Do you sometimes find that you wish you had more brains to bounce things off of? As a recent arrival at a very small school where I'm the only person teaching what I'm teaching, I find myself missing the collaboration expertise of my middle school science colleagues and my mentors from the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership (NCOSP). But there is a way to tap into that kind of collaboration and expertise from all over the country and the world: create a professional learning network (PLN) on Twitter (recently opened up to teacher accounts on the BSD network).
A PLN is a collection of people whom you follow and who follow you. You can ask them questions; share professional development articles, videos, resources, practices; you can ask for their advice or offer some of your own. A PLN lets you access the minds of way more people than just yourself.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a short message micro-blogging service. Your messages are limited to 120 characters, which really makes you think about how you'll type something! But everything that anyone types is viewable by everybody else.
Twitter can be imagined like a single large room and everyone is chatting about all sorts of things -- this is playfully referred to the Twitterverse (similar to the idea of the blogosphere). Twitter listens to all of these conversations and displays to you the things spoken by people you know, trust, or learn from (these are people you "follow"). Many people also label their conversations with tags preceded by a pound symbol (like #scichat, #edchat, or #edtech) that describe the conversation. You can tell twitter to display to you these labeled conversations even if they include people you don't follow. So there's no such thing as a truly private conversation in the Twitterverse, and therein lies its power.
So how do you get started with twitter?
First of all, be prepared to feel a little overwhelmed at first. There is so much going on all the time in the Twitterverse, that you have to give yourself permission to explore and get your bearings.
But many many teachers have made this journey before us, so here is some help to get you started: Blogger and education technologist David Wees shared with me his page of eight screencasts to help you get started on Twitter [link].
Okay, I'm in... but who can I "follow"?
There are so many people you could follow and so many PLN's you could listen to. Here are a few starters:
- You are welcome to follow me: @bjmacnevin (I've got to get a friendlier picture up there). Likewise, there are many other Bellingham teachers and employees on Twitter. Anyone with a twitter account can add your Twitternames as comment to this post so we can all find each other out there!
- The #edchat conversation is a general conversation about education issues. Conversations are going on all the time and you can find some more people to follow there.
- The #scichat conversation is dedicated to science education.
- The #mathchat conversation is about... well... math education.
- The #edtech conversation is about technology in the educational setting.
- The #cpchat conversation is about connected principals! These people have found a way to make one of the most isolating jobs in public education more connected and collegial. They also have a wonderful website that's chock full of resources at connectedprincipals.com.