Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rock Stars @web20classroom @tomwhitby; If you don't recognize them you are missing out!

@web20classroom @tomwhitby
If the only person you recognize in this picture is me, then chances are you have never heard of hashtags or PLN's either. Don't worry, flashback just a few weeks ago where I didn't get it either. I heard a great deal of chatter about the use of Twitter and Social Media to enhance professional development for educators. Honestly, I said "yeah ok", and never gave it much thought. After all I was busy with such important things like sitting on the Governor's appointed "Superintendents RAC Advisory Panel", serving as our County Representative for Legislative Matters, Developing a balanced budget of nearly $105 million dollars... I was way too busy trying to run a school district to be bothered with Ashton Kutcher's Twitter, right? Wrong! 

If a salesperson came to you and said I can offer you access to a world-wide professional network that will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days out of a year what would you be willing to pay? I think back to some of the professional groups I joined (annual memberships averaging $1000) in the hope of having just such a network. Nearly every single one fell just short of providing new insights or resources. Most of the time, it was simply because we were all NJ Superintendents dealing with the same issues and using similar paradigms to approach the problems. Twitter offers a free network of endless problem solvers who are willing and able to give you concise input on any issue you are dealing with. Did I mention FREE, WORLDWIDE...this is the Professional Learning Network (PLN)

The two Rock Stars that were kind enough to take the picture above with me are among an elite class forward thinking educators. Rock Stars to the rest of us catching up, but two of the most humble people I have ever met.

On left, @web20classroom's real name is Steven Anderson, he is an educator, blogger and responsible for the creation of hashtags such as #edchat - he was named Twitterer of the Year and quite simply - he is the man. 

He carries an audience of 41,421 followers

On right, @tomwhitby's real name is, well Tom Whitby. He is an educator and guru of all things technology. He also created some of the most widely searched educational hashtags. He too is the man. Tom is willing anytime, anywhere, for anyone open minded enough to listen to share his views on education and social media. There was a lot of wisdom in the brief spontaneous lecture he gave me after Steven's session. I am also a big fan of Hawaiian shirts.

His audience - 17, 612 followers.

If you are not familiar with hash-tagging or Twitter I strongly encourage you to ask someone who is. Feel free to Tweet the question "I need help with hashtags" make sure you put #edchat in the tweet (and if you do you have just used hash tagging). Hashtags simply target a wide audience of people interested in the same things you are. You will be amazed with how many people are willing to help you. I have been absolutely amazed by the quality of information I have been given by fellow educators on Twitter. I have also been so impressed with how willing people like Tom and Steven have been in helping this NJ superintendent gain access to a wider resource bank. In case you are wondering just how influential these guys are in the education, I started the ASCD conference with 80 followers and today I have 138 high quality supporters simply because they mentioned me. 

The advice I was first given and would now like to give anyone just starting out - listen more than you the beginning you may not even want to send out any tweets just find a hashtag of interest and follow the streams. You will see links to resources and quotes that may inspire you. If you have opinions or something worth sharing with the world? Start tweeting or create a simple blog - trust me if I can do it, anyone can. Lastly, find a teenager who is willing to talk to you for more than five minutes and ask them...what do you think about Twitter? They will tell you what the next "twitter" will be... you know how quickly they get bored of something. Once they figure out the us "old" people Tweet, they will find something else...our job as educators is to simply try to keep up.

Embrace the day! 

Special thank you to @web20classroom and @tomwhitby for nearly mentioning me. A great big thanks to MPS own @drspikecook who continues to inspire those around him to try something different