Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Blank Space

In my interactions with teaching candidates still in college or who recently exited college, I am surprised that many do not use Twitter for professional growth.

For example, I have spoken as a guest in two college classrooms over the past year and have extolled the virtues of developing a professional network--especially on Twitter.

In each case, I passed around a legal tablet with my name, email, and Twitter handle and asked the education students to fill in the same spaces. When the pad has been returned to me, each time, the blank space is loud and clear and confusing--no Twitter handles. It is amazing to see all of that blank space in the Twitter column.

This brings up questions, not criticism.

Are college education programs showing students how to develop a personal network? Just in my narrow band of experience, this powerful tool is passing by largely unexplored. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe my experience is too limited. Maybe these education candidates are just not interested in sharing their Twitter handle with me.

I emailed my surprise to a colleague and researcher--someone I have collaborated with as a writer for professional journals--and his response leads to even more questions:

"I know what you mean, Brian. In the feedback I received on the article that was published in English Education this summer, one reviewer asked if prospective teachers really need support using blogs, microblogs, and social network sites in ways that advance their professional practice. That reviewer seemed to assume that because prospective teachers use social media in their personal lives they must be savvy enough to leverage them for professional purposes. However, what you've described--and what I've seen in my work with prospective teachers--indicates otherwise." 

When I started teaching in the early 90s, my professional network was limited to individuals who worked within the brick and mortar of one building. Quite honestly, my network was even more limited than that--I wish I knew and learned from everyone from my building. We still only really get to know teachers who have common lunches or planning periods.

Today, all teachers have an unprecedented opportunity to learn and connect beyond the brick and mortar of their buidings.

Yet, I find myself wondering when I will meet the college students, young teaching candidates, who can speak about professional conferences they followed on Twitter (#ISTE15, or #pctela15, or #ksra15, or last year's #ncte14, or the upcoming #ncte15)...or something interesting they saw Tweeted by Carol Jago, Penny Kittle, Tricia Ebarvia, Gaetan Pappalardo, Barry Lane, Thomas Newkirk, Donalyn Miller, Jeff Anderson, Meenoo Rami, Lynn Dorfman, any and all writing projects, Eric Sheninger, Kathleen Sokolowski, Linda Rief, Bonnie Kaplan, Kathy Schrock, Christopher Lehman, Kristin Ziemke, Amanda Hedrick, Mark Overmeyer, Shawna Coppola, Jennifer Hogan, Nancie Atwell, Nicole Lemme, Gary Anderson, Jennifer Ward, Katie Wood Ray, Sir Ken Robinson, Christina Cantrill, Lee Ann Spillane, Stacey Shubitz, Ruth Ayres, Cindy Minnich, Sarah Andersen, Rose Cappelli, Luke Hokama, Ernest Morrell, Kylene Beers, Ralph Fletcher, Alfie Kohn, Jeremy Hyler, Kevin Hodgson, Diane Ravitch, Kelly Gallagher, Wesley Fryer, Paul Oh, Troy Hicks, Judy Jester, Jim Burke...

Did I make my point?

We all have access to one of the most positive, inclusive, and effective faculty rooms--and it remains, I gather, one of the best kept secrets in education. This kind of access did not exist when I started teaching in the early 90s.

The doors of access to one another have been completely reimagined and reshaped...and I wonder how many of us (cagey, wiley, old veterans included) are still not connected?

This is not a generation gap. This has nothing to do with age or not understanding Twitter because I find as many 50 year old educators not using Twitter as I find 20 year old educators not using Twitter. This is about want to.

If you want the access to conversations with some of the most positive, influential, and pioneering mentors in education then you will find your way to Twitter.

All of which brings me back to my original question--why am I not running into college education students on Twitter? Follow me! Follow Penny Kittle! Talk to us. Reach out. We love education. We love teaching. We love learning from one another. And if you are in school studying to be an educator then you are like me...I am still in school studying to be an educator.

THAT journey never ends.

And the access to that highway is free and open.

And you are welcome to join us.

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