While many of my readers will know what that term means, it might be useful to start with a quick definition. I like the one that Paul Oh shares in his discussion, “What Connected Education Looks Like,” which simply describes connected teaching and learning as the use of technology “to build communities and share knowledge.”
For me, being a connected educator means reaching and teaching as well as reflecting and learning. I began my journey as a connected educator as a student but quickly saw the potential for creating and sustaining community as both a teacher and a leader. It is a rare day when I do not connect with the others as a learner, as a teacher, or as a leader – sometimes all three in one of those wonderful serendipitous moments that connected education makes possible.
I connect in many ways including Twitter, Google+, and Facebook as well as through the many bloggers and content curators I follow (thank goodness for Feedly and Scoop.It), but perhaps my most important learning tool is my own Metawriting blog. I know many people find interesting teaching tips on my blog, and that is certainly one of its purposes, but in many ways the primary purpose of my blog is to record my own reflections about the plans and processes as well as successes and failures of my own teaching, research, and learning. Yes, airing my dirty laundry as well as the messy underbelly of my classroom practice can be useful to others, but it is also important for me to be honest with myself and to hold myself accountable.
However, my own research and reflection would only take me so far without the constant nurturing offered by my Personal Learning Network and Professional Learning Community. Connecting with other educators as they share their triumphs and trials as well as brainstorming solutions and projects are important parts of my own personal and professional growth. These are a constant joy and solace for me. Just watching the many strands of my PLN connect, cross, and intersect is both fun and fulfilling for me. For example, just today as the Morehead Writing Project began its five-day celebration of the National Day On Writing I love seeing teachers from throughout our region and beyond connect and share the meaning that writing brings to their lives as well as six word stories because we know writing can be fun too.
Although so much of being a connected educator is about me and my connections, it is also about connections between and among my students. I know how powerful connected learning can be and I want my students to reap these benefits. I introduce my students to social media and the many ways it can provide access and connections, but I also introduce them to blogging as both audience and creator. We use a variety of different publication and search tools to create and share and connect with each other as well as ideas. We craft cartoons, memes, and presentations to help us think through ideas as well as to spread them beyond our classroom. My students tell me that I push them out of their comfort zone and I celebrate their discomfort because I know they are learning and experiencing and creating.
Connected teaching and connected learning and connected communities. That is what being a connected educator means to me and I am so proud and so thankful to be a part of this movement. How do you define connected education? What does it mean for your teaching and learning?