Over the next while I’ll be blogging about my thoughts and reflections from Ulearn11 but I thought I’d start with a good old ‘compare and contrast’ post.
Way back in 2006 I attended my first Ulearn. I was the only teacher there from my school and didn’t really know a lot of other people who were there – there were some from our cluster but that’s all. My boss had thought it would be a great idea for me to attend and get a hold of some new/innovative ideas to bring back to school. Now that wasn’t a bad idea – but it also wasn’t so great. While I loved the challenges of the various breakouts that I attended, I didn’t enjoy anything else. I was extremely isolated and because I didn’t really know other people, I had no one to talk with about the new things I was learning. I didn’t even go to the dinner because I couldn’t bear being alone in the crowd.
Teleport to the present and it’s a whole different story!
Twitter went public in 2006, I first heard about at Learning@Schools in 2007, and finally joined up March 13, 2008. L@S07 was different because I went with 7 others from school – we had lots to talk about and it was refreshing experience. L@S09 was a smaller group of people from school – but I also had my twitter PLN. Ulearn09 saw 2 of us attending from school; Ulearn10 I attended ‘alone’ and now I have just finished attending Ulearn11 (‘alone’).
The contrast between Ulearn06 and Ulearn11 couldn’t be greater. I am a naturally gregarious person (all my friends will LOL at that comment) but the feeling of isolation was terrible at 06. There are an increasing number of us who attend Ulearn/L@TS on our own – and often self-funded. We go because it’s the best PD out there (thanks CORE). We go because we get to spend several days socializing in RL with our Twitter friends – Twitter has become our lifeline – especially for those of us who are isolated in our schools – or even in small/rural/one teacher schools.
For many of us that first face-to-face connection seals the bond of friendship – we move from virtual colleagues to RL colleagues. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
(I’ve taken the liberty of coining a new acronym – TCE = Twitter Common Era!)
(Acronym definitions: PLN=Personal/Professional Learning Network or community (PLC); RL=Real Life; PD=Professional Development; L@S=Learning At School)