Something Different from #NT2t

Today I had the privilege to witness something different using Twitter.  This time instead of a steady conversation, there was a training — a real live training. The goal of this week’s #NT2t Chat (New Teachers to Twitter) was to provide those new to Twitter an opportunity to learn about some useful tools that partner very well with Twitter. The plan was to provide information about Evernote and IFTTT.  Rik Rowe (@WHSRowe) had volunteered to lead the Evernote portion and I had volunteered to provide the IFTTT portion.  We were told to plan for about 20 minutes each.

Throughout the week, I was privileged to work with Rik.  Together we discussed how to assess what to expect from the participants.  Rik and I collaborated on a Google Form (his idea) with some pertinent questions that we thought would give us some idea of where everyone was.   We immediately started tweeting it out.  As soon as people started filling it out, it was clear that there were some people familiar with Evernote, but very few had stepped into the IFTTT water.

Upon further conversations, Rik and I decided it would be best for the Evernote portion to go first.  This would provide me a useful platform for IFTTT.  It all came together beautifully.  Despite the fact that Rik and I are about 1200 miles apart, the collaboration with him has been one of the highlights of my summer.

As our time drew near, we both finalized our Evernote notebooks with everything we could think of to make this a success.  Here is a link to Rik’s Evernote notebook.

I set my clock to get up at 7:30am. I wanted to be certain that I had given myself time to fully wake, get coffee and pull up Twitter so the wonderful crew at #NT2T (Google+ Community) would know that I was on-line and ready. There was Rik, already getting himself set, as well. There was happy banter from other educators waiting for things to get started.  It felt just like a face to face inservice.

When 9:00am hit, #NT2t went a little crazy. Teachers from across the globe showed up to learn. After a few minutes of introduction, Rik began his portion of the chat.  As he started sending out his tweets (with links to Evernote notes), the questions started.  It was amazing.  It was also overwhelming.  I don’t think any of us involved expected the avalanche of responses we got.  There were various questions about the different platforms. There were questions that would not have happened during a face to face training because there would have been a follow along presentation to show the process.

That is exactly what made this so amazing. Teachers were helping each other. Questions were being answered. Some decided to save for later, some decided to try to keep up.  It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed.  Teachers were describing (in 140 characters) what was happening to them.  Others were helping them through the process.  There were a few that got lost. Rik stopped and brought some to our attention.  He was patient but steady in his presentation.  I was in awe.  I still am.

Then another truly amazing thing happened.  All at once everyone realized that Evernote needed more than 20 minutes.  Would I mind coming back next week? Of course I would be back next week.  The questions coming from the participants were appropriate and necessary.  There weren’t redundant questions.  There was a true need to give some more attention to all that Evernote could do.  Those of us with Evernote experience began sharing how we utilize this all encompassing program.  This chat went beyond the usual one hour time frame, but no one seemed to care. We were intent on helping each other through the process.

One thing that Rik did that I really liked was that he provided an opportunity for a final product to be shared.  Teachers were able to walk away with something tangible.  They would have something to show for the effort.

It wasn’t perfect, nothing ever is. We needed more “experts” to help as people got behind. Many people posed questions but didn’t share what platform they used. This made solving problems a little tougher. We learned that the “demo driver” needs a “demo troubleshooter”. These type of problems occur at any type of demo or training. Now we learn from them.

I hope administrators and district level personnel everywhere were paying attention today.  Teachers had learning goals. They also had expected outcomes.  There was nothing involved with today’s training that isn’t mirrored in face to face trainings around the world.  The only difference was that these teachers did it without the ability to have this count towards their professional development through inservice points.  It is time for Professional Development to realize that not everyone needs the same thing.  We are asked to differentiate instruction for our students. It is time that our own professional development begins to model this.

It is time.

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