what I took away

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Posted by Jenna Ream |

Last week we had an invigorating conversation. The question Brian threw out there was about blogging, and we traversed many topics that centered on interaction and communication. The thinking I came away with was how important it is for me to find the venues, develop the relationships and build a network that supports my online teaching.

I spend a lot of time thinking about teaching. I think about content, I think about interaction, I think about the rhythm, structures and supports that provide space for students to explore their thinking and develop their knowledge and skills around the key ideas of a course. As I continue my journey deeper into the world of online teaching I find that these very structures I seek to provide for my students in the content new to them, are the very same structures and supports I need in learning about the possibilities of technology- something new to me. For me, so far, this is where social networking fits in. I have a strong existing network of colleagues that provide me rich conversation about language acquisition, assessment, instruction, and the state of K-12 education right now. As a parent of school-aged children I am building a network of other parents- those more and differently experienced than me that provides me the support I need as I navigate the murky waters of the professional/parent in my children's schools. What I seek and have been building over the past year is a network to help me build proficiency as I explore the world of interaction and learning via technology.

Last week in talking about different blogging and microblogging tools, I realized that as a social and a visual learner, Twitter has been a powerful resource for me. As other people shared what worked for them I was reintroduced to the idea of chatrooms and IM as a chance for focused conversation. I have explored some mainstream social networking options (Classroom 2.0 and Facebook for example) but find myself continually resistant to focused groups- in topic or participants. In thinking about this notion of focus, it brings me back to why I so much love Twitter. For me what is most important about Twitter is that it is NOT focused. And, the participants are not just educators. The people and conversations I follow bring me to thinking about marketing, media, business AND teaching and I find, for me, this inspires new ideas to percolate and some even rise to the surface. And then, with the 140 character limit I feel I can subscribe to thoughts of many at once, sift through and find the ideas that move me forward in my own thinking. The brevity, the act of synthesizing my own thoughts, and reading the synthesized thoughts of others is productive for me. I think about where this might fit in my classes, and I don't see myself using Twitter between myself and my students... but I could see using that synthesis format: 140 characters or less as a guide for a kind of conversation, a form of tiered questioning, especially late in the week after we have discussed our key topic to then bring our thinking to that next level. Hmmm... an idea worth exploring... I'd be interested in hearing other people's thoughts...


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