Image credit: http://becomenomad.com/nomad/wp-content/uploads/Yom-Kippur.jpg
Being a disconnected nomad limited my ability to lead and learn. We fear what we don't know or understand. When this happens we make excuses not to do something and in education we resort to blocking, banning, or pretending something doesn't exist. This is how I saw social media and mobile technology back in 2009. The problem is that the majority of educators in 2014 still feel this way. The epiphany for me was that I saw a professional opportunity in Twitter to improve communications with my stakeholders. From here I began to lurk and learn, which resulted in no longer being a disconnected nomad. My problem, as I now often reflect back upon how I used to perceive social media, was that I was not educated on how this tool could improve leadership and learning.
Here is what I now know and believe. Social media is just a catalyst for conversation that is contingent upon listening, sharing, and learning. Social media, and technology for that matter, is not and will never transform education. If you are looking to these entities as a silver bullet to solve all the ills in the education world then you are looking at it the wrong way. However, engaging in conversations with passionate educators has the potential to radically transform professional practice. Thus the true silver bullet that will transform education for the better are the connected educators who harness and leverage social media to engage in powerful conversations that lead to changes in practice and the building of priceless relationships. These initial conversations then lead to changes in mindset and a push to action. Yes, this is my opinion, but one grounded in evidence of how moving from disconnected nomad to connected leader and learner has positively impacted my professional practice.
The formation of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) using free social media tools has enabled me and so many other educators experience the immense benefits that are associated with connected learning. The ability to learn about anything at anytime, anywhere, and with anyone has not only been liberating, but continues to be exhilarating to this day. Social media levels the playing field by providing access to educators from across the globe. It is up to each individual to decide the level of participation in this space. As far as I am concerned any of the quadrants in the image below are where educators should aspire to be in except for the one where there is no connectivity.
Image credit: http://www.danpontefract.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/digital_learning_quadrants_pontefract.jpg
I offer up this walk down history lane as a call to action. There still are too many disconnected nomads leading schools and teaching our students who have yet to experience the unlimited potential that connectivity offers. I am in no way saying that these people are not good at what they do, but they can be better. What I am stating emphatically though is that they are selling themselves short by succumbing to fears and misconceptions associated with social media. Help those disconnected nomads you know experience the value of social media this school year. Once they experience and embrace the value of this tool to engage in powerful conversations education will be one step closer to providing students with learning experiences they need and deserve.