How Collaboration Empowers Learning

“I learned more on Twitter in six months than in two years of graduate school” is the epigraph of the first chapter of Tom Whitby’s book (co-authored with Steven W. Anderson), “The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning.” This quote could summarize Whitby’s philosophy of learning and teaching, in which collaboration is the environment, not just an ingredient, in effective learning. A teacher of English in secondary schools for 34 years and an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s College for six years, he’s officially retired but, you wouldn’t know that from his social media activity. Whitby blogs, hosts Twitter chats (@tomwhitby has 58,000 followers and the #edchat community he founded draws hundreds of educators each week), created a Ning (Educator’s PLN: The Personal Learning Network for Educators), a radio show (Edchat Radio), and a Linked-In group (Technology-Using Professors has 16,000 members). The man walks his talk and talks about his walk in multiple media.

I met Whitby at the Tech and Learning Live conference. We sat down, started talking, and when we noticed the time, an hour had gone by. I had known about edchat and had participated a few times. Regular hour-long Twitter chats, organized around a hashtag, are archived on the community’s wiki. The “conversation that any educator can join to discuss and learn about current teaching trends, how to integrate technology, transform their teaching, and connect with inspiring educators worldwide” was founded by Whitby, my own PLN guru, (@shellterrell), and Steven W. Anderson. It’s an entry to multiple personal learning networks for educators who are interested in the pedagogical as well as technological aspects of connected learning.

In our 12-minute video conversation, we talked about how we are preparing teachers to teach today and how teachers can use a wide variety of social media to learn, collaborate, and lead through personal learning networks.