In the midst of all the chaotic WI state budget talks and threats to teachers I have found being a connected professional with an already healthy PLN to be a godsend. Websites like Twitter and Facebook have spread the word about the movement. Even if you are on the opposite side, the social networking sites and microblogging communities have helped to mobilize a movement. As an educator I find this part of what has gone on to be especially intriguing.
Educators enlighten, inspire and teach students how to learn. I have learned more this past week about the dynamic power of Twitter than the past year or so that I've been casually puttering around with it. Twitter became my news source. If you follow the right discussions or thread it is POWERFUL especially during a crisis. Yesterday as the state Capitol building went into lock down mode after the controversial vote on the bill, reporters for the state were sending rapid fire minute-by-minute tweets of what was happening. I tried to find info on the local news websites, but their updates seemed to be biased, less journalistic and very slow in reporting exactly what was happening. The Twitter feed was quick and very specific and objective. Facts were being stated objectively through pure observation; this is what journalism is supposed to be. Both sides were being reported and I felt almost like I was there. The tweets spurred me to action and I felt compelled to head to Madison that evening to be part of history.
This personal experience was powerful for me. I think a connected educator can empower her students to be intelligent consumers of the media driven economy that we live in today. Inspiring students to be informed and to use social media for educational purposes, to gain knowledge and to be inspired can be a great thing. Using social media to connect to learners around the world expands the teacher's expertise, too, allowing her to bring a more diverse experience to her students. I communicate with some of my students via social media. I try to keep my communication professional, critiquing their art work or sending them links of art exhibits and other online resources that I know they might enjoy and derive inspiration from.
Being a connected, networked educator requires some commitment and perhaps a change in perspective on the part of the educator. We can be connected 24/7 if we choose to be. I am ok with a student asking me a question at 11:00 at night while I'm on Facebook or texting me a comment during the summer like, "Mrs. Bjork, I'm at the coolest art gallery right now and you would love this one painting." I don't mind being connected to my students 24/7 because being an eductor and artist isn't something I do just between the contracted hours of 7:15 to 3:15. I am always ON, refining my craft as an educator and artist. If I don't want to connect I log off or silence my phone.
Lastly I think developing a dynamic, lively PLN has been instrumental in helping me learn how to be a 21st Century Educator. Many of the skills I needed in my field of art weren't available here within the district so going beyond and connecting to educators worldwide allowed me to get the knowledge I needed to expand my curricular area. The mac lab and new technology based art courses that I teach are a direct result of the knowledge I learned from my PLN.
I am a lot of things, but the main thing is that I see the world through the lens of the artist. I am visual and experiencing the world visually is what I do. Color distracts and enthralls me. I must be constantly learning and dabbling in new and different endeavors. I still have dreams that I will someday write a novel or at least a children's book (I'll illustrate it too!), open a tea shop/gallery and retire to a cottage near the water somewhere. I have a great imagination and I'm still curious about so many things.