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Life as a Twit (Tweeter?): on Becoming a Connected Educator
By Shannon O'Dwyer
I am usually five years late to every party. It does not matter if it is winter ankle boots, neutral-colored bathrooms or tablets… I always view a notion as utterly bizarre, for exactly five years, until it suddenly makes sense. I am not proud of this trait, nor is it an intentional resistance to change; I am simply that slow to imagine possibilities, until they slap me in the face. And so it was with Twitter. I had of course paid lip service to idea of “connected educators” for several years. I followed Julie Lindsay into the wonderful world of Flat Classrooms. I created a blog with Grade 4 students, which attracted comments from a global community. My class collaborated on wikis, Ning Networks and Weebly; I attended meetings on Google Hangout and Blackboard Collaborate, and shared work via Google Docs and LiveBinders, in the spirit of open, connected learning. But Twitter was dangerous territory for me; I am an extravert with a big mouth. On a daily basis, I regret at least one of my irreverent quips or exaggerated tales. Could I be trusted with 140 characters? Posted immediately? On a global stage? What if my digital footprint became a stream of consciousness about peanut butter, springtime blooms and irritating traffic? As usual, it took a long summer holiday to give me the time, energy and courage to face my next frontier. And just as it was with ankle boots… Twitter stole my heart! If you are still reading, I am preaching to the choir. In short, I am now connected to the greatest innovators in education, in real time! As they think it, I read it. I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for professional development. I have it all day, every day, from the biggest movers and shakers in my profession. Educational research is streamed live from academics and institutions–no excuses for outdated pedagogy. Bright, articulate teachers are editorializing education and filling my day with questions, goals and challenges. And if I am looking for a workshop or job-alike session, #chats are just that. Led by capable moderators, they are hives of relevant dialogue and resources. Just last week, a teacher in Jakarta tweeted a mathematics inquiry about place value. A class at my school was studying the same strand, so they joined the investigation. Over the next week, two classes in different countries completed the same project. They are now sharing findings, reflections and further questions via their blogs. I “met” a like-minded colleague, collected a host of new resources and my students engaged in more challenging learning… all because of 140 characters. Creating a Twitter network to learn from my heroes and peers has had a profound impact on my pedagogy. I am no longer an island of competence, limited by context, geography, training or experience. I am connected, and I am growing! (I have not yet learned to disconnect. Is there an app for that?) Follow Ms. O’Dwyer at @S_ODwyer.
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