Before he helped create #edchat in 2009, Steven W. Anderson had never made it west of the Mississippi River. Today, the educational evangelist, speaker and author
travels the globe to explain how technology and social media can best be incorporated within classroom instruction.
For more than a decade, Anderson -- publisher of Web20Classroom and author of three books including The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, The Tech-Savvy Administrator, and Content Creation: How to Avoid Information Overload -- worked as a teacher and instructional technologist in North Carolina.
While he found gratification working directly with students, Anderson recognized with the advent of Twitter and other social media tools that his comprehension of education technology and its potential could be shared with anyone at any time.
"I wanted to have a greater impact with schools across the country," he said. "Early in my career I began to understand the power that technology could have over learning. My desire was to make sure teachers were fully prepared to navigate the world of technology."
So Anderson started #edchat with Thomas Whitby and Shelly Sanchez (then Terrell) in 2009 with modest expectations to share ideas and best practices with like-minded educators who were also plugged into social media. They discovered very quickly that there were enthusiastic teachers all over the world eager to join the conversation.
For the uninitiated, #edchat is a weekly facilitated Twitter conversation that takes place on Tuesdays at noon and 7p.m EST. Anderson and others moderate conversations based on topics voted on by the community. The topics typically revolve around trends in education, technology integration, and new models for instructional delivery. The hour-long sessions attract comments and input from hundreds of educators.
"It's all about making sure more people have more access to education," explained Anderson. "Everyone involved wants to see our profession grow."
Not only has the teaching profession grown via #edchat, but so has Anderson's own professional profile. Seemingly overnight, he was invited to speak at conferences like the International Society of Technology Educators (ISTE), and present directly to schools and districts across the country. Last year, after realizing he was away from his district for four straight months, Anderson decided that he could no longer do double duty. He is now a full-time speaker, advisor and author on educational technology issues.
"Once I was assured that the district was in a positive position, I knew it was time for me to take off."
Combating information overload
While technology is making it possible for teachers to access more educational resources than at any point in human history, managing that information and accessing the right tools becomes an ever-increasing challenge.
"Teachers can present many points of view, but they mustn't become overwhelmed," Anderson said.
With hundreds of thousands of educational apps, videos and websites to choose from, Anderson encourages teachers to tap into selections that other teachers are endorsing and talking about on social media and other channels.
This is consistent with appoLearning's approach to educational resource discovery, which includes a growing database of teacher-vetted and evaluated resources. Whether a teacher is searching for Android apps that teach current events, YouTube and Vimeo videos that cover calculus, or resources aligned to any particular Common Core Standard, appoLearning's algorithmic and keyword-based educational search engine is predicated on selections already endorsed by other teachers.
Once teachers discover reliable apps and resources, and understand how other educators use them in their classrooms, then the focus can shift to what brought them into the field in the first place.
"It's all about helping teachers understand that technology serves a purpose and then using the tools that make the most sense to their instruction," Anderson said.