I write this post as I sit on an airplane flying home from the Model Schools Conference in Orlando, Florida. The sessions were fantastic, but what struck me most was simple yet profound. In one of the sessions I attended there were at least 500 dedicated educators in the room. These were the educators that had dedicated themselves to learning in the midst of summer vacation. The presenter asked us to raise our hand if we were not using social media to connect with other educators. I was amazed to see more than 75% of the hands in the room go up. In contrast, I have been utilizing Twitter since 2012 to connect with educators around the world to share strategies and ideas. Furthermore, many of those I’ve collaborated with on Twitter have become personal friends.
The benefits are real. On Sunday night, more than 5000 educators listened in amazement to a keynote by Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger) to kick off the conference. The very next evening, I had the honor to eat dinner with Eric and a small group of connected educators. This was only possible because of the friendship that had developed on Twitter years earlier. The dinner allowed me to personally connect with Don Miller (@dmiller212001), Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), Dwight Carter (@Dwight_Carter), Joe Sanfelippo (@Joesanfelippofc), Nikki Robertson (@NikkiDRobertson), Daisy Dyer Duerr (@DaisyDyerDuerr), Ross Cooper (@RossCoops31), Thomas Murray (@thomascmurray), and Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd). I can call,email, direct message, or Vox all of these individuals for help or advice anytime. For example, I will be picking the brain of Jimmy Casas about a student recognition program he implemented later tonight.
I know what you’re thinking! I remember thinking that I had no time when a friend of mine suggested I utilize Twitter professional development. I now wonder how I ever survived without it. My friend Jimmy Casas talks about striving for excellence and surrounding yourself with excellence. Put simply, Twitter allowed me to surround myself with the best in the business without the limitations of geographical area. Tuesday, I had the privilege of having dinner with Don Miller, Taylor Barton, and Todd Nesloney. This was the first time I had spent time with Don and Todd face to face and we discussed how we have all benefitted from the sharing that happens in our Personal Learning Network (PLN).
In the words of Todd Nesloney,”connecting on social media is like going to Disney World…it is difficult to describe to people who have never experienced it”. It truly has been an indescribable and magical learning experience and I’ll never look back. In summary, refuse to allow yourself to be limited by the ideas of those in your geographical region or school community. We all get better as a result of collaboration and our kids reap the benefits. Social media may not change the world, but it will certainly change yours. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @charleswgardner and I’ll help guide you into this new world. Our kids deserve it!