Over this past week in particular, I was struck by the power of Twitter to connect people together in a truly meaningful way. For the last almost 12 months that I have been on Twitter, I’ve slowly but surely been building up my professional learning network (PLN). I must admit that before I joined Twitter, I was very much of the opinion that it was a narcissistic waste of time (like some of you out there who may be reading this). I thought that it was mainly used for banal “I ate toast for breakfast #yummy” comments and updates, or for people to scream “Look at me!” to the world, hoping for someone to listen. But I have been pleasantly and overwhelmingly surprised at its ability to connect like-minded individuals from all over the globe – and all in messages of 140 characters or less.
I have seen the power of Twitter in the short and sharp statements from fellow educators whose opinions and comments I value. I see the sharing of ideas, resources, links and articles that are often thought-provoking, usually interesting and occasionally challenging. I have seen teachers from around the world collaborate together to work through complex problems I have had assignment help and activity ideas that I used recently on prac from my colleagues on Twitter. I have been encouraged and received inspiration, as well as being able to encourage others. I have been able to ask and answer questions – sometimes simple, other times deep. I have been stirred to action on social justice issues and enjoyed laughing at the jokes, comments and deadpan hashtags. I have seen Twitter’s power to connect to the movers and shakers and been referred to countless new and enriching blogs. I hadn’t dreamt that all this would be possible for a lowly pre-service science teacher like me – no fancy conferences or many years of service and networking required! I also like the fact that I can consider teachers from halfway around the world my colleagues, despite the fact that we may never meet face-to-face. It has been wonderful to see that some of these teachers I connect with are from the other side of the world and others from a couple of suburbs away, and yet the connections are immediate and camaraderie are immediate. I like that I can either sit back and take it all in or get involved and start a conversation – it just depends on how I’m feeling.
Now I want to clarify that I use Twitter for largely professional purposes; that is, I don’t eliminate the personal, because we are human beings after all, but I mainly use it to connect with other teachers. I also don’t want to blindly sing its praises, making it sound like I’ve “drunk the Kool Aid”, so to speak. As much as it can easily build connections, at times it can be lonely when you feel like you’re calling out into the darkness with no-one to hear you. But I feel that there are so many times when I have been supported through Twitter that there’s no going back now!