George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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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chemtchr's picture

Don, you do inspire me to keep fighting to make cyberspace a free place for my students to create and transform.

But something else entirely is happening with the iPads in my building. They're being used to dispense accountability, and the kids are made to log onto buggy, dreary aps like schoology and upload dreary assignments.

The tablets lack interoperability with outside resources on line and in the real world. My district needs to purchase aps to use them with our probeware, for instance, and can't do that. There are pay walls everywhere, a proprietary mash of crashing access codes.

Worst of all, use of this "technology" is punishment-driven instead of creative. Do your students have iPads or laptops, I wonder?

Simone PS's picture
Simone PS
EAL teacher

I completely related to your post, I actually started the coetail course and that was the main reason I ended up here. Not because of a medical need, but mostly because my school is brand new and, well "someone had to". I was shocked at myself when I noticed I went from being that teacher that used to say, "no phones in class" to the "let's learn to connect and learn from each other folks". I barely started taking a real interest in PLN couple of weeks ago, but I already can say I'm in the "freaking in" team for sure!

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

@Simone - welcome to the #FreakedIn club! Glad to have you on board!

@Chemthchr - Hang in there! There are challenges, naturally, and change comes slowly over time, to the dismay of those who are pioneers. The drive forward is often against the current, and can be a tough slog at times. However, if we persevere, we will wind up further along than we would if we do nothing creative at all!

I can see how iPads could present a real challengs. The cost of apps can add up quickly, and it is always a challenge to find a way to fund iTunes cards, or some other manner of getting the apps. As for me, I have a class set of Windows-based netbooks, purchased by a local non-profit who put out RFPs for grants, and for which I wrote a proposal, and was chosen. The technology has changed my teaching significantly! The advantage of the netbooks is that we can use Google Apps which are free, the software which is loaded on the devices, and the Web 2.0 tools available on the web, like Glogster, Prezi, SlideShare, Pinterest, PB works and Wikispaces, Diigo, Evernote, Edmodo... just to name a few. Some of these have free apps for iOS as well - worth checking out! I am a real Apple nerd - I have all the iDevices, but in class, the computers seem to offer some flexibility that tablets do not yet have.

Keep fighting the good #freakedIn fight!

Best wishes,

Andy XU RUNYUN's picture
From Shanghai, China. A volunteer in Walnut Valley Unified School District.

I just registered Twitter two weeks ago when this course begins. Before, I used Facebook, RenRen (A Chinese version of Facebook) most of the time. However, since my registration on Twitter, I found it really amazing to me for the reason that this platform has already provided me with qualitative and quantitative useful resources which are extremely helpful to me. Moreover, Twitter has also "introduced" me to other numerous platforms which I never knew, e.g.: Edutopia, Teach100, CreativeCommon, HootSuite, and many other platforms for adequate resources as well. From now on, I think I should become a more and more connected educator because the world is changing! :-)

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