Over the course of the last decade, a challenge has been issued to education: evolve or fall behind. In my time with Chalkup I have encountered an entire world of educators dedicatedto answering the call advancing education into the modern era. You might call this series of communities a cult following or cadre of teachers, professors, administrators and edtech specialists with the foresight to recognize the importance of integrating technology and education. But that wouldn’t even do it justice. It is actually nothing short of a massive network of professionals armed with vision, a goal-oriented mentality, and a heart-felt desire to take education to the next level. Through twitter accounts, blogs, and countless other online mediums and personas these educators have created something remarkably powerful.
Over the course of the past few months I have been lucky enough to observe, interact with, and engage many of these professionals. It has been an enlightening experience for me, a college student with a growing desire to one day teach. There is one concept that keeps popping up in blogs, tweets, and forums among these educators: connected educators. Many of the frontrunners in these communities identify themselves as such already, while countless others express a desire to become one. This moniker, connected educator, is a little ambiguous and leaves other educators with a handful of questions. What is a connected educator? How do I become a connected educator? Is an entire upheaval of my classroom environment necessary? These are all good questions and the answers might be much simpler than you think.
What is a connected educator?
I’m glad you asked. First and foremost, I would like to dispel two possible misconceptions about connected educators. Connected educator is not a formal title; there is no certification process. More than anything it is a mentality or an identification, inherently more valuable than any certification can be. Secondly, connected educators are still teachers, administrators, and role models in the classroom. There is no trade-off here, they are compassionate educators dedicated to their careers and their students the same as any other. What sets connected educators apart is really just a keen ear and a drive to better their classrooms, not fix them. Connected educators do not look down on their colleagues and no one is suggesting that the average classroom is somehow broken. They seek only to improve their own classroom.
The means they use to accomplish this improvement are varied and creative. They utilize twitter in really interesting ways. They use #hashtags to host online discussions, about teaching methods, learning styles, difficulties they face with students and many other topics. They follow one another and countless other educational and edtech entities. They even respond to and retweet one another, often referencing each other’s articles. These articles often come from their blogs, another tool connected educators have at their disposal. They maintain these blogs with varying degrees of commitment and provide feedback to one another. They have manipulated these social tools in countless ways to connect with one another, practicing what many of them preach in the classroom; social learning. Most importantly though, these educators use these tools to discover, recommend, and investigate new educational technology and how these technologies can augment their teaching.
How do I become a connected educator?
Now that I’ve explained what a connected educator is, I hope it seems like a less imposing concept. Entering the network of connected educators should present itself as a less daunting task now. The first place to start is a twitter account. As mentioned above, this can be an invaluable tool and is actually much easier to use than you might think. The first step with your twitter account should be following the right people. In my opinion, some good follows are US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (@arneduncan), connected educators such as Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne), Sean Junkins (@sjunkins), and Eric Sheninger (@), and of course my personal favorite, @chalkupedu. If you want any more suggestions or have any questions about twitter, leave a comment and I’ll respond!
The next step for the aspiring connected educator is participating in online chats with other educators using hashtags such as (#edchat, #edtechchat, #engchat) at the end of your tweets. This is a really unique way to participate in an open forum with other educators. Lastly, while a blog is not necessary for the connected educator it is a really interesting tool that you can use to voice your thoughts, about your profession or anything else that piques your curiosity. Place a link to your blog in your twitter bio and you’re well on your way to becoming a big name among connected educators like yourself!
Teachers turn to social media for professional development, camaraderie http://t.co/ry4VnKiEdh— Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) May 16, 2014
What this means for your classroom.
As a connected educator it is up to you to determine which tips, teaching methods, or educational technology will benefit your classroom. You are in a unique position and you haven’t actually sacrificed any of your autonomy to gain access to advice and technology presented by thousands of your peers. The best educational technology out there is supplementary by nature and does not require any upheaval of your classroom, but it might just help you engage your students in an entirely new way. As you know, dedication and compassion for students is still paramount, no technology or new teaching method will ever change that. Should you decide that you had it right to begin with, be a role model and let your followers and other connected educators know what you are doing right!
At the end of the day, becoming a connected educator is easier than you might think. You don’t sacrifice anything and you stand to gain a lot. Be a role model to your students and utilize the social aspect of learning the way you expect them to in your classroom. Even if you don’t desire to create an entire online persona for yourself, you can still benefit from the network that your peers have set up. Don’t hesitate to be adventurous, see what’s out there and how it can benefit your classroom.