connect, PLN, twitter

A Not So Delusional Guide to Twitter

I have read so many posts on how to get on Twitter and get connected, many of them offer fantastic advice and yet some of them keep reiterating how it is all about following.  Follow one person, and then see who they follow, and then follow them, and soon you will be following so many people you will feel like the most popular kid in the school.  Except you don’t.  Instead you feel like the kid who came to prom only to take pictures of all the cool people there.  So I offer up these tips instead for those trying to figure out Twitter.

  1. Follow one person, or even 10 but then stop.  Let yourself process what Twitter is and how these people are using the tool.  Don’t mass follow, you will find enough people to follow, just take your time.
  2. Connect.  Once you have a couple of people you follow, reach out to them.  Tell them you are new, tell them your story, and comment on their blogs.  Open up about yourself, start a conversation, and give them a reason to connect back.
  3. Don’t give up.  Sometimes I felt like the biggest loser when it came to Twitter; no one thought I was witty, no one rt’ed my posts, until I realized that this is not what Twitter is about.  Twitter is about the connections (I know, I sound like a broken record) so it is not about the retweets or single comments but the dialogue you get involved in and the people you meet.
  4. Who cares about Klout?  I didn’t realize I had a klout number until my husband asked me what it was.  Then I had to look it up because that little number meant nothing to me; it still doesn’t.  If you are asking whether Twitter is worth your time you probably haven’t connected with the right people, so keep connecting.
  5. Don’t worry about the popular kids.  One thing for ongoing discussion has been the grades of popularity Twitter educators seem to have.  Sure there are people with massive followings, but guess what?  They are normal people and they probably have that many followers because they say some really great things and they are good at connecting with others.  It is okay to reach out to them as well, no one is off limits.

So there you have it, my small piece of advice on how to get something out of Twitter.  Of course, you can follow as many people as you want, but think about what your true goal is: numbers or connections?  I for one count my connections just as much as I count my blessings.

aha moment, being a teacher, PLN, students

I’ve Always Been a Teacher – Edna’s Aha Moment

Edna was one of the first international connections to my PLN and has been one of the most inspiring as well. Never afraid to lend and ear or give advice, she has been a wonderful person to learn from. Edna is a teacher and curriculum coordinator at an IB PYP school (Primary Years Program) in Melbourne, Australia. She blogs at What Ed Said and is @whatedsaid on Twitter.

I’ve always been a teacher. Not the sort who does the same things year in, year out, though. I’ve always enjoyed change and challenges and been willing to experiment with new ideas.

But I’ve been teaching a long time and I admit there have been things I have done just because I always did them that way. I always liked using computers, but I had no idea of the possibilities…

My ‘aha’ moment came a couple of years ago, when I read an extract from ‘Navigating through the Storm, Education in Postmodern Democratic Society’ by Ron Aviram, head of The Center for Futurism in Education, in Israel. To be honest, till then, I had not thought much about the fact that education in schools hadn’t changed, while everything else in the world was changing rapidly and radically.

Then I attended my first international conference in Singapore, a gathering of 700 IBO educators from the Asia Pacific. What motivated me wasn’t so much the content, as the opportunity to network with educators from around the world and to witness the things that teachers had done in their classrooms and schools.

I started reading online and began to discover some inspirational education blogs.  Soon I had subscribed to quite a number and was reading voraciously online about educational reform and how others were integrating technology into their classrooms.
I started experimenting with web 2.0 tools and implementing them into my teaching. I introduced my class to ToonDoo and Voicethread to enhance their learning. We learned together.  As I discovered new and useful tools, I shared them with my class and with other interested teachers at school.

The ICT teacher at my school was thrilled to have an accomplice at last. We started a voluntary tech group for interested teachers to experiment together every fortnight before school. Our ‘Thinking group‘ which meets on the alternate week had been sharing readings and implementing Visible Thinking and soon the 2 groups began to merge as a 21st century learning group.  Discussions centred on making learning relevant and authentic, including the integration of technology. This is my in-school PLN.

I joined nings, such as Classroom 2.0 and PYP Threads and began to participate online.  Then a friend encouraged me to start writing my own blog. At first I didn’t think I had anything to say. Then I didn’t think I would have any readers. But I pushed forward and was soon addicted. I had more things to write about than time to write them.  I didn’t care if I had an audience or not, the process was part of my own learning.

And then, by far the best thing happened. I had dabbled in Twitter and not yet seen the point. But, once I figured out the benefits of following educators and educational hashtags, and once I discovered #edchat, I was on the road to the most powerful learning yet. Over the coming months, I began to develop a worldwide PLN. Learning from them and with them, I discovered and uncovered resources, tools, ideas, challenges… and inspiration. Interacting with educators around the world has pushed my thinking, clarified my ideas and motivated me to explore different kinds of learning for myself, my students and my school.

I’ve always been a teacher. Not the sort who does the same things year in, year out, though. I’ve always enjoyed change and challenges and been willing to experiment with new ideas. But I’ve changed more in the last couple of years as a teacher and a learner than in the preceding 25 years!



Just an Every Day PLN Moment

I, too, have joined the ranks of the faithful PLN supporters; the ones that proclaim all of the amazing things that have happened to us because of our connection with others whether we choose to call it a PLN or simply a community.  And yet, today I was reminded of just how big of an effect my PLN, or whatever you want to call it, has had on my everyday life.

In the last 2 days, my PLN has helped me with:

  • Convincing my principal that less homework = more learning.  Thank you to @Nunavut_teacher for sending out articles that I was able to pass on to my principal.  No meeting needed, the research spoke for itself.    
  • Share Everyday Math Resources with my school from another tweet.
  • Create a Google Map for the Global Read Aloud Project as prompted by the wonderful Laura Fleming.
  • Strengthen my argument for limiting grading in the classroom through conversations with @MrMacnology and @Joe_Bower. 
  • Purchase 8 Flip Camera’s for the price of 4 thanks to a link sent out a long time ago on Twitter (if it was by you – thank you!)
  • Work out again – thanks to the fantastic people involved in #temt, now I don’t want to be lazy.
  • Promise 500 people that I follow that I would get them a free IPad – thanks Twitter hacks.
This does not mean that I couldn’t have figured this all out on my own, but the point is that I did not have to.  My PLN did all the legwork for me and in turn I tried to help them out.  
So thanks PLN, every day you make my life a little easier; my students (and husband) are grateful.
collaboration, PLN

What My PLN Has Done for Me

I have always considered myself a bit of a techy geek, a badge I wear with pride; I may not look it, but I love technology and computers.  My school has a couple of people like me and we meet in secret; sharing sites and ideas for how we can make our classrooms more technology friendly.  And yet, Twitter escaped me.  Sure, I had an account, but no desire to follow celebrities or wannabe celebrities in their daily doings.  So last Friday, I was following 15 people on Twitter, had 4 followers myself which included my husband and two of my brothers (who the 4th one was I have no idea) and I had used Twitter as a status update tool.

Last Friday, my world moved a little bit:  One tweet came across my computer that mentioned PLN, not knowing what this meant I clicked on the link to the article and was brought to @shellterell’s twitter account.  I scanned her tweets and clicked to follow her; the rest they say is history.  In 9 days, this is what learning about a PLN has done for me:

  • I now follow more than 100 educators, bloggers, techies from all around the world and daily add more valuable people .
  • These fantastic people have invited me to join in the The Educator’s PLN where I have established contact with even more educators and resources.
  • I have started my own blog, not just doing a classroom blog anymore, and through that have been challenged to think about my teaching and which direction I want to go.
  • Strangers have complimented me on things I post and encouraged me to keep blogging.
  • I have been introduced to phenomenal free tools such as Voki, WallWisher, Wordia, Glogster, Prezi, and Mouse Mischief
  • I have set up a student blog via KidBlog for next year and have designed lessons for the students to blog about.  No one does this at my school.
  • I have discovered blogs to follow who do the research, try out new technology, come up with incredible lesson plans for me amongst many other things.
  • I have changed my Master’s Degree to Technology Instruction – no joke.
  • I have forwarded blogs and articles on to my principal, PTO, Professional Development Coordinator for our district, and fellow teachers hoping to inspire them as much as I have been.
  • I have made tentative plans to go to my first technology conference, ISTE 2011.
  • I have out-geeked my husband for the first in our 10 years together.
  • Most importantly though; I have become energized about teaching!  I am not alone and nor should I be.  Reach out and there are people who will learn with you, teach with you, and go with you on your journey.  I can’t wait to start the school year and create PLN’s for my students.

In the last 9 days, I have discovered that there is a whole world out there waiting to join me on this crazy teaching ride and they all have the time to talk.  I cannot hide behind the excuse of not having time to collaborate anymore now that I can do it in a matter of 10 minutes of skimming the tweets from my PLN.
All I can say is; this is what 9 days with a PLN did for one teacher in a district, imagine a year with 10 teachers or 100 teachers.  Where will it take us all?

Be the change, building community, PLN

Get Out of the Way!

This past Monday, an article was published in our local newspaper in which I was quoted; a huge moment in my brief teaching career. The article was a narrative of a field trip we took in which we had one of my students, who is a paraplegic, backpacked into an underground cave. Being his teacher, I was heralded as a solution-maker prompting many friends and acquaintances to praise me and my efforts to include all students. While the praise is wonderful it was not completely justifiable, for the credit for this solution in inaccessibility was not mine.

That honor goes to Miss Anma, our fearless physical therapist who has worked with this child ever since he entered our school. It was her words in September when we first discussed this end of the year quintessential 4th grade field trip, “How about we backpack him in?” Up until then, the solution was to not go the cave and rather go somewhere else, thus disappointing a whole set of 4th graders. You see this field trip is epic and is the definition of finishing 4th grade. Students talk about it on the first day of school and write about it as their favorite field trip before they have even gone. We knew from the start that my student’s wheelchair would not be able to go into the cave and so we resigned ourselves that this year we would go somewhere else. Until Anma spoke up. “Yeah,” I said, “why not put him in a backpack?” laughing a little at the idea but nevertheless not standing in the way of it.
Permissions were granted, a carrier was found who was willing to carry this 90 pound boy around for an hour in a makeshift backpack, training was had for the ordeal. And the whole time, I just got out of the way. The field trip was a massive success cherished by all involved. Posters have been made in my district with pictures of the boy in the backpack and a title “Nothing is Impossible.” Hallmark would be proud. Accolades have been given, satisfied shoulder pats and misty eyes all around. And yet, the true teaching moment for me came when Anma hugged me and said, “Thank you so much for all of your support and help with this.” All I could answer back was but I didn’t help or support; I merely got out of the way so that you could do your job. And that was my biggest lesson; get out of the way so that others can get to work. Why make it harder for everyone else when they are there to help educate just as much as you are. So the praise for this adventure should not fall to me, but rather to a ingenious, compassionate physical therapist who dared to dream up a wonderful solution knowing that I would get out of her way.