The Power of Connections (second in a series)

Hello, my name is Bernadette and I’m a Twitter-holic.  First step is admitting it, but 6 months ago I was anti-Twitter, anti-Facebook, anti-just about everything along those lines.  From my perspective, I had too much to do to bother posting the minutia of my life.  Besides, who would really be interested in what I was saying anyway?  But my school faculty just wouldn’t let social sites go away.  They created school fan pages, teachers were posting to walls, parents were sending reminders, and older students were staying in touch with each other and alumni.  Finally I had to face the inevitable – join in or lose the right to carry my tech teacher membership card.

After much discussion among our leadership team, I was chosen (by default) to investigate Twitter, see what it was about and how we could use it in our school.  I started by following one educator that I admired, who twittered quite a bit back then and was fortunate to connect early on with the great #edchat founders (@tomwhitby @shellterrell @web20classroom) as well as @andycinek @socratech @jasontbedell @cspeizio and a whole slew of other great Twitters.  I got to bypass the whole “Ate oatmeal for breakfast” tweet stage and jump right in to the good stuff.  More importantly, I had the courage to tweet my thoughts – and they were validated!  As I got to know more people and the specifics of their positions I understood the power of connecting and the potential Twitter held for my dream technology project.

This year our school implemented a brand new social studies curriculum, one written by our teachers for our teachers.  As a former middle school social studies teacher, I am passionate about the subject and proud of the work the curriculum committee.  Our curriculum is unique in that the whole school focuses on the same umbrella theme each quarter.  Starting with our hometown, Kansas City, moving to the Midwest, United States and finally Global, students in PK-8 participate in an age appropriate, in-depth study of their world, spiraling and building upon knowledge as they move up in grades.  It’s natural for me to integrate technology into social studies and when I read the Global thread, the dream was born.  What if I could make a connection on each continent for each grade to talk with and learn from first hand?  Was it even possible?

With social networking sites, my dream finally had potential.  Students in each grade K-8th would brainstorm information about our culture to share with a partner school and students on another continent.  I originally conceived the collaboration working through Skype, but struggled with connections in Asia and Australia.  How could we account for the time difference?  Then I learned of Voice Thread and found the solution.  Four weeks before the project was scheduled to start, I put my request out on every social site I utilized – Twitter, Nings (Classroom 2.0, Elementary Tech Teachers, Educators’ PLN, Independent School Educators Network), and email list serves.  Slowly the responses came in – @whatedsaid, in Australia for my Kindergarteners, @speters in Canada with experience teaching in Kenya for my 1st graders, @colport in England for my 2nd graders, @k_ferrell in Singapore for my 4th graders.

Sure, I had some immediate connections and responses, but I still had some gaps.  That is the power of connections.  For each person that came forward, I had at least another person pointing me in more directions for help.  And in the process, my connection power grew immensely.  I learned about the Independent Schools Association of South Africa, International Networking for Educational Transformation, and Association of American Schools in South America.  I joined the Education Beyond Borders and Global Education Collaborative nings.  And I bookmarked Skype in Schools Directory, Skype Other Classrooms , and Around the World with 80 Schools.  More importantly, I met and conversed with some great educators:  @ninadavis, @lindawollen, @bealup, @matt_arguello, @marydimonaco, @johart, people  who not only helped me with my project, but add to my ever growing, ever powerful, ever connected PLN.

Oh, and as for connection the Web 1.0 way – using email?  I discovered it is still essential.  Without it, I never would have connected with the American International School of Guangzhou in China (because Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and so many other social sites are banned).  My name is Bernadette, and I’m a social site- aholic.

7 thoughts on “The Power of Connections (second in a series)

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  2. What a wonderful timeline of your conversion to social media and a great selling piece for the rest of us. You are already connected in China? What more can you need?

  3. I was just having a conversation with a friend last night who said that twitter is a waste of time. I told him that it is a tool and its usefulness depends on how one uses it. Of course, he’d never tried it. I’m going to share this post with him; it shows the power of the tools to help you meet your goals.

  4. Well said. I have found myself on a similar path as you…I was anti all of the social stuff until last September. Now I can’t believe I took so long to get involved.

    Keep writing and sharing your thoughts!!

  5. Pingback: The Daily Find: April 26, 2010 « NAIS Annual Conference 2010 Community

  6. Yes. I too have been a recent convert and have found lots of valuable stuff from many of the people you mention. Keep up the good work, your students will benefit from your great work. Lucky them!

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