Sunday, May 18, 2014

Surprise, Surprise - Twitter!! 7 Reasons Why!?! - A Year In Review, Part 2

Twitter.  I would have never predicted that it would have such a positive impact on my professional growth!  Who knew! (Only about 6 million people!)

Before this year, my general impression was that Twitter was something that my two teenage daughters and their friends used to share the events of their lives. I thought it was a social media tool that entertainment stars used to "overshare" the details of their personal lives and tweet things most of us would rather not know. It was about social interactions, not learning. And though I certainly enjoy social interactions with friends, none of my friends were tweeting! I didn't really see why I would want to invest the time.

In October of 2012, I listened to a keynote address by Educational Technologist, Kathy Schrock at the 2012 MEMO (Minnesota Educational Media Organization) Conference.  She enthusiastically extolled the virtues of Twitter for professional learning and networking (Some call it a PLN - Personal Learning Network). I was motivated by Kathy's speech so I created a Twitter account, but then I got busy and didn't do anything with it. Still, the seed was planted.

When I began blogging at the beginning of this school year, I returned to Twitter as an observer. I began to follow educational bloggers and discovered a huge family of educational tweeters all sharing their ideas! It was like a world of professional learning had opened up at my fingertips. When I tweeted my first tweet on January 28, 2014, I had been following for months, but finally I made the leap and began to share.

Several aspects of the Twitter format made it especially useful for me -
1. - Twitter is learning in a hurry! In a few seconds, I can assess the relative value of a tweet and decide whether or not it is something I am interested in.  Within a very short time, I can find new ideas! Twitter users share infographics and memes which also expresses ideas quickly and easily! 
2. - As I follow other practitioners, I can pick and choose what I want to pursue, customizing for my needs. Not every tweet is equally relevant for me, but every tweet offers a potential opportunity!  It offers an opportunity for me to discover new ideas, prove or disprove my own beliefs, improve my techniques, build enthusiasm and make connections with others! 
3. - Twitter is a fantastic tool even for the casual "creeper"/"lurker". These are the terms my daughters use for a person who follows but doesn't tweet.  Sounds more menacing than it is, but the point is, even though Twitter is better when you jump in and make contributions and connections, it is really great for mining ideas as a passive observer! 
4. - Though it may sound harsh, if someone's tweets aren't useful for me, I unfollow.  I like the fact that I can build a Twitter professional network that works for me. It seems a bit unfriendly to unfollow, but that is what makes Twitter work as a PLN!  It allows users the opportunity to filter out the noise and focus on what they need. More over, it allows tweeters to find an audience of people who enjoy what they have to say!  I am still new enough that I rarely unfollow, but it is an option I appreciate. 
5. - Twitter #chats are a fantastic way to focus on specific educational topics while also building Twitter relationships...dare I even say friendships! As a new Twitter chatter, each chat that I have participated in has been exciting, fast paced, jam-packed with ideas, and often includes humorous banter among the participants.  I've only chatted with #mnedchat, #mnlead, and #arkedchat, but each one was wonderfully affirming.  They provided me with a great opportunity to learn how it works while also building my confidence to share my opinion! I've learned about the theories and realities of Personalized Learning, Genius Hour, Flipped Classrooms, and Makerspaces, all current trends in education.  
6. - This one might just be my favorite...Twitter has given me the opportunity to connect with a few of my heros - the authors I have been choosing for our library for years! The day Seymour Simon followed me, and Mercer Mayer favorited one of my tweets, I thought I had really arrived! Dan Santat, Drew Daywalt, Jennifer Fosberry, Oliver Jeffers and Jean Marzollo, all connected with me in some way! ....I know...Right!?!

7.  Most importantly, my newly acquired Twitter ideas, from practical to theoretical, have made their way back to my teaching and ultimately to my students.  I have discovered new apps, new web tools and new books via Twitter. More fundamentally, I have had a few shifts in my professional approach toward lesson design, allowing students more time to lead, more choices, and more opportunities to work collaboratively. 
This next week, I have six staff members at Oak Hills who have agreed to give it a try with me! At our Twitter inservice, we will get each of them going on Twitter so we can chat together!  You never know, a new hashtag chat might be born!!  I am super excited to grow my PLN with my teacher friends!

Finally, I feel the need to give a shout out to a few people who have been part of my Twitter PLN epiphany, whether they knew it or not!  @Chris_L_Myers has patiently encouraged me and answered my questions. @bretdom (Bret Domstrand) @mlament (Michelle Ament) @ak2mn (Nicholas Christensen), @khurdhorst (Kimberly Hurd), and @DaisyDyerDuerr have helped me navigate Twitter chats!  I've learned so much! @tritonkory (Kory Graham) has been quick to favorite my new tweets! Thanks for the encouragement! @Caleb_G_Lee gave me great insight into Genius Hour! @BobbiC07 (Bobbi Capwell) thanks for introducing me to InstaGrok!  Thanks to you all!

Feel free to join my Twitter PLN! @KnutsonCathy We can learn together!!

For Part 1 of A Year In Review, check out - Blogging For Surprising Results!