By: Zac Leonard
I don’t know about your school or district, but ours is changing at an incredible pace. I’m not complaining, I think it’s awesome that schools across the world are following the ideas of Matt Miller and Ditch That Textbook, or Dave Burgess and Teach Like a Pirate to revolutionize the way we approach teaching and learning.
With that change comes countless established, effective educators who are having to make a tectonic shift in their pedagogy, or be left in the dust. In the educational world there are two types of teachers, those who have bought into the idea that student culture has changed, and with it the way we teach has to change, and those who believe that the way we’ve always done things will work moving forward. Chances are if you’re reading this you fall into the first group. You are somewhere on your journey as a connected educator! That’s awesome! No matter if this if your first blog visit or you conduct a Twitter chat weekly on educational issues you are now part of the collective mind that is preparing the future.
With that being said as a connected educator I believe there are three stages to realizing the full potential of being connected.
I was thrust into the a 1:1 classroom in 2007, no one in 100 miles had ever tried to use the top item on last year’s Christmas list as an instructional tool, and I was scared. As I took the summer and the next few years learning how to maximize the potential of both my students and the devices I read, stole, and re-purposed daily what I could find online.
When we first plug in we can feel overwhelmed, and to combat that we do what comes naturally. We RESEARCH! I know I tried hundreds of new ideas, strategies, and content from across the web, but I couldn’t tell you what or where I got any of it. I felt an insatiable hunger for any resource I could find to try with this new technology. It felt amazing. Falling in love with what you do all over again is a joy I invite all to find as often as possible. It’s the honeymoon phase, lets try it all and see what sticks, and then we’ll try something else cool anyway.
There’s nothing wrong with being in the consuming stage, it’s where we learn how to swim. If you are new to teaching, in a new content area, or just new to joining the EdTech crowd there are a plethora of awesome resources available. Some of my favorites are;
Teachers Pay Teachers – Teachers Pay Teachers is a community of millions of educators who come together to share their work, their insights, and their inspiration with one another. We are the first and largest open marketplace where teachers share, sell, and buy original educational resources. That means immediate access to a world of expertise and more time to focus on students and teaching.
Think Angie’s List for teachers!
Edutopia – A comprehensive website and online community that increases knowledge, sharing, and adoption of what works in K-12 education. We emphasize core strategies: project-based learning, comprehensive assessment, integrated studies, social and emotional learning, educational leadership and teacher development, and technology integration.
Amazing collection of resources and #EduRockStar Jennifer Williams writes for Edutopia.
Google – I know it seems silly, but most of the time when I’m looking for something I ask Mr. Google. When you are new to something it can be difficult to know what to call the idea in your head, but you can type in a description of what you want to do and search for it!
After a few years of shot-gunning ideas I found online, with a mixed bag of results. I realized that other than my lesson plans and a completely disorganized Documents folder, I would be hard pressed to recreate or share any of the awesome things I tried with my students. This brought me to the next stage, Curating. Curate is an unusual word, and has found traction in the educational community over the past few years because it best describes what connected teachers do on a regular basis.
Back in the ancient days of the 1990’s if someone mentioned a Curator one would think of someone who manages the artifacts in a museum. They find new pieces or develop relationships with organizations to bring in exhibits that fit the scope of the museum.
In the same way connected educators are connecting with people on Twitter through their PLN (Professional Learning Network), and Chats (#2PencilChat, #EdTechAfterDark, #BeMoreEdChat) sharing resources and organizing them to ensure they 1) Can find them later, and 2) Determine if they are something beneficial for the classroom.
The evolution from consumer to curator is being more discerning over which strategies, lessons, or resources we invest our time in. Curators not only find great ideas, they place them somewhere safe, they scrutinize the artifact for authenticity, and they test it before sharing. Some awesome resources for the Curators out there;
Pinterest – a social network that allows users to visually share, and discover new interests by posting (known as ‘pinning’ on Pinterest) images or videos to their own or others’ boards (i.e. a collection of ‘pins,’ usually with a common theme) and browsing what other users have pinned
I know you have heard about Pinterest, but how often do you share your boards with your PLN? I rarely (myself included) see shared boards in chats or on Twitter. We invest so much time building these boards, we should be sharing them with our PLN.
