Classroom 2.0 at 25,000 Members - What Has Social Networking Done for You?

Yesterday Classroom 2.0 hit 25,000 members. I was remembering that we thought the network was large when we had 500 members, and certainly many things have changed in the last couple of years. When I started Classroom 2.0, nobody knew what a "Ning" was, and there was a *lot* of skepticism that social networking had any place in professional development. :)

If you're willing, would you share how social networking--Classroom 2.0 or any other network you belong to--has impacted you, both personally and professionally?

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I retired from teaching in '05 but soon took another job in educational television where I share our resources for classrooms and conduct professional development trainings for teachers. Feeling out of the educational loop, I began reading some journal articles that were mentioning web2.0, blogs, wikis, etc. I moved from reading each journal to rss feeds and my PLN exploded. Also, via these feeds, I learned of NECC and was able to attend in '07. WOW! Such an awakening! I started a blog, wiki, and jumped into Nings; I took up twitter, too, and began sharing these tools with teachers in my trainings. At that point my colleagues and many teachers had never heard of web2.0 and basically 'poohed' my push for use of these in schools much like Noah was ridiculed for building an ark! :) My, oh my, look at where we are now...
Steve
This is an amazing milestone. I have to admit -- this space is a bit too big for me, but it provided me with a valuable intro into social networking back when I became a member (when it was in the hundreds), and from here, I went off to build my own Ning networks for various projects, including those within the National Writing Project (http://www.nwp.org/).
I think the issue of "scale" comes up when something gets so large.
But I still regularly show people interested in connecting with other teachers this Classroom 2.0 site and know it is a valuable tool on many levels.
Congrats on building something constructive and valuable for educators around the world and then knowing enough to let members build it up.
With thanks for all that you have done here,
Kevin
Hi Steve and All, including Kevin--

Yes, an amazing milestone. Where did the last ten thousand come from? Last time I checked it was about 15,000!

Steve, as I've said before, you are an amazing visionary in education. You've changed the landscape. I too, send thanks for you for your initiative, for providing a vehicle of transfomation for so many.

We have ways to connect now that we didn't have at all before you got started. CR2.0 not only helps people get started, it helps the launching of many more educational networks.

Like Kevin, I was one of the early participants, back when it was just a few hundred up to when it was several thousand. Now the pace is so different, the topics more like news-bits and quick questions, maybe more like Twitter-with-depth. So much flies by in just a few hours.

My history is also like Kevin's in that I started up a network, too. Fireside Learning is for in-depth collegial conversations, community projects, discussions of educational news and philosophy. I've enjoyed having many CR2.0 participants there, and enjoyed finding ways to connect networks to each other. Still after the "network of networks" idea.

_____________________________

How has networking changed me? Here's what I wrote for Cable in the Classroom:

I use ning, particularly and most intensively, Fireside Learning. There I have gotten to know a group of people who have become my trusted colleagues, my internal reference-group. Fireside has become for me a reflection-space, a question-asking center. There I can share conversation about books that are changing my conceptual framework--and get pushed to think yet more deeply about what I'm learning. There I can ask about what concerns me most about teaching and education and self-growth. Nothing in my lifetime has been anything like it. I'm lifted up and out of my locale, into world-views, multiple perspectives. Most amazingly, the world views do not seem distant but rather very personal, immediate, and interactive, based on evolving relationships, both old and brand new. I'm pushed to refine and clarify my thinking. I've learned to ask questions to understand others more deeply, and I care about the knowing.

I notice that since I've been on Fireside I read about 10 times as much as before (including books that I never would have thought to read on my own), listen to world news much more carefully, and have increased exponentially in knowledge-harvesting and processing. My memory has improved, my mind has improved, I'm both uplifted and challenged. Since I've been on Fireside my thinking about my own practices in class and my interactions with my face-to-face colleagues has changed, overwhelmingly towards the better. I'm trying constantly to improve, in everything. Why? Because I think people honestly care. And I think about what I'm doing from so many angles. I feel part of a collective mission, to make a difference in education, to bring joy into learning, to give the students all I can, to help others do the same. I know I can find references and resources for anything I need, anything I wonder about. I have learned that being unafraid to ask is essential.

Fireside has become an online home for me; it's part of my day, part of my mind and heart.

There's a start from me. Because of the network, I'm a better, deeper, richer person with wildly accelerated learning. I'm more actively engaged in my life's work; my sense of shared mission has greatly intensified. I no longer feel like a lone rebel, a lonely questioner, a different drummer without peers. I've met numerous others who care just as deeply as I do and are working just as hard to improve as I am--others from all over the world.

And I'd like to say a big thank you... to all. I feel a part of something much larger than myself. I know that I'm a better teacher for having engaged in the ongoing discussions, even the ones that make me feel uncomfortable. Eventually a new and higher-level understanding is reached.

