I resisted blogging for a long time. Initially, weblogs had the reputation for being online diaries where people rant about inane things, chronicle the minutiae of their lives, and generally ramble on about the grilled cheese sandwich they had for lunch. There was no point in wasting your time reading this stuff, let alone bothering to actually write one.
Some would argue that things haven’t changed much, but I disagree. Blogging has become a way for me to share ideas, observations, opinions, and resources. What I intended to be a resource for teachers in my district has become more of a documentation of my own professional development, along with some pointers to useful and interesting resources online.
I didn’t anticipate the social networking aspects of blogging when I finally took the plunge a couple hundred posts ago. I didn’t really think anyone would read this stuff, much less comment on it and link to it. Indirectly, it has been the catalyst that has connected me with much of the edtech community, and I consider the blog to be one of the best things I’ve done for my own professional development in the past decade.
Using RSS, I can “tune in” to others’ blogs. I get notifications when they post something new. Trackbacks show me when someone posts something on their blog about something I posted on mine. Within minutes, everyone in the community knows when discussions are being updated and people are contributing to the conversation.
Last spring, the South by Southwest conference was abuzz about Twitter. For the uninitiated, Twitter allows you to post short (up to 140 character) messages about what you’re doing right now. People can follow your Twitter account, and they get nearly-instant notifications on their phones, in their browsers, or in email every time you post. You can also follow your friends, so you can be constantly updated with what they’re doing.
Like blogging, I avoided it like the plague. The tech community went crazy about it. The edtech community thought it was wonderful. I was unconvinced. I don’t need to know what everyone is doing right at this moment. I don’t want to spend all my time following what other people are doing at the expense of doing things myself. What am I doing right now? I’m watching what you’re doing. What are you doing? Updating your Twitter.
But I’ve found that I’ve missed some things by not being on the Twitter bandwagon. I would have known about the discussion between Will Richardson and Gary Stager that Alvin missed if I had been using Twitter. I could have participated in some live discussions and had some neat experiences online if I had known they were happening.
Then, there’s this presentation coming up that I’m supposed to do in February. I can’t remember exactly what I proposed, but I think my presentation is about personal learning networks. It’s about education professionals taking control of their own professional development by connecting with other educators who share similar goals, experiences, and challenges. By making these connections, we can all grow professionally. One way this is happening is through Twitter.
So I finally signed up yesterday. I started following a few people, and sent my first “tweet.” “Investigating whether twitter is a good thing or a bad thing for me,” I said. Almost immediately, I started getting responses. “Oh it’s a *very* good thing.” “Welcome to the twitter newbie.” “How is it that you haven’t already been assimilated into the Twitterverse?” I added a widget to my blog’s sidebar, so you can see what I’m doing, too.
Now, the responsibility sets in. People are paying attention. I have this new obligation to keep them updated with what I’m doing. But they don’t care what I’m having for lunch. They probably don’t care that I’m working on a problem with a wireless link, or that the middle school wants to have a meeting about online course requests, or that a principal is waiting for me to call her back about online calendars. How do I strike a balance? How do I make this an effective tool? I’m not sure yet, but I’m playing with it and trying to find out.
Ironically, the school cafeteria is serving grilled cheese for lunch today.