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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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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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Lessia Bonn's picture
Lessia Bonn
co-founder I am Bullyproof Music
Blogger

WOW! What an incredible and inspiring story! Have you told this story on your blog? I would love to pin it and tweet it so more teachers can be inspired by how you held your own! Rock on, GF! You are an inspiration for anyone believes they just "are what they are...".

Dawn Casey-Rowe's picture
Dawn Casey-Rowe
Rhode Island, Social Studies

A couple of years ago, I didn't know the word "edtech." I felt embarrassed that my students found technology useful ("Miss, why can't I use my phone to take notes and calendar in the homework?") but we had rules in place preventing its use. I wanted to find teachers who used technology in their classroom with the same restrictions I had--blocks, at the time no class computers, and bans on phones. And no budget for such things.

I asked all my college friends. Many of them were in computers. I soon discovered there were different verticals. Through a lucky accident, I reconnected with a friend over some writing. Turns out he was at the heart of Silicon Valley...not just an author, a "start up guy." I ended up with a beta to Learnist, which I loved immediately, because it meant I could toss my book and engage students with our without tech in the physical classroom. I use Learnist still, but meeting that team was the moment I became a connected educator.

I didn't know that I was getting involved in edtech or blended learning. I didn't know those terms. I didn't know what a "startup guy" was, or that I was about to connect with visionaries that were literally changing the field of education. And that there were tons more out there trying to do the same.

It took me a solid six months plus to figure any of this out, and over the past couple years it has changed the way I think about solving the problems in education. I've also found that the people innovating some of these solutions need educators to collaborate and make sure that everyone is maximizing productivity and designing real solutions.

Over the course of the past two years, I connected with some local innovators in twitter chats like #edchatri, participated in organizations like EdUnderground--the most progressive tech teachers in the region, and helped grow the Highlander Institute's EdTechRI, which brings together educators and entrepreneurs to solve problems in education, and hopefully brings some of those startups to Rhode Island.

I've met people on the national stage through EdCamps and chats like #satchat. And I've managed to do a bit of writing about it all, which has been the most fun.

Being a connected educator transformed my life. I wonder if I'd be in the classroom today if I hadn't met such visionaries. I think about myself, my students, my outside business, and life in general in an entirely different way. I'm grateful.

Sometimes I talk to people like me who want to connect but don't have that vocabulary yet. Other times I talk to people who aren't interested and can't convince them of the transformativeness of being connected. Luckily, the organizations we have in place just keep growing. It's my hope that being connected will be the norm in every school.

Gene Carboni's picture
Gene Carboni
High School Business/Technology Chair, Play to Learn & Learn to Share!

Being a Connected Educator means having the opportunity to learn and share with hundreds even thousands of educators from around the world. My connections are facilitated by my need to better serve my students. Being connected provided me the research and tools to also be a change agent for not only my school but for the dozens of others I have worked with as a Powerful Learning Practice Connected Coach and presenter at numerous Archdiocese of Philadelphia faculty training sessions. As a teacher in a Catholic school system yearning for scalable PD I recognized what role I needed to play to change the face of education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and beyond.

Considering myself a risk taker, when the opportunity arose in 2008 to join a PLP cohort , I jumped at the chance. Since September 2008 my philosophy of education has undergone a major overhaul. The wealth of information I have acquired through my online contacts, and yes I could say friends, is priceless. If I taught for a hundred years I would never come close to developing the teaching style that is me today. My PLN has pushed me to look at what I do and ask "is this working?" on a regular basis. Reflection has become the norm. I look forward to reflecting on my class activities because I understand and accept the fact I could always do a better job of engaging my classes in the learning activity. The minute I think I totally succeeded is when I need to think about leaving the classroom.

The #1 connection in my PLN is my wife. She has been teaching since 1975. Her ideas and style are as fresh today as she was almost 40 years ago. She helps me through the tough times. She feeds me links, posts, app reviews, along with all around good advice. Together we met and communicate with several teachers on a regular basis. Last year my wife entered into a Quad Blogging arrangement with a Technology Specialist from a Catholic school in Virginia Beach. As it turns out this teacher is the team leader for her school's team that is part of a PLP Cohort and I am her Connected Coach. Our online connection has deepened because of her joint connection with my wife and me.

Being connected has helped me create Professional Development for my faculty and others across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Last year my principal lent me out to another school for three faculty In-Service days. A similar arrangement is in place this year with another school. As a full-time teacher with a second job at an adult education career school, I welcome the opportunity to learn and share with my peers. My web site is called "Play to Learn and Learn to Share" because that is what it's all about. Each day I learn something new and if I am lucky I get to share it with my Learning Network or Community.

