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2013 was amazing year of change for me as an educator. Having always been driven to continue learning and growing, I eagerly consumed new publications, watched new and old TEDs, and followed a few education related blogs. I felt it was my job to share pieces of the learning I gleamed from these sources by facilitating faculty learning session that were aimed at producing thoughtful discussion, reflection and questions as opposed to answers. This has been the way I learned and led for the past 5 years. I do not want to disparage this is as our students, teachers, school, and I were learning, growing, and exceling. That being said there was room for more…
One of the first and still one of my favorite post that got me thinking this was Amy Burvall “There’s No Copyright for Cookies: Why Educators Should Embrace Sharing.” Amy presents a compelling argument that instructional ideas, student work, and resources, much like homemade cookies, are indeed enhanced through sharing their “sweetness” with others.
As an educator, I learn more each day from the educators that I’m connected to via Twitter, global Facebook groups, and the Partners in Learning network than anywhere else. While I have sat in many traditional professional development workshops and gained many valuable insights from them that I have changed my way of thinking about teaching and learning, I still hold on to the value that global networks provide me. I need a place to ask for help, explore opportunities for discussing latest research and trends, and a place to just chat with educators that are experiencing some of the same issues that I face each and every day in education. For me, professional development is ongoing. It’s the opportunities for just in time learning that challenge me to be a better educator, learner, and leader (Learning, Leading, and Connecting via @RobynHrivnatz).
This summer I was fortunate to attend both The Martin Institute and Building Learning Communities Educational Conference. It was at these gatherings of passionate and dedicated learners that I truly began to understand the learning potential for myself and fro my team that connection provided. This revelation was both the result of the immensely skilled presenters as well as the audience of educators attending the sessions I was in, sessions in other locations and even those not in attendance who were engaging in shared learning via twitter and other tools. Having spent the past two years using twitter as a communication tool between school and parents to document and share highlights of our school field trips, this repurposing left me excited and eager to dive in. And we did…(A compilation of the Why, How to Get Started, and How to Get Connected with Twitter)
- All teachers created handles (those already on twitter, creating a new handle for professional use)
- We designated grade level hashtags for all of our teachers to use (#Davisme, #Davisk, #Davis1, #Davis2, #Davis3, #Davis4, #Davis5, #Davisms ) to connect our parents and classrooms on a more regular basis
- We used special hashtags for all school initiatives to build excitement for the announcement of our annual musical and ruach (spirit) week
- We shared some suggested PLN/follows for each teacher based on their own area of interest and/or assignment
- We had multiple sessions with parents on Social Media and your Child discussing the importance of digital literacy and sharing how we are engaging our students as digital citizens.
- …and so much more
Connected educators may be the worst advocates for getting other educators to connect. Too often they are so enthusiastic at how, as well as how much they are learning through being connected, that they tend to overwhelm the uninitiated, inexperienced, and unconnected educator with a deluge of information that both intimidates and literally scares them to death (Patience for the Unconnected via @tomwhitby).
Both Julie Smith’s tweet and Tom’s quote (a piece of a fabulous post) completely resonated with me. The flow of information is overwhelming, the learning potential is even more so, and the enthusiasm of those who have tapped in to the power of connectedness may be more all-encompassing then both.
Realizing and understanding the implications of this, I feel like this is my role…
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I feel is not enough to be connected, if I am not actively connecting others to people, resources and/or ideas that will benefit their own growth. Moreover, in order to increase the likelihood of sustained connections, the sharing must represent a knowledge of the receiver’s personal interest and preparedness for the material being shared.
The last 5 months I have spent far greater time engaged in the following activities:
- Reading tweets and blogs and sharing these with the teachers on my team.
- Retweeting and connecting the questions of my teachers to other teachers and thinkers around the globe.
- Creating and sharing Great Twitter Classroom Connections (a list of over 300 active classrooms that are using twitter to engage students in global learning)
- Researching and helping my teachers begin to engage in connected learning (#mathstory #mlap, #grammar911, #vocabaz, #gloablgarden…etc)
- Helping my team build their own PLN (this is both an altruistic desire to build the capacity of all the educators on my team and a selfish desire to have an ever growing circle of learning for myself)
Though my team and I have only been truly engaged in getting connected and connecting for the first half of the school year, the payoffs are already tangible and exciting. Students are engages with other students around the country and globe; teachers are both getting there questions and idea-searches answered by practicing teachers and sharing their own answers to the question and searches of others; lastly, I get to stand on shoulders of giants (colleagues, PLN & anyone willing to share knowledge or insight).
Thank you to all who have contributed to my learning in 2013 and I look forward to the learning, sharing and growing that are ahead for us all in 2014.