Monday, 29 June 2015

Weirds of a Feather: Finding my Tribe

At a time where I was being deafened by the sameness of the education world online, I was refreshed to find voices that stood out for their difference in what was amounting to an echo chamber on Twitter. For the last year, Wednesday nights have often been marked with #WeirdEd chats hosted by Doug Robertson. In his characteristic way, Doug looked at Twitter chats and found a way to make them weirder. Topics range from goofy to innovative to controversial. The remarkable thing is, whether we're talking tattoos, making a thing or most recently, Charleston, people who are in these chats push their thinking, make great (and not so great) jokes, and open my eyes to new ideas.

When I first discovered Twitter chats, I was ALL IN, often participating in multiple ones each day. For a time, I even had my iPhone alarm full of notifications 15 minutes before daily chats so I wouldn't miss out. I soon learned that the way I was taking part was very surface level, sharing about things I'd tried, but I was not getting into any genuine conversations or challenging my own thinking.

#WeirdEd lets me face things head on and learn from the unique perspectives of other people. The people who join in are hugely varied in opinions and backgrounds, but you can almost literally touch their passion when communicating with them.

Pretty soon, the once weekly chats weren't enough. Connecting with participants in the chat throughout the week helped, but things were brought to the next level when the groupthink came up with the idea for a book club. A Google Doc appeared, a Voxer group started and weekly satellite chats, #WeirdTBC. Things got real. The stories got more hilarious, there were more opportunities to collaborate, people supported each other through the challenges that life throws at you. I found my tribe.

image via the Queen of Sketchnotes, Sylvia Duckworth

Lest you think this is the Cult of Doug, the remarkable thing that has emerged from his book and chats is the ability to connect not with like minded humans, but fascinating humans who, not only march to the beat of their own drums, but throw the drums out completely. I'm not sure I could have found these people in person. I don't know that Sally, Melissa, Kory, Amanda, Maria, Nathan and I would have spotted each other across a crowded room and just *known*. I don't know that Rosy, Derek, Sandy, Sarah, Ross and I, sitting in a session about Google, would have sniffed each others' weirdness out. I don't know that Courtney, Jenn,Vickie and I would have locked eyes in a crowded Expo Hall and shared stories about our lives, families and students. Yesterday, though, I got to hug and see and laugh with many of those people in person, in a balcony area they're calling "The Bloggers Cafe". The opportunity to connect with these people online before meeting in person has been really special. The stories Doug tells and the questions he asks have brought out a real, genuine side of me and allowed me to find people who really genuinely inspire and excite me. The opportunities that Doug has created are the gift I've gotten from him. (Sorry all, I do realize this is likely to make Doug's ego even bigger!

To celebrate weirdness in teaching, we have created a session that is taking place at ISTE today. In the true spirit of #WeirdEd, there will be some surprises thrown in. Everyone is warmly and enthusiastically welcome to join the Birds of a Feather session, that we affectionately call "Weirds of a Feather". This is a time for those of us who like to do things differently, want to do things differently or want to hear stories of people doing things differently to get together in the same room, in the same time zone, at the very same table and share, support, connect and laugh. You could not be more welcome. I could not be more excited.

We're hoping for laughter, but not so much crying and hurling.
Disclaimer: the names mentioned above are people who I am thrilled to be connected with and learn so much from. I hope they feel the same way! There are many many many others who have had a huge impact on my learning as well! If I missed your name here, it is totally my fault and only because I am in a rush!

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