I often say to people that social media has changed the way I work. I have been blogging since 2007, following very good advice from my colleague at the OU, Martin Weller, he said to try and blog on a regular basis, think of things to blog about (reflections on papers or conferences, working up ideas, summarising interesting resources, drafts of papers or book chapters) and also to follow some key bloggers (which I do, you can see who on my blogroll). I was lucky enough that my first post was picked up by George Siemens, which led to an immediate increase in the number of people reading my blog. Soon after I started Tweeting, not always the easiest thing to get the hang of, but I was lucky enough to connect with many others at the OU. I started facebook at about the same time. I tend to use Twitter mainly for professional things, disseminating my research or finding useful links and resources. Facebook is a mixture of professional and personal (be warned there are lots of pictures of cats and food). Cooking and travel are two of my passions; so a few years ago I started a personal blog.
I can’t believe the number of people I am connected with through these sites, I have 8135 followers and follow 2301 people on Twitter. People ask me how on earth I keep up with all of this, the answer is I don’t; I dip in, I look at particular people’s tweets, I interact with people who @gconole me, and I search on hashtags. I have 1328 friends on facebook! I have a different level of interaction with people on both of these social networking sites, my connections are like an onion, at the core are people that I interact with on a regular basis, who will always like my posts, comment or retweet. I have lost count of the number of people who I have met face to face that I feel like I already know because of our interactions online.
My style is very open, a result of my personality and the nature of my job I guess. Blogging has truly transformed my research practice, it is relatively easy to write a 500 word blog post on a nascent idea, which you can then work up into a paper later, I recently did this with a piece on a new taxonomy for MOOCs. Despite having worked at six institutions I feel very much part of a global community of peers. So social networking is an important daily part of both my professional and personal practice.
I was really chuffed to be listed in the AACE list of 20 top people in Educational Technology to follow through social media. I know many of the people on the list, and indeed would count them as friends as well as colleagues. Social media has enriched my life in so many ways; I love the two-way nature of these sites, and the way people are so generous and willing to share and help.