***First presented via video recording during Jason Graham’s session “Building Communities Through Social Media” at Learning 2.012 in Beijing, China on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012***
About four years ago I signed up for twitter, but didn’t really use it. At the time I thought it was an insignificant texting medium for celebrities, so I lurked, but didn’t tweet much, and I certainly didn’t follow any teachers way back then. I didn’t understand the power of making connections. Last September I must have tweeted something about being a Kindergarten teacher and got a reply from Amy Murray, one of the founders of #kinderchat, and an invitation to join in the conversation. I had no idea that tweet would change my life.
Prior to being connected on twitter, I was lost in what I like to call the “Black Hole of Kindergarten”. I was the only K teacher on my staff and I had a different schedule than the rest of the school. I had no daily contact with other teachers even in my own building. District kindergarten meetings were held on afternoons when I had family responsibilities and couldn’t leave my children. It was a very lonely time, professionally. This past year, our school went from a half day K program to full-day K, so I now have kindergarten colleagues on staff and our schedule coincides with the rest of the school. This is a fantastic change, but I still didn’t have much of a chance to connect with other kindergarten teachers outside the walls of my school.
That’s where #kinderchat enters the picture. Through #kinderchat, I have found an online staff who support me, who know me, who are colleagues and truly friends. I cannot stress enough that relationships matter. Having a relationship with someone, whether in real life or online, creates an environment for trust, understanding and learning. Yes, #kinderchat is a professional community of educators, but we also care about each other and in doing so, both our professional and personal environments are enriched.
Our weekly chats revolve around every aspect of kindergarten. We talk play, curriculum, physical activity, professional life, budgeting, technology classroom challenges and so much more. But most of all, we have a mutual respect for one another as educators. We don’t always agree, but we are inclusive and welcoming to all who wish to participate. The dialogue generated is what challenges and stretches our thinking. And that’s a very good thing!
An offshoot of #kinderchat that materialized this summer was #edcampkinder. Our weekly chats had morphed into almost daily contact and many of us thought it would be wonderful to meet face to face and continue the conversation that was ongoing on twitter. So #kinderchat decided to meet in Las Vegas and create an un-conference all about kindergarten, dubbed #edcampkinder. What I didn’t know was that these relationships formed online would translate into meaningful, deeper face to face relationships. To book a trip for four days to be with people I had never met in real life…was I nuts? All I can say is that the four days I spent in Las Vegas at #edcampkinder were the most meaningful professional development days of my career. It was a four day conversation that ebbed and flowed and had real impact on my teaching. To be challenged and encouraged and inspired by the other nine participants was truly amazing. Teachers came from BC, Alberta, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Montana, Texas and even Japan.
How can you get involved in a twitter chat? Your first stop should by the amazing resource at http://www.cybraryman.com to check out what is available. Jerry has catalogued every educational chat on twitter and lists when they happen. Start by checking out some of the hashtags and conversations and find one that interests you. Take a deep breath…and start tweeting! Just don’t forget the hashtag, or your tweets won’t be included in the chat timeline. You will be amazed at what you will learn and what you can teach others as you use social media. Twitter brings the world to you. All you have to do is find the chat that suits you and join the conversation.