A few weeks ago I noticed that someone had posted on twitter that August is Connected Educator Month. This individual then encouraged us in the blogosphere to write about why being connected is important and to try and reach out to other educators who may not have discovered its potential. When I started thinking about what it meant to be “connected” the first idea that came to my mind was my virtual PLN. This summer I finally decided to create a Twitter account and see what the fuss was all about. I noticed there were a lot of educators writing about why Twitter was the best professional development they’d ever had. In fact here are a couple of examples of excellent blog posts on the subject:
Most people write about their ability to create a professional learning network where they can share resources, exchange ideas, stimulate discussion, get inspired, or ask for help in a supportive learning environment. I have found this to be true myself and often spend many hours a day on Twitter as my feed is constantly inundated with new posts that I find interesting and useful. Most of my ideas for this year and the new technologies I am implementing have come from following the right people on Twitter. But that’s not really what I wanted to write about here. The question I have is…
Twitter can get addictive and overwhelming. There are so many resources out there! It’s impossible to keep up with what everyone is sharing. It was getting to the point where I was feeling guilty for not checking often enough, thinking I might miss something really awesome. I was spending way too much time online and I was starting to feel like I was missing out on my real life and what my real friends and colleagues were doing. My point is, being connected online is one of the best moves I ever made as an educator, but connecting in the real as opposed to the virtual world, is just as important if not more so. It’s essential to strike a balance so that you don’t start to feel disconnected from the people around you.
How do I plan to get more connected beyond twitter?
I’ve been sharing my resources, research, opinions, ideas etc…with the online community on a regular basis through my blog. Now I need to work on sharing with my colleagues right here at school. That’s easy to do within my department – we have weekly meetings. But I want to share with others and learn from them too. This year we are starting a face-to-face, informal PLN at our school with teachers from various departments. I’m excited for the discussion that will come from that. I want feedback from people I really know and trust – people who know my school, the students and our community. I also want to sit and laugh and relax with my friends, eat some chocolate and still have a useful and productive meeting. Another point about real-life PLNs is that you are more likely to get your question across and have your opinion heard. When I attempt to participate in #edchat etc…on twitter, I find that my voice gets lost. No one has ever responded to any of my tweets. And sometimes they come through so fast, I find it hard to keep up. In a small group setting, this is less likely to happen. Beyond just a PLN at school, I plan to attend the Learning 2.0 conference in Beijing to meet some of the people I follow on twitter. In my mind, 140 characters/tweet on twitter simply cannot beat a real life conversation. Sometimes you just need to talk it out! And I’m not saying that you can’t form authentic relationships with others online, I just know for me personally, I’d rather make eye contact with a human than a computer screen.
So while I do insist that it’s essential to get connected, go beyond just setting up a twitter account and don’t forget about the people around you. They are great resources too. And it doesn’t always have to be about growing as an educator. Being connected is also about forming relationships beyond the professional realm. As an international teacher, my coworkers are more than just brains to pick. They’re my friends and family. And those are the connections that really matter in the end.