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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

A couple of weeks ago, Samer Rabadi, Edutopia's Community Manager, started this discussion on the Community Bulletin Board: "What Does It Mean to Be a Connected Educator?" He observed that, for many of us, becoming connected educators has transformed our lives. I would certainly agree with that!

The Lure of Cyberspace

My story began while I had to stay home to convalesce from a recent spine surgery. That sounds bad, but it's all good now, so no matter. While I was home recovering, iPad in hand, I began exploring. Edutopia was a good place to start. I had already been using the resources on this site for several years, and had meant to post a note, read an article, or somehow engage. One blog post in particular, commenting on the value of Twitter for establishing a PLN, piqued my interest in exploring that medium.

I set up my Twitter account, and began watching, tentatively at first, as though I were learning a new language. Before long, I was following a few people, and I began to realize that I had been missing out on so many terrific resources! Next thing I knew, I had a thousand followers, had joined the #langchat team as a moderator, and was then asked to moderate the World Languages community forum on Edutopia as well. By the time I was recovered from my physical ordeal, I was already flying in cyberspace, developing new curriculum, cataloguing strategies for greater student engagement, and exploring how to do PBL for World Languages.

And now? Well, let's just say I am more connected than ever, between Google+, HootSuite, Pinterest, Edmodo, several wikis and a Diigo account. With these and a few other online tools, I have become an avid tech nerd, giving workshops to help colleagues begin their journeys as well.

Freaking In!

Has it been worthwhile? Wow! Yes -- and many times over. And not just because I better understand my students, but because I also now use a greater variety of resources to help them connect with the Francophone community. They enjoy learning French far more than ever before, and I enjoy seeing the better results, the meaningful connections, and the sparkle in their eyes when they teach me what they've discovered and learned. Reaching out across the globe has literally made a world of difference for my students.

The day of final exams last June, I was explaining an activity to a group of third-year French students. I was a little concerned that they might think I was pushing them too hard in what I had planned for them. I said to the class, "I hope you aren't freaked out by this." All of a sudden, one of the students cried out, "Freaked out?! No way! I am totally freaked in! This is the most amazing final I have ever taken!" That phrase stuck. In fact, I'm going to borrow it for the tile of my book on PBL for WL, which I hope to finish next summer.

I am totally #FreakedIn as well -- freaked in to teaching and learning, that is, and in large part because reaching out into cyberspace and connecting with the world has opened so many doors of opportunity.

Reach out and get Freaked In as well. It will change your career for good.

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