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Why Aren't You Connected?

If you feel a little called out right now, I apologize.

I'm not the type of person who usually forces my beliefs on anyone, but when I find something that is truly awesome, I genuinely want to share it with the world. 

Let me testify...

Wednesday afternoon was professional learning time at my school each week, but this week it was different. Our principal has brought in a guest speaker to talk about the power of technology and teaching students to be better consumers of the resources available to them on the internet. His name is Alan November and he is responsible for setting me up with Twitter.

My courtship with Twitter was long. We had our first date that day. I signed up and then I didn't go back on again for a while. I suspect this happens to many folks, but I had no idea what I was ignoring until I did.

About two years after I made my account, I wandered back onto Twitter. Already adept at using Facebook for personal connecting and staying in touch with friends and family as well as former students, I needed to revisit the social network I didn't really understand. I mean, what could you possibly gain from 140 characters?

Yeah, I thought that. (Maybe you have too, but I was wrong).

Around the same time, I was convinced to start blogging with the help of my significant other; a WordPress site was set up and I reluctantly started asking him to share on my behalf. Hard to imagine I was afraid of the technology back then given my comfort with it now, but it goes to show that a little time and discomfort, as well as the willingness to persevere, goes a long way.

No one read my blog at first which was kind of depressing, but I still wrote. Not very often, but that was all I could muster because I was just getting the hang of posting to the blog. Never realized the power of sharing what I had written. The fact was no one knew my blog existed. I wasn't out there.

So one summer day I happened to be exploring Twitter and I came across a morning chat while waiting in the car. I watched and read but I wasn't brave enough to share until I did. Lurking (which is what they call a person on Twitter who reads but doesn't tweet themselves) didn't last long for me because I'm a natural loud mouth when I have ideas to share. Once I jumped in and was met with positive feedback, I was hooked. 

Twitter is addictive, in case you're wondering. They have posters about the various phases of Twitter. There is no 12 step program yet, but I'm certain it can be created. The biggest challenge with Twitter once the bug bites you, is balance. It's hard to strike it when you're learning so much and feeling so inspired. You know when you're on the computer too much though when your child tells you to get off your phone or computer and play with them.

I'm guilty of that too.

Being connected is powerful and once I realized how much I had to learn I couldn't stop. I started sharing more and writing about successes and failures and invited colleagues from around the world into my classroom. Nothing was safe from discussion, if it had anything to do with being an educator or balancing learning with being a parent. We all struggle so much and not enough people realize they aren't alone.

Developing a PLN (professional learning network) once you're connected is essential to moving forward as a connected educator. You become actual friends with people you haven't met in person and not in a creepy way. Knowing them feels natural because you are sharing things about your life and career that you wouldn't share with most people and they get it which makes you want to share more.

More than just friends, PLNs become your support systems. They are the people you reach out to when you're feeling burned out or down to encourage you. They are the people you want to share exciting news with. They are the people you are learning from regularly and reciprocating with sharing your own knowledge too. PLNs are teaching families and they are awesome to be a part of.

Needless to say, all of this connected stuff is essentially what has brought me to all of you. Had I not been on Twitter, I wouldn't have networked with the important and influential people I have met and would likely not have written the books I have or even be writing on this blog. Being on Twitter is like knowing the right people who can make things happen and boy do they happen, but you have to be in it.

So if you aren't connected already, why not give it a try? Find a Twitter chat that addresses your content or need and lurk or jump in and say something. Maybe write a blog post AND share it with a few hashtags to ensure more eyes get on it. Consider joining #CoreChat on a Tuesday night at 6:30pm ET for 30 minutes if you want to give it a try. I will see you there.

Challenge: Get one unconnected person onto Twitter this week and try out a chat or bring them to #edcamp and get them signed up there.

What's holding you back from being connected? Or if you're connected already what's the best part? Please share

This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in October 2015


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