August is Connected Educator Month.
What is a Connected Educator?
Let me start with a reflection about my children. My children use YouTube constantly to learn how to do things. Tonight at dinner, my daughter Maggie told me how she used YouTube to learn how to create a flash dress up game. Keep in mind she opened Flash for the first time maybe a couple of weeks ago, if that. She used the tutorial to create the game. I frustrated myself trying to do anything in Flash for most of a semester in grad school. Anyway, Maggie’s game looks awesome, and it works great. Maggie knows how to leverage her personal learning network—in this case, YouTube—to learn how to do something. That is how our kids are learning. They are curating and collecting resources that help them learn to do what they want to learn to do.
Maggie is not too different from the students in your classroom. Your students are connected. They can’t remember a time when everyone wasn’t connected. Teachers should be lifelong learners, and one of the things teachers should learn is how to get connected to other teachers. One of the best ways to connect to other educators is through professional learning networks, or PLN’s.
My favorite professional learning network is Twitter. I recently acquired an iPad and use the apps Zite and Flipboard to discover stories that are relevant to me. I also follow many educators on Twitter and group them according to various interests (e.g. “readers,” “tech,” or “writers”) so I can quickly check in on their latest tweets. I participate in #engchat, a weekly Twitter discussion of issues related to teaching English. Many folks share items they feel will interest English teachers with the hashtag #engchat even when a chat isn’t scheduled, thereby making it easier for English teachers who follow #engchat to find their tweets.
Another way I connect with my personal learning network is through this blog. I post about whatever is on my mind, and if people are so inclined, they share the post with others and comment on the post. I reply to their comments, and we have a conversation about the issue. I first realized the power of this kind of connection when I decided to read Understanding by Design several years ago. I began reflecting on my reading here, and before I knew it, there was a loosely structured book club, a wiki for sharing units, and a connection to Grant Wiggins.
If you are looking for a way to connect with educators, my suggestion would be to try using Twitter. Locate good educators to follow. It’s OK to lurk at first, but when you feel comfortable, you should begin conversing with the teachers you follow and posting links to resources you like. Participate in an education chat on Twitter. Jerry Blumengarten has a great list of hashtags and Twitter chats that educators will find helpful. You’re sure to find one that interests you. As you begin to use Twitter more, you might want to download a Twitter client or use an in-browser client like HootSuite. Most clients allow you to save searches for hashtags so you can easily check in on your favorites.
Here is Will Richardson on personal learning networks (PLN’s):
Here is a great collection of books for connected educators. Check them out!
If you’ve been waiting for the right time to figure out all of this Web 2.0 connectedness your tech-savvy colleagues are talking about, what better time than Connected Educator Month? You can follow the Connected Educators Project on Twitter at @edcocp, and follow their hashtag #ce12.