It was about three years ago I got involved with Twitter and connected with teachers (especially English teachers) around the world. It changed my life. In a 2012 post I detailed my decision to join Twitter and talked about some members of my PLN. Last year I wrote about some of the “wow” moments I’ve had as a result of being connected. In other posts, I have extolled the virtues of Twitter and tried my hand at proselytizing on the magic of PLNs. In this post, I will not do these things much but I’d like to try to share some lesser-known benefits of having a PLN. These benefits appear after the picture of my first tweet. Any benefits to add? Please feel free to share them in the comments.
- I have people around the world I can ask random questions that come up in class or in life.
This is a great one. Quite often in my classes a question about another country or culture comes up and I often happen to know someone from that place. While the responses are quite often just one person’s take on something the fact that it is a real life person adds some credibility and excitement, I believe. I also get the sense this seems somewhat magical to students. They’ve asked me “How do you know people from ____?”
- I am more clued in on the daily lives of people around the world.
For me, this is probably more about Faceboook than Twitter (though with people I first met on Twitter). It’s exciting to see the daily lives and special events of friends around the world and I think it gives me a sense of how people live and what is important to them. Pictures and other status updates give a nice glimpse into places I might not be very familiar with if not for these. Of course, a skeptic could say I’m only following a very small subset within a specific field of people in certain countries. I’d agree with this but I’d also say I have a better idea about many places than I would otherwise.
- I am more aware of the educational situation in countries around the world.
In addition to learning about the daily lives of folks around the world, I have also been able to steal some peeks into the educational (again, especially English related) situation of countries around the world. For whatever reason, it has been especially heartening for me to see how English teachers all around are faced with similar challenges. I think here in Korea there can be a strong sense of thinking many things fit under the category of “Only in Korea” even when they are quite common worldwide. In my previous work with Korean public school English teachers I was often confronted with ideas about Korea being the only country in the world facing particular problems. Knowledge of other places and teachers’ views on the situation has given me a lot of needed perspective. I wish I could do a better job sharing these common concerns and helping people see they are not alone in having such concerns.
- Through hearing, reading and learning about other contexts I can see my context and my teaching more clearly.
This is related to the above point, but is more specific as a tangible benefit to my own teaching, or at least understanding. I think through seeing and reading and learning about other contexts I have gained a clearer perspective on my own. When people write and talk about (as an example) EAP in the UK I can see how things in my context are similar and different and it opens up my thoughts on the choices I make and how and why they might or might not be different as well. Sometimes this analysis helps me see where I have missed something or assumed too much about my current context.
(I suppose this might not be so much of a hidden benefit but is actually one that is mentioned frequently. I’m not sure anymore.)
- I’m more in touch with and less apathetic about the political situation in places around the world.
As an example, when Twitter was banned in Turkey it had an impact on me in terms of the above points. It also prompted me to care just a bit more and to do a little research on the issues. I can directly link my increased interest in certain countries to having friends in or from the country. This is quite interesting to me and probably not what I expected back in 2011 when I first joined Twitter.
- I have another reason to try food from around the world.
Earlier this year I was faced with a choice on what sort of chicken dish I wanted to order. I was not familiar with any of the options and I had no idea what was on offer. I made a decision based on my PLN and chose (what was being called) “Hungary Style” chicken. It was fantastic and I was pleased with my decision. Thank you, Hungarian friends, for unknowingly guiding me in the right direction on that day.
(I am quite pleased about not making any puns on hungry. I await your praise.)
- I have an improved sense of time zones.
I am not trying to brag but.. I have dramatically increased my skillz in this area. Some might even characterize my skillz as mad. Someday I might not even need the World Time Clock or the related Meeting Planner. Maybe I spoke too soon as daylight saving’s time will always keep me guessing.
- Travel and conferences became more fun for me.
I suppose I have already mentioned the conference aspect in previous posts. It is still quite a buzz to meet people face-to-face that I have only met online to that point. It is fun and exciting and somewhat odd. One thing I like about it is the idea that I already know a lot about a person even if I have never talked to them. I don’t think this will get old any time soon. As for travel, it is fun to think I could make plans to meet at a coffee shop in Boston, in the streets of Belgrade, on a Siberian railroad, in an airport in Jakarta, at a pub in Taipei, or at the beach in Gangneung.