Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What Does A Relevant, Connected Educator Look Like-Part 2

If you haven't had a chance, check out Part One of this series. 

Last week we looked at the first four qualities that Tom Whitby and I layout in our book The Relevant Educator and believe all Relevant, Connected educators posses.

Just to recap:

  • Practices and Models Lifelong Learning-For educators, learning should never stop. 
  • Believes in Sharing and Collaboration-Alone we are smart but together we are brilliant. Sharing, reflecting and collaborating together is an imperative. 
  • Willing To Explore, Question, Elaborate and Advance Ideas Through Connections With Other Educators-We should always be striving to have our thinking pushed and have healthy debates about what works and doesn't in education. 
  • Views Failure As Part Of The Learning Process-Failure is part of our future. We need to embrace it so we can learn from it. 

I think back to the moment I entered the classroom for my first day of teaching. My classroom wasn't equipped with any technology, let alone a connection to the Internet. Our grading system was computer-based but I had to go to the Media Center to enter them. Students (and teachers) were at a disadvantage because of our lack of connectedness.

Today, that picture is much different. In just 15 or so years we've seen an emphasis on getting classrooms connected to high-speed resources, availability of devices that put the learning in the hands of students and access to on-demand professional learning resources that can help any educator improve their practice anywhere.

In Part 2, lets explore how Relevant, Connected Educators are utilizing technology to enhance and improve their learning and make all this possible.

Uses Technology And It's Connections To Other Educators To Learn And Teach- It is the access to those professional learning resources that is key for Relevant, Connected Educators. Technology has provided the means for us to learn anywhere, anytime and anything we want from other professionals around the world. But, it's not just about consumption. Creating and teaching is also a part as well. Relevant, Connected Educators contribute to other's knowledge in addition to consuming it. Something like Twitter chats can be a great way to learn from others and contribute to the learning of others.

Uses The Tools Of Technology To Personalize Their Professional Development-We are no longer bound by the professional development offered to us by the district. PD can happen in places and ways once not possible or conceivable. By plugging in Relevant, Connected Educators are using webinars, on-demand learning, MOOC's, hashtags and other digital resources to learn and improve their practice. One of my favorite places to personalize my own learning is Edweb.net. On any given day there are 3-5 webinars on a wide variety of topics. And everything is archived and free so I can browse at my leisure to learn on my schedule.

Comfortable With New Technology And Shows A Willingness To Explore- Remember back to Part 1 and our conversation about failure? Technology is unpredictable and sometimes mysterious, but that is what makes it so awesome! Relevant, Connected Educators put their fears aside and jump into trying new technologies. Sometimes they work out really well. Other times, not. (Remember Google Wave?) The take-away is the willingness to explore and try new technologies. You never know what you'll discover.

May Put Creation Over Content And Relevance Over Doctrine-The pushback we get for all this is how can Relevance and Connectedness live in a world with strict standards, summative assessments and all the pressures that educators are under. I believe it is the connections that make the job of teaching and learning easier. The resources available, the people to reflect with, the professional learning to engage with all serve to improve our ability to do our jobs better. And sometimes that means making waves and doing whats right not for standards or assessments, but for students and learning.

These are the 8 tenets we believe all educators should strive to achieve. But what say you? What has your road to Connectedness and Relevance looked like? What challenges did you face? How are you improving? Leave a comment below.

photo credit: Professional Association of Milwaukee Public Educa via photopin cc

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What Does A Relevant, Connected Educator Look Like-Part 1

When Tom Whitby and I set out to write The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning we wanted to provide a manual for any educator who had a desire to improve their practice, as many have already done, by utilizing social media and other tools. We both had experienced tremendous growth in our professional and personal lives and we wanted to share how we got there with others.

Being a Relevant, Connected Educator is something, we believe, should be embraced by all educators everywhere. Today, with so much access to information, the way that learning is done is drastically different than it was just a handful of years ago. Professional development in many schools and districts has trouble keeping up with the latest pedagogical trends and some leaders refuse to embrace these methods as viable.

But what does a Relevant, Connected Educator look like? What do they do in their practice that sets them apart from those that don't use social learning as the backbone for their professional and personal learning? We believe there are eight things these educators do differently from the rest. Let's examine the first four.

Practices and Models Lifelong Learning-Most educators would say that they want their students to always love learning and do it far beyond school. Yet many don't practice it or only practice the learning as mandated by their leadership. Relevant, Connected Educators believe in the power that lifelong learning can have and are models of what that looks like. Digital resources has made it much easier for anyone to engage in learning any time, any where they are. And Relevant, Connected Educators plug in, often, to learn new skills, reflect on their practice and share learning with others.

