I just finished listening in on Teachers Teaching Teachers tonight. It was the kick-off for Connected Educators Month. Check out the link here. Through many different topics and conversations that took place in the session, I decided to write my blog post tonight about connected learners and the unconnected learners that are reluctant to be connected.
Since going through the Summer Institute in 2010, I consider myself a connected learner. What does this mean? Well, it means I stay connected with other professionals through various social media sites, or other web platforms where ideas can be shared and essentially we become better teachers because we learn what is working in each other’s classroom and go forward with more learning tools in our belts. For example, I find Twitter to be a phenomenal place to get unscripted professional development. I find new websites, digital tools, and have conversations with other educators that help enrich my teaching. In addition, I may attend webinars, online book talks, or participate in subscribing to a blog. There is a cornucopia of ways to be a connected learner.
Enriching my teaching and my students as learners is what I crave and what I thrive for each and every day. The idea of “not being in teacher mode” during the summer or any other time of year, never crosses my mind. I am not cutting down educators that may have made that comment in the past. Don’t get me wrong, we all need a break. I can’t help but wonder why there are teachers out there who do not want be connected or help their students become connected learners. I understand there are districts who prevent their teachers from using technology to enhance their student’s learning. This does not mean the teacher themselves can’t become connected in some way to help their students. Also, what actually holds teachers back from becoming a connected learner and discovering the possibilities that awaits them? Is it fear of using something like Twitter, Facebook, or Google +? Perhaps it is the lack of knowledge of such technological tools and what they offer. I also wonder if there are still teachers out there who think technology is just another gimmick, bell, or whistle to bring in the classroom. Wait, it is less of a wonder and more of a “I know”; but there are teachers who believe using technology within their lessons is just an excuse to use it. Grasping and understanding the “why” has not been attained.
One specific topic that came about in the discussion tonight was “lurkers”. Lurkers are those people who in reality are connected, but never participate in what is happening. For instance, I have participated in webinars where individual participants don’t do anything to actively participate in the session. They sit and watch and are just there. What motivates these individuals to “lurk”? Are they not confident, just being good listeners, or are they just there because they have to be there as a requirement by a principal?
Connected Learning month will hopefully answer some of the questions that were brought up tonight. On the other hand, the answers may already exist. Nevertheless, connected learning can be powerful for teachers and students. Online book discussions, webinars, social media with students, Youth Voices, Digital Is, etc. are all great ways to be connected and become better teachers and help your students be better learners. Check out more resources on the National Writing Project’s Digital Is website for connected learning.