Do you remember the first staff meeting you ever attended? Did you look around the room and wonder who you might be able to work with in the coming weeks, months or years? I remember and can still feel the sense of apprehension I had about whether or not I would have an opportunity to collaborate. As my first year progressed I found it easy to collaborate with a couple of teachers in subject areas other than mine but for the most part I was alone, on my own when it came to learning, growing and developing into the teacher I wanted to be.
Most of my early opportunities for collaboration were found in workshops and conferences. There I would meet great like minded people to share ideas and resources but once it was over and we all went home, the collaboration stopped. Even in one of my more recent professional development activities with the TAH grant I was limited when it came to long lasting sustainable collaboration with colleagues. I'd have to say I was a little disappointed with the lack of contact with colleagues in my field. Well, at least until I happened upon Twitter by accident.
You see a couple of years ago my wife was curious about this thing called Twitter. I had heard about it but never gave it a second thought. Then one day she started an account so she could poke around on it and see what it was all about. The only problem or as it turns out fortunate problem for me was that she had actually signed me up. I decided to keep it open and slowly began following fellow educators. Soon I was gathering resources and discussing educational issues on a daily basis. Finally I was chatting with teachers in my field and last July, Greg Kulowiec and I thought it might be a good idea to start our own Twitter chat for social studies. We created the hashtag #sschat and have been steadily growing our following. Since that time my professional development is focused on the resources, links and people I follow on twitter. The amount of learning and collaboration is filling a void in my professional and to some degree personal life. (Later post I'm sure)
People I have never met are now the best resource I have ever had in my 20 years in education. I am at the point where I am collaborating on projects, presentations and documents with people I don't even know! Yet I think I know some of my colleagues on twitter better than the ones in my building. And soon I will get a chance to meet with a few of these wonderful people at a conference later this year. It will be like we have known each other for years.
The reality of the digital age is that there are no boundaries to how you learn, share and grow as a person or educator. The only rule is that you have to jump in and explore. I am thankful that this medium has afforded me and many of my Twitterverse colleagues the opportunities that we never had before.