Monthly Archives: July 2015

IS THERE A WAY TO GET MORE EDUCATED CONNECTED?

IS THERE A WAY TO GET MORE EDUCATED CONNECTED?

This week #slowchatpe is being taken over by Brian Costello (@btcostello) I have been lucky enough to present with Brian at two different edcamps and consider him an integral part of my PLN. He is part heart, part philosopher, part dissident, anti homework, and pro thinker. If you don’t know him you need to follow him and allow him to brighten your life as well as challenge your thinking.  I thought so much of his original blog for CUE that I clamored for him to write a follow up blog for #slowchatpe. I am going to post his original blog here and his follow up blog below. I hope you are ready to think!  
This original blog was posted on the CUE blogsite http://blog.cue.org/connectededucatorclothes/.  

The Connected Educator’s New Clothes

Emperor's New ClothesFor over a year I have been excited about being a connected educator. I frequently lose myself in conversations, blog posts, and chats that speak to my diverse interests. As someone who enjoys consuming information and having intellectual discussions, the connections I have made are energizing and valuable. When I first started to connect with others I wanted to share this incredible resource with the world. Like most who get over-excited about sharing a new passion, I went ahead full force. I shared what I was learning with everyone the way the proud emperor displayed his new clothes. Unfortunately, people refused to see the beauty of my “new clothes” of connected learning. After a few weeks I had failed to inspire anyone to try on my connected educator’s new clothing. People were sure I was crazy, but they allowed me to continue my charade and strut around in my birthday suit of connectedness.

Since then I have seen how I cloaked myself similarly to the emperor. I knew better, and everyone else simply did not have the intelligence or foresight to realize the brilliance of being connected. I was wrapped up in how much I was learning and how it was helping to inspire more meaningful, engaging learning in my classroom. I looked at others with a contempt from on high. I, the great, learned, connected educator knew better than those Others. To this day I reflect upon my original experiences and see the foolish emperor.

Connecting means sharing, learning, reflecting, and collaborating. Truly being a connected educator means developing relationships with other people who can help us become better as either educators or as people in general. The more teachers we can get to share and learn from, the stronger education becomes.

There is a movement to expand the isolated pockets of connected educators. Even as the numbers of educators developing meaningful professional relationships outside of their schools expands, connected educators are still the minority. Many of education’s thought leaders, those that are shaping the future of our profession, are connected. Despite seeing more administrators, more teacher leaders, and nearly every major presenter in education as part of the connected educator network, the average educator is still not involved. To the average person in the classroom, the emperor is just a crazy man without clothes. Expanding the small, often clustered collection of educators that can be called connected is, in theory, an amazing movement for education.

Theoretically this is a no brainer.

The problem lies in our definitions of connected, our preconceived notions of teachers that are and are not connected, and the language we use when we talk about other educators. If we use the above definition of connecting, then we ought to push teachers to be connected. Most of us started connecting so that we could learn and improve for our students and ourselves. We sought individuals that pushed our thinking and challenged us to improve.

While we consistently hear the concept that “we are all equals here with equal voices”, many connected educators are discounting the voices of those that are not connected. Like I did, I see many connected educators creating a division between themselves and “the others”. There are statements about “them” that are derogatory and insulting. In case after case we forget that “them” refers to the dedicated teacher down the hall or the principal who has an incredible relationship with staff and students. Somewhere along the line the collective We of educational twitter users decided that Connected meant better, that Not Connected meant stagnant and closed-minded. It sometimes seems that not being on twitter is akin to not caring about your students or your profession.

With this approach, we alienate ourselves from the people we are trying to inspire. If our goal is to improve educators and develop connections among ourselves in the name of helping kids, we are heading down a wayward path. By labeling Others, we start with the preconception that they are already less than ourselves. When we help develop fellow educators’ access to the information, the resources, and the value of connection, they will find what type of connection works for them.

We should be clear that Connected does not