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A beginner's/teacher's guide to developing a virtual identity or How I learned to love my avatar (by Brendan Jones)

As a PE teacher you wouldn’t expect your students to sharpen their quills and top up their ink wells before a theory class, or engage in militaristic callisthenics to marching music as a practical activity.

Similarly, the way we connect with our colleagues to share ideas and collaborate on modern pedagogical action shouldn’t be a example of by gone practice either. The days of waiting for a conference where you listen to keynotes, meet a few friends, maybe make a few new ones, go home feeling inspired then overwhelmed and ultimately pessimistic that real change will take place, are over.

The notion that my words are being read by PE professionals across the world via this blog post shows that modern  professional development has moved on from didactic, date stamped set pieces to agile, on call experiences in places that never sleep.

If I were to give tips on leveraging the massive pool of knowledge that the connected world is, I can only really reflect on what my journey has been. My journey will have common points with others, and also divergent paths too. That’s the beauty of individual professional learning - it fits you, not what a conference organiser thinks is good for you.

 Ten tips for developing a virtual presence:

  1. Get online
  2. Choose your online spaces strategically – once you turn on the tap, the flow of information can be immense. Learn how to use the online tool “properly” to wring out its goodness for you. Twitter has a thriving PE community that uses the tags #pegeeks #pegeek #HPE #PE for example. When PE teachers share their thoughts here, using the tag makes the idea searchable.
  3. You shouldn’t just be a consumer – strong communities are built on the willingness of its members to help each other
  4. Fill in your personal profile as best you can to give the community as much information about yourself as your comfortable giving. No one wants to follow (or be followed) by a random.
  5. Adopt an avatar to represent you across the online world. Personally, I find multiple avatars can be confusing. Everyone knows Jonesy is a pale skinned bald dude with a blue shirt on a green background J
  6. Start a Blog – teachers need to blog. Reflection has, is and always will be a powerful professional learning tool.
  7. Learn how to collaborate online – if you don’t use something like the Google suite of tools, start to. Collaboration on ideas can start in Twitter and then move to a Google doc where the whole team can shape an idea into reality.
  8. Curate and collect information to help you with your work. Check out places like Scoop.it for collections of ideas. Use Google Reader to subscribe to RSS feeds from blogs and websites so you don’t miss out on updates. Create Google Alerts to filter the Web to your own advantage.
  9. Play nice online. That’s not to say that robust discussion won’t take place, but remember that humans communicate using cues that may be missing online. This can lead to misunderstandings.

“Just be nice, take genuine interest in the people you meet, and keep in touch with people you like. This will create a group of people who are invested in helping you because they know you and appreciate you”. Guy Kawasaki, alltop.com

  1. Build a PLN (Professional Learning Network) both in the real world and online. Mix them together for their mutual benefit.

As people read this, I’m sure there will be more ideas and suggestions.

Which brings me to number 11 (I can never stop at 10!).  A healthy online community is fuelled by feedback and conversation. If the opportunity is offered to comment on a blog post (like this), or a resource that is shared, or a conversation that has started – take it. The author appreciates positive feedback (see point 9) and the benefits flow for everyone.

See you online!

Jonesytheteacher.wordpress.com

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