island of competence, limited by context, geography, training or experience. I am connected and I am growing!
(I have not yet learned to dis-connect. Is there an app for that?)