Monday, October 28, 2013

Why Being Connected Matters

October is Connected Educators month.  If you are connected online you probably already knew this, if not then you may have no idea what I am talking about.  Generally speaking, to be a connected educator means that you learn from others in the education field.  Whether that means a PLC from across the hall, or an educator you have never met from around the world, being connected is closely tied to learning, collaborating, and sharing.
Being connected is almost always associated with social media.  Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest are extremely popular ways to become a connected educator.  This is where I became connected and started learning more about education, technology, and leadership........through Twitter. Being connected is not about social media, but about making connects...local and beyond.
Consequently, there have been a lot of blogs written this month about what it means to be connected, the use of social media in being connected, as well as the value of being a connected educator.
I don’t want to regurgitate what lots of other talented bloggers and writers have reflected on this month, but I also feel as if I can give my unique perspective on what I think it means to be a connected educator.  I feel strongly about this....you do not need social media to be connected, you need collaboration and a willingness to learn.  Social media just makes those two things easier. Here is what I think if means to be “connected”:

1.  You work in grade level/course alike teams that collaborate about teaching, learning, assessment, and data.  Being connected means collaborating with the people you work closest with.  This is a non negotiable in today's world of education.  The days of working alone with a shut door are long gone.  Your front line PLN must be the people you work closest with on a daily basis.

2.  You should be connected with your district.  Know people in other buildings.  Understand some of the issues that educators face at different grade levels, buildings, and departments.  Connecting with different grade and building levels can give a holistic view on what is happening in education today.

3.  Connecting using a media platform.  For me, Twitter is the best place to connect with educators, but there are endless possibilities here.  Google+, Pinterest,  and good old fashion Listservs (yes people still use those) are great mediums on which to connect.  This type of connecting can lead to amazing learning and sharing.  These platforms have changed the way educators share and connect.  

Why connect?  We live in a fast paced world in which the dynamics of the education profession can change faster than ever.  To be a connected educator means that you keep yourself updated on things happening in the world of education.  Twitter has allowed this to happen for me and my career.  Twitter links me to blogs, introduces me to like minded people, and helps me to always be learning and on the cutting edge of what is happening in my field.  
Finally, being connected means you are not just a consumer of online PD, but also a producer. Step out of your comfort zone and start a blog, or participate in a Twitter chat.  These things can help you reflect and grow tremendously as an educator.  It is great to start as an observer or lurker, but you get the most out of being connected when you are an engaged participant.  
While October is Connected Educators month it is important that teachers are connected all through the year.  Make meaningful connections across your school, your district, and via social media.  It can add a new dimension to your own personal professional development.