Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two: The Power of Educators on Social Networks by Shelly Terrell

First posted at Teacher Reboot Camp by Shelly Terrell!

Plymouth Keynote

On April 8th I celebrated my two year Twitter birthday. 100s of members of my Personal/ Passionate Learning Network (PLN) joined me in the celebration online and face-to-face as I gave my Keynote, Wings & Webs: Education Transformation and Social Media, which I've included a shortened version below. This was one of 14 presentations I gave in the last 30 days while traveling throughout Turkey, Germany, and the UK meeting 100s of members of my PLN. This will explain my 4 week absence on this blog.

Plymouth was an incredible experience for me. This was the first conference I had presented at in which the majority of the audience were tekkies, had smart phones and netbooks or iPads, had Twitter accounts, and the venue itself had a strong wifi connection. The backchannel was roaring as I gave my keynote livestreamed to my friends on Twitter. And yes, I do refer to several members of my Personal/ Passionate Learning Network as friends even though I have over 12,000 I connect and often collaborate with. I am one of those people who preaches about Twitter and the way it has changed my life so profoundly in just 2 years.

It's About the Tool

How odd that so many of us will preach, "It's about the tool," when we preach that schools and teachers should integrate technology. In the next moment many who say this also speak/blog vehemently against social networks like Twitter and Facebook. I have read many of these posts in the last year and have also heard speakers at the conferences I've attended speak against these tools. In some cases they try to encourage other educators to believe these networks are evil and that their feelings of warmth for their PLN are something to be ashamed of or that it is a superficial feeling. I want to clarify now that social media has profoundly improved my experience as an educator. I am a better educator because my PLN has supported, challenged, and collaborated with and shared with me. They have infected me with their passion to be better at my profession. Thank you, friends!

How Do You Use These Tools?

Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are tools and I know that I have used these tools effectively to collaborate and connect with teachers worldwide. That is my choice. Perhaps, those who scream against these tools are really not that social? Perhaps, they haven't figured out how to use social media tools effectively? Okay, I understand we are individuals and make choices but why do they have to blame the tool? I use social media tools to share a human experience of reaching out to others and make meaningful connections. I have been able in the last two years to do amazing things I would have never been able to do as effectively without these tools, which include:

  • Provide free professional development and resources to 10,000s of educators worldwide in over 150 countries

  • Provide a free curriculum to an educator in Nepal who I also Skype with
    Travel to 16 countries spending quality time with friends from all over the globe including Turkey, Greece, the UK, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Poland, France, the US, Brussels, Brazil, Japan, and so forth

  • Eat fish and chips with friends I met online on the beach

  • Take roadtrips with friends I met online throughout Poland, Belgium, France, and Amsterdam

  • Provide free weekly webinars to teachers in Iran, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Peru, and other countries where resources and professional development are scarce

I have an overwhelming amount of stories I could share. Everyday I wake up I feel blessed to be part of such an amazing field where we make a profound difference in the world. I guess the reason I feel so passionate about social media is that I come from humble Mexican American beginnings. I am part of the first generation in my family to graduate from college and I have been blessed to travel more than anyone else in my family for generations. I explain more about this in my keynote below.

Social Media Transforms Our Conference Experiences

Social media has transformed my conference experience. I now attend more conferences because I want to hang out with members of my PLN. Before social media, most of the educators that attended conferences weren't connected to many people attending the conference. This was my reality and I remember experiencing this "alone" feeling. I would get lost among the crowd and feel even more alone. I stopped going to conferences a decade ago because I was sick and tired of the protocols of shaking people's hands and giving them a mini interview stating why they should want to know me. That's a conference, though, for educators not on social media. Social media has revolutionized the conference experience. I meet people at conferences and I feel I know them and they know me. They know about my pug, my preference for Coke 0, and much more. We hug at first glance and we spend quality time enjoying the talks and events. We "experience" the conference. I attend way more conferences worldwide as a result of my online connections and I leave feeling I have grown because of the conference and the people I learned from and connected with on a real level. How do you approach that first meet and greet and get to the point where you can just be comfortable enjoying each other's company? When does a conference become an experience versus an uncomfortable way to just network? Simply, social media. It takes away the leg work.

Power through Social Networks

Sometimes, the connections I make on social networks are to parents, learners, politicians, authors, other teachers, or administrators. We more than connect. We have conversations of what education transformation should be. I have the ability to show these various stakeholders what effective learning looks like. I have the ability to disprove their notions that what matters most is a learner's test scores or grades. I have the ability to persuade them that mobile learning is a way for students to get outside the walls of their classroom and be active, interacting in a meaningful way with their environments. I believe educator messages about education transformation should go viral in order to transform the way most education systems are worldwide. I shared this in my keynote. Social media is a powerful way to spread these messages. So to the naysayers I say sorry I'm not quitting. I have a world that needs changing and educators collaborating on social media are on a mission to positively impact their learning environments. Social networks may transform decades from now but the worldwide collaboration and human connection educators participate in daily on these networks won't ever die.

My Plymouth Keynote

Challenge: Share your story why you believe educators should be active on social networks.

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is the author of the Teacher Reboot Camp blog and tweets @shellterrell. She is also the VP of Educator Outreach for Parentella and the Social Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She has worked with students of all ages for over a decade and now teaches English in Germany.

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