Believes in Sharing and Collaboration-Learning is a very social activity. And think of all the things we wouldn't know had someone not shared knowledge with us. The sharing of knowledge is as old as time. Relevant, Connected Educators know the importance of sharing learning what they know and what they've curated. They also believe in the power of working together with others to improve and empower all.

Willing to Explore, Question, Elaborate, and Advance Ideas Through Connections With Other Educators-Just like sharing has been a part of learning since the beginning of time, disagreement and discourse as been as well. Debates help push our thinking and see all sides of arguments and issues. Relevant, Connected Educators use all the tools at their disposal to not only debate but reflect on their own ideas and explore new ones. Twitter chats, blogs and social communities help bring many ideas together in one place for us to learn from and with.

Views Failure as Part of the Learning Process-Most educators will admit they had a lesson (or in my case, several) that just didn't go the way it should. For one reason or another the expected outcomes didn't match with the actual. Some, would get frustrated and move on or make excuses and place the blame else where. Relevant, Connected Educators embrace failure as part of their learning. And, taking it one step further, they reflect on that failure, sometimes sharing it publicly so others can reflect along with them and offer suggestions or insight.

These are just the first 4 tenets of being a Relevant, Connected Educator. What do you think? How as doing any or all of these benefited you and your learning?

In Part 2 we will look at the last 4 and some ideas on where to get started on the path to being a Relevant, Connected Educator!

Photo Credit: The New School via photopin cc

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Learning Resolutions For 2015

Normally with the start of a new year comes the inevitable New Year's Resolutions. That feeling of starting over can bring thoughts of loosing those pounds put on over the years, exercising more, or spending more time with your kids.

I have followed the resolution path in the past, resolving to eat better, drink less soda or take a picture a day. And usually by mid-January when asked about my resolutions, the response is the same.

What resolutions? 

Many find success with trying to change behaviors or habits. Kudos to them!

This year, I want to flip the script. Instead of the resolutions I make every year that are personal, I want to make some public, Learning Resolutions, that maybe you'll adopt along with me. 

Learning Resolution 1-Reflect More
I have written about the importance of reflection many times before and talk about it often. In this article a study from Harvard Business School is cited which showed that when participants were allowed to reflect on a test, did remarkably better the on the next assessment. A quick search will show many articles, books and papers written on the importance of reflection on the learning process. Just as it is important for students to reflect, educators should take time to reflect, daily on their practice. It's how we get better. 

So I am resolving to share more about my learning and thinking in this space over the next year. In addition to the resources and tools, I want to publicly share my thoughts on my thinking with you so we can all learn together. 

How can you reflect more with me? If you have a blog, share your reflections there. If you don't have one, start one and share your reflections. Don't want to start a blog? Ok. Resolve to talk to your colleagues about your thinking. Dedicate time and energy to not only the act of reflecting but also the act of sharing those reflections. 

Learning Resolution 2-Share More
Twitter has been my learning drug of choice for over 6 years now. I post there nearly every day and spend a great deal of time there reading tweets, gathering resources but also sharing links and posts too. You might have another space where you do your digital learning. And, even though it sounds cliché I have learned a great deal from the time I've spent there. And I am grateful everyday for the learning I get to do these digital spaces.

And while I work with educators nearly everyday on the benefits of being a Relevant Educator who utilizes digital tools, I can always do more. So I am going to seek out new ways sharing the benefits of being connected and engage with more people to share my learning. That might mean sharing all my notes from the conferences I am lucky to attend in Evernote, to mentoring new teachers who are using social media to connect. There are lots of ways I can share more everyday!

How can you share more along with me? Starting and/or posting on your blog is a great start. Engaging with colleagues is another. Perhaps you'll attend a conference or Edcamp this year. Make a point set aside time to come back and share your learning with another teacher, your team or your building. Or maybe you collect and curate digital resources? Make them available publicly so others can learn from your resources too. 

Learning Resolution 3-Change The World and Be Awesome, Everyday
Back at ISTE in 2013, my friend Adam Bellow, invited us to change the world. (If you haven't seen his keynote there, do yourself a favor and sit for a hour and watch it. You will not be disappointed.) Adam challenges us to think about how we, through what we say and our actions, can make the world a better place each day. 

Each day I start out with my "Be Awesome Today!" on Twitter. In my only little way I am trying to take what Adam has charged us to do and do it the best I can. But by the end of everyday this year, through my reflections and my sharing, I will ask myself, I did change the world today? And if I didn't, I will think about how I can work harder tomorrow to do it. 

How can you change the world and be awesome everyday? Start with reflecting and sharing. And remember to do what you do, each day with conviction, and ensure its best for your learning but especially the learning for kids. 

So I hope you'll join me in these Learning Resolutions for 2015. What are your Learning Resolutions? What do you want to do better or differently? Leave a comment below. 

Happy New Year!

Photo credit: vanhookc via photopin cc