This time a guest post by a colleague, Veronica Emery.
When Tomaz asked me to write this blog entry I thought what I always think when he suggests that I, ‘get online’. Who cares what I think? Why would anyone want to know what I have to say? I thought it when he showed me Facebook, I thought it when he showed me Moodle and I was still thinking it, when he introduced me to Twitter. For a middle aged, computer illiterate teacher, these things seemed like a lot of time and effort with a presumption that total strangers are interested in my life or my ideas. I referred to it as vanity on the net. But as this is the world which my students inhabit, I was determined to have some form of active participation in it.
So with the encouragement of my good friend, I began to check out my options. Facebook required way too much; uploading of photos, status updates and tracking of so called friends for my skills. Moodle would expose my computer skills to way too much critique from work colleagues and students alike. A blog of my own design, I don’t think so! Twitter?! Now here was something; no uploading, no pressure from live chat, no need for groovy photos and linking to others, only having to think in blocks of 140 characters and a choice as to whom I wish to ‘follow’. This, I could have a go at.
Once I realised that the only people ‘following’ me, also had a choice, it helped calm my nerves about who would be reading what I had to say and who wouldn’t. So Tomaz helped me to sign up and showed me the basics. This was great. I could read other peoples ‘tweets’ without needing to reply, just think about what they were doing and how they were doing it. Too easy! No pressure and no requirement to put my own doings out there.
After three weeks of voyeuristic cyber life, I got brave enough to take my own groovy photo (just the one), and send out a few tentative ‘tweets’. After six weeks I had found; Barrack Obama, Kevin Rudd and the NASA Mars probe. Hey! Maybe there were some teachers on line as well. Sure enough, some great practitioners doing some really cool things in their classrooms, sharing their ideas and projects with the world. ‘How great is this?!’ I thought. After nine weeks, I read a tweet from Paige who runs a world-wide pen pals program for classrooms. I was curious enough to send my first direct tweet to the person I feared most on the net. A total stranger!! Before I knew it, we had exchanged lots of information about her pen pal program and the way it operates and I was beginning to get very excited about the possibilities for my own students. Could this be a way to connect my classroom with another classroom on the other side of the world? The potential seemed endless.
Now, some four months after signing onto Twitter, my class and the classes of five colleagues have joined this program and are in touch with classrooms of same aged students in Romania, Hawaii and Canada. For students who have not, on the whole, had the opportunity to travel outside of their own suburb, this contact has provided a chance to connect with real people in real time about the issues, ideas, fears, changes and worries which are universal to all teenagers. I nearly cried when one of my least interested students began asking me for spelling and grammar tips because she didn’t want her new pen friend to think she was a ‘moron’. “Plus we’re probably the first Australians that they’ve met aren’t we Miss?” she said. I agreed that this was probably the case. When she replied “So we best make a good impression huh?!” I think I may have actually shed a tear or two.
So, I’m still no expert but the kids laugh with me rather than at me now, when I ask them questions about computers and the net. The best thing for me at the moment is that I am ‘out there’ and I don’t care what anybody thinks. How cool is that. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Veronica Emery (Teacher, Mother, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer)
Thank you Veronica, great story! If you would like to follow @mrsemery on Twitter – http://twitter.com/mrsemery or drop a comment for her below.
Another Evaluate that! moment…