Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Want to become a Connected Educator? It will change your life.

"Connected Educators" are defined as teachers who are actively involved in connecting with their peers, their students and the world through blogging, social media and chat rooms and bring back what they learn to their classroom, school and district.

The old days of isolation and closed classroom doors are a distant memory. Connected Educators are honing their teaching practice and sharing about learning by talking to experts, colleagues and reading about best practice online. The discussions between teachers are shifting from complaints in the staff rooms to creative problem solving and shifting pedagogy.

For me, the journey to become a connected educator has been eye opening, uplifting and has shaped who I am as a person. It has changed my ideas about education, teaching and learning. I feel like I get filled up by being connected to educators around the world. I love learning, reading about what others are doing, seeing student work, hearing about what does not work and where teachers are going on their own journeys.

It's like working with a creative, helpful, positive friend who is always in the classroom next door! I have not felt so inspired and supported since I was so lucky to have Lori Feeney as a teaching partner. Lori and I planned together, shared ideas, reflected, laughed and were there for each other every time we tweaked our lesson plans. Now, my "Lori Feeney" are all the teachers on Twitter. Since I became connected, I spend time reflecting on my own teaching, tweaking it with each lesson, blogging, and sharing on Twitter. Instead of complaining about how hard my job is, I talk to my Personal Learning Network (PLN) about what they are doing, and together, we shift the focus from what is not going well to what we can do to fix it.

I have three favorite ways to connect with my PLN. Twitter, Edmodo and Pinterest.

I spend the lion's share of my time on Twitter, sorting by hashtag (a total must), and clicking on links for blogs, web tools or online documents shared. Often, I store (because we teachers are gatherers aren't we?) and then incorporate them into my practice. I can't tell you how many times I have gone into another teacher's room and said, "Hey, I saw this on Twitter..." when we co-plan.
My next favorite is Edmodo. Edmodo is like the perfect balance between Twitter and Facebook. Teachers signed up either through their district or on their own, originally to connect students. But, as time went by, teachers formed groups and then began sharing tips and ideas on Edmodo. It is a great place to start for those who aren't ready for the rapid fire noise of Twitter.
Pinterest is awesome for people who aren't really exactly sure what they are looking for. It is very visual, amazingly easy to find great infographs, teaching rubrics, lesson ideas, images, and all things crafty. Recently, they added a comment section, allowing a little bit more back and forth in terms of communication too.

Becoming a connected educator is not just about gathering information though! It is about building relationships, sharing and reflecting on your teaching.

Are you looking to learn how to speak The Twitter? Recently, my great friends Carrie Baughcum (@carriebaughcum) and Jenna Hacker (@jennahacker) and I presented to teachers in our school district. Carrie ( created a really helpful Thinglink to help people get all the resources they need to begin getting connected. P.S. She also designed the graphics for my blog! She rocks.

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