Earlier this year, I had the chance to work with Rob Currin, a high school English teacher from Alden, NY. Although I was only scheduled to work with him briefly, he was invited to keep in touch with me and connect to my larger learning network on Twitter and in Ning. As a result, we’ve remained in touch and continued to learn together all year.
Rob’s engagement with social networking tools for professional purposes has been inspiring, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to speak to this himself. Read a bit about the way he got himself connected and how this has influenced his professional growth and his students this year below. Then, consider joining the wiki he started for AP Lit teachers or sharing the opportunity with those that you know. You can keep up with Rob at his new blog and follow him on Twitter as well. His username there is @rcurrin.
Inspiration is contagious. Early into my third year of teaching English at the high school level, I was provided with three hours of professional development that resulted in a vast expansion of my classroom, as well as my thoughts on education.
Much of the professional development time was dedicated to setting the framework of my professional network. Twitter, Wikispaces, and Blogspot were our three main stops along the way to developing my network. I don’t consider myself tech savvy by any means, while I would not describe myself as a technophobe either. I decided to jump into my network head first; the positive results of my technological immersion have yet to cease.
Shortly after finding my way around Twitter I crossed paths with Neil Winton, an English teacher in Perth, Scotland. Neil mentioned talking on Skype, and I was off to my local electronics store to pick up the necessary items. Neil and I began using Skype on a weekly basis. We spoke about educational theory, the place of technology in the classroom, and many other things. I remember thinking it odd that an English teacher all the way in Scotland and I could have similar views on so many things with regard to teaching English.
Soon it was decided that we would collaborate using a wiki. I was no expert in wikis by any means, but with much help from my network, I was able to trudge through my time as a beginner. It didn’t take long for me to see that wikis can be an extremely valuable tool in education. I was experiencing all of the benefits of an in class co-teacher, and he was on the other side of the Atlantic.
The excitement that Neil and I were feeling soon caught on among our students. Alden students were communicating with Perth students on everything from The Crucible to what they ate for dinner last night. The most difficult task for many students was getting past a few spelling differences. Students were creating content, sharing ideas, and expanding upon their traditional audience. Neil was even thoughtful enough to create a page on the wiki for non-academic discussion called the “Off-Topic” page. Mr. Winton and I are planning on collaborating again next year. Neil’s sixth year, advanced higher class will be working with my AP seniors.
Establishing a professional network was one of the best things that I have done in my career. The network is what you make it. Since I teach English, most of my network consists of English teachers, administrators, writers, and technology integrators. Almost every tweet that pops up on my Twitter page offers a new educational door or window to explore.
Twitter led me to wikis, which led me to blogging, which led me to nings. While it can be almost overwhelming at times, I know that thanks to my network, I won’t be shy of ideas or feedback for quite a while. I guess that in this case, I would rather have too much on my plate than not enough!