Here it is the second week in September and it has been an incredible summer for me in terms of my own learning, which is what I want to talk about today. I have been thinking about this for the past several weeks and talking about it to anyone who would listen. I do get a lot of skeptical looks and many have a difficult time understanding what I get so excited about because social networking is not something they have experienced, or in many cases fully understand, let alone participate in. I believe most of the people I come in contact with view social networking as something teenagers or college students participate in. The sad news is many don’t realize the benefits it can have for everyone. In the past few months I have come in contact with and feel as though I belong to a wonderful community of people who are as passionate as I am about education, learning, children, personal growth, professional development, the list could go on and on. The truly remarkable part of this is that for the most part I only know these people virtually, a few I have met face to face, but mostly I know all of them through their blog, wiki, flickr accounts and Twitter. I have been an avid blog reader for about a year, didn’t really enter into conversations on blogs until I attended a conference in February organized by Steve Hardagon, lead by Will Richardson, hosted by Chris Lehmann at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Those two days are what started me on this path of building and wanting to be part of an online community for my own learning and I will tell you it is the best thing I have done in a long time.
I attended NECC this year in Atlanta as well and was fortunate enough to meet face to face some of the people whose blogs I have been reading. This is where Ryan Bretag introduced me to twitter also. At first I didn’t understand what the attraction to twitter was, but as the summer progressed and I added people to follow and others began to follow me I understood completely. You begin to develop friendships through these text conversations, people link to blog posts they have written recently and ask your opinion on things they are doing at school, new software they are trying, web tools they are using in classrooms with students or for professional development in their districts. There is a wealth of information; all are so willing to share. If you have a question someone usually offers what their experience has been or their opinion on what you are asking or ask you a question in return to stretch your thinking as their blogs posts always do as well.
Through my social network not only have I benefited personally, but now the students and teachers in my district also have opportunities for collaboration which I am not sure would I would have been aware of or had the chance to participate in. In this past two weeks I have been working to arrange collaborations with the Shanghai American School through Jeff Utecht and Lockleys North Primary School in Australia through Graham Wegner. Also I am going to co teach and online course with Darren Draper, Jordan School District in Sandy, Utah the title, Open Staff Development, what a great concept. Hopefully the teachers in our respective districts in Utah, and Pennsylvania, will take a course together and build communities for themselves, what better way to model the use of social networking. I want to say thank you all for including me in this great community, for stretching my thinking, for helping me to grow both personally and professionally and for the opportunity to be part of wonderful conversations centered in education and preparation for the future.