At the beginning of this thing called COETAIL, I was a lurker. Throughout this process, I have propelled myself to create a PLN that now I use extensively. I am up to 110 Tweets mostly made up of original content. I have made it a point in developing my network and Twitter footprint not to simply retweet what I find interesting. From that first assignment to create a Twitter account 15 months ago to now, I have gained 135 people who follow me. Some I know and others I don’t. That is the thing I find interesting about Twitter, who are these people that are following me and how did they find me? I guess I could say the same thing about myself. Do I know all the 254 people I am following? No, but it is important to engage with a large community of educators. I am currently following a lot of Ed Tech people at the moment because that is where my PLN started, but I have been expanding my network into other passions, such as service learning and outdoor education.
Out of curiosity, I added a globe from clustermap.com that shows the location of visitors to my COETAIL blog. I wanted to see if my posts were being read beyond my cohort, and lo and behold, people all over the world have seen my content. Some of the visits to Brian’s Brainwave were from prospective employers. I used the new visits on the globe as one gauge of the school’s interest. It was interesting to see which schools looked and how many times they visited my site. Realizing that people are reading what I am writing has inspired me to expand by content. I plan on starting another blog, once I think of a title (sounds familiar), on which I will post about teaching, travel and raising TCKs. I now actually enjoy sharing what is happening in my teaching practice and my life as an expat.
I used my network (as mentioned in the previous post) to reconnect with people in my previous country of residence, Mozambique, and share about emergency aid efforts in response to the devastation from Cyclone Idai. Because I had already met the new director @sascha_heckmann and primary principal @JoeBuscemi505 at AISM earlier this year at the London job fair, I didn’t hesitate to reconnect through Twitter and Facebook and find out how I could help. I will surely stay connected because northern Mozambique was just hit by another cyclone on 24 April.
Being active and engaging with the community at large is a key component of the COETAIL program. I’ve really become interested in the many globally collaborative projects that are out there, such as #gridpals, that can help my students become more aware of the similarities they share with students in other places around the world. We teamed up with a grade 3 class in Long Island, New York. By chance, this class does a unit about China every year, so we were a perfect match. Our classes worked together to personalize learning by connecting global content to actual students. I will continue to use gridpals with future classes because it is a simple way to foster connections, curiosity and open-mindedness.
Engaging in Twitter chats like Pub PD Asia have allowed me to expand my network. I even attended the first Pub PD Asia to be held in Phuket while I was on holiday there. It was great to reconnect with a former colleague and Online 9 COETAILer, Nick Garvin @NicholasKGarvin. Beyond growing my PLN, I also enjoyed sharing a pint with interesting people while chatting about tweet topics face-to-face.
Coincidently, shortly after writing the post about digital storytelling, my wife and I had the opportunity to share a story at a @Shenzhenstories event. Shenzhen Stories is a mostly expat gathering where people share stories about their lives with an audience. I/We told the story of me almost dying of heat stroke on an island in Vietnam after running a 10K. The experience was both a face-to-face connection and a chance to engage in digital storytelling. A separate podcast, in which a colleague interviewed my wife and me, was posted on Podomatic and Youtube and has been listened to 816 time. Both experiences have brought podcasts into my comfort zone and I am planning to utilize them in my own classroom next year.
I have been engaged to be married, engaged in battle through sports, engaged in conversation, and now I am engaged in building a PLN that has and will continue to benefit me, my teaching practice, my students – and I hope reciprocally the larger community.