When I first met Bill Gaskins online, I was in awe. We share an interest in education and technology. I read his blog Creating a Path for Learning in the 21st Century every time he updates and I see him on Twitter every now and then. We have also talked on Skype a couple of times but you see, Bill and I have never met. Yet, there is this feeling of connectedness.
I had read about Twitter on someone’s blog so I joined Twitter, not really knowing what I was doing. Bill was the first person that I saw from South Carolina and I felt relief that there was someone in my state on this new thing. I don’t know why I felt relief other than the fact that we were both from the same state which gave me some comfort. Hopefully people from my own state would be friendlier and more forgiving when I messed up. This feeling of connectedness was there.
He is the first person that I talked to on Skype when I felt brave enough to give it a try. I felt nervous but he was so calm and natural that I overcame my fear. I really see what keeps some teachers from trying new things like this because it is scary. Surviving my first call led me to talk to a class in Australia about a novel they were reading which was set in South Carolina. I also talked to a class in Connecticut about life here in South Carolina. By talking to others about common things, it helped me grow this feeling of connectedness.
Then I began to follow Bill’s blog by adding it to my Google Reader. This way I don’t miss out if he updates it. Through his blog, I have been able to see what motivates him and what he believes in. I really enjoy hearing other people’s opinions which help sharpen my own otherwise I become stagnant. Who wants to only hear their own thoughts? I also started adding many other blogs to my reader which made me feel closer to other educators as if I knew them in person. I have seen pictures of Bill’s garden and heard about trips he has taken. I have gotten to know others through the things they tell about in their blogs. Even though we have never met, there is a certain feeling of connectedness there.
Then I think Bill and I both decided to try Tumblr about the same time and it is easier to try something new if you have someone else learning along with you. We also attended a live K12 Online presentation at the same time and we had a Skype call to discuss the presentation. It is really helpful when you have a question; you know you can just connect with another person immediately to try to get your answer. I find it amazing to know if I have a question, I can plurk, twitter, or Skype someone and get my answer pretty quickly. Sometimes the person may be someone I had never talked to before but that is okay because I have that feeling of connectedness.
It has been almost 3 years since I dived into this new world of technology and it has really opened the world for me. Since that time, my online friends have grown exponentially and I have even had the opportunity to meet many of my online friends face to face. I feel like I could visit just about any state in the USA and if I needed help, any of my online friends would be there for me. I am more willing to try new things because I have met so many people out there that are willing to help me and not laugh at my mistakes because they have also been in the same boat as I am. All I have to do is ask and take that first step.
I know I may be rambling here but I guess this leads me to those people who are not trying new technology that is out there. It is okay if you decide that tool isn’t right for you but you will never know if you don’t try it. I know that it is scary the first time but maybe you can find someone who is willing to learn it with you. Maybe there is someone out there who wants to try and is hoping to find someone else wanting to do this too. How many opportunities are you missing that might give you a feeling of connectedness?
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'The network'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/95579828@N00/770949634 by: Christopher