I have been back on Twitter for a year now (I was originally Twitter in April, 2009, but didn’t really see the point of it, so I left it behind for a few years). It has been truly an amazing year of professional development and relationship-building.
During this time, I have learned a great deal from so many educators around the world. I also started a blog and started blogging about some of the things I was learning about and trying in my own school.
To say that Twitter has changed who I am as an educator would be an understatement.
I was a little disturbed though last night, when I read David Wees’ (@davidwees on Twitter) blogpost about Twitter and the connections we make online. In it, in part, David reflects on the connections he has with those he interacts with online and writes,
“I know very little about their families, their history, their relationships, their beliefs about God, their dislikes, their intolerances, their emotions, and who they are. What I do know, I know only through their statements about themselves, so I know really nothing about them except what they have confessed themselves. What I know is their manicured self, their selves with the make-up on, and I do not really know them at all.”
David goes on to talk about how little others know about him, besides the surface insights he has provided.
In addition, David ends his post asserting, in part,
“We must be careful not to mistake interactions with the words of people online as friendships…”
While this is true for David and the connections he has made with others online, it does not have to be, in fact, I hope it won’t be, the reality for everyone.
As a contradiction to what David posted in his blog last night, today, I attended a session at 2012 Simon Fraser University Education Summer Institute entitled, Connected Leadership: Harnessing the Power of a Global Learning Network by Chris Wejr (@chriswejr on Twitter). In this presentation, he talked a great deal about how tools (like Twitter and other Social Media) does not transform your learning, the relationships you make with people transform your learning. It’s these professional connections that lead to these powerful personal relationships.
Chris talked about the power of Social Media and the relationships he has made. He brought some of us to tears when he shared his stories: about his dog dying, about a student who passed away way too young, about a friend and confidant whose life came to an end too early, and about two young children whom are fighting a brave fight with cancer (and winning, I might add). He shared how the people he has developed relationships with through social media, provided himself with a great deal of support through all of these difficult and challenging times.
Relationships DO Matter. Relationships are the key to your learning and continued growth (both in person and online). Online connections and the relationships that can result are meaningful, real, and life-changing.
So, it is my recommendation, as Chris shared today in his final slide,
Become a Connected Learner.
Become a Connected Leader.
Share the Stories.”
In conclusion, while I can understand what David is saying in his blog, and I agree that
“We must balance our desire to know more about the world that is away from ourselves, with building deep connections with the people surrounding us.”
I see the other side as well. I see the personal, meaningful, and real connections and relationships that are formed and built online. I have experienced this myself with various forms of social media.
It is possible.
It is real.
Be open and willing to let it happen.