It sounds like a club. The Connected Educators. Perhaps they may even sound like a group of educators who meet at the Hall of Justice, slap on capes and go to fight some sort of injustice in the world. Ok, so I’m showing my age by mentioning the Hall of Justice, but you get the idea.
The truth is that “Connected Educators” is not an exclusive club. It takes a few minutes to sign up for a Twitter account and any educator has access to a world of connected education. The other reality is that it’s never too late to become connected. It’s never too late to dip our toes into a connected world and get out of it what we put into it.
The reality is that once educators get the hang of the social networking giant, they can dive deeper and deeper into a world of endless resources and great chats that focus on teaching and learning. But being connected is more than just Twitter.
Being connected is a mindset.
It’s understanding and valuing the idea that students, staff, and leaders have voices that should be shared and that sometimes those voices are shared through social networking and technological tools. Regardless of how some educators may feel, our students are born with, grow up with, and frequently use technology to communicate with others.
Being connected is about finding a balance.
Although some educators and students may have their smartphone attached like an appendage, many educators who are connected understand the benefits of disconnecting as well. Nothing is better than a one-on-one conversation in person with someone. Everyone understands that because it gives us insight into how they are feeling through their inflection and body language.
Being connected is about sharing best practices.
No one person is smarter than the collective ideas and thoughts of everyone together. Individually we may have expertise, but that expertise is made stronger through connecting and sharing with others. It is through that belief that Arnis Burvikovs (Executive Editor), Ariel Price (Associate Editor), and I created the Connected Educators Series.
The interesting thing about the series is that it was never supposed to be more than 6 books, but as we started moving forward, we realized how innovative some educators were and the ideas kept growing and growing. As of right now, I believe there are 15 reasons why being connected is important, and they are:
Becoming Relevant – Being relevant doesn’t mean all educators should walk around with a device in their hands but it does mean they have to become connected so they understand their students at a much deeper level. (Read more in The Relevant Educator by Tom Whitby and Steven Anderson)
Leading by Example – If principals are unconnected, they should take a step into the world of technology by trying social media. In Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away, Principal Spike Cook takes people on his journey through being resistant to technology and then seeing how much it would open up his world and improve his leadership practices.
Updating the Brick and Mortar – Schools get a lot of grief over being behind the times. The brick and mortar that houses students, staff and leaders doesn’t help fight that perception. In Empowered Schools, Empowered Students, Pernille Ripp explains the power of bringing schools into the deep 21st century and providing students with access to multiple ways that they can share their voices.
Including all Stakeholders – In whatever way schools choose to move forward, they have to make sure they involve all stakeholders. In All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities, Brad Currie provides ways that schools can include stakeholders in the learning process. School shouldn’t be a mystery to parents and being connected opens up those walls.
Making Learning Visible – Over the passed few years there has been a lot of negative press about schools, but as educators, we have allowed it to happen. That’s where branding comes in as a positive and healthy way to show the outside world all of the innovative things happening in the building. In The Power of Branding, Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo provide ways for schools to brand themselves as the learning institutions that they are and share their students’ voices with parents and the greater community. Schools are engaged in innovative practices and branding helps show that.
Getting Rid of Old School – In Teaching the iStudent, Mark Barnes challenges the way we think about school. Never a fan of grading and death by ditto (worksheets), Barnes focuses on ways to engage in dialogue and effective feedback with students.
Authentic Professional Development – In The Edcamp Model, Kristen Swanson and the Edcamp Foundation provide a step-by-step process of how teachers, school leaders, school staff, and whole districts can create a model of professional learning that helps focus on innovation and not compliance.
Flipping Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel – As school leaders, we should want more out of our faculty meetings. We should find ways to engage parents differently. There are structures in place that go underutilized. Flipping leadership is about co-constructing faculty meetings with the faculty and giving them information and resources before the meeting so they can dive down deeper in the meeting. It’s about sharing information with parents like report cards, new initiatives and fun information before meetings so they can come with questions, concerns and suggestions for improvement.
Giving Teachers Voice – In Blogging for Educators, Starr Sackstein shows educators how to share their voices with the outside world. For too long policymakers and politicians controlled the dialogue, but blogging is a way for educators to share what really goes on in the classroom.
Reaching Marginalized Populations – In The Missing Voices in Edtech, Rafranz Davis shares her experiences of being a woman of color in a very white-male dominated profession. She challenges us all to think differently and provides the resources to make sure all voices are heard and respected.
Empowering Students as Inventors – In Worlds of Making, Library Media-Specialist, Laura Fleming provides tips on how to start and foster the maker movement in your school. In the maker movement students are encouraged to be innovative and create things that they can use in every day lives. It may start with a Smartphone case, but may turn into something much more spectacular.
Changing the School Culture – In Leading Professional Learning, Tom Murray and Jeff Zoul want leaders and teachers to work in collaboration. They want all stakeholders to care less about compliance and more about creating authentic learning experiences for students. it’s important to move away from a traditional hours-based PD model to anytime/anywhere learning, which more accurately reflects what teachers have time for and allows them to pursue their own passions.
Being Lead Learners or Instructional Leaders – In Principal Professional Development, Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo want all leaders to reach their full potential. They focus on providing ways that leaders can engage in their own personal and professional learning so they can help bring their schools from good to great.
Inspiring Global Learning – In 5 Skills for the Global Learner, Mark Barnes wants to help teachers teach the new skills that are necessary for navigating both a physical and online world that is both smaller and bigger than experienced by previous generations.
Creating and not just consuming – We are all inundated with a lot of stuff. Media comes at us like never before, so Steven Anderson wants us to become content curators. In Content Curation, Anderson provides methods to make sure that we—including our students—are sharing reliable resources and learning how to create our own valid digital footprints.
In the End
How powerful is being connected? Before creating the book series I had only met 3 of the educators who wrote books, and still have not met many of them. However, I know them through their blogs, Tweets, Google Hangouts, and Facebook pages.
Being connected is about getting to know new people who can help stretch your thinking but also sharing knowledge to help make schools stronger than they once were. Being connected helps us unify our voices so we can show that we are more innovative than people may believe, but also poke the hornet’s nest so others won’t rest on the laurels of accomplishments from decades ago.
That’s why it’s important to be connected.