Monday, October 18, 2010

Social Networks for Professional Learning

A few weeks ago, I listened to a presentation by Colorado 3rd grade teacher Terri Reh on how she uses social network tools for professional learning. This is an area in which I am developmentally delayed, and her narrative was both inspirational and informative for me. Below are my notes from that presentation, which she entitled “Lurk and Learn.” The notes are as much in Terri’s voice as I could reproduce by typing them during her talk. (Yes, I should be recording such talks. One step at a time…) Quotes indicate a 90% probability that I have her exact words.

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Lurk and Learn — Terri Reh
Wouldn’t it be great if you could develop your own professional learning network from the comfort of your own couch?

Blogs –
You pick one that resonates, then lurk. Just watch it. Eventually, that one or some other, you’ll want to respond. I once posted something on my Facebook page that responded to one person’s blog. Since 2003, over 70 million blogs have been created. It’s news that appeals to a small number of high-interest audiences.

Pointing is what people do. It builds relationships with other people who have same interests. They read and quote each other. (Example: One teacher in the audience has a blog about being a “soccer dad”. He has about 50 followers.)
Examples of blogs
·   Adrian Bruce (The Teacher Toolbox) – great middle school blog
·   It’s Not All Flowers and Sausages — the humor of being a teacher)
·   Spencer’s Scratch Pad — “It’s thick and deep.” His mantra is, “I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.”

“I went to the ISTE national conference in June. Now I have a professional learning network of about 120 people – principals, teachers,…”

Twitter —
“I’m A-D-D., and I know it. But you can limit yourself. I don’t use Twitter for personal stuff, just professional. I use Facebook for personal stuff.”
“Someone told me that Facebook is for people you went to school with, and Twitter is for people you wish you had gone to school with.”
“I’m following selected groups – like ISTE10. I run Twitter while I’m grading, just let it flow. Like the other day, another teacher and I were talking about teaching author’s purpose. So I posted a question about how to teach that to the TweetDeck, and within two hours I got some great ideas. I used it during ISTE to get comments from people in multiple sessions while I was in a session myself. I saw a post: If WWI took place in a bar, and all the players were in a bar scene, then… I thought it was hilarious and a great characterization, so I sent it to a middle school social studies teacher.”

“Hashtags in Twitter represent a group of people or an idea. Whenever you post to Twitter, you end it with a pound sign tag; that’s the hashtag that identifies the group or idea under which your post goes.” Like #ISTE10, #Edchat (which has an hour-long Twitter conversation once a month), #Elemchat,

Some things I have found through the TweetDeck:
·       Wikis for collaboration — like SkypeForEducators For instance, a teacher in Pennsylvania was looking for books to use for e-read-alouds. She got tons of suggestions, and comments on suggestions. “She and I decided to read it [a read-aloud] together and collaborate in our two classrooms.” I also found a wiki page for collaborating with others on using VoiceThread.
·       Blogs for teaching strategies and collaboration

An interesting thing is that you start following a group on a Twitter or blog, then these people seek you out at a conference. Everyone wants to put a face to a name. “Being a part of some group, whether you tweet or whether you blog, is a great way to be connected with people. I have three different collaborations going, none of them in Colorado. It’s not hard, and it’s not time-consuming.”

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Terri’s presentation has me thinking. So, imagine that you’re working in a virtual office. Facebook and Twitter are the environment in which you’re working. You’re still working at your own desk in your own space, and other people are working in their spaces. But you and they are also in an office, talking to each other, passing by,… You exchange greetings, maybe chat, maybe chat about work, maybe have an extended conversation about work. I’m used to that in the face-to-face environment. I just need to apply that to the virtual environment.

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