Over two years ago I started using twitter for what I thought at the time was professional development. I was so inspired and empowered by the amount of readily available information and in truth it was far more than I could really process. It took me a long time to figure out how I really wanted all of this to work. Before I tell you how social media works, let me preface by saying that you may use social media however you wish, but that I have found the following to be the most beneficial understanding.
I started writing this post, not because I have never said any of this before, but because of a person. A friend (Mari @msventurino ) who included me in the question, “How do you use twitter for a positive and meaningful learning experience?” The truth is, I don’t learn from twitter. Sure it is full of great content, and at times some less than great content, but I learn from people. Learning in 140 character chunks is difficult. Holding meaningful conversations at those intervals is even more so. It happens, but more often than not, the most meaningful learning happens when the people behind those tiny boxed pictures offer a window into their own experience.
For me, social media is about finding and collecting good people. My twitter account is my personal/professional account. I tweet about mostly education, but the reality is, I make jokes, share funny stories, and send gifs that fit the conversation as often as I share meaningful content to help educators. I do so unapologetically because, as I stated, for me Twitter is about collecting good people. It is about finding them and cultivating quality relationships. I never really know what learning I am going to need in the future, despite having some ideas. So, as I come across, intelligent, good-hearted people, I work to build a connection and relationship that goes beyond a simple 140 character conversation.
Over two years I have learned incredible things, improved my practice, become a stronger leader, and had remarkable experiences. Many of those doorways were opened up through accessing twitter, but not because of twitter itself. They opened because twitter allowed me to find people, engage with those that seemingly seemed unreachable, and develop relationships with people that have become mentors and friends. So, when I think of how twitter provides meaningful engaging learning, I don’t think it does. It is simply a gateway to meeting the people from whom I have learned so much. I cannot emphasize how important finding twitter has been in my development as an educator, but it wasn’t because of all the snippets of wisdom firing out from chat to chat. It has been because of the incredible people that I have met and engaged with through a variety of mediums. People, people like Mari, who I have learned from (probably more than she realizes) are what makes the difference. So the next time someone asks you what you have learned from twitter, remember, you learn from the incredible people by talking to them, getting to know them, and learning when their knowledge will be most useful in your life.