The Educator's PLN

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How One Tweet Changed A Teacher's View of Social Media

I've always firmly believed that life presents you with the perfect people, resources, opportunities and teachers at precisely the right moment. What I didn't know was how lightning fast this realization becomes once you become involved in social media.

When I ventured to create a Twitter account just over 3 weeks ago, I probably held the same exact thoughts that many teachers who aren't using social media currently hold:

Why should I enter into the social media media world (aside from updating my FB account)?
How would Twitter translate into any usefulness in my classroom?
What the hell is a PLN?
I was a first grade teacher with basic computer skills. What could I possibly teach my six and seven years olds?
What could my kids actually get out of social media at this age?
I don't know enough about computers.
Isn't that the computer teacher's job?

And the biggest resistant thought of all (drumroll please), "I don't have the time."

Well, let this be a warning to all of you who hold these beliefs: Be careful what thoughts you put out there, because the answers are lurking in the blogosphere, waiting to strike you like lightning -- especially when you enter into the world of Twitter and PLN's.

I opened an account and expected to go no further. I tweeted a little (mostly Retweets). It was fun. I was actually learning a lot. The people were nice. But I still didn't really "get it."

Throughout my tweeting experience, I read about #edchat and thought I'd take a look to see what that was about. I showed up one Tuesday only to find that people were tweeting faster than I could read. I would try to reply, but by the time I had written anything, 15 people had already Tweeted and re-tweeted what I was going to say. I looked at this positively -- at least I held a lot of the same views as many of these social media veterans.

Then I joined the Educator's PLN. Pretty fun. I can blog at my own pace, writing what I think in my own time. Got a few responses. That was nice. But still I thought, "Why am I doing this?"

My answer came in the form of a single tweet. The HS principal in my district forwarded a tweet from a computer tech coordinator in Illinois who was asking for people to respond her first graders' blogs on Kidblog. Oh, now this hit home! I know how much it would mean to a small child to receive a message from someone in another state. In my book, there is no greater joy in life than to create happiness in a small child, so I opened the blog and sent a response to every child in the class.

Something very magical happened to me as I did this. I started to actually imagine how ecstatic my own first graders would be if they were the ones receiving responses to their blogs. I could actually feel their enjoyment, their interest and their enthusiasm. Suddenly all of my previous thoughts vanished. I wanted to create that excitement for my kids!

I finished responding to the blogs and tweeted the computer coordinator in Illinois, asking her for more information on how she set up this blog. She was so kind and generous (and fast!) with her information and went out of her way to provide me with everything that I would need to set this kidblog up. She even shared the letter which she wrote to the parents of her students, explaining what blogging is and how it would be used.

I passed this information onto my computer teacher and she set up the kidblog page for me (thank you Carolyn). I added the names and brought the kids to the computer lab today to show them the Blog page. Although the kids didn't have time to write their blogs yet, they had a chance to see the page and read the blog that I had written to them. One of the boys stood up and clapped happily just seeing the heading "Mrs. Tortolini's Class at the top. "It has your name!" he exclaimed.

Once he saw his own name, he nearly fell off of his seat in euphoria!

Before we left the lab, I told the class that they would be writing blogs on our classroom computers over the next few days to be seen by other teachers and first graders in different states and even different countries. One boy screamed out happily, "And different planets?" "Not yet," I replied (but I assured him that nothing is out of the realm of future possibilities).

That's when the realization hit me. Social media and technology doesn't make teaching harder ... it makes it easier. It makes it more exciting for the kids (and the teacher). And that's where the excitement needs to start in order for social media to really take off in schools ... with the kids ... when they are young. Maybe they'll pass the excitement along to their parents and eventually onto other teachers.

This is also the time to teach them how to be responsible with Social Media.

I can't wait to get them writing these blogs and reading their responses. And neither can they.

Please look for my tweet asking for blog responses!

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