So I’ve spent the past 2 weeks reading research papers, articles on professional learning for teachers and professional/personal learning networks and books by David Weinberger and George Siemens. I still feel as though I have only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the academic side of social media being used as a source of informal professional learning for teachers. What I do know, though, is that professionally and personally, I love being able to connect with other professionals online.
This weekend, I have experienced several examples of how powerful having a professional presence online, and a PLN can be.
The first are two terrific discussions I had on Twitter. On Saturday morning I had a professional discussion with Alison Hewett, an amazing Teacher Librarian in Auckland New Zealand, where I discovered a new tool for managing digital resources. Alison blogs at 100 great books before lunch and is a leading expert in all school library matters, but particularly in the realm of digital resourcing using ebooks and audiobooks. I met Alison in person last year, when I was Keynoting at the SLANZA Conference in Christchurch, where she presented Everything Ebooks, however long before that I had followed her, on Twitter, and also on Flipboard, where she curates fantastic resources for her community and beyond. Meeting her in real life was a thrill, as I had already learnt so much from what she had shared, and now we continue to converse via Twitter, our professional relationship enriched by the fact that we now ‘know’ each other even better! This weekend, we exchanged several tweets about a tool that I had never experienced, Mackinvia, and her most recent blog post, and I reflected on the way that tools such as Twitter enable me to continue connections I’ve made at conferences etc, in ways that previously would never have been possible.
On Saturday night, I had a great discussion with a group of like-minded professionals, concerned about the rumoured changes to Twitter’s stream; from chronological (and most useful for PLN usage) to algorithmic (most popular tweets at the top, like Facebook organises posts). This change instigated the hashtag #riptwitter, as people deplored the reorganisation of their information by the company – removing control from the users.(Fortunately, it seems like it was either a rumour or the crowd has spoken; this was published this morning:
Several of us at the time chatted about what this might mean for our PLN, what other tools we might use and whether it was actually going to happen at all. I would like to add that I have only met one of these people in real life; and yet the conversation was interesting and I saw different perspectives from each of them. Can I mention also that @MeganGraff is currently living in Bolivia, @Guentheralex is in Yokohama and @bennykenobi is in Melbourne, while @lyndelleg and I reside in Brisbane; a pretty global conversation for a Saturday night on the couch!
Another exciting event this weekend was a couple of pingbacks left on my blog post about Content Curation. I had noticed that the number of hits I was receiving on my old blog were coming from Canada, and this was a new development that I didn’t understand. Then this morning, I had two pingbacks, both from students completing Alec Couros‘ subject EC&I 831, at the University of Regina. Alec Couros has been one of the inspirations for my current doctoral studies, as he is very passionate about using social media and connectivism to enhance teacher professional learning, and so to have some of his students link to my little ole blog from Australia was a huge professional thrill. I wrote back to them both, and hope to connect further with this cohort, who meet regularly on Twitter using the hashtag #ECI831 and who have amazing guest speakers such as Dave Cormier, who is an expert on Rhizomatic Learning.
These events, all happening in the space of a weekend, have confirmed to me that I am on the right path; while some teachers feel that social media is not for them (and this is ok, we all learn differently), I do believe that the affordances of social media can be an amazing way to not only network but learn from people in different areas of the world. Without developing an online presence and sharing my learning, I would have missed so many wonderful learning opportunities; and as I begin my research for another week, I am re-inspired to learn what the research says and how we can better understand the way we learn via networks online.