When I talk to colleagues about being a “connected” educator, the first response is often “I don’t have time!” followed by “Why? What’s in it for me?”
I can relate. That is where I was a year and a half ago. I was busy, doing the best I could in my classroom, alone. How would I have time to connect with others? How would my teaching and my students benefit?
Although I was uncertain about the process, at the urging of a friend, I started following educational chats on Twitter. I found an engaging group of educators, who pushed me to give my students more voice and choice in my classroom. I began to trade my evening television viewing time for twitter chats where I began to share my classroom successes and struggles. As I shared, I realized my stories were not just isolated to me, my building, or my district; they were common to teachers all over the world. Online I found the sharing helped us all grow and move towards becoming more successful as individuals and more engaging to our students.
Twitter has become my “user manual” for teaching. I have made connections with a variety of educators, ranging from pre-service teachers to superintendents to highly regarded educational authors. If I need a technology tool, want engaging lessons, or have a bad day, my “professional learning network” (PLN) is there to help me out. I tweet my question or concern using the appropriate hashtag (#) and in time, multiple educators will respond with meaningful advice.
After every chat I participate in, I come away energized, full of new ideas and ready to walk back into the classroom. It has rejuvenated my career and helped me embrace a growth mindset. Instead of being content as a good teacher, I am now striving to improve every day, backed by the unlimited resources of my PLN. My classroom is now full of energy and engagement.
As your PLN grows, the time put in will be far less than the time it saves. When you hit roadblocks in your classroom, instead of spending countless hours searching for solutions, you will have PLN minds to help on the task, sharing their expertise and experience.
Twitter and other social media tools enable teachers to leave the traditional isolation of a classroom. Although making time for one more thing might be problematic in the life of a teacher, I would argue that teachers don’t have time not to become a connected educator. Your investment of time will provide countless opportunities to grow and evolve. Instead of facing the time and frustration of tackling a problem on your own, you have a supportive community to help find resources and suggestions, and celebrate your successes.
Begin your journey today! Reach out and connect with other educators on twitter. You will never know how you taught unconnected.
A great resource for getting started comes from Jerry Blumengarten here.
Todd Bloch is a seventh grade science educator in Clinton Township, Michigan, and the moderator of #mschat weekly on Thursdays.
Listen to AMLE’s Dru Tomlin interview Todd Bloch.