Wednesday, June 17, 2015

6/17/15 - From Doubting Thomas to Twitter Acolyte

I want to start off this post with a disclaimer.  The following paragraph contains rather blunt and potentially insulting statements about social media.  Please take them with a grain of salt.

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I have been rather vocal in my abhorrence of social media.  I have strong opinions about people who spend hours posting pictures of their lunch, liking ridiculous videos of (insert sickeningly cute critter here) and proclaiming their support for the newest reality TV show contestant.  I can sum up my feelings about this in one simple phrase - Who gives a flying f**k?! Why would anyone want to see 500 selfies staged in various locals, proving how exciting my life is?  Does anyone really want to know every random thought that comes into my head and am I so insecure that I need other people to validate those thoughts by liking them?  Moreover, while my son did and said many hilarious things, why does everyone in the free world need to know about it in real time?!

I mentioned in my first post that this year has been one of great growth for me.  Part of that growth is admitting when I'm wrong.  I have recently discovered that my opinions of social media may not have been on target.  In fact, I am realizing that many parts of social media have both personal and professional value.  This post is my journey from Doubting Thomas to Twitter Acolyte.

This past Spring I attended the CUE Conference in Palm Springs.  This was an amazing experience for me in two ways. First, the sessions I attended reinvigorated me as a teacher.  I came away with many new and exciting ideas.  I attended sessions about Augmented Reality, Green Screen technology on a budget and introducing basic coding in an Algebra class, to name just a few.  I couldn't wait to get back to school and dazzle my students.   To date, CUE has been the most amazing PD experience I have had in a long, long time.

While the conference was incredible, the pivotal moment for me happened outside of conference hours, at a meet-up.  Let me preface this by saying I've spent a good portion of my teaching career feeling in the minority when it comes to technology integration.  I would often find myself gushing about some new website, program or app I came across that promised to engage and fascinate my students.  Unfortunately, my words often fell on deaf ears. Completely by chance, I bumped into a group of educators from our district who were like minded.  During a very animated conversation with Mari Venturino ( @msventurino ), that may have included several glasses of complementary wine, I signed up for a Twitter account and posted my first tweet.  I will admit that it took quite a bit of convincing on her part and I'm not sure I would have done it if it had not been for the afore mentioned glasses of wine, but I am so glad I did.  In the months since the conference I have  slowly developed my PLN and, through them, learned more than I have in the prior 9 1/2 years of teaching combined.

I am continually surprised how welcoming teachers on Twitter are and how freely they share their experience and resources.  One of my students' favorite activities this year (Dance, Dance, Transversal) was shared via Twitter by Tara Maynard ( @tmaynard5 ).  She not only shared the idea and a video of her students engaged in the activity, but also offered her digital resources without hesitation.  This is so completely outside my realm of experience, I almost cried.  After trying Dance, Dance, Transversal with my students, I immediately reached out the Tara and thanked her.  This is just one of several hundred similar experience that I have had since joining the Twitterverse.

A more recent experience that really demonstrated the power of networking through social media to me spawned from a session on coding I attended at CUE Palm Springs.  During CUE, I had the chance to attend Ed Campos Jr.'s ( @EdCamposJr ) session on Bootstrap World ( @bootstrapworld ).  During our very brief interaction, Ed's enthusiasm about infusing programing within an Algebra class convinced me that I must find a way to implement the program at my school.  Near the end of this past school year, I reached out to Ed on Twitter and told him how inspired I was by his session.  As luck would have it, the program's creator, Emmanuel Schanzer, was set to conduct a two day crash course on implementing Bootstrap with Algebra students.  Ed invited me to attend.  I jumped at the chance.  That was this past Monday and Tuesday.  I don't want to go into too much detail about the program, which is amazing, but what struck me most was the opportunity itself.  If I had stuck to my old biases about social media, I never would have reached out to Ed in the first place.

I am also pleased to say that I have made several new friends.  That may sound silly or immature, but making friends has never been easy for me.  People consider me a bit of an odd duck.  I like things many people consider nerdy and I like to talk incessantly about them.  As you can probably imagine, this can make it challenging to make friends.  I was surprised to find not only people to talk school and math with, but also people who appreciate my obsession with comic books, cheesy movies, Dr. Who, and Funko Pop dolls.  Now I have friends who live across the county.  People I would never have connected with if not for social media.  These friendships have helped me grow as an educator and as a person.  I find myself more wiling to risk interacting with strangers and more confident to offer my ideas and opinions in professional settings.

Since opening my Twitter account 3 months ago, I participate in several weekly Twitter chats (#msmathchat , #read4fun , #slowmathchat , #weirded to name a few),  I collaborate on projects with teachers outside of my school, district, and state, I currently co-moderate a weekly book study chat for the book Mindset in the Classroom #msitcbc and I'm blogging =).  I'm just warming up. Who can say where this social media journey will take me.

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