April 13, 2012

Learning at the Speed of the Net!!!

I started this Blog a while ago, and while it has been an on and off again effort, I have also discovered other resources for sharing information and posting some of my experiences.  Like most of the rest of the world, I became a Facebooker for a while.  Still do, but not nearly as entrenched as I was for a stretch.  As I connected with many friends (although mostly friends I had known from High School or College,  I had the chance to share what I was up to now and how crazy family life, work life and how wonderful the new Governor of Wisconsin was.  For some reason, my sarcastic comments (like that last one) didn't play as clearly on Facebook, so my long time conservative and union hating friends (didn't realize they ate lead paint in their youth) didn't take too kindly at times or at least loved to debate me on why teachers were over paid, and how they had failed america's youth.  In order to separate my old pals from my followers that liked to read my posts about education and connecting them to some great articles.  This lead me to create a Facebook Page that let my friends interested in my Education post skip my personal posts (which were becoming fewer anyway).  While this was fun and I ended up gathering 30+ followers it was still a little slow and cumbersome.  I did get to see the data on my page and how much of an influence it was, but what I realized was, I wasn't connecting with many other folks that were helping me to grow (no offense to my few friends that are also educators and that did share experiences and knowledge with me).

I did dive into Twitter once before.  I didn't really get it at first.  It was kind of cool.  I started off following Ashton Kutcher, Charlie Sheen, Alyssa Milano and some other famous celeb.  I didn't really get it (as a connecting tool) but it could be entertaining.  After going back to Facebook and feeling like I was missing something, I finally decided to download the Tweetbox app onto my iPad.  I found a few Education authors to connect with and started reading their tweets.  Then someone posted a "How to" on Twitter and I started to figure out the tool I had in front of me.  I was then excited to see that Rick Wormeli was on Twitter.  It just so happened that I was going to a workshop to hear Rick talk about Literacy in the content areas.  As I sat in the conference room and waited for Rick to start I decided to tweet about it to the 10 followers I had at the time.  Next thing I know, Rick walks over to me right before he was going to start the workshop and asked I had just tweeted about him.  I said yes.  He asked if I would keep tweeting about the conference during the day and talked about how it actually helps drive the learning a little deeper to use a 2nd learning style while listening to a lecturer.  We talked and tweeted a couple of times during the breaks, and most importantly I got to hear a fantastic speaker and learn a great deal from an awesome educator that day.  But the change was this use of a new connecting tool.  Rick had taught me how to extend my Professional Learning Network.

At first my Twitter experience was slow moving, but after learning a few things from Rick, and then reading a Twitter tip sheet, I was on my way to building my PLN.  In a short time I was following over 300 people and collected over 100 followers myself.  I have the chance to talk with some of the authors I have been reading for years as well as many educators that are on the speaking circuit.  I am following updated information from education organizations like Solution Tree, NWEA, McRel, and many more. I finally took my first chance to participate in a live tweet about education focused subjects.  It has truly been one of the best learning experiences I have enjoyed in my 15 years as an educator.  While my wife struggles with my Twitter addiction, when she sees and hears my enthusiasm for this new networking tool, she forgives and lets me keep on.

This post was mostly for me.  I had these feelings inside and just had to get them out.  Besides, my wife is tired of me talking about it.  If I haven't bored you to death, I would first encourage you to give Twitter a try.  And if you like it, feel free to give me a follow and I will gladly follow you too.  You can find me at @twhitford and I hope you connect with as many wonderful and knowledgeable people as I have.