Do you see what I see?
I was taking my class to Music this week, and this bulletin board caused me to stop and stare. You could say I had a lightbulb moment.
Before I discovered the professional development potential of Twitter, I often wondered why few educators seemed to see teaching the way I did. What I didn't realize at the time was I was not alone in my feeling of isolation. There were countless other educators around the world struggling with some of the same issues I was. What I also discovered as I talked with other teachers in my school about how Twitter has helped me is that they share my concerns. We just weren't finding the time to talk about them and address them.
Why does it become more difficult each year to keep up? Why is it harder for my students to listen each year? Why does the spectrum of special needs keep growing? Does anyone successfully keep up with app updates and mastering advances in technology?
All these questions led me to the one question that spoke to me the most...
Why can't my students have more opportunities to play, explore, build, and design?
I remember making in elementary school. I remember dreaming of being a Mousketeer, and imagining that I was helping superheroes like Batman and Robin make the world a better place. One of my earliest memories is of a stoplight I made in preschool out of construction paper. I was so proud of that stoplight. I remember walking around my yard holding it and feeling very accomplished. I recall releasing Monarch butterflies in second grade and learning to love writing in third grade with Miss Etheridge. In fourth and fifth grade I wanted to be Mrs. Aquaviva. She had the most beautiful handwriting. I have often wondered what happened to Mrs. Aquaviva.
I remember being very upset in fifth grade when we were making a bulletin board for our teachers, and we had to change our original message of "Thank God for our teachers" to "Thank goodness for teachers." This was the moment the seed was first planted for me to pursue teaching, and it was also when I first realized I would be teaching in a faith based school.
Three years ago I attended my first ISTE convention in Atlanta, and the world of possibilities of Twitter was opened to me. I remember sitting in an auditorium of over 17,000 educators, and I received a tweet welcoming me to the Twitterverse. That tweet came from an educator who would become one of my best friends I have yet to meet. We now talk several times a week, sometimes daily, through Twitter and occasionally by phone. He has helped me with challenges, dreams, students, and ideas. I have come to see him as my coach. If I had never tried this form of social media I would have missed out on so much professional and personal growth. I would have missed out on one of the most meaningful friendships I have ever had.
In my early days of growing my PLN (Professional Learning Network), I came across the Breakfast Club #bfc530. These teachers tweet every school day for 15 minutes and respond to one question about education. Because of #bfc530 I discovered #EdCamps, teachers in North Carolina, teachers all over the US, teachers in Australia and New Zealand, and how to teach like a pirate. Because of #bfc530 I rediscovered how much I love learning new things.
If I had never started tweeting I would never have met author Cheryl McNeil Fisher and been able to share her books with my students. Her Skype read alouds with my class evolved into a school visit last May where she met all our K-2 students and was able to share her books and calling with even more of the students at my school.
If I had never started tweeting I would never have met Adam McKim who started an organization called Chat to the Future. Because of our connection, my first graders had the opportunity several times to Skype with the orphan children in Uganda they were working so hard to help.
If I had never started tweeting I would never have discovered #aussieED. I get up early on Sunday's so that I can connect with educators on the other side of the world who are dedicated to improving their calling for the sake of their students. They suggest books and activities I might never have discovered without their point of view.
If I had never started tweeting I would never have discovered the joy of Mystery Skype. My students have been thrilled to play this guessing game with other students around the country. The fact that they were practicing map skills during the game was unimportant to them. They were connecting with other elementary students and suddenly their classroom was bigger.
If I had never started tweeting I would never have tried making time for Genius Hour and Maker Space in my classroom. I would have never had the privilege of watching firsthand how these movements are great ways to build a community and teach my students to have meaningful conversations with each other.
At this point, you're probably thinking, "Ellen, you've addressed this theme before. What makes today different?"
On Thursday afternoon when I saw my friend and colleague's beautiful bulletin board, I was struck by how much I need Twitter, and how much I wish I could share it with more of my colleagues during the school day. I was reminded of how glad I am that Twitter has expanded my point of view of the world, and how grateful I am for those who challenge my point of view.
Currently, Twitter is a site that is blocked for security reasons at our school. I've been asked to help write a proposal showing the benefits of Twitter for free professional development.
I'm curious to hear from those of you who have Twitter as a resource at school. What hurdles did you have to overcome to get access to Twitter, and what strategies have your IT people used to limit any security risks Twitter might present?
I have a dream of Twitter being available to all of my colleagues in our diocese. When I think of how my world becomes bigger every day because of countless educators around the world cheering me and my students on, I want that for all my fellow teachers.
A special shoutout to all my PLN friends who were at #edcampNJ today. I hope to be with you learning in person next time:)
As always, thanks for supporting me and my students, and to my American PLN peeps, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!