The Importance of Being a Connected Educator
The Commodore 64
Back in the early 1990’s, I was working on my master thesis for graduate school in music. During this time, the personal computer was really taking shape and was still pricey for the times. I remember our first PC. I was working on my thesis and begged my husband to purchase one for the house. He kept saying to me, “All you want to do is chat on AOL.” That was not quite the reason why as you know, to write a thesis, like a dissertation, it was much easier to use Microsoft Word and use the program’s ability to create footnotes at the bottom of the page. (I cannot fathom how folks did it before computers!)
At the time, the only service we could get was dial-up. You heard that distinct dial tone and the crunching of sounds, trying to hook up through a web service such as AOL, Earthlink or Prodigy. Your monthly fee would enable dial-up service, email, news, and a search engine to surf the world wide web. I remember having the ability to chat using the AOL protocol, but never really used it as not many folks had personal computers.
Enter the 21st century. Now, we use social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Blogs to connect. But why is this so important for us as educators and administrators to use these tools? You say to yourself, “But I don’t want people to find out what I am doing and have my information on the web. Or, Twitter? Really, as a professional development tool?” You bet, and the best part, it’s all FREE!!
The platforms that I identified, I use to increase what we call, a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network). This means connecting to like minded folks who are passionate about education and discussing what is best for students. For me personally, using Twitter as a professional development tool has rejuvenated my career and connected me to some “Rock Stars” in my PLN. There are times I am chatting with my New York friends about good practice and other times chatting with Rockstar educators such as Todd Whitaker, Peter DeWitt and even Arne Duncan. The best part that I cannot stress enough is that it is free. It also gets me off of “the lonely island of administration.” If I have a problem that I don’t have an answer too, it’s very easy to “dial-up” my PLN and in less than an hour, I get a response to my question. Need a little mentorship, tweet out to your PLN and instantly, they come to your rescue because they are connected. Want to meet your PLN? Go to some conferences like the SAANYS, NASSP, NAESP, NYSCATE and ISTE conference and participate in a Tweet-up. Better yet, go to an Edcamp, free learning, face-to-face and live tweeting.
To open an account with Twitter is easy. You go to the website and join and the program will pull you through the steps and voila, you have a username. Use a unique username, something that identifies who you are. My twitter handle is @VictoriaL_Day, makes sense because that is my name and it identifies that it is me. I also uploaded a picture as well as explaining who I am in the biography slot. Once you have opened an account, follow someone, like me. See who they are following and who follows them.
Twitter is not like Facebook. You only have 140 characters to write what you are thinking or answer a question or provide a link to an article or a blog. You do have to remember that this is Social Media (SM) but a rule of thumb is this, anything you post whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or a blog or a comment on a blog is a digital footprint. Just think of it this way, do I want my parents of students, staff and my family reading this, then you will be safe. Also, be kind – it is okay to agree to disagree in chats, but we are here to learn.
The thing we Twitter aficionados say to do for beginner tweeps is once you join, start lurking. Start lurking on various chats and tweeps that you follow. Join a chat using a hashtag. The hashtag is the hash symbol # with the word or term used after the symbol. It groups all tweets into one stream or group that you can follow. For instance, I co-moderate, with Tony Sinanis, Bill Brennan, Blanca Duarte, Carol Varsalona and Starr Stackstein, #NYEDChat every other Monday at 8:30p.m. EST. You can easily join our chat’s on Monday evenings, lurk and see our conversation. Another powerful chat to follow is #satchat every Saturday at 7:30a.m. The moderation team of Scott Rocco, Billy Krakower and Brad Curie started a revolution about two years ago and it has taken off so fast that they had to open chats on the west coast (#satchatwc) and expanded to Oceania (#satchatoc). I remember it was just a few of us starting the global conversation, and then it took off like wildfire. It is so hard to keep up with the chat because people are tweeting is so fast.
So, I challenge you to open yourself and get connected, whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Start lurking. Follow us on our chats and watch how your PLN will start to grow. Once you start, I promise, you will be hooked. It will rejuvenate your career!