First, when I was accepted to the Google Teacher Academy in 2008 (truly a highlight of my career) I told some friends and asked them some questions about it. Of course, none of them had applied or were going to GTA, so they couldn't help me much (though not for lack of trying). When I got to Mountain View the day of the event, I saw that people were talking to each other like old friends. I wondered how that was possible given that participants came from all over the world.
It turns out that many of the participants had connected through Twitter or Facebook and other social networking sites before GTA. Once I got home, I immediately signed up for Twitter and began developing my PLN. Over the past two years, I've realized how incredibly important it is to get connected to other educators. Some charge that the relationship kind of feeds on itself and we end up patting each other on the back, but I learn something new every day and some of it does challenge my thinking.
This time, I was determined to connect with people BEFORE the Google GEO Teachers Institute. I started searching in Twitter and suggested that we start a Google Spreadsheet with our Twitter IDs so we could all follow each other. I'm still managing the spreadsheet. During the event, another participant, Diane Main, set up a Facebook group for us and we're still using the forum set up by the Geo Education team at Google.
While at GTI, I was able to talk in person with several teachers I'm connected to online, but had never met in person. Karen McMillan, Danny Silva, Diana Laufenberg and Ian Usher gave me some interesting things to think about while we were at Google Headquarters. Making these connections in person only enriched my already fabulous experience. Meeting these educators and SO many others was like really tasty icing (not that fake, sickly sweet stuff) on a really good cake.
So what to do? Get connected. Stay connected. Try any of these to get started, but get started.
- Twitter your life in 140 characters. Ask questions or share links and lesson plans.
- Facebook has room for teachers. Really. You can search for open groups of teachers who teach your subject or grade level to start.
- Plurk is similar to Twitter. I'm not on it, but I know there were die-hard fans at GTI.
- Linkedin is more of a professional exchange, but has lots of possibilities.
- Edmodo now has the ability for teachers to connect with each other. I'll have more on my visit to edmodo headquarters later.