Why am I giving you this information about someone I have never met? Why am I so excited to share her story about twitter? Because I have a similar story, on a smaller scale, but nonetheless a similar story. In honor of Social Media Day (yes, it really has it’s own day), I would like to share my story.
I started “tweeting” a little over a year ago. (My blog post about joining twitter, if interested.) I had been against it for some time because like many people, I thought it was about following Charlie Sheen or Ashton Kutcher. Or if you were my husband, twitter was the place where you followed every Cincinnati Reds player and anything about sports. After attending a technology conference where twitter was mentioned as a way to access meaningful information, I decided to try out this ‘new’ technology. Since then, my life as an educator has changed. Sure, I've had a few road bumps. Spammers, with not so appropriate pictures, would follow me. (I would block and report them.) I didn’t have many followers for a while which was kind of discouraging, I had to realize it takes time. Like any relationship, it takes a while to engage. I had conversations with a few “tweeps” (people on twitter for you non-tweeters) that ended up with some legal issues so I unfollowed them as well.
With that said, let me get back to my original story. After joining twitter and figuring out the hashtag deal, I started attending #spedchat (online chat via twitter where those interested in special education would meet and chat) and I met several special education teachers like myself. One in particular was @Room5Friends, Morgan Kolis (also known as my #EduBestie). It was like we were living similar lives in separate classrooms. Both of us live in Ohio, teach students with multiple disabilities, love technology (especially iPads), enjoy sports, enjoying blog, and are advocates for education. Over the year, our friendship grew. We shared classroom resources, send each other “free app alerts”, or just was there to vent because a lot of times when you are one of only a couple teachers in your building (if you are that lucky) that understand what it is like to teach amazing students who sometimes require more energy than we have to give.
As I got more involved in the “app world” and saw the excitement and progress my students were making while using the iPad, I entertained the idea about presenting at the state technology conference. Then I had a brainstorm idea. Morgan had seen similar results in her classroom. What if we presented together? But I had never met this person. Never spoke on the phone or via Skype. We knew each other in 140 characters phrases, but did I want to chance this presentation and invite someone who I didn’t know? I decided to take the plunge. I imagine it was a bit like asking someone out to the prom. Hey, I don’t know you very well, but......would you want to co-present with me at this tech conference? She said yes, although I think she had apprehensions herself.
Over the next several months, we began to chat a little more often through twitter and email in preparation for the presentation. We started a Google Doc to begin the collaboration and organization of our presentation. We used Prezi to create our presentation which has a collaboration feature so we could work on the presentation together. We started a protopage which we used to organize by category some of the apps we would be discussing. Through all this, we still had not verbally interacted. We eventually “Skyped” a couple of times to get the final plans in order, but we never met in person.
Fast forward through all the planning to February 2012, Sunday night before the start of the conference. Morgan and I met in the hotel lobby for the first time face to face to finalize our presentation. Was it scary or awkward? Absolutely not! It was like two college friends who had not seen each other for a while sitting down to chat! (At least that is how I felt.) Sure, at first it took a little bit for the conversation to get started, mostly because I think we didn’t want the other to think we were being “bossy”. We chatted for over 2 hours, mostly about the presentation, but we also discussed our classrooms, our schools, and our districts. It was refreshing to talk to someone going through similar successes and challenges as myself.
By the way, our presentation was well received. We were able to meet other “tweeps” from our twitter followers as they introduced themselves to us before, during, and after our presentation. Although next year, I think we need to do a session on our story of being a connected educator.
Why did I tell you this story? To prove that there is value in using social media. Like anything else, it is up to you to use it to your benefit. I often tell people, “Twitter is the best PD a person can have.” They look at me like I’m crazy because their reference of twitter is Sheen and Kutcher. Think about it. Twitter is FREE. You have control over who you follow and what you learn. You get to learn and interact with some of the best educators in the world, in your own comfort zone, at your own pace.
Twitter has connected me with amazing individuals from around the world. I have connections in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, England, India.....just to name a few. I can’t even put into words my excitement when Ian Bean, a technology and special ed guru who I “knew” due to the Priory Woods website I used with my students, followed me on twitter. It was like I met a rock star! With twitter, I now have a personal learning network (PLN) of over 800 individuals that I consider rock stars from around the globe who have helped shape me into a better educator. Not all my connections are teachers, some are app developers, some are educational corporations, and some are parents, but at some point each one of them have shared something that made me want to have them in my PLN.
This is why I love twitter!!!! Oh, and Happy Social Media Day!
If you would like to join my PLN, you can find me @teachwtechbrox!