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Primary Productions

I’ve had a few experiences lately where I’ve been so impressed with what’s happening at the primary level. By that, I mean grades K-2, but this is certainly prevalent at other levels as well.

I taught some courses this summer and had the privilege of working with teachers at all levels. Recently, teachers from two different courses, who teach at the primary level, have had things to share with me.

One course was all about integrating Google tools. During our week together, a few teachers and I got to talking about Twitter. Yes, not a Google tool, but still a powerful one. They wanted to hear more about how to use Twitter to make classroom connections. I continued the conversation with one teacher beyond our summer work. Last week, she came to visit one of our kindergarten classes, Sharon Davison‘s (@kkidsinvt), and watched the class use Twitter to share with other kindergarten classes (class account: @vermontkkids123). Our guest, a first grade teacher, also has explored the #1stchat hashtag and has lurked in a Twitter chat as well. She is overcome by the sheer numbers of primary educators that are out there sharing and connecting. Her visit to our school helped her get underway.

bloggingAnother summer course was about the integration of writing and digital tools. All of the participants in that one are primary teachers, plus one principal. Two of the teachers, who teach in our district but another school, have added blogging with their students to the vast array of things teachers are responsible for these days. They approached it systematically by paper-blogging and paper-commenting, leading up to using the technology for those tasks. The second grade teacher got things underway with her students and they blogged a few times and left one another comments. The teacher was thrilled and set up a future session with her colleague, who teaches first grade. Today, the second graders taught the first graders how to access and create their blog posts. I was invited to observe and help out. They didn’t need my help- these students were ALL engaged and on task. They all felt successful and the first posts by first graders were a huge hit.

I got back to my school and walked into a computer lab filled with a first/second grade class (multi-age). They also were blogging! The teacher was so excited at how well things were going, how easily the students were navigating Kidblog, and how many skills are embedded in the experience. She is eager to try to help more of her colleague see the light.

Finally, one of our third/fourth grade classes (multi-age) has been participating in the Global Read Aloud author study of Peter Reynolds’ books. They’ve been blogging about his books and including some amazing reflections. They have also learned a lot about commenting – from penny comments to dollar comments, as well as highway and dead-end comments. The teacher used the Global Read Aloud hashtag #grapeter to share a set of recent posts about Peter’s books . What came next was the biggest surprise of all; Peter Reynolds commented on her students’ posts! the students and the teacher were jumping up and down with excitement. What a fabulous way to understand the power of a larger audience.

It’s been great to have more and more positive examples of how our younger students can and do achieve a lot with digital tools.

It Pays to Share

I have ‘preached’ quite a bit about how being a connected educator means giving as much as taking. I’ve been having fun with canva.com (also an app now!) and wanted to share some recent creations. Feel free to adapt or use in any way. 

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netiquette

I’ve read a lot of posts during Connected Educator Month, about the value of being connected. I consider myself a connected educator, though sometimes more connected than others. What you put in directly relates to what you get out; it does take work and time. However, it’s well worth it. As many have said in a variety of ways, “all of us are smarter than any of us.”

What Being Connected Is:

  • Developing trusting relationships online and face to face
  • Giving as much as you take
  • Sharing
  • Collaborating

Last week I went to visit another school district to facilitate a session for their in-service day. I offered a session about the importance of blogging with students. When I shared about students writing for a larger audience and the change in motivation, a number of teachers in the room asked how you build that audience. How do you find other classes with which to collaborate?

I said that I use my PLN – especially networks on Twitter and various Google+ Communities of which I’m a member. Many in the room stared at me as if I was from another planet. I reflexively turn to these networks to ask questions, to share ideas and resources, and to connect that I don’t even think about it anymore. But for someone new to it all, it can be intimidating. chain link

Tips to Get Connected:

  • Start slowly, it won’t all come together at once.
  • Join one of these networks – Twitter or Google+. Just one. See how it goes. If you like it, keep going. If not, try the other one.
  • Ask others who are already connected to help you.
  • Observe, watch, lurk.
  • Put your toes in the water and send out a tweet or a post in a community.
  • Take risks. No one will judge you. Instead you’ll be welcomed.

There’s a whole wide world out there full of educators who are sharing and connecting. Join it. It will change how you view education and your work, and then have an impact on your students as well. Get smarter- connect.


 

Image originally from: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by jspad: http://flickr.com/photos/jspad/3349733909

Then adapted with pixlr.com

 

Connecting is Hard Work

hard workAs much as I have written about and speak positively about connecting, it’s not easy. That was reflected upon recently in this post, “The Top 4 Excuses for Not Connecting.

I’ve been thinking about this as well, even before I saw that. Honestly! For me, being a connected educator requires putting in the time and building relationships. The time element is challenging for everyone. Yet somehow, there are thousands of educators blogging. I don’t even know the number of educators on Twitter, but it constantly amazes me that at no matter what time of the day, there are people sharing, participating in chats, and supporting one another. And they have the same 24 hours in a day. It all comes down to how you choose to prioritize.

Building relationships takes work in any realm and it’s no different when you’re trying to get connected. Over the past years I have made many professional connections, both face-to-face and online. But like any other budding new friendship, you have to commit and put forth the effort to build them into relationships that thrive. Relationships are both give and take. You can’t take if you don’t give. I have found that to be true- the more I give, the more I get.

