Contributed by John Fritzky, Brad Gustafson, and Tony Sinanis
In honor of Connected Educators Month, we’re celebrating what Connected Educators are doing throughout the world. If you’d like to share your story, send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We believe that modeling meaningful technology use is an important responsibility that educators need to embrace. Our kids are counting on us to be learners in this digitally connected age. Technology is not a tool that isolates, but instead it provides us the ability to connect and transform communications and pedagogy itself! We are modeling the way by leveraging social media (including Twitter and other sites) as learning tools for our own professional development.
John Fritzky explained that the world students are entering is smaller than the one we navigated as students, and this reality places an onus on educators to foster digital citizenship and 21st century skills in our students. He aptly stated, “Being connected has allowed our school the opportunity to have learning experiences we otherwise could not have had. We participated in a Virtual Debate with other schools, held a Virtual Poetry slam where educators from around the country came to give our students valuable feedback, and had guest speakers attend our faculty meetings.”
Tony Sinanis shared, “We must show children the power of being connected and how to appropriately and positively harness this connectedness to help us learn and grow.” His school’s hashtag is one example of how this connectedness can build community. He went on to state, “The #Cantiague community has had a really positive reaction to all of our efforts to be connected whether through Twitter, Instagram, or even email. We use these platforms to spotlight all the awesome things our children and staff are doing and at the same time we are creating a level of transparency between the school and surrounding community in an effort to increase family engagement. This has been a WIN/WIN for the children, families, and staff!”
The possibilities presented by tools like Twitter, Voxer, TouchCast, and various blogging platforms are limitless. Literally limitless. Brad Gustafson stated that the only question that remains is, “How might we leverage the limitless possibilities that are available so that kids are placed in a position to thrive today and excel tomorrow? This is about THEIR future.” If we wait until students are in high school or college to begin cultivating digital citizenship and responsible connections we will be too late.
The ability to be connected has been a game-changer in education, and the smartest person in the room is the room. We owe it to our students to leverage this tremendous resource so that there is a congruency between their real, actual lives outside of school and the student learning experience in school. The boundaries that schools’ bricks and mortar walls represent are inept when compared to the positive power that meaningful technology use and connectedness provides. Gustafson quipped, “This reminds me of the adage that you can’t stop us…you can only hope to contain us! Our students CAN change the world if we give them the chance!” Schools are a safe and scaffolded place where this change can be nurtured, and our teachers are among the most talented and humble professionals on the planet. We can do this!
Be sure to connect with the #StuConnect project that students collaborated on in the podcast link within this article. The game has already changed…here’s to hoping more and more educators are in the game!
You can connect with the “3 Leaders Making Videos” on Twitter at:
John Fritzky is the Assistant Principal at Byram Intermediate School in New Jersey. He’s passionate about breaking down the walls separating parents, teachers, and students. Brad Gustafson is the Principal and Lead Learner at Greenwood Elementary in Minnesota. Brad is passionate about relationships, innovation, and best practice in a digitally connected age. Tony Sinanis is the Lead Learner at Cantiague Elementary in New York. He’s an Elementary School Principal of the Year, but his better known for always putting kids first. He is also the co-author of The Power of Branding.
Together they are “3 Leaders Making Videos” and they collaborate on cross-state podcasts that provide students an authentic audience for their work. The three school leaders aspire to amplify student voice and leverage social media to tell their schools’ stories. Last year their students’ podcast, “Celebrate Creativity,” won a national Best EduCast award from TouchCast, and newspapers on two continents featured stories on the project. You can follow along with their students’ global projects via the hashtag #StuConnect on Twitter.