Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Put Your Twitter Glasses On and Bring Professional Learning Into Focus

One of my clearest childhood memories is when I got my first pair of glasses.  Back in those days there was no LensCrafters who could make your glasses while you wait.  As my mother drove me to the ophthalmologist to have my new glasses fitted I remember looking out the window wondering why I even needed glasses.  I could see just fine.  Once in the doctor's office I was asked to close my eyes as my new glasses were placed on me.  When I opened my eyes I was overwhelmed with emotions.  I saw things I had never seen before.  There were beautiful details that up until that moment I had been missing.  I spent the entire drive home mesmerized by everything I saw.

In a similar way, Twitter has been the glasses through which a whole world of professional learning has come into focus.  

From 1992 until 2008 I had been fairly confident that I knew what I was doing professionally.  I attended school district professional development sessions after all.  Certainly my district would keep me abreast of anything I really needed to know to be effective in my field…right?  Then in 2008 I attended my first technology conference.  As I looked over the concurrent session offerings I began to realize that there was quite a bit my district had not been sharing.  My curiosity was peaked.  I couldn't wait for the next technology conference to roll around again the next summer so I could learn more.  

By 2010 I was growing impatient for new information. How did the presenters at these conferences know what they knew? Did their school district provide better professional development than my school district? 

Then I started seeing QR Codes popping up in magazines.  I did a search to find out what they were and immediately thought, "This would be awesome to use in the classroom!"  I queried, "QR Codes in Education" and was incensed to find that LOTS of educators were not only using QR Codes in their classrooms but had been for several years.  Why had I never heard of them?  Why had my school district not offered any PD sessions about this?  Why had the last technology conference I attended not even mention QR Codes?  

Now I was angry.  What else was going on in education that I didn't know about?  I began searching for alternative means of professional development and came across Shelly Terrell's Teacher ReBoot Camp 30 Goals Challenge.  I printed out the entire free ebook and began going through the goals.  The "Make A Connection" goal was my Aha! moment. That pivotal moment that you look back on as significant and life changing.  This is the goal that introduced me to Twitter. Introduced me to the Twitter Chat, #edchat.  This is the goal that introduced me to Jerry Blumengarten, aka: @cybraryman1.   This is the goal that has propelled me to be the educator I am today.

This is the goal that also intimidated and overwhelmed me. As I connected with more and more educators from all around the nation it became glaringly apparent just how little I really knew about my profession.  I went from feeling confident in my abilities as an educator to feeling woefully inadequate. How would I ever be able to even get started doing the things Gwyneth Jones, Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson, Kathy Schrock and so many others were doing?  One evening I sat crying and thinking that perhaps it would be best to just "collect a paycheck" and slide into retirement.  My school district wasn't offering PD in any of the new things I was learning about on Twitter so how was I supposed to learn all this new information anyway?  At 10:30 that evening I sent emails to several people I highly respected and had connected with on Twitter expressing my anxiety and fear from all of this new information and whether I should just stop trying.  I really never expected to hear back from any of them, after all, they were super star educators.  I woke up at 5:00 the next morning to get ready for work and on a hunch I checked my email.  Not expecting to find any responses I was floored to find that EVERY person I had emailed had emailed me back.  Every person gave words of encouragement and employed me to keep moving forward one step at a time but to never stop moving forward.  

THIS is why I am so loyal to building a 
professional learning network (PLN) with Twitter.  

Since that day I have kept moving forward and have never looked back.   I still feel inadequate at times, but that doesn't get me down because I know that I can always turn to my Twitter PLN for the best ideas. My PLN is enthusiastic, entertaining, engaging, informative, and more than anything…supportive.  They also make me look incredibly smart…"How does she know so much?!"

Many Twitter chats exist now because of people like Shelly and Jerry who have stepped out of their comfort zones and started Twitter chats to support their specific areas of education.  Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones, and the dynamic TL Virtual Cafe Team created #tlchat specifically for school librarians to share ideas, get encouragement and to find avenues of collaboration.  

Not sure where to find your Twitter group?  Jerry Blumengarten can help.  Click HERE to access Jerry's Google Doc listing Twitter chats by day and time.

Don't see a chat that suits your niche? Step out! Be bold! Create one! (Goal 7: Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone)

Not sure how to use Twitter?  Your district doesn't offer PD on Twitter? Your district blocks Twitter so why try?  

Stop making excuses! 

Stop waiting for someone to teach you how to do new things (Hello…there are YouTube Tutorials for almost anything) 

Stop waiting for permission!   

Don't let anything or anyone (even you) stop you from connecting, sharing, learning, and growing and bringing that information and enthusiasm back to your students!  



  1. Wow Nikki, thanks for posting this! My experience has been almost identical to yours, even down to the glasses. (Who knew you could see individual leaves on trees from the car?! Not me...until 5th grade) I have learned and connected so much through twitter and I have often feel overwhelmed and inadequate this year. I just never had the guts to blog about like you. So thanks for sharing, you are one of my rock stars and you have made me cry when I think about all the great things you are doing with your students. Knowing you have felt this way encourages me to keep growing and stretching and being the best TL for my students. Thanks for all you have done for the TL community and here's to a great 2014!

  2. Took the words right out of my mouth! Loved it. Twitter has also been "for me." I don't know how to get others on board. It seems that some just aren't interested in learning. Feels to much like work to them I guess. I do think learning is a hobby for others like you and I.
    Great post.

  3. Oh Nikki!
    Thank you for this heartfelt, honest, & encouraging post! I'm humbled and so flattered to be mentioned in it! And Okle, I also got glasses as a kid (6th grade!) and was thunderstruck gazing out the windows of the car at all the LEAVES!

    Twitter changed my life, too! We can't be passive and wait to be spoon fed PD - in our districts - it's just not gonna happen! When navigating the digital shift we should strive to be proactive, positive, and take responsibility for our own professional practice.

    Thank goodness there are innovators and leaders like you who gather together opportunities like TL News Night and TL Virtual Cafe to give easy, fun, and FREE PD for any educator who wants it!

    Cheers dear, I'm honored to learn with you!
    ~Gwyneth Jones
    The Daring Librarian

  4. PS. We must always strive to keep our curiosity piqued! It's the ONLY way we keep vibrant, young, & enthusiastic!

    (I hate when I make a grammatical error when commenting! ARGH! LOL - hence the deleted comment)