In honour of Connected Educator’s Month and Canadian Thanksgiving, this blog post celebrates and explores why I am grateful to be a “connected educator“. Being a connected educator means many different things to me. Yes, it means that I am an educator/administrator who appreciates the role technology plays in enhancing learning. That to me is the literal part – connecting to technology with screens, wires, networks, apps, platforms, google searches, etc. But, that literal part is just one small piece. Being a connected educator means being connected to other educators who are also open to sharing and learning from the wisdom of practise that comes from educators and thought leaders from around the globe. Being a connected educator means I value growing as a professional beyond the literal walls of the school where I work or the physical workshops I attend or the books that I read. As a connected educator I want to take ownership of my own ongoing growth and professional practise by connecting into a limitless pool of learning that comes from other people who share my passion for learning, leadership and personal/professional growth.
In the 18 months since I officially became a connected educator by joining twitter and starting this blog, I’ve “met” so many amazing people. While I have a small sense of what they look like through their posted photo and I know their name or moniker, I’ve never shaken their hand, made eye-contact with them or even exchanged the “how’s the weather?” niceties that come with a first face-to-face meeting or workshop icebreaker activity. All that is done away with in the connected educator world. No getting to you know you period required; that’s what the “about” page is for! The second I made choice to “follow” or “subscribe” I became connected to another educator because something about their experiences, understanding, philosophy, perspective or practise either resonated with or challenged/provoked me. I may not know how many sugars or how much cream they like in their coffee (I myself am a double-double Canuck coffee drinker), but by reading their words, whether a short and sweet tweet, or a more detailed blog post, I have come to know what motivates them professionally, and I believe, by default also personally because so many of us wear our professional hearts on our sleeves. I know they care deeply about their role in learning because their words move me to act. I know that they challenge my assumptions and provoke my thinking and inspire me to reflect on my own learning journey and areas where I can grow.
Being a connected educator also means you are a risk-taker yourself by giving back to the connected community. Connected educators support each other because we have a deep appreciation for the value of learning and best-practise pedagogy. We know that relationships matter to learning. We know that theory is just theory unless it is put into practise. We try new things in the name of this and we are compelled to reflect as a result. Even though we’ve never “met” we get to know each other so well through the digital window into each other’s classrooms and learning spaces! Receiving a re-tweet, a comment, a new follow, a favourite, a pingback, etc. lets us know that we are making a contribution and that somewhere else in the world someone else connected with what we put out there. It’s not about the numbers or the status – it really is about knowing that you share a commonality with another educator in the name of learning.
Being a connected educator also means you have choice. You can choose how much or how little to engage. I myself stick with twitter, blogs, wikis and the occasional use of Pinterest. That’s what I can comfortably manage without feeling overwhelmed by too much information. I have my own “Twitter Thursdays”, a day of the week where I devote my train commute to school to learning through twitter posts. The connected educator is in control of every last detail of their learning – the who, the when, the where, the how, the what and the why. You can access and/or give as much or as little as you choose – what other PD offers you that?
I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to the educators and thought leaders who continue to inspire me because we are “connected”. My connected community continues to expand, which is a sure sign that I am growing as I learn from others, and hope that others might learn something from me in return.