Participate Learning – Participate Learning empowers teachers to improve student outcomes by helping them find and share free vetted educational resources to take advantage of the preponderance of broadband and internet-connected devices in their classrooms.
Participate Learning delivers thousands of apps, videos and websites – professionally vetted by expert teachers – that are searchable by keyword, category or Common Core State Standard. Additionally, any teacher can create and share Collections of their own favorite apps, videos, websites, or files (either web-based or uploaded) around a specific subject or lesson plan.
All your favorite chats are recorded, organized and resources are available with a tap or click.
Klout – Klout is a website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence via the “Klout Score”, which is a numerical value between 1 and 100. In determining the user score, Klout measures the size of a user’s social media network and correlates the content created to measure how other users interact with that content.
I set up my Klout to find blog posts, articles, and other resources that are tied to Education, Education Technology, Educational Leadership, K-12 Education, and Higher Education. You can customize what you see, and what you seek.
I have no authority to say that this is the highest level to be reached by a teacher, or that if you are writing blog posts you are the perfect teacher and have nothing more to learn. Very much to the contrary in my experience the more I learned about using tech in the classroom the less I knew. I still go to EdCamps and conferences on a regular basis and learn new things every time. I read blog posts by my friends and those I’ve never talked with and learn new ways to improve my craft.
With that being said, in my mind the level we’d like to see all Connected Educators reach is Creation. The problem with most teachers is we all think our ideas are dumb, and that no one would want to hear about them. The truth is creating content to share with other connected educators doesn’t make one smarter than any other teacher, it just means they are contributing to the collective mind of connected educators.
Taking the leap from curating to creating leaves us vulnerable, we are sharing our inner most feelings about our profession, it can be unnerving. When we share our ideas and experiences we are minimizing the mistakes teachers are making, and maximizing the achievement of students globally.
Sir Ken Robinson shared a brilliant video about the changing face of education (here), and in it he says that as a culture we have been trained to believe that to “be successful” one must adhere to the rules set in the educational world. In our educational culture that’s standardization, we teach standards, we test standards, and if you do anything else it better not affect those results. The flip side to this is that by equating success with standardization we have communicated that creativity is a sign of failure. This is why we don’t like our ideas, and surely don’t want to share them.
The future of education rests on our willingness to share our experiences. Create content whether it be lessons to share with teachers, a blog where you talk about the learning that took place in your classroom, or an infographic on data you pulled from a study or article.
Some great resources we can use to Create are;
Easel.ly – Easel.ly is a website that features thousands of free infographic templates and design objects which users can customize to create and share their visual ideas online. Using the site is as easy as dragging and dropping design elements, and users can either choose a template from our extensive library, or they can upload their own background image and start from scratch. Over 300,000 users have already registered with Easel.ly, and thousands of infographics are produced using the site every month.
EduBlogs – We believe that blogging transforms the educational experience of students and have seen firsthand how Edublogs increases ownership of learning, engages students, and becomes a source of pride in the classroom.
Amazon Open Education – Amazon is currently preparing to open a free interactive resource and lesson sharing platform for educators to use as part of the US Department of Education’s #GoOpen initiative. The new platform is in beta testing now, and is scheduled to be released publicly within the next two to three months, according to Andrew Joseph, vice president of strategic relations for Amazon Education. Users of the site will be able to add ratings and reviews, and to receive recommendations based on their previous selections. Educators will be able to curate open resources, self-publish material they have developed, and put a school’s entire digital library that is open and freely available online. Shared from Michele Molnar of EdWeek’s Marketbrief.
We are all on this journey of revolutionizing education together, if you’d like to share your thoughts on EdTechAfterDark.com connect with me on Twitter @MrLeonard8.
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