This has been an amazing week for me to solidify contacts that I began on Twitter through building a PLN. The week started with the arrival of a package from Japan. After posting a call to my PLN for help with a unit on Japan, Barb Sakamoto quickly responded from Japan. To quote my posting on her blog, “Barb responded in less than 12 hours, incredibly quickly given the time difference. She offered to help and sent me her email to communicate more directly. After receiving my description of what we were studying, she sent me a response with websites to visit, ideas for online research, and a connection with a female Buddhist priest, Victoria Yoshimura. Suddenly the world of Japan, not as a subject in a textbook, but as people on the other side of the world who want to help my students, came alive. Barb and Victoria both reached out with eagerness and thoughtfulness, considering what would support my class and offering wonderful suggestions.”
It was during these conversations about culture that Barb offered to send rice crackers and candy to my students to help them personally experience some Japanese food, sent directly to them from around the world. The arrival of a special package for them not only increased my students engagement with the material, but led to the creation of a new, interdisciplinary project, Japan Day, in which teachers from English, History, Art, Music, Math and Science are all engaged. Online collaboration has led to new collaborations within the school. Very exciting for the teachers and wonderful for our students!
My next moment of PLN fun was a day later when a member of my school’s wonderful EdTech team was asking me how I would describe Blended Learning and wondering if there was a way to create an illustration of what it looks like. I fumbled around and tried to think of the best way to describe my understanding. Then I shrugged my shoulders and opened my laptop. “I’ll just send a tweet and see what I get.” She smiled and shook her head. Out my tweet went, and over the course of that day, as we all have experienced, people responded, sending me links and ideas for areas to explore. Each one made me smile at the generosity of the people who connect through my PLN.
But last night was a new highlight! A totally unexpected, international connection around education that was filled with laughter. I had responded to a tweet a few months ago about helping to build a ning that would facilitate ESL students to practice their language skills by sharing with other students around the world. I thought that some of my students might enjoy being part of it, modeling language skills and learning about other cultures at the same time. A group of us have been working collaboratively to think about the ning and slowly build it. (My part is far less than that of @bealup and @hoprea).
I received a tweet last night that Bea and Henrick were having a skype conversation, asking if I like to join. I accepted and within moments was talking to these two people, one in Argentina and one in Brazil, whose work I knew but whose voices and faces were almost totally new to me. Twitter photos that suddenly began to move and take on personalities! We were very focused on our task, trying to develop a series of topics for the students to address and some questions to guide their investigation. Then @briandowd came online and the conversation continued with another American voice in the mix.
And then came a moment of global magic! We suddenly transformed from 4 people, working to help our students, into four friends. There was laughter, sometimes verging on hilarity as we tried to reconcile our different ideas and interpretations, and as the time passed, partnerships were being forged that were more than simply professional. We were laughing at each other’s jokes and sharing each other’s joy at being together in this digital, “living room” space where we all existed together.
The week was reinforced for me that we are building a new world of connections, one that is based on our own generosity and the generosity of people who once were strangers. That I have never stood in the same room with Barb, Victoria, Bea, Henrick or Brain does not detract from the level of growing friendship that I feel towards them. They are people who have touched my life and I hope will continue to do so. To them, and to all of the others that I share thoughts with here and through Twitter, thank you! For smiles and laughter!