By the way, a new analogy I've developed for Fireside is that it's an interactive newspaper, compete with multiple sections and subjects. An interactive newspaper with a personal feel, composed of all sorts of relationships that get invented and extended on the spot. An interactive, ongoing, slow-motion multiple level and multiple-subject conversation. I get to be a part of it.

Yes, thank you! Anyhow, that's what I have to say about online tools for collaboration and communication. I'd like to also mention that it's Steve Hargadon's Classroom 2.0 that got everything started for me. Participation in that network opened up worlds to me, Fireside included.
Classroom 2.0 is an amazing place to meet people with similar interests. I love how the fact that so many resources are available with just a few clicks.
I am happy to have joined about 2 years ago when I first joined an educational startup (globalclassroom.us), both CR20 and GC were young and I was green in business with a freshly minted M.Ed.

What it's provided me is an insider's view of what's happening in education and the major shifts that classroom teachers, administrators and technology specialists are dealing with every day. It's also allowed me an opportunity to join the conversation that I really couldn't have been given anywhere else (where else invites vendors to the table for any conversation, willingly?).

Over the last 26 months I've joined other nings focused on issues closer to our core business and I think that I've been able to contribute a lot to conversations about how X works or how to do Y. Sure it helps build our reputation and get our business name out. But personally, it's helped me grow as an individual, get confident in my knowledge and solidify my belief that I can contribute to the greater good and to the improvement of education (no matter what company I work for, industry I'm in or what I'm doing). Not to mention it has codified the fact that I can learn anything I put my mind to. And for that, I couldn't be more thankful.

Best,

Joe Thibault
I'm a tech director and I have been forced to focus more on infrastructure of the past, oh, 9 years and finally can return the bulk of my attention to education technology growth in my district. Given this, I have only recently focused my attention on Web 2.0 tools with a vengeance and have been very pleased with Classroom 2.0, encouraging anyone interested in it to join. It, and RSS feeds that other members mention, have become a key resource for me to learn and grow, becoming the center of my professional learning network.
This is real-time professional development. We are not watching a power point about education practices, we are discussing, sharing, experimenting, and supporting each other in our development as educators.

Any English teachers out there need to check out englishcompanion.ning.com.
The social networks I've been following over the past few years have become invaluable to me. They provide my sources for information, my invitations to try new tools, and my inspiration to be more inventive and to explore. Classroom 2.0 proved to be the first of many other groups I've joined. Now, from Twitter and Plurk to Facebook and Ning, to a list of great blogs and wikis and a host of other great interactive online tools; the answers and the ideas are always out there and the conversations are just waiting for me to join in and learn. Classroom 2.0 has had a huge impact on my professional life and I'm glad to be a tiny part of it!
Congratulations Steve, (and all)
I'll be brief. I've been involved with social networking - mainly FiresideLearning and Classroom 2.0. Personally I'm impacted by having made some excellent friends and developed a network of professional colleagues - and have been greatly enriched in the process. I'd be reading and contributing to FiresideLearning virtually every day. Thanks to RSS feeds, I'm able to skim CR2.0 activity and contribute a little here as well.
Professionally, I've made use of the interactive nature of nings for collaborative and 'discussion-type' work for my classes and colleagues- it's opened new opportunities in and alongside the classroom, and enables me to follow interstudent discussion - which my deafness would never allow in the analogue classroom.
So, thanks - first to a bunch of Australian conference organisers who hauled Will Richardson out to Lorne, Victoria to speak about the read/write web. After the fizzer of Facebook (for me), I held little hope for educational usefulness of the Web 2.0 gee-gaws. Then I followed Will's pointer to Steve and CR2.0, and I now am a very keen user of web 2.0 options in the relevant spaces of my classes.
This past school year, my school district acquired a smartboard per school. I had no idea what a smart board was. This summer I learned that I could use twitter as a networking tool an decided to open an account. I have found, through other twitters, so much information about the subject that I can't wait to go back to school to share them with other teachers and to put some of the information I found to use, It was through twitter that I found classroom 2.0 and although there is a loooot of information, I'm glad that I have found it and plan to use it and share it with other teachers. I'm still learning so much about using the web as a social networking tool but I already feel so empowered.
I know a lot of people are here a long time but I am very new to all this. This is the first ning I joined and it really kick started my learning. It gave me skills, information and confidence. In the past few weeks my whole outlook has changed as has my vision for my teaching and it all began here. Through advice and help I got here I have built up a collection of tools I can use in my classroom, I have joined twitter, etc, etc. What I have learned in a few weeks would take a lifetime without the help and support of the people here who have shared their knowledge and expertise generously. I have a very long way to go but I think I will be part of Classroom 2.0 for a long time. Thanks.

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