As a young child, I had a favorite saying, “Every day the thing to do is learn a little something new.” In all the years since uttering that youthful sentiment, I find I still adhere to it as much now as I did then. But at my current level of maturity and experience, I’d revise my words to something even simpler, “Being an effective educator means continuous learning.” The exciting and boundless truth is that learning is academic and humanitarian, personal and public.
This summer I embarked on a journey into the world of Web 2.0. I wanted to experience first hand what it did for me as a learner. Throughout the journey, I’ve watched myself start to navigate through the “levels of transfer.” (Joyce & Showers, 2002) The process reminded me of my experiences learning to swim as a child.
The pool I spent much of my childhood summer days at was unique. The deep end was in the middle. In order to be able to gain access to the deep end you needed to show instructors you had executive control of swimming in order to reach the tower (and return to shallower water). My personal goal, as was the goal of many swimmers, was to reach the Tower in order to swim in the deep end! Hanging out in the shallow waters wasn’t enough. I moved through the Levels of Transfer to reach that goal for many reasons. Swimming instructors guided my way. During lessons, prior to the pool’s daily opening, we were able to swim in the deep end with our instructor. This one-on-one time provided individualized instruction. It gave us a “taste of our dream” providing enough exposure that we knew it was within our grasp. I was on the journey to “The Tower” with many others. Some were just a little further ahead in their ability, giving me the determination to push forward. I did eventually fulfill my goal of reaching “The Tower.” For me, that was enough – gaining the ability to swim. Others went on to diving lessons or lifeguard instruction. But, no matter the skill level – one thing was certain – we loved our time at the pool.
Fast forward to a new summer adventure. My focus has been primary been on the use of Twitter as a tool to learn, grow and collaborate with others devoted to meeting the needs of students and integrating technology along the way. At first, I found myself lurking on the sidelines picking up tips that I could then imitate. Along the way, I met some devoted mentors (@gcouros, @flourishingkids, @TheHomeworkDog, @kelalford, @shannonmmiller, @Grade1, and @teachingwthsoul to name a few) who reached out to guide my efforts. They helped me feel comfortable as I navigated through some uncharted waters. They helped me begin to build my own personal learning network and the confidence to step out of my comfort zones (like “unprotecting” my Twitter account).
I then moved into a more mechanical usage of Twitter. I began to understand the process and terminology. I learned to reply to tweets or retweet them and provide my own useful insights to my PLN. I attended my first #edchat as well as learned to follow a few conferences from the comfort of my own home. I continue to marvel at the levels of knowledge and skills among the people I follow. Each day I experience a whole new level of deeper learning. This has provided me with the drive to be able to seek out new avenues in order to share with my PLN both through Twitter and the schools where I currently work. My ultimate goal is that this learning reaches students through the integrative use of technology.
During my Twitter experiences, I began to set sights on another “Tower.” And here I am, writing my first blog and testing the waters thanks to the encouragement from @rchmcgrth and assistance from @gcouros. Could it be that I’m moving into the routine level of transfer stage of the Web 2.0 world? I needed to take this first plunge before the school year started. I’m still searching for the direction this blog will take. I have a wide variety of passions including but not limited to collaboration, leadership, school improvement, instructional coaching, English language learners, integrating technology, curriculum design, effective instruction, using data to drive instruction, interventions, literacy and quality professional development. I strive to ensure each avenue focuses on meeting the needs of each and every student.
Learning is a continuous cycle. While I’m feeling pretty confident in my “newbie” use of Twitter and have witnessed first hand the power of a collaborative PLN. Blogging is a very new territory. I find myself back to the imitative level. I have much to learn on this journey. One thing is certain – I’m ready to take the plunge.
Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.