About 11 years ago I enrolled myself in a postgraduate diploma in education with ACE / University of Auckland. My main rationale at the time was to get others to take me more seriously firstly (honestly!), and secondly to boost numbers so we would keep such course in Whangarei (which is still a good hour's drive from home). As I was pregnant with son no.2 (and obviously I already had a toddler at home) I intended to power through my papers while on maternity leave and emerge all competent and to-be-taken-seriously. Well, reality was that I lacked maturity and knowledge (leave alone time) to make the most of this, but I did graduate with a B (B-? can't remember now!) about 10 days before son no. 3 was born. I vowed to myself not to do this again any time soon (and I still haven't), and within the teachers' payscale an additional qualification would have made no difference anyway (at that time this was an important consideration for me!).
Almost 8 years after graduation my knowledge about and view on education, pedagogy, teaching and learning has vastly changed. It is an accumulation of discussions, readings, experiences in my various roles over the last 15 years - secondary music teacher / HOD music, parent educator for PAFT, supervisor of Playcentre sessions, liaison teacher for children at risk studying via correspondence, tech teacher at intermediate school, special education advisor with MoE. While I used the single out the liaison teacher job as the most influential on my beliefs, my current position as e-Learning Facilitator has now replaced this.
It is not so much the work itself that makes this standing out, it is the connections I have made. My PLN has been vastly enriched by connecting with other facilitators, by their willingness to share their knowledge and resources without any hesitation or without asking for anything in return. The biggest addition to my PLN has come through twitter, though.
Twitter allows you to follow any number of people and see their tweets in your feed. They will often share links to interesting reading, they will discuss topics, re-tweet what others have tweeted, ask questions etc. I was introduced to this back in March at a Kevin Honeycutt workshop and currently follow 184 others from all around the world (and 77 people are interested or polite enough to follow what I have to tweet). A tweet is a short message of 140 characters which can include links, photos etc. It often includes a hashtag # which helps you link tweets to a particular topic together. Various groups of people might meet in twitter at a particular time and discuss a topic they previously agreed on (e.g. #edchatNZ every other Thursday night at 8:30pm). There are also initiatives like #kidschatnz run by @PalmyTeacher every Wednesday at 2pm where students discuss questions.
What makes twitter so valuable for me?
On any given day there will be dozens of tweets in my feed, some relevant straight away, others not so of course. By following people that are interested in similar things as I am, I am covering a huge range of readings and research without having to wade through them all by myself. If someone finds an article interesting or relevant, they often tweet it. I can then decide to go and have a look at it myself or not. Many of these links I email to myself so they are not getting buried in my feed but instead sit in my inbox until I get time to look at them properly.
There will be tweets sharing links to resources, usually for free.
Crowd-sourced presentations are making the rounds, tweechers are invited to add, share use (I have one started recently at http://goo.gl/IFhEq5 about the vision for an supporting info on BYOD / 1-on-1 devices).
By connecting with twitter users overseas, I get a glance at overseas education trends which might influence what we do in NZ.
There are good resources on the www to learn about some of the intricacies of using twitter, e.g. http://www.edudemic.com/2012/10/25-ways-to-get-the-most-out-of-twitter/. So go ahead and give it a go (if you haven't tried it yet). As @BeLchick1 (the girl who wants to grow up to sing as beautifully as a tui) I would be happy to meet up with you and other tweechers on twitter!