Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of introducing a number of my teaching colleagues to Twitter. Most recently @simoneasterman and @asangris have taken the plunge, and talking to them about their initial reactions has caused me to reflect a little on my own personal journey with social media. I remember being in awe of the Twitter giants with thousands of followers and a seemingly infinite treasure chest of amazing resources to share. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of great stuff coming my way and feeling like I had to read it all because I might miss something important. I remember the amazement when someone with lots of followers followed me back. I certainly never felt like I had much to contribute to the conversation, but I was enjoying hoarding the riches being shared by everyone else.
Then I stumbled upon an amazing series of Moodle Meets called KnowSchools. Before KnowSchools I had never participated in a Moodle Course before and the learning curve was quite steep. It took me a while to feel comfortable with the multiple discussion threads and the self paced nature of these kinds of courses. Sometimes I was able to complete the whole course and sometimes I was only able to drop in for a few of the modules, but whenever I participated I ended up in great conversations with other educators like me; educators that were just beginning to build their Personal Learning Network, that were still working out the kinks in their new blogs, and had less than 100 followers on Twitter. In discussions with educators like Claire Thompson (@clthompson), Errin Gregory (@erringreg) and Cindy Martin (@cindyannemartin) I felt like I had something to contribute, that I had some of the answers and was starting to figure out what the questions were. We were all wrestling with the same difficulties and as teachers in the same province in Canada we had a common frame of reference that made it easier to connect.
The discussions in the Moodle Courses ended up spilling over into comments on each others fledgling blog posts and Twitter @ replies. And in hindsight I realise that this was a really important next stage in the development of my Personal Learning Network, they were my ‘nearly’ face to face network. I had enough in common with them that I felt comfortable interacting with them online and contributing a little to the conversation. I wasn’t just hoarding riches, I was also trying to add my 2 cents.
So, this all came full circle for me today as I was in an Elluminate session with both Claire and Cindy. We were planning an upcoming Moodle Meet on Authentic Global Collaboration (more on that in another blog post). I have never met either of them face to face but from our online interactions over the years I know that I can count on them and the skills that they bring to the course. I am very excited about this upcoming Meet and think it has potential to be a really good one. However, I realised as I was washing dishes this evening and reflecting on our planning meeting that my real hope is that participants will end up connecting with like minded educators, and that connections will be built that will carry on after the course. I am hoping that our course will help other educators start to build their ‘nearly’ face to face network.