ISTEK and My One Year Twitter Birthday

On April 8th I celebrate my Twitter birthday! The recent ISTEK conference I attended in Istanbul, Turkey was an incredible way to celebrate this momentous, life-changing event. Just under a year ago I was a passionate English language teacher who had moved from the United States to Germany. Teaching language learners in their native country was vastly different than I anticipated so like many of you who have a Professional/Personal/Passionate Learning Network I was overjoyed to find support from a community of passionate educators.

So how did Twitter change my life?

Around the end of May I set-out to learn Twitter from observing others and doing research. I teach year-round so this was quite a task. In the beginning I hadn’t understood Twitter. I thought it was a waste of time, especially after my sister had encouraged me to follow Baby Suri. However, I quickly found other educators through #TeacherTuesday (@TheEngTeacher’s project) and through the Twitter Educator Wiki.  I found out that if you engage with educators they are rather friendly and eager to help you. I began to ask for their help with projects and offered my help as well with their projects. We began conversing in Nings, hanging out in Second Life, debating on blogs, learning on webinars, and collaborating on Skype in addition to our almost daily communication on Twitter. Burcu Akyol was part of that close network as you can read in my earlier posts. She was my shoulder I cried on in especially troubling times and she was there for me. When I heard she would be at TESOL Paris I drove with my husband and Kenny Christian (@EnglishProfi) to meet her! This was my first grand tweet-up outside of Germany. The experience was incredible and I was able to meet other educators and speakers on Twitter. Seeing their incredible sessions really helped me to reflect on my own teaching and improve myself. As educators I think self-reflection is one of the most important parts of our profession. Moreover, this felt like family, but at the time this was a small tweet-up compared to ISTEK.


was the ultimate Tweet-up for me. By this time, I had almost a full year on Twitter and exchanging ideas with several members of my PLN who were as passionate about me about education. Burcu had a vision of gathering passionate speakers and educators at one conference and this is why so many have tweeted and wrote about this incredible conference. Burcu also has this amazing gift of seeing potential in people and helping them let that shine. I spoke to many of the volunteers and hosts who were incredible and who shared with me their amazement at Burcu’s belief in them. Burcu also asked a group of passionate people to organize, host, run, and present at this conference.

If you were following the conference online or were there, you felt the passion and this was the power of ISTEK.

One of the most memorable occasions was when watching the incredible dance troupe, @OlafElch and I looked at each other with this starry eyed look that said we were ready to go and teach our learners to change the world. I saw this in the eyes of many educators I spoke with and as I told Andy this was my TED Talk. I had always wondered what it would be like to attend a conference full of passionate educators. On Twitter I had seen many online but never in person and it nearly brought me to tears with emotion. I was not the only one. My now good friend Sean Banville (@Seanbanville) who I got to meet in person also told me he felt the same.


From the official ISTEK Flickr Stream

I cherish from this experience include the following. There were many more so sorry if I didn’t write them all down. I’m still going through the pictures and reflecting.

  • Having Candan Buge (@bcbuge) and Eva Büyüksimkeşyan (@evab2001) at my PLN session watching the We Connect video that they contributed to. I appreciate them so much.
  • Seeing Ozge Karaoglu’s (@Ozge) new book and having her and Esra (@Ekamin) teach me some Turkish for my Pecha Kucha.
  • Tweeting, dancing, and hanging out with my Greek sister Marisa Constantinides (@Marisa_C)
  • Joel Josephson’s (@acerview54) and Andy Chaplin’s (@OlafElch) advice helped me survive my PK and it didn’t bomb!
  • Ken Wilson hugging me and reassuring me I had a great Pecha Kucha and him being one of the masters of Pecha Kucha.
  • Jeremy Harmer (@HarmerJ) giving me a big hug and telling me he was nervous about the PK, too. You never think a plenary speaker will be nervous about doing a presentation.
  • Hanging out with Sean Banville (@Seanbanville) in the bus talking about our passion for teaching.
  • Andrew Wright autographing his daughter’s book for a dear friend of mine who wanted to be there.
  • Helen Strong (@helenstrong) sharing that she completed the 30 Goals Challenge.
  • Playing nametag switch games with Graham Stanley (@grahamstanley) and winning one of his Twitter magnets.
  • Rakesh’s incredible speech congratulating Burcu. Yes, Burcu you are the leader Herbert Puchta referred to.
  • Speaking with John the host about his passion for teaching in Turkey and how he began the journey.
  • Talking with each of the ISTEK board members about their passion for teaching .
  • Lindsay Clandfield (@lclandfield) giving us prepared tweet slides for his presentation! I think this might have been a first in presentation history.
  • Gavin Dudeneye (@dudeneyge) and Nicky Hockly (@TheConsultantsE) helping my husband and I figure out how to get into our accommodations.
  • Asking Luke Prodromou why Maria was the bad teacher and finding out how to improve myself as an educator.
  • Herbert Puchta’s quote by Lao Tzu, “A leader is best when people barely know that he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.”
  • Zulbiye Gunduz (@ZulbiyeGunduz) helping me walk down the hill to my presentation because silly me wore heels!
  • Being silly with Callie (@CallieWallie1).
  • All the educators I met who told me they read my blog. That was so kind of you to be there and visit with me.
  • Muhsin Karas helping my husband arrive at the Pecha Kucha in time to watch my presentation when he missed the bus.
  • Interacting with so many friends on Twitter who could not be there but were in spirit! Great carrying each one of you around!

From my Istanbul Flickr Stream

More resources about ISTEK….

Please read the following in depth posts:

Which conference touched you? Did Twitter or your PLN play a part of the experience?

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at


  1. I started Twitter as a skeptic as well. It was fun to keep up with my husband and what he was up to all day but I didn’t see it as a learning tool. That quickly changed as I started adding more and more educators. Happy Twirthday!

  2. It looks like you had a blast at the conference. I can’t wait for my fist ED Conference in Denver to finally meet up with some of the people that have changed my view and approach to education.

    Twitter started off slowly for me as well and now has bloomed into a great tool that I use daily (hourly?). Every teacher I can get on board is huge success because I know they can help others in the long run. Happy Tweet-Day to you. 🙂

  3. Happy Twitter birthday Shell! Wow, what you have achieved, how many people you’ve supported, how much you have shared in just one year! It’s an honour to be a part of your PLN.

  4. Happy Twitter Birthday Shelly!

    Meeting you and Karenne on the 4th of July was my first ever tweetup! It was a great experience and one I will never forget. Twitter has definitely changed my life in an unmeasurable amount. I’m so glad I have been able to have you as a twitter friend and now a face to face one too. We’ve had some great road trips!

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