I recognize I am a better teacher and teacher leader because I am connected. Because I am connected my students are given a chance to engage in a richer more robust educational experience and we all know it's all about the students.

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

I just want to call something out that Gene said:

"Reflection has become the norm."

It seems to me that this is one of the hidden benefits of being connected.

Peggie Bobo's picture
Peggie Bobo
Teacher Early CHildhood, Winter Park ,Fl

My story is best summed up in a recent blog post at www.smallkidsbigideas.com

The Teacher Across The Hall
August 20, 2013
First day of preschool. Circle time. And I go blank. Really, really blank. I run across the hall: "Laura, quick, what are the words of to the pledge?"

"What?"

"The pledge. Of Allegiance."

"What?"

"That thing you say when you stand in front of the flag with a hand over your heart."

"Oh that." Laura doesn't miss a beat. "I Pledge Allegiance to the flag..." and she goes through the whole thing fast but with precision. Like she's telling me which wire to cut to disable a bomb and if I don't get things right, it will blow up. She barely says "...with liberty and justice for all" when I'm out the door running back across the hall: "Got it! Thanks!"

Before the sun comes up, you check all your social media in your anti-social robe. You consider yourself late if you arrive in your classroom an hour before any child arrives. You work nonstop and grab a quick cup of coffee that will only be cold by the time you take a sip. You stay long after the last child is picked up. You make lesson plans, run to the library, scurry around the school gathering supplies like a squirrel before a snowfall, setup for tomorrow, head home to plan some more, do some research on "why-o-why little Johnny is body slamming everyone", before falling in bed exhausted. Oh yeah, that does not touch your other life of carpools, clogged sinks, laundry, family, in-laws and pet mess.

But you need more. You need that moment to stop and chat. That moment to connect with other professionals over a cup of coffee. You need to be part of a larger work. An ecosystem to feed you.

"If you are not part of someone else's ecosystem or allow others to be part of yours -YOU WILL LOSE," says Seth Demsey. (www.conferencebites.com). Although you may be the only adult in that classroom, you should not be alone. You should be able to feel and use the support of other teachers. Your success depends upon it.

That first day I was lucky enough to have a great teacher across the hall. A friend to crack me up. Someone who would keep working around me when I collapsed on her floor at the end of the day. A good trader of tabletop manipulatives and ideas.

"Hey, look what I found on the side of the road. Let's paint it."

That year I came to understand that I didn't have to become a successful teacher all on my own. My room wasn't on an island. I was successful because Laura was across the hall, and we could talk, learn and lean on each other. When I went blank on things as everyday as the Pledge, I had a safe place to point me in the right way.

So, we have decided to share our ecosystem with others. Today, you can see what they are doing in New Zealand as fast as opening your door or Skype with a pre-school teacher in Germany. We know you are crazy busy. But sit down and grab a cup of sanity with Laura and me. We'll laugh, cry and pass along things we learned the hard way so you don't have too. And only the best of what we find online. And, like I did that first day, it's okay if you go blank sometimes if you know where to go for support.

Lessia Bonn's picture
Lessia Bonn
co-founder I am Bullyproof Music
Blogger

Dear Ms. Bobo,
"Before the sun comes up, you check all your social media in your anti-social robe." Brilliant. This is just too wonderful! Thank you for making my day.

Peggie Bobo's picture
Peggie Bobo
Teacher Early CHildhood, Winter Park ,Fl

"I have never EVER felt more connected!" Exactly.

Gene Carboni's picture
Gene Carboni
High School Business/Technology Chair, Play to Learn & Learn to Share!

Samer,
Throughout my teaching career I always made it a point to think back or reflect on my practice. After "Getting Connected" that looking back became more important to me. As I worked with my faculty members and others across the country, I started asking myself the deeper questions. I started focusing more on my students than my subject. Reflection has turn my world around.
Gene

JoAnnbentegroh's picture

I try to be an early adopter of new social media. I have a vivid memory of reading a NYTimes article about something called "MYSPACE" and then telling my middle school daughter that she should check this new thing out. A few days later she came back to me and told me that that website I sent her to really scared her. My take away lesson from that is that I need to personally be aware of what is out there so that I know what to recommend and what to guard against. So that's what I now do and its been a challenge over the last few years trying to keep up. Some of the social media I've tried I have fully embraced (Facebook, Twitter), others I could do without (Vine, Pinterest, Instagram) and some I do only because it's the only way I can keep up with kids (Snapchat & BuzzFeed).

