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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

What Does It Mean to Be a Connected Educator?

What Does It Mean to Be a Connected Educator?

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38 Replies 1778 Views

For many of us, becoming a connected educator transformed our lives. Suddenly, we had access to networks of experts and peers invested in improving education practices and willing to share their favorite tools, resources, and strategies.

It's this culture of sharing that we want to celebrate this October for Connected Educator Month.

So share with us: Tell us your stories about being a connected educator. What has it meant for you? How has it transformed student learning in your classroom? What tools and resources do you rely on most?

Let the sharing begin!

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Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center
Facilitator 2014

My story began while I had to stay home to convalesce from a recent spine surgery. That sounds bad, but its 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, or read an article... One in particular, commenting on the value of Twitter for establishing a PLN, piqued my interest in exploring that medium. I set up my account, and began watching, tentaively at first, as though I were learning a new language. Before long, I was following a few people, and began to realize that I had been missing out on so many terrific resources! Next thing I knew, I had a tousand followers, had joined the #langchat team as a moderator, then was asked to moderate the WL community forum on Edutopia as well. By the time I was recovered from my physical ordeal, I was already flying in cyberspace, developping new curriculum, cataloguing strategies for greater student engagment, 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, a Diigo account, and a few other online tools, I have become an avid tech nerd, giving workshops to help colleagues begin their journeys as well.

Has it been worthwhile? Wow! Yes and many times over! And not just because I better understand my students, but because I now use a greater variety of resources to help my students connect with the Francophone community. My students 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 have 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 the activity an activity to a group of third year French students. I was a little concerned that they might think I was pushing them a little to 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 am going to borrow the phrase 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 to connect with the world has opened so many doors of opportunity.

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

Best wishes,
Don

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

I still remember asking my brother-in-law to explain this "internet thing" to me back in the early 1990s because I'd fallen in love with a new tv show called The X Files and I'd heard there was some group of people on "the web" who were equally obsessed with it. One of my first online friends turned out to be an English teacher like me- within a few weeks we were exchanging lesson plans and ideas for new ways to teach reading. Little did I know we were early "connected educators!"

Since then, I've used Twitter not only to stay up to date on what's happening in the EduSphere, but also to solve problems, hire faculty, recruit students and celebrate the accomplishments and milestones of my peers. As a teacher educator, I work hard to find what's new so I can get the right tools into the hands of teachers. I like to think of myself as a honeybee- carrying things from the web to teachers, from teachers to teachers, and from teachers to the web.

Honestly, I can't imagine teaching (or learning) without my online colleagues!

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

I loved being in the classroom. Leaving teaching for full time graduate school just meant I was able to advance my network of fellow educators and learn more from others. What I found was that I loved helping others get, and stay connected with online learning communities and other valuable resources. I loved exploring exciting new tools and sharing them with others.

That's what led me to my career as an education consultant. I love being able to work with products, talk to people, experience the connectivity, and share it with others. Being a connected educator is more important than ever. There are communities popping up all over - Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest - and it's important for teachers to know and experience how valuable these can be.

As I explore different communities, and help others build communities of their own, I realize that the idea of teachers being an "island" is no longer palpable. Not only can you grow and learn with and from a huge range of teachers nationally, but there are great international networks to participate in. Questions can be answered at a click of a button, support is provided on call, and new friends can be made across the country through 140 character messages.

Being a connected educator means that you are supported, you are innovating, and you are not alone. The growth possibility through these networks are astonishing, and as teachers, we want to continue our learning in order to best serve our students.

I do know that becoming a more connected educator can be very daunting. There are tools to help with this as well. Also, reaching out to a connected educator colleague is a great way to get involved. So reach out, sign on, and get started!

B

Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Teacher/leader & techie at independent, alternative, therapeutic high school

I actually recently made a prezi on this exact topic for a grad school class: http://prezi.com/cu6vsgybazn8/connected-educators/

To answer here though: I became a "connected educator" after feeling isolated from certain global conversations in my small, unique school. I love my school and my coworkers but I wanted to participate in bigger conversations. That desire led me to check out Edcamp Boston in 2012.

There I experienced the true connection of being a connected educator. I found a place where I could participate in conversations of true importance to education with a group of people as invested in the outcomes as I was. After a wonderful day, I wanted to stay connected.

I had seen that everyone was on Twitter at the conference and quickly spruced up my professional account and learned how to use it effectively. The online connections helped me stay involved in the conversation and continue my learning.

My favorite thing about the connected educator community has been the relationships I've developed. Whether it's going back and forth in a Twitter chat about a strong shared interest, following up through social networks with a conference presentation I loved, or developing friendships and professional connections, for me the community is real, not "virtual."

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

Alex, there must be a legion of educators who first became connected as result of an EdCamp. When I attended EdCamp Marin earlier this year, I met a teacher who sent his first tweet that day. :-)

Kristen Swanson's picture
Kristen Swanson
Teacher, Leader, Edcamper, Learner
Blogger 2014

I became a connected educator through Edcamp. Although I had used social media to learn before creating Edcamp, being a part of the Edcamp movement has connected me with hundreds of amazing educators across the globe. Thinking, learning, and sharing in both face to face and digital settings has been invaluable to my practice as an educator!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I attended Podcamp, and out of there and Barcamp grew both Edcamp and I attend Educon every year. Once you see all that is possible and what other teachers are doing, it makes everything seem possible, even when faced with resistance and fear in your home district.
For me, being a connected educator began with looking for solutions to help kids with learning disabilities and how to help them succeed in the classroom. There are so many small problems that get in the way of success, and many that can be handled easily with tech. It can change the whole classroom dynamic for teachers and kids. (For example, using Google Drive for assignments means no one forgets their homework any more, or loses a thumb drive, and even handouts can be there and accessed by kids, making sure no one can forget their homework at school...)
Even in our district, getting teachers to stop being afraid of technology and change, and embrace more of a "give it a go" experimental attitude, is doing more to change the culture, the atmosphere and the community as a whole- it's been amazing. It's not perfect, but the willingness to try has meant all the difference. This connection involves as much people to people connection as it does technology, but making information accessible 24 x 7 removes all the barriers that seem to get in the way before, making so much else seem equally as possible. We're no focusing more on solutions and less on barriers.

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