Flying through an east-to-west coast #satchat I could barely draw a breath. But then again, neither could anyone else. I have come to assume that while I am likely to be one of the oldest participants in any Twitter #edchat I drop into, no one pays much attention. No one gets up to give me their seat or ask me if I want a glass of water.
I first noticed this lack of interest in my age in the virtual world of Second Life (SL). There everyone had youthful and physically attractive avatars. Few of the typists driving their avatars shared their true names, where they lived, or even their gender, let alone their age. It was, after all, their Second Life and many chose to enjoy it anonymously.
Like educators in Second Life, the #hashtag educators in Twitter have found one another and are changing the rules to meet their needs. They share their names, workplaces, hopes, and dreams for using technology as a catalyst for true educational reform. Twitter's #hashtag educators also share a passion for Edcamps (both spontaneous and carefully planned) with their Second Life counterparts. The most prominent "Edcamp" in Second Life is the annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference (VWBPE).
Hashtags are a bit like SL avatar names. In fact, my Twitter #hashtag is the same as my avatar's name in Second Life - Marty Snowpaw. Everyone in my Twitter PLN (Professional Learning Network) knows my "real" name is Marty Keltz. Research on Google will tell you almost everything about me, including my address, phone number, and of course my age. In case you haven't Googled me, I was born July 14, 1944.
Here among the #hashtags, as I was in Second Life, I am ageless. I can be in the digital moment as effortlessly as any other typist. No one sees my age or knows whether I am a person of color, in a wheelchair, blind or deaf for that matter.
At almost 70, I know that my generation is very different from previous generations, but I think that's a good thing. Instead of using awkward labels like "second adulthood," or "encore careers," to define my place in life, I simply don a #hashtag, enter a chat and start to type. What matters is not how I look, but what I have to say and share.
My point is that the older teachers sitting next to you in the teachers lounge are not only younger than I, but undoubtedly have valuable experiences and lessons to share. Perhaps they protested something in the 1960′s, fought in or against a war, went on freedom rides, and fought for women's rights or equal access. I encourage you to invite these teachers into your PLN. Forget their ages and focus instead on what they have to say.
Any one and every one of us, regardless of age, can become a digital native, and in a very real sense we are all newbies working to learn and harness the power of social media to network and build community. It's just another literacy. What's important is that we remember what lies at the heart of education. That heart is not gaming, coding or tests. It is and will always remain the stories we tell, and the older we get the better, wiser and hopefully more entertaining storytellers we become.