Recently I attended Edustat, a national conference held in my school district put on by UVA, my school system and Schoolnet. It was a unique conference experience for me, partly because my Superintendent had invited several people I tweet with, Chad Ratliff (@csratliff) and Jon Becker (@jonbecker), and partly because I had spent the prior two weeks reading Jay McTighe‘s book, Schooling by Design and had previously read The Global Achievement Gap. Both Jay McTighe and Tony Wagner were invited speakers. The goal of this conference for Albemarle teams was to basically learn, talk, and figure out how to take what we learned back to our schools and make a difference.
Chad’s attendance was a catalyst for me, because he is a questioner, a thinker, a listener and currently NOT a practicing teacher, but an entrepreneur. His constant questions had me thinking all week about our structure, our systems and the teaching and learning that happens in Albemarle. The fact that Jon Becker drove in daily from 70 miles away also had me thinking–what was it about this conference that interested a professor from a nearby college? He was obviously engaged, and he, too, asked questions and conversed about the topics being discussed. I’m looking forward to seeing his thoughts about it at some time in his blog, Educational Insanity.
The uniqueness for me was coming in with high levels of expectations for learning (I really liked both Schooling By Design and The Global Achievement Gap), high levels of expectations for engaging in great conversation with my colleagues (both local and my Twitter buddies) and an air of excitement because Becky Fisher (@beckyfisher73 on Twitter), with the blessing of our Superintendent, (@pammoran on Twitter) had organized people to tweet and blog throughout the conference, and I was one of those. I was looking forward to being a catalyst for conversations among my Twitter following as well as engaging new local folks in tweeting.
What happened I should have expected. Twitter is always viral, and I should have known it would take off. . .
Those of us initially tweeting (@pammoran, @beckyfisher73, @mtechman, @csratliff, @jacatlett, me) involved MANY folks from outside of our county on Twitter. The Edustat hashtag was followed by folks from all over, and as we were streaming the sessions, people from three continents and all over the US were watching. Because of that interest from outside, many of our local shakers and doers became tweeters and they were voracious about tweeting out what the presenter was saying and asking quick questions–reflective questions we should-and will- return to later.
I simply couldn’t keep up with my usual twitterstream, the presentation, the #edustat hashtag tweets AND another stream (the TED conference) I had going at the same time. Twittering wasn’t a conversation as much as it became a place to report what the presenter was saying in both the Edustat hashtag stream and the TED stream. The fast tweeting caused me, at least, to back off and try just to keep up with reading and listening and responding to questions outside folks were asking.
The Twitter use definitely evolved over the three days of the conference and some of our local folks became quite hooked on it. (I am going to school tomorrow to answer some of my principal’s questions, in fact!) As a county, we have begun to use another Twitter hashtag, AE, (for authentic engagement) to continue some of the face to face conversations begun at the conference. As a county, many of our teacher leaders now have a feel for the impact of a PLN that is not simply local.
As a county, we have been transformed by our Twitter experiences.
It certainly made a difference when the superintendent, Pam Moran, (@pammoran on Twitter) asked her folks to use and experience a tool that she believes is powerful for teaching and learning. It certainly made a difference when attendees began to realize we had an international audience. It certainly made a difference when some of our administrators and teachers got on Twitter and saw the vast amount of information being shared. It made an even bigger difference when they began to USE Twitter.
So, Organized Tweeting-is it a good thing? I say yes. . .
And, thank you, Pam and Becky, for designing the task so our folks sought out the tool, the instruction and the learning!!