Professional Development Opinion

Learning to Network, Networking to Learn

By Meenoo Rami — October 22, 2013 2 min read
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Meenoo Rami

Check out this recent interaction, I had with my colleagues via Twitter:

As you can tell from this exchange, I am thinking about incorporating multi-genre research projects in my classes this year and I am looking around my network for some guidance and support. My friends, Dana, Glenda, and Buffy are knowledgeable and generous in offering their guidance as I plan ahead. I am lucky to have these practitioners by my side as I think about implementation, ways to support my students, and possible pitfalls I may face along the way.

Networked learning is nothing new. Many of us, after all, have learned much of what we know about teaching from our colleagues down the hall, as they’ve shared their thinking about what works in the classroom. But now we can learn from colleagues across the world—people like Dana, Glenda, and Buffy—whom I never would have met if not for virtual connections.

How can you make the most of social networks?

The main thing: Explore. Whether you choose to use Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, blogs, or other forms of virtual communities, read a lot and let the good stuff lead you to more good stuff (and good people).
The second thing: Look for community—and if you don’t find it, build it. When I realized there was no Twitter chat for English teachers, I launched (and have maintained for past three years) #engchat, which has given me many rewards for the time and effort I put into it. Every Monday night at 7 p.m, ET, dozens of teachers of English come together to discuss topics such as social justice education, teaching grammar and vocabulary, and balancing the canon with contemporary fiction in our classrooms. Even outside our Monday night chats, the hashtag #engchat helps teachers to pose questions, share lesson ideas, and exchange relevant resources with others who share similar interests.

Whether you check out your twitter feed or walk down the hallway to talk to a colleague about your ideas and questions, when you open yourself and your classroom to new ideas, your students benefit greatly.

Speaking of students, here is another reason why I think we need to model connected learning for our students.

My student Marlyn sent me this message a number of days ago. She was researching brain development in teens and found an abstract of an article online—but discovered that the full article was not available for free.

I noticed that the article was written by a professor at a local university and urged Marlyn to reach out to the author to see if she could obtain the article that way. She did just that. Not only did she get the full-text article but she also was able to correspond with the author to learn the research. It was a powerful experience for herand reminded me just how important it is to teach students to use networking to make learning meaningful.

Meenoo Rami, founder of the #engchat weekly Twitter chat for English teachers, teaches at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

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