Being somewhat of a tech geek, to me 'networking' used to mean fiddling around computers, manually setting TCP/IP controls so that the cables that I'd spend hours routing around the house would start doing what I wanted them to. Now however, networking has a much more profound professional meaning to me. It has been said that 'It's not what you know, but who you know', and as true as it may seem, it's not until you realise that you know the exact person that can help you solve a particular problem that it clicks.
PELC11 gave me an ideal opportunity to start networking. I've mentioned in my round up of the conference some of the 'education celebrities', pardon the expression, that I met and talked to, but it was the locally-based attendees at the conference that I am most likely to forge productive professional relationships with. James Edwards, for example, who is an ICT and Business Studies teacher at Saltash.net Community School. James showed some much appreciated enthusiasm for our project, and gave us some great ideas and tips. One thing I have come to realise through talking with James is that whilst Primary and Secondary teaching may seem completely different at first glance, the underlying principles are still very much the same. Things that are useful resources for primary teachers can still be useful for secondary and vice-versa.
Another very useful (and again, secondary) contact I made was Dan Kennedy, an ICT teacher at The Grange School in Christchurch. He has created a unit of work based around Kodu, which is some software that I'd like to try using with primary children, and the enthusiasm he has generated with his students sounds incredible. Will definitely look for advice on where to go based on what he found did and did not work.
Whilst I may have made some very useful contacts in the 'real world' as it were, my discovery of Twitter has lead to finding a number of useful contacts that I have never even met before. It seems like an odd concept, how can you judge how useful a contact someone is if you've never met them? How did I even meet them in the first place? Enter #ukedchat.
Every Thursday night, between 8pm and 9pm, my Twitter feed is abuzz with the tweets containing a certain hashtag. #ukedchat has been a staple Thursday night appointment since I stumbled across it a few months ago. It is entirely open, anyone can join in and share their opinion, or just sit back and watch the discussion unfold. Each week, a topic of discussion is decided upon, and from 8pm the conversation starts to flow. Whilst I was unable to attend this weeks discussion (damn you, full-time job!), I was able to attend the session on Thursday 7th April, enticingly (and considering my attendance at PELC11 at the time, relevantly) titled 'What to do with teachers that don't tech'. Whilst the discussion was moving along nicely, I thought it to be a bit one sided. Surely teachers that don't tech won't be on Twitter discussing it? So I decided to play devil's advocate to some extent. I may not have agreed with some of the points I was putting forward, but the extra comments I was getting back proved to be much more useful. I always think that argument generates more interesting discussion that agreement, the back and forth really fleshes out a topic rather than skirting over some of the more contentious issues. Just thought I'd let everyone that may have disagreed with me know that it was my comment you were disagreeing with, not myself!
I have been questioned recently what the point of my blog is. Why post what you think about things? I guess I just want to show other people what opportunities are out there and why they should take them, so I best summarise what I'm trying to encourage people to do with this post.
Firstly, get out there. Meet people. Socialise. The more people you know, the more opportunities you create not just for yourself, but for others you may know too. Someone may come to you with a project that you might not be interested in, but you know someone that would be that would be grateful for the opportunity. Case in point, I wanted an ECS specialist to help out with resources for the site, but I didn't know any. But if I didn't know someone that knew a particularly enthusiastic student that would love to be a part of the team, then I most likely wouldn't have @trainieteacher as my able deputy and in turn, I wouldn't have had some of the amazing opportunities and contacts that she brings to the table.
Secondly, get involved in #ukedchat. Even if you just sit back and watch the discussion unfold, the unpicking of a topic by teachers, education professionals and even students proves to be a very useful Thursday night for your professional development.