Recently I wrote a post about my takeaways from the book The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. One of the big takeaways that I had from that book was the fact that the innovations that led to a digital revolution did not happen in several giant leaps. Instead, innovation takes place through little steps that are layered on top of each other. In addition, most of those tiny steps did not occur because of one person. When you think of the iPhone, who do you think of? For me the first name to come to mind is Steve Jobs. And while he was an important part of the process that made the smartphone a marketable thing for consumers, that idea would never have been possible without the work of so many other innovators in the digital revolution. Names like Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Robert Noyce, Grace Hopper, and Bill Gates (along with many other innovators) all made it possible for the iPhone to be the powerful tool that I carry around in my pocket every day.
Not too long ago, I was at #DitchCon2017, put on by Matt Miller. During his keynote, Matt put a picture of the Twitter logo on the screen and said “This little bird saved my teaching career.” As educators, we all get into our own little silos and forget that there are lots of other people doing the same work as us. If we forget to lift our heads up and look around, we may miss someone else’s awesome idea that could make learning for our students new AND better.
I have been on Twitter since January of 2010. Initially I joined in order to follow athletes, pop-culture icons, politicians, and people of that nature. One day while I was driving to school, I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR and I heard a story about #Satchat, and I saw a totally new purpose for Twitter (in fact, the first 3 educators that I followed were Brad Currie, Scott Rocco, and Billy Krakower, the co-founders of #Satchat). Suddenly I realized that Twitter wasn’t just a way to absorb information from pop-culture, instead it was a way for me to learn and grow.
Twitter became my new go to for learning. I began seeking out ways to leverage hashtags to find ideas that could impact the learning in my classroom. I participated in Twitter chats and learned from educators who were just as passionate as me. Sometimes I just lurked and listened, other times I dove in and shared my ideas.
Today, I talk to everyone I know about how we can use Twitter (or Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Voxer, etc.) to learn and grow in our own ways. Once I started to participate more in Twitter chats, I began to grow followers. The more followers I had, the more I had to think about what was really valuable information to share with them. I became very intentional in the types of things I post (not that I’d never post a silly gif or my thoughts on the Cubs or Colts). This has led me to seek out high quality information to share, and causes me to be constantly reading, learning, and getting better at what I do.
We all would agree that collaboration helps us all grow. Sometimes it’s great to collaborate with that colleague down the hall, but sometimes it’s awesome to be able to collaborate with someone on the other side of the world. As Couros says in The Innovator’s Mindset, “Isolation is often the enemy of innovation.”
Going back to my lessons from Isaacson’s The Innovators, the best innovations that we will make as educators are not going to happen in giant leaps and bounds. They’re going to happen when we continue to layer our own ideas on top of the other innovators that we are learning from, and we can create truly mind-blowing, amazing, awesome learning experiences from our students! Networking is one of the best ways that I know of that we can do that!