Connecting on the “Inner Net”: My Experience With Forums and Twitter

I recently read an excellent article, The Touch Screen Generation which discusses research that shows there is hope… kids using technology like iPads may not create solitary zombies as so often touted by irritated parents and teachers.

“…their child could end up one of those sad, pale creatures who can’t make eye contact and has an avatar for a girlfriend…”

In 1998 when we first created CanTeach, I was part of a teacher forum called Teachers Net.  I was in a rural school, where the closest school was over an hour and a half drive away. Through Teachers Net and CanTeach, I racked up so much time on the internet connecting with teachers from all over the world. My principal noticed… I thought he would praise me for finding a way to connect despite our rural location, but it wasn’t so. He came up to me one day while I was enjoying my lunch to have “a chat”. He had a print out of all the time I had spent on the district’s server concerned that I was forgetting to log out. I embarassingly told him that I was not forgetting to log out and reminded him about all the help I was receiving through fellow educators on the “world wide web”! He promplty gave me a large bill for my internet usage and sternly told me to stop.

But… I didn’t stop, I continued paying the bills and I didn’t care! Some may say I was addicted, but I can truly say I was not (you can even ask my husband!). I admit, though, that I was craving connection with people who understood what I was going through and could help me navigate the struggles of being a new teacher. It was a tough year, I would not have continued teaching without all those kind and generous teachers on that forum.

I continued on that forum and this group of teachers became comfortable sharing beyond professional advice… cancer, unemployment, divorces, births, and deaths.  One memory that still gives me chills is a husband of a fellow teacher getting on the forum one day to let us know that his wife passed away suddenly and to thank us for being great friends to her.  Of course, as “in real life” friends do, we banded together and bought gift certificates for restaurants and sent sympathy cards and flowers for the grieving family.  We were connected.

Now here in 2013, I hope that most people (especially those who are reading this right now) would say that the internet and modern technology has significantly improved how we live our lives and connect with people.

Another reason I have been thinking about all of this is that I recently joined twitter just over a month ago (yes, I know late to the party!). My first tweet was honestly unindented to be ironic. I just found this little comic that appeared on Kottke.Org and I LOLed (yes, when I write LOL, I am one who REALLY laughs out loud!). My tweet that accompanied the comic was “Ha ha! 100 years of blaming technology for the loss of human connection”.

Twitter has brought back the same feelings as I had in 1998, but on a grander scale.  It has allowed me to connect with more people around the world AND especially with the people at my own school district. The interesting thing about twitter is that it doesn’t stop at the tweets, meeting in real life is ultimate!  You see it all over twitter, the many cases of people tweeting that they will be in a certain city for a conference or vacation and that they would like to meet up with fellow educators, then gush about it afterwards!

Now I can’t stop telling people about twitter.  I just want everyone to join, I get so excited that I can’t even form my thoughts in a coherent matter… all that comes out, is “it’s awesome, you just have to try!” Now more than ever, it is important to show our students that we are connected, that we value relationships, and that there are people out there that can help you in many forms. Twitter is just one way of doing that!

Connect with me on twitter @teachermrskhan