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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?


 

change

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

 

Which Came First?

Post 28 on the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeYour thoughts: Should Technology drive the curriculum or vice versa?


The answer to this is simple, the curriculum and learning come first. Technology, like pencils or any other tool, supports, enhances, and makes some of the learning possible. It engages students in new ways, adds various “21st century skills” like collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking to make the learning go deeper. 

This week the teachers in our schools are taking time away from their classrooms to plan together with their teaching teams. Each team has a half day to begin their planning on integrated units of study – whether those are project-based, problem-based, passion-based, or place-based (I call these the PBLs). The administration has set aside this time for teachers to integrate Common Core standards and Next Generation Science Standards. It’s also an opportunity for me to listen in and offer suggestions and ideas about technology integration in these units of study. But it’s the curriculum that comes first in all aspects of the planning. I’ll likely blog about the progress over the course of this school year.

In light of yesterday’s post about using weekends to explore new tools, I created a very short wideo about today’s prompt. Richard Byrne, at the wonderful Free Tech 4 Teachers site, shared this resource recently and I thought I’d give it a try.

 

 

Post 27 for the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeWhat role do holidays and weekends play in your teaching?


 

Like many educators, I take weekends and holidays to relax, enjoy my family, and get some ‘me’ time. But, given how we’re all so easily connected in today’s world, I also respond to questions or queries from teachers in our schools, I read  and interact with my Twitter and Google+ feeds, and often take time to try out new tools.

Today, we went for a beautiful foliage drive here in Vermont with one of our sons. The leaves are nearing peak in the highest elevations and we’re seeing beautiful color in the valleys as well.

foliage

 

Once I got home, I decided I’d try out some screencasting tools on the Chromebook. To get some practice, I made a screencast about how you can create photo slideshows on YouTube. I learned this trick from my friend and colleague, Lucie DelaBruere this summer and have been meaning to share it with teachers in my school. I thought a screencast was a good way to get the word out. Teachers are frequently seeking ways to share photos in slideshows and use a variety of tools. Here’s one more for their toolbox.

I used Snagit on the Chromebook to create this screencast. It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m exploring new tools. That’s how holidays and weekends play a role in my work. They provide time for me to do some things that I can’t fit in during the work week.

 

 

 

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