From boulders to pebbles: How social media is growing a professional community

Many educators don’t understand the value of Twitter to their professional growth, especially how ideas of significance can be presented in only 140 characters. So I’ve asked a few of my colleagues about their social media experiences.

It’s interesting to see how the business-end of town is embracing social media. Here’s a quote from an article in FastCompany: *IDEO: Five Companies That Mastered Social Media’s Branding Potential (emphasis mine)

Social networks can breathe new life into old brands by enabling companies to build collaborative relationships with consumers like never before… The trick, a few innovators have found, is to let consumers lead the conversation.

Enabling an ordinary person to lead the conversation is a powerful element of microblogging on Twitter. In **Charles Leadbeater’s book We Think he talks about boulders and pebbles, a metaphor for the voice of the ordinary people.

Imagine surveying the media, information and cultural industries in the mid 1980s…The scene would resemble a large sandy beach, with crowds organised around a very few large boulders. These boulders were the big media companies…Now imagine the scene on this beach in five years’ time [about now, actually]. A few big boulders are still showing, but many have been drowned by the rising tide of pebbles. Some of the pebbles they drop are very small: a blog post or a comment on YouTube… A bewildering array of pebbles in different sizes, shapes and colours are being laid down the whole time, in no particular order, as people feel like it.

Let me introduce some of my colleagues – @markliddell, @Poska, @matonfender, @grant_harbor, @rethinklearn, @steve_collis, @GNav75, @misscmorrison

@GNav75 is the most recent to get on board with the microblogging idea and @steve_collis has been Tweeting since May 2008. Everybody else is somewhere in between.

I asked each of them three questions:

  • What keeps you coming back?
  • What’s been a great experience?
  • What would you say to educators who are sceptical about Twitter, or yet to embrace it as a learning tool?

Here are their answers:
What keeps you coming back?

@markliddell – The connections, the sharing, the great ideas, the innovation and the progress.
What’s been a great experience? Feeling part of the global education movement.

@Poska – Connecting, ideas, challenges, a forum to grow, investigate, learn and vent.

@matonfender – connecting with other educators who are innovating and sharing what they do.

@grant_harbor – Interesting/new ideas, challenging perspectives and my soapbox or voice does get heard!

@rethinklearn – The wealth of information, inspiration and shared passion.

@steve_collis – Relationships with other creative teachers; I want to know what they are up to and how they are going.

@GNav75 – Excellent way to tap into the latest history news (discoveries etc. are tweeted before they appear on blogs, let alone in the ‘old’ media) and also discovering great new resources and teaching ideas

@misscmorrison – I not only get professional discussion and networking, but everyday there is a new teaching idea!

What’s been a great experience?

@markliddellFeeling part of the global education movement.

@PoskaFinding resources and connecting my students to the wider world.

@matonfenderSharing about the Model UN unit I developed and hearing back from other educators about how unique it was and can we meet up to participate together in some related activities. Connecting with other teachers who want to do Project-Based-Learning and don’t know where to start. Developing global connections with other people, benefiting from

@grant_harbor Realising that there are other teachers out there that are passionate about the same things as me!

@rethinklearn Knowing there are others out there who share the same passion. Discovering and learning at my own pace and in my own time.

@steve_collis – Meeting teachers face to face who I have been conversing with on Twitter for months.

@GNav75 – Learning more about my colleagues’ interests and passions through following them on twitter.

@misscmorrison – Sharing at the #ELH conference via Twitter

What would you say to educators who are sceptical about Twitter, or yet to embrace it as a learning tool?

@markliddell: Having a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is a great learning. Twitter is one great way to build your PLN.

@Poska – It is difficult, time consuming and costly to grow a PLN by merely attending conferences. Using twitter you are connected to thousands of cutting edge educators at the click of a button.

@matonfender – Put the time aside, it’s worth it, be mentored so you know how to use it without being overloaded.

@grant_harbor – Firstly it take a little time to start but don’t give up! You don’t have to look at it every day but when you have time it’s always there to give you a rev up! Decide on what you want to tweet about and stick to that!
@rethinklearn – Creating your own PLN via Twitter is the best PD one can undertake. It is inspiring, current, ever-changing and doesn’t cost a cent!

@steve_collis – Clearly it has proven useful and inspirational for countless teachers, so it simply unobservant to be skeptical.

@GNav75 – There are many advantages. You feel connected to a wider learning community; you can access information and resources quickly; questions can be asked, dilemmas resolved. I would also add that you don’t have to tweet regularly yourself in order to get these benefits from Twitter.

@misscmorrison – Just do it!

So why not follow my colleagues and see what they have to say.


** @wethink

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