Despite these challenges, it’s worth it. I feel very fortunate to have connected online a few years ago with Kay Bisaillon, whom I finally got to meet face-to-face at ISTE in San Antonio and again in Atlanta. When I saw her again this year, it felt like I was visiting with an old friend and we picked up right where we’d left off. The connection there is strong, at least for me. I know that I can turn to her with questions, ask for help making connections for collaborative projects, and seek her perspective in new ideas.

It took a few tries before Kay and I finally met in person a few years ago, but it was worth it. That’s just one example of how devoting the time to building relationships makes connecting pay off.

Constantly Connecting

Yes, the 30-Day Blogging Challenge came to an end for me, but thankfully now there’s Thoughtful Thursdays! The folks at TeachThought are encouraging us to blog on Thursdays during Connected Educator Month.

Here’s today’s prompt: What does “connected education” mean to you?

I have blogged quite a bit about being connected and the value of my PLN. Feel free to check out the tags to the right to view some thoughts about this from past posts.

To reflect on the question for this post, I’ll share events from recent days. This week in our schools, each of our teaching teams were given a half day out of their classrooms to plan integrated/interdisciplinary units. I sat in for some part of each team’s meeting. It’s been a whirlwind week; I’ve visited with 14 teams so far with one more tomorrow!

Throughout the course of these meetings, I’ve added technology integration ideas to the brainstorms and planning. I was happy to hear a number of teams ask how they could provide opportunities to move up on the SAMR model through different activities and events. I shared many ideas, like the Global Read Aloud, Mystery Skype/Hangouts, and classroom collaborations.

Some teachers asked, “What would be the one activity or tool that would give the most bang for the buck?” I do find that the topic of blogging is usually my answer many times to such question; blogging accomplishes so many things in a simple way. Students are working toward Common Core Standards, technology standards, improving keyboarding in an authentic manner, and learning valuable skills about digital citizenship as they compose posts and comments for one another. They are writing for a larger audience, often beyond their classroom and even the school. This impacts their motivation and drive to write well. To kick it up a notch, teachers can connect with another class and leave comments for one another.

42 secondsThen I’m asked,  “How do you find other classes to connect with for this purpose?” I often have to say that I can help them connect through my networks and PLN. I can put it out there on Twitter, using hashtags that I know will reach the audience we need. I can access a number of Google+ communities on which I can seek other classrooms for projects or blogging. I can reach out directly to groups that I’m a member of, or even specific individuals that I’ve collaborated with in the past. I’m ready to go and help them connect. But why can’t they do this themselves? They can, but are much more limited if they’re not connected educators.

I notice that I feel I have all of these networks and resources, but that some of the teachers inquiring don’t. That’s the benefit of connected education for me. I can turn to experts around the world for assistance, not just those in my school building. I can seek answers to specific questions and get better results than I would with a Google search. I feel informed about developments in education because I’m reading tweets, posts, and articles I come across daily. I access and pass along this information and then find that I’ve seen it long before it gets shared through other channels. As a recent commercial stated, “that was so 42 seconds ago.”  I’m on the leading edge.

This is a ramble more about being a connected educator than connected education. But it’s all connected, right? There’s real value in this, for many adults and many students.

What Am I Afraid Of?

Post 30 on the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeWhat would you do as an educator if you weren’t afraid?


 

fearThis prompt makes the assumption that we are afraid of something. I know that as an introvert, I was more fearful getting up in front of a group of adults than I was with students. But with the change in my role 5 years ago, that fear had to fade away. I’d like to say I got over it, but do still find myself taking a deep breath and diving in before addressing a group of adults!

Fear masks deeper issues. What am I afraid of? Taking risks? Working with others? Trying new things? Does it prevent me from doing these things? No- it can’t or I wouldn’t be productive, I wouldn’t learn, I wouldn’t grow. But perhaps there are those for whom this is an issue. Are some educators inhibited from moving forward because of underlying fears? Do they not want to be seen making mistakes? Not knowing something? Are they not taking steps toward innovation because they feel they don’t have the support?

Aren’t these the same things we work on with our students? We want to support them, encourage them to learn from mistakes, take risks.

We all have fears – whether adult or child. It’s how we handle the fears and work through them that lets our true colors shine.

I’ll close (my 30th post in 30 days!) by sharing a post written by George Couros recently about this very topic,  “What Our Fear Actually Inhibits”.  I found this very powerful.

Thanks for reading my blog over this past month. I intend to keep it going! And thanks to the folks at Teach Thought and Beth Leidolf for the inspiration!

 


 

Image: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by hang_in_there: http://flickr.com/photos/59632563@N04/8443032580

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Post 29 on the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeHow have you changed as an educator?


 

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I’ve changed a lot as an educator. I think back to my early days when I was so young it was hard to believe that parents took me seriously. Then I became a parent myself and could relate to them better. Now I’m older than most parents. The cycle continues.

  • I have a broader perspective on education.
  • I’m more educated.
  • I have a PLN that reaches far and wide.
  • I prioritize better and do my best to keep it focused on children and learning.
  • I am no longer a classroom teacher, though I will always be an educator.
  • I have learned so much from many valuable colleagues, peers, and mentors.
  • I spend more time teaching teachers than teaching students. (I hope to balance that a bit more!)
  • I’ve taken on more of a leadership role.
  • I’m more reflective.

What hasn’t changed:

  • My passion for technology
  • My ability to keep track of the details and stay organized (I imagine that will recede as I continue to age!)
  • My dedication to colleagueship
  • My commitment to students
  • My belief that everyone can learn

jfk change

 

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