But Twitter is definitely my new favorite. Let me show not tell on how I use it. Here are the tangible results I got from a few hours on Twitter Saturday morning:

* Article about teacher using Twitter to share ideas about teaching (to use at staff meeting as a text discussion and PD) http://www.pressherald.com/news/Teachers_turning_to_Twitter_for_new_idea...

* Flipped classroom video on youtube (to use as text to discuss) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLLOLZcIE88&feature=youtu.be&desktop_uri=...

* Research on spanking (shared with our SPED teacher) resource for parents https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/141f51988f997251

* Read blog discussing how difficult it is for teachers to actually plan for the curriculum and instruction occurring in their classrooms given their time constraints; posted comment on his blog http://mathforum.org/blogs/max/if-instruction-matters-so-much-why-dont-t...

* Forwarded article on research skills to Science & Humanities teachers http://mathforum.org/blogs/max/if-instruction-matters-so-much-why-dont-t...

* Read blog entry from Tom Vander Ark re 25 Smart #socialMedia Tips for #EdLeaders - will research 5 tools that he suggests

* Learned about Common Craft - on-line service for explaining (and having students make videos explaining) concepts http://www.psdblogs.ca/graminiastudent/

* Shared website that has alternative assessments for social studies curriculum with Humanities teachers https://beyondthebubble.stanford.edu

* Read article from Washington Post on 21st Century Education reforms and poverty for own learning http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/26/the-real-...

* Think about transitioning into Digital Portfolios - inspired by http://www.scribd.com/doc/66080547/PSD70-Digital-Portfolio-Project

* Read article about Tween Brain - shared on school website for parents; signed up to follow TweenTeacher blog

* Watched great video about use of Google Forms on George Couros' blog. Jotted down notes for future blog post I would like to write about the video http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3553

* Watched video of Rick Wormeli talking about standards based grades that will be used to launch our review discussion for standards based grading http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-QF9Q4gxVM&feature=player_embedded&deskt...

All free, all open source. So much learning to gain and share!

(1)
JoAnnbentegroh's picture

I try to be an early adopter of new social media. I have a vivid memory of reading a NYTimes article about something called "MYSPACE" and then telling my middle school daughter that she should check this new thing out. A few days later she came back to me and told me that that website I sent her to really scared her. My take away lesson from that is that I need to personally be aware of what is out there so that I know what to recommend and what to guard against. So that's what I now do and its been a challenge over the last few years trying to keep up. Some of the social media I've tried I have fully embraced (Facebook, Twitter), others I could do without (Vine, Pinterest, Instagram) and some I do only because it's the only way I can keep up with kids (Snapchat & BuzzFeed).

But Twitter is definitely my new favorite. Let me show not tell on how I use it. Here are the tangible results I got from a few hours on Twitter Saturday morning:

* Article about teacher using Twitter to share ideas about teaching (to use at staff meeting as a text discussion and PD) http://www.pressherald.com/news/Teachers_turning_to_Twitter_for_new_idea...

* Flipped classroom video on youtube (to use as text to discuss) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLLOLZcIE88&feature=youtu.be&desktop_uri=...

* Research on spanking (shared with our SPED teacher) resource for parents https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/141f51988f997251

* Read blog discussing how difficult it is for teachers to actually plan for the curriculum and instruction occurring in their classrooms given their time constraints; posted comment on his blog http://mathforum.org/blogs/max/if-instruction-matters-so-much-why-dont-t...

* Forwarded article on research skills to Science & Humanities teachers http://mathforum.org/blogs/max/if-instruction-matters-so-much-why-dont-t...

* Read blog entry from Tom Vander Ark re 25 Smart #socialMedia Tips for #EdLeaders - will research 5 tools that he suggests

* Learned about Common Craft - on-line service for explaining (and having students make videos explaining) concepts http://www.psdblogs.ca/graminiastudent/

* Shared website that has alternative assessments for social studies curriculum with Humanities teachers https://beyondthebubble.stanford.edu

* Read article from Washington Post on 21st Century Education reforms and poverty for own learning http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/26/the-real-...

* Think about transitioning into Digital Portfolios - inspired by http://www.scribd.com/doc/66080547/PSD70-Digital-Portfolio-Project

* Read article about Tween Brain - shared on school website for parents; signed up to follow TweenTeacher blog

* Watched great video about use of Google Forms on George Couros' blog. Jotted down notes for future blog post I would like to write about the video http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3553

* Watched video of Rick Wormeli talking about standards based grades that will be used to launch our review discussion for standards based grading http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-QF9Q4gxVM&feature=player_embedded&deskt...

All free, all open source. So much learning to gain and share!

(1)

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