The first time I felt the need to be connected as a teacher was back in 2014. I was attending a Google Summit at an international school in Seoul, South Korea. I attended a session with Alice Keeler. I had no idea who she was, but I was interested in the topic she was presenting on. Immediately, I was in love with her passion for teaching and technology. Regardless of the topic, she was presenting on, I felt like I got so much useful information from the tidbits she would throw at us throughout the session. One piece of information that she gave all the attendees was to join Twitter, and I did that day.
The simple act of joining Twitter opened up a whole new world to me. I was now connected with educators from around the world. Educators, who I have seen present and aspired to be more like, were now right there at my fingertips. I could see what they were doing in their classrooms, what articles they were reading, and what professional development opportunities were out there. Without Twitter, I would have missed a lot of these learning opportunities.
A book that reinforces the importance of building communities is Jeff Utetch’s Reach: Building Networks and Communities for Professional Development. He writes,
“By reaching out and joining online communities, creating learning networks, and growing those networks to be powerful professional learning environments, educators can take advantage of the wealth of knowledge on the web. They can use this new knowledge for their own professional growth and pass the knowledge and power of the network on to their students.”
The connections I made through Twitter transformed me from a consumer to a prosumer. There is so much useful and inspiring information in online communities.
I’ve seen the benefits of online communities during the past four weeks while we have had virtual learning because of COVID-19. Online learning platforms were new to me as it is to most educators. However, I was able to get online and do some research, look at my Twitter feed and see what teachers in Asia who are affected by this were doing in their schools. This was an excellent starting point for me. It is also one that will benefit my students. My students receive more engaging, authentic learning experiences because of my connections and research. Without the knowledge I received from my Twitter community, I would not have known the possibilities of virtual learning.
I have also noticed that the teachers who are very active on Twitter (the ones I lurk on their pages) are also the ones who have the best ideas and share current educational research and practices. However, they aren’t always the ones coming up with the ideas. They find the ideas and information by being active members of the community and building connections with other educators. Utecht mentions this in his book, “The more active you are within a community the more visible you become to other members. The more visible you become, the more potential connections are created.” I’ve noticed an increase in Twitter followers since joining COETAIL. Because I am being more active-following others, retweeting information, and sharing my blog posts, I am becoming more visible to others. You have to be an active participant!
And even though being an active participant/researcher is out of my comfort zone, I remind myself that ultimately this will directly impact my teaching. If I want my students to be researchers and risk-takers, I must lead by example. I want to inspire my students to connect, collaborate, and create. I can learn from experiences like the one I described with Alice Keeler and transform how my students learn. She gave me one bit of information-Join Twitter-and I was able to take that and learn. It seems so simple and this is why I sometimes feel like I am not making a big difference in the classroom, but this example proves that sharing ideas and information with people or my students can transform how they learn.
I love this statement from Utetch, “Go create. Figure it out. Learning has to include an amount of failure because failure is instructional in the process.”