Thinking back to my education as a child and even as an adult, taking a class meant that we were learning together in the same physical space. Students went to a classroom, listened to the teacher, had a desk and followed a schedule. Each day had a routine, learning and activities were mostly confined to specific school days during the week and places for learning. This was how we learned, and where we interacted with classmates and colleagues. Then technology entered the scene, enabling field trips and virtual exchanges to occur, opening up the physical space and additional opportunities for learning.
Things have changed so much. Field trips as a child were amazing to me. I remember the excitement of my first field trip, amazed that we could leave the school and go somewhere else to learn, that was not a school. We went to a farm to see horses, I forgot my lunch, but it was awesome! Who thought you could go somewhere else and learn, I did not think it was an option, so it really was tremendous for me. There was a trip to the zoo, local nursing home to sing holiday songs and help out throughout the year. The idea that students could go out into the world to interact with others, learn and make new connections was so exciting. Flash Forward to today, these opportunities have expanded globally. So much in fact that these types of activities don’t even require transportation to another place or being in the same physical space at the same time. How does this impact learning?
Whether you are a student, teacher or administrator, we are all seeking knowledge. Where we get this knowledge from has traditionally been in the classroom, whether the real or “virtual” now. But so much has changed and continues to change every day. So how do we learn, where do we learn, why do we learn?
Social media, edcamps, webinars, conferences, professional development sessions, books, blogs, and podcasts are just a few of the many tools that help us to learn today. What I find most interesting is that as time moves forward, and technology changes each day, the tasks that once required us to physically move from one location to another, or be in the same physical space at the same time, are tasks that don’t require us to really move much at all. Meeting other educators, experiencing a different culture, are possible just by connecting through technology and the right platform.
Does staying at home, or going to the local Starbucks, or some other location to use Wi-Fi to connect, make the learning potential decrease? Does it take away any possible benefits that existed only by having traveled to some physical learning space, or being in a synchronous learning environment? Or does this somehow actually improve the learning that can occur, by opening up new opportunities that were never possible before? By connecting educators from around the world, doesn’t this then magnify the potential for learning with minimal effort? I think it does.
I say yes. If you switch the first two questions into positive statements, “does it make the learning potential increase and does it add benefits”, then the answers to these questions would be affirmative. The opportunities for learning, for connecting that are enhanced through technology, are tremendous and continue to grow each day. Regardless of what form or forms of social media you engage with on a regular basis, you are learning. The best thing about it is it is not necessarily confined to a specific topic or theme. We learn about new ideas and methods of course, but we also learn about people, perspectives, and we connect. Connecting with others using any one of these social media platforms truly broadens our knowledge and understanding of what’s out there in the real world, without having to go anywhere. We can go anywhere we want, pick up our device, make a connection, have a conversation, find support and learn.
I admit that I was very resistant towards any of the social media platforms at the beginning. Why? Because I really did not understand the capabilities. But taking that chance, starting with one and gradually adding to it, I am thankful that I did. I have noticed positive changes in myself and am aware of so many new ways to provide for the students. Connecting with people who I never would have had the chance to connect with, learning new ideas, finding out about opportunities, have all been made possible through social media. I started with Twitter and it has made all the difference. I only wish I would have known about its capabilities for professional development sooner. Through Twitter, I have expanded my PLN and had opportunities to grow, that I may not have.
Where to start with on Twitter
If you are not sure where to start, well if you’re reading this then you are familiar with Edumatch. And if you just came across this and are not sure what Edumatch is all about, then you need to head to the Edumatch page to find out. It is a tremendous organization, organized by a phenomenal educator Sarah Thomas, who has worked to build a community that spans the globe. A learner herself and constantly inspiring others to learn and connect. Become part of the connected educator world. Join Edumatch, build PLN and see the positive impact it will have on you personally and professionally. Support whenever and wherever you need it.