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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Who is a "Connected Educator" Anyway?

October is "Connected Educator Month" and I was honored to be asked by the IDOE eLearning Development office to model what a "Connected Educator" might look like for their promotion of the event.It was great opportunity to stretch myself in the video creation department, so I was happy to accept the invitation.

What Does 'Connected Educator' Mean?
"Connected" means so many different things to different people. For me, being connected is utilizing web tools, resources, and online collaborations to help me become a better teacher. 'Connected' also means that I get exposure to terrific methods of teaching, creative student learning products, and support from teachers around the globe who are trying to get better as well.

How Do I Connect?
I think that most teachers are a very giving lot, educators that share what works and what doesn't is invaluable. A source of perpetual professional development. I have great teachers in my building to be sure, but I can make almost unlimited connections through my favorite social media platform, Twitter.

After more than three years on Twitter, I can confidently say, the people I follow share things that matter. Whether their content comes to me through their blog, website, tweets, or their own re-sharing, there is rarely a time when I don't find something of value on the other side of that click.

#Chat it up
When I was a new teacher, #ntchat, founded by Lisa Dabbs (@Teachingwithsoul) and moderated with her fabulous devotion to her 'newbies' helped me realize that I wasn't alone. The Twitter chat let me 'talk' with teachers who were encountering the same problems that I was facing and work through solutions together. I've found tremendous value in #elemchat as well. There is one out there for you as well. Start with Jerry Blumengarten's (@Cybraryman1) Educational chat page to find one that matches what you need.

This constant sharing and resource stockpile has resulted in great depth of available expertise and tools that I can use to help my students learn and demonstrate their learning. Tools that allow them to take hold of their learning and be creative in how they show what they have learned. I guess you could say that not only am I connected, but so is our class.

A Personal Learning Network or PLN is a network of people that you can develop over time. A PLN is about relationships and trust.You don't have to be the building 'techie' to create or grow a PLN, you just need a desire to learn and a willingness to learn from others. Your PLN can be as big as you want it to be, but  whatever the size, it can be invaluable. Read this excellent post by Tom Whitby on PLN's from a few years ago.

A Connected Class
I've used technology to connect in differing ways to my students and their home partners. I use Facebook, Remind 101, Google sites, Kid Blogs, and Edmodo among others to let home partners be a part of our classroom. Parental engagement is so very important to my student's success, so tools that flatten and simplify communication are essential.

My blog is a place for me to talk about what's important to me and share some things that have worked for me in my classroom. I'm amazed and humbled that people like to read what I have wrote. The reflective part of the writing process can be excruciating and painfully slow, but worth every minute, I put into it.

Get connected. You'll be glad you did.

Follow me on Twitter @YourKidsTeacher