True confession: Contrary to popular opinion, I am not a social butterfly. I am generally quite reclusive by nature, and social networking has always held little-to-no appeal for me. That is, until I was shown the error (and limited thinking) of my ways by many colleagues at NECC 08.
Take it from a long-term social networking hold-out, Twitter has proven to be the most powerful tool for professional development I have ever experienced. Social Networking for the sake of socializing seemed to be a waste of my precious non-working minutes. However, blog posts such as this Edutopia piece, “Twittering, Not Frittering: Professional Development in 140 Characters” really helped dispel my concerns about wasting my time on the application.
My first order of business after creating my personal profile, was to begin searching for folks to learn from. I began by following the folks I met at NECC08 who already use Twitter as a tool for professional development and collaboration. Then I looked at the folks they were following and added many of them. Durff’s Blog gives some common sense guidance on making good “follower” decisions. Within minutes of engaging in the conversation, I had bookmarked at least 15 links to applications that would have an immediate and direct impact not only on my own learning, but also that of my students and colleagues.
Of course, as with any application, there are draw-backs. Twitter is limiting. You are confined to the 140 character format and the real-time timeline makes conversations difficult to follow sometimes (which is why I also Plurk). One of my favorite bloggers, wrote a great post, “What I Hate About Twitter”. I really appreciate this post by Will Richardson, mainly due to the conversation it inspired. You will see the true value and depth of the piece if you read the comments section, which brings us back to the power of all social media as a professional development tool. It is, quite simply, about the conversation. Well used, tools like Twitter can help you “hook up” with amazing folks from around the world in the 140 character format, but through links can lead you to collaboration in the deeper format of blogs, wikis, webconferencing, webcasting and other applications that I have not yet had the time or opportunity to explore.
Bottom line: Twitter is indeed the most powerful tool for professional growth that I have experienced. I now have access to a world-wide Personal Learning Network that is ever-growing, ever-changing, and ever-challenging. My learning is no longer limited to budget, location, or availability. I have the world in my laptop, on my couch, in my living room. Give it a try – your world will never be the same.