By Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur)
I came to the field of education through an alternate certification program, and it took me a little while to find my niche. In 2008, I began working at my current school as an English Language Arts and Technology teacher, when I was finally able to integrate my background in Radio-TV-Film into the classroom. However, it wasn’t until April 2013 (when I became a connected educator) that I was able to find my wings and soar, through the knowledge imparted by you.
My PLN (professional/personal learning network) is comprised of educators from all over the world. We share and grow together, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have you in my life. Although most of you I know virtually via Twitter, Voxer, and other social media, the face-to-face connections I have made have also been invaluable.
Let’s take, for example, gamification, the practice of using game mechanics in real-life situations to motivate and engage students. I had never heard of it, until Aaron and Selena from my county introduced the concept at a summer workshop in June 2013. I took this idea and applied it to my Technology class, all the while bouncing ideas around with my friend Timonious, who also attended. Then, I found out about the #leveluped Twitter chat, and I made many other friends who were gamifying around the world.
A few months later, I was invited to present on the topic alongside my good friend Shelly, whom I had met initially on Twitter, then face-to-face at Edscape in New Jersey. Imagine my surprise when she asked me to present with her at ISTE. ISTE?!? This was on my bucket list to attend within the next five years…I never envisioned presenting here.
Part of the connected educator package is to never stop learning. Your PLN will continue to blow your mind, as long as you maintain it. A couple of days before attending ISTE, I met Chris at Google Teacher Academy. He was also gamifying, and he had it down to a science! Through his system, I was able to gamify my English Language Arts class, which I never imagined was possible. We were even able to set up squads, which has even helped introduce the PLN concept to my students.
So much has happened in the past two years, all thanks to you. There are so many people who have helped me, and it would take an encyclopedia to name them all. I’ve become a far-better teacher than I’ve ever thought I could be, but I still have so much to learn. I get excited about learning, especially when I can share it with others. On Sunday, Michele shared with me how she started gamifying in her classroom after attending a session I facilitated. I can’t wait to hear how it goes, and to learn from her experiences as well.
Thank you, PLN, for all that you have taught me, and all that is to come.
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