Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. ~ T.S. Eliot
The profession of teaching, and education in general, has often been viewed as one of isolation. Participants relegated to classrooms–devoid of interaction with other adults–except for a few precious moments in the teacher’s lounge, or staged “professional” conversations over large sheets of butcher paper and Crayola markers. If you work in schools, you know that this isn’t necessarily reality, but it probably strikes enough of a chord to make you a bit uncomfortable.
The good news is that we are getting better at decreasing isolation in the education profession. There is an evolving understanding that in order for our schools to effectively serve children, the adults who work in them must collaborate, share ideas, give feedback and build our own learning communities. Even more important, those communities must extend beyond our school, district, state and even national “walls.” We must learn from each other.
However, as a vocal advocate of Twitter as a tool for educational collaboration, I must make a confession. Lately, I have been guilty of doing a great deal of sharing, with a limited amount of socializing. It is so easy to hit the “retweet” button, share a link I found on Flipboard, or pass along an inspiring blog post. Each of these has merit, but in order for Twitter (or social media in general) to serve its full potential, I need to be a part of the conversation — engaging in discussions, sharing enough for others to get a glimpse of who I really am, and building a network of educational colleagues. Simply tweeting out links won’t break down the isolation barrier. This is easier said than done, because, just like in-person communication, there is a certain degree of fear that goes with interactions via social media. Will I upset someone? Can I effectively convey my idea in 140 characters? Do I know what I am talking about? Taking these risks allows others to get to know us. It builds a level of trust. It results in relationships. It erodes isolation.
So…as I begin my summer break, I have two Twitter related goals:
1. Take the time to participate in #edchat each week. Be a part of the conversation, share my ideas, and learn from others.
2. Make a point of connecting, face-to-face, with twitter acquaintances while attending ISTE 2012.
It’s a modest start, but one that I hope will keep me from forgetting the “social” in social media.