Last week we had a snow day. I got to stay home and catch up on some class related things. It seems I do a lot of catching up, lately. But more importantly, I didn't have to drive to Tulsa to teach Earth's Natural Disasters. I got to stay warm and cozy at home while they got about 3 or 4 inches of snow. The program director gave me permission to give an online assignment. That task was easily accomplished through Moodle and Turnitin.com.
As a result, I tweeted about the amazingness of online education and the ability to have the freedom to adapt to changing conditions (weather) and still get students engaged in the learning process. I casually mentioned "I could teach all of my classes online". I firmly believe that I could, using only a GoogleSite, GoogleDocs, Facebook, and a good internet connection. Since Twitter is a conversation, some of my tweeps responded to my comment and we started talking about the idea of starting an online school (of sorts).
I realize Oklahoma has an online school, so our idea is nothing new. In fact, I'm not even sure this idea will be anything other than an idea (nothing like setting your sights high, Jody!). None of us has any idea about what I am now calling an "online consortium" is even going to look like. It may be remediation, tutoring, or even a study guide. Then again, it may become a powerhouse of online education curriculum that gets venture capital funding and gives the Oklahoma Virtual High School a run for its money!
The coolest part of this whole thing is that I am able to share/discuss/think ideas instantly with other educators. Only a couple of those involved in this conversation are even in Oklahoma City. There are technology directors, classroom teachers, State Dept. of Ed. directors, and a superintendent. We even had someone from St. Louis who is interested in seeing what develops!
I was simply struck by the ease with which the idea developed. All of these people started talking about an unknown idea/project simply because I shared how much I enjoy online learning and a Twitter friend commented back. And to think, most people I talk to about Twitter think it is simply a place to put "status updates". I remember thinking as a Twitter noob, "What is Twitter good for? We've got Facebook for status updates! This is dumb." However, I can report to you that my PLN is far larger than I could have ever imagined if I had not begun to use Twitter.
Through Twitter, I have made connections with people in other countries, teachers in other districts, teachers within my own district, technology directors throughout my state, State Department of Education personnel, and community members who care about education, just to name a few. I have had tweeps purchase books for my classroom to augment my curriculum. I have been invited to present at an international conference because someone saw a tweet I made about using their product in my classroom.
So, if you are a non-Twitter user (or a limited user trying to find your way), give it a shot at broadening the scope of your Peer Learning Network (or Peer Learning Community). My district holds required PLC meetings every week and they are great for working within my building. But, when I want to get some ideas that go beyond the walls of Putnam City High School (or even beyond the boundaries of my state), when I want to innovate, when I want to find some new ideas, when I want to do something other than talk about how to handle that student, I use Twitter for my conversation. I bounce ideas off of other Twitter users. I read what other people are reading. I read what other people are writing and I look for something I think might work in my own classroom.
There are some people in my district (and maybe elsewhere) who think I'm some kind of awesome teacher. This is not the case. I owe all of my perceived awesome-ness to the ideas of my peers. So for those of you in my PLN who want to know whether or not you are making a difference in education, whether or not you are an agent of change in education, rest assured you are! I can testify that my students' education is enriched because of the ideas and innovation of my Peer Learning Network. You guys are all magnificent and each of you makes me better at what I do.