When Tom Whitby and I set out to write The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, we wanted to provide a manual for any educator who had a desire to improve their practice, as many have already done, by utilizing social media and other tools. We both had experienced tremendous growth in our professional and personal lives and we wanted to share how we got there with others.
Being a Relevant, Connected Educator is something, we believe, should be embraced by all educators everywhere. Today, with so much access to information, the way that learning is done is drastically different than it was just a handful of years ago. Professional development in many schools and districts has trouble keeping up with the latest pedagogical trends and some leaders refuse to embrace these methods as viable.
To celebrate Connected Educator month, let’s take a look at what a Relevant, Connected Educator looks like. What do they do in their practice that sets them apart from those that don’t use social learning as the backbone for their professional and personal learning? We believe there are eight things these educators do differently from the rest.
Practices and Models Lifelong Learning
Most educators would say that they want their students to always love learning and do it far beyond school. Yet many don’t practice it or only practice the learning as mandated by their leadership. Relevant, Connected Educators believe in the power that lifelong learning can have and are models of what that looks like. Digital resources has made it much easier for anyone to engage in learning anytime, anywhere they are. And Relevant, Connected Educators plug in, often, to learn new skills, reflect on their practice and share learning with others.
Believes in Sharing and Collaboration
Learning is a very social activity. And think of all the things we wouldn’t know had someone not shared knowledge with us. The sharing of knowledge is as old as time. Relevant, Connected Educators know the importance of sharing learning what they know and what they’ve curated. They also believe in the power of working together with others to improve and empower all.
Willing to Explore, Question, Elaborate, and Advance Ideas Through Connections With Other Educators
Just like sharing has been a part of learning since the beginning of time, disagreement and discourse as been as well. Debates help push our thinking and see all sides of arguments and issues. Relevant, Connected Educators use all the tools at their disposal to not only debate but reflect on their own ideas and explore new ones. Twitter chats, blogs and social communities help bring many ideas together in one place for us to learn from and with.
Views Failure as Part of the Learning Process
Most educators will admit they had a lesson (or in my case, several) that just didn’t go the way it should. For one reason or another the expected outcomes didn’t match with the actual. Some, would get frustrated and move on or make excuses and place the blame elsewhere. Relevant, Connected Educators embrace failure as part of their learning. And, taking it one step further, they reflect on that failure, sometimes sharing it publicly so others can reflect along with them and offer suggestions or insight.
Uses Technology And It’s Connections To Other Educators To Learn And Teach
It is the access to those professional learning resources that is key for Relevant, Connected Educators. Technology has provided the means for us to learn anywhere, anytime and anything we want from other professionals around the world. But, it’s not just about consumption. Creating and teaching is also a part as well. Relevant, Connected Educators contribute to other’s knowledge in addition to consuming it. Something like Twitter chats can be a great way to learn from others and contribute to the learning of others.
Uses The Tools Of Technology To Personalize Their Professional Development
We are no longer bound by the professional development offered to us by the district. PD can happen in places and ways once not possible or conceivable. By plugging in Relevant, Connected Educators are using webinars, on-demand learning, MOOC’s, hashtags and other digital resources to learn and improve their practice. One of my favorite places to personalize my own learning is Edweb.net. On any given day there are 3-5 webinars on a wide variety of topics. And everything is archived and free so I can browse at my leisure to learn on my schedule.
Comfortable With New Technology And Shows A Willingness To Explore
Remember back to Part 1 and our conversation about failure? Technology is unpredictable and sometimes mysterious, but that is what makes it so awesome! Relevant, Connected Educators put their fears aside and jump into trying new technologies. Sometimes they work out really well. Other times, not. (Remember Google Wave?) The take-away is the willingness to explore and try new technologies. You never know what you’ll discover.
The pushback we get for all this is how can Relevance and Connectedness live in a world with strict standards, summative assessments and all the pressures that educators are under. I believe it is the connections that make the job of teaching and learning easier. The resources available, the people to reflect with, the professional learning to engage with all serve to improve our ability to do our jobs better. And sometimes that means making waves and doing what’s right not for standards or assessments, but for students and learning.