That's where this journey of transformative career growth truly began for me. On this day last year, I think I was following 30 people and probably had the same amount of tweets. One year later, I find myself reflecting on the professional journey I've taken and I am considering some thoughts:
- I became seemingly unconnected to suddenly connected; what changed for me that day?
- Why did I keep coming back for more?
- How did Twitter and blogging transform my practice?
- How do I feel now?
Nothing really changed about me as a person that day. Or the next. Or the next.
What changed was the tools I used to get the job done (the job being to find resources and ways to professionally develop myself and grow as an educator). I came into that situation with a growth mindset and I learned about a place that would feed that motivation. Most social media users are motivated to be present, participate, help, and share. Some watch from afar (AKA lurking), and that's cool, too, but the general idea is that everyone there is trying to grow their pedagogy and practice.
Why Did I Keep Coming Back For More?
Twitter was easy, fun, and I could access what I wanted, whenever I wanted, through the power of a hashtag. I could connect with educators I didn't know, chat with ones that I did, and even make new connections in my own district through it.
Because of the list of Twitter educational chats curated by Jerry Blumengarten, Chad Evans, and Thomas Murray, I had access to several topical areas in education that I may be interested in. This list guided me on many occasions so I knew which hashtags to use for specific questions I had.
When I jumped into the Twitter world, I dove in head-first and prolifically tweeted for the first 4-6 months...
Twitter chats. Impromptu discussions. Questions to hashtags. Late night work crew. Google HangOuts. Online edcamps.
The pedagogical ideas and philosophies that are offered through these networks of educators on social media only scratch the surface of what became a transformative change in my practice. Blogging helped me to reflect on how I designed learning opportunities with my students and how I approached specific situations. Discussions with educators from varying regions helped me to gain a huge appreciation for my own province, district, and school settings by being exposed to other educational climates and their respective challenges. Connecting with these peers at local and global levels also held me accountable to my word -- when I told someone that I was going to try something, I really had to try it -- I did say it on the Internet, after all!
Advice for newer edu-folks taking this road: The tools are aplenty and the ideas can be overwhelming. Take what you need and take a break when you need it. Social media and those motivated & sharing educators will still be there when you come back. Check out this post by David Truss that outlines (literally) everything you need to know about tapping into Twitter as a professional development tool.
My feelings, one year later? One word: grateful.
I'm grateful for my PLN and all that they've done for me. I'm grateful that they are better than Google or any educational database out there when I'm looking for that one thing that's going to make that lesson pop. I'm grateful that I have support locally and globally on my students' and school's initiatives. I'm grateful for the opportunity to travel, present, and share the stories of my students and to learn about the students of others. And most of all, more than anything, I am grateful for the connections that have blossomed into incredible friendships.
So, PLN, thank you. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and you're mine.