I have just finished the most inspirational hour of my professional life–I look forward to it every Sunday. Tonight I found myself excited to see that some of the people I corresponded with last week were back tonight; so much so that I wanted to do a little girly squeal, but they wouldn’t have heard me. Every Sunday I “talk” with teachers across North America (I know at least one is Canadian) on Twitter using a shard hashtag #aplitchat to follow the conversation. And every Sunday, most of us are astonished at how fast the hour has flown by.
I had heard for years that I could use Twitter to create a professional learning network; Tom Grissom, the edtech guru at EIU had told me so. But I didn’t get it. I searched for English teachers to follow, and I followed professional organizations. But the results were hit-or-miss, usually depending on whether I was online to see a comment float by. Tweets could be helpful but not always. Then last summer I attened an AP literaure training and tried to find various resources online; I’m guessing that’s when I found the Talks with Teachers website/podcast/#aplitchat.
I attended conversations sporadically. And one time, people responded to me. They liked what I had to say; they encouraged me; they asked me to share more. This week one of the regulars posted during the week using the hashtag; since I follow the hashtag on my Tweetdeck, the post didn’t float by. Rather, it was waiting for me. And I asked him for more info that he gladly shared. I realized that his 3×3 technique would be a great way to scaffold teaching students (Ss in twitter speak) how to write literay analysis thesis statements. So I then shared his tweets with another person I had met because we had discussed how to teach thesis statements on Sunday. We also learned about Thunderdome thesis statement contests! I cannot wait to try that!
I have in-person PLN’s also but those only meet in the summer and occasionally at locally-sponsored conferences. A small group of us are taking graduate classes together; I think the more time we spend together in person will help us maintain communication when the degrees are finished. And Facebook helps foster that connection. But with those networks, I have to reach out when I have a question or need a suggestion; while I’m willing to do that (I actually created my own PLN in the fall by reaching out to professors that I know to ask about a course I was creating; it’s hard to say “I need help” but very rewarding), having a specific time, place, and length makes the #aplitchat PLN very doable.
I’m not saying this hashtag conversation is the right fit for everyone, but I would strongly recommend that you find one to join. It may at a time that better suits you, or a topic that better fits your needs (but don’t be afraid of a hashtag–I’m not teaching AP literature, yet this exchanges of ideas meets my classroom needs). I see the #litleads and the comments from those people that I follow; it looks promising, but it’s Thursday evenings, which doesn’t work for me.
Ultimately my point is this: admitting that you don’t know it all, or that you need help with or need to change your curriculum is difficult. I understand. But once you do, and you open yourself up to a professional learning network, you will be amazed at the support, encouragement, and ideas you will receive!