Todd Whitaker, a great thinker and author in the education world, calls Twitter the best free professional development available.
He’s right. Here’s why:
Twitter is like being at a huge education conference. You can find people you know and people like you there. You can talk to people individually to share ideas. You can gather in smaller sessions and larger workshops to learn and share as well.
The great part is its “hugeness.” That’s the bad part about it, too.
This is why conferences are often tailored to specific groups: content areas, specific student ages/grades, educational philosophies. We don’t want to fight the crowd to find people and ideas that we can identify with.
This is where Sanderling (http://sanderling.io) shines.
Sanderling calls itself an educator’s field journal. It’s like standard social media in that educators create profiles, post content and follow other users.
Users can add blog posts, links, quotes and pictures for others to view, “love” (Sanderling’s version of Facebook’s “like”) and share on Twitter.
What sets Sanderling apart from Twitter is its sense of purpose. Educators can create projects on Sanderling that show goals they are working toward. A quick browse through user posts on Sanderling show projects like building a personal learning network, blogging every day, developing courses and learning how to use Sanderling.
Sanderling takes projects a step further by letting users create to-do lists to complete their projects, because what kind of goal doesn’t have action steps? To-do lists can be linked to an individual projects and tags (much like Twitter’s hashtags) for organization.
(Note: What is a sanderling? Wikipedia says it’s a small wading bird that congregates in large groups on costal mudflats or sandy beaches. I’m thinking many teachers would like the idea of congregating in flocks on beaches, too!)
Here’s why I’m really interested in Sanderling right now:
1. Collaboration with a goal. Twitter is a great place to gather ideas and have conversations. But when the rubber meets the road and you want to get something accomplished, Twitter has no framework for that. Sanderling doesn’t just keep your projects and to-do lists organized. They can enlist the help of other educators who join the project.
2. Size. Sanderling is a burgeoning community. As of the publication of this post, it’s still in its beta stage and requires an invitation to join (which can be requested by going to a sign-up page). Because the volume of users isn’t big yet, it feels very personal.
3. An emphasis on blogs. Since the death of Google Reader, those like me that thrive on reading blog posts have had to scramble for a new home. Sanderling seems to pride itself on showcasing blog posts. The first tool in the “add new” list is a blog post. They’re easy to find in your news feed or the site-wide explore feature. As a blog reader and blog writer, I appreciate that.
I hope Sanderling takes off and becomes a thriving education community where bigger things happen than throwing around ideas and new instructional tech tools. It has the makings of something bigger, a higher purpose. I’m interested to see where it goes.
Have you tried Sanderling yet? What would you like to see in such an education community? Share your ideas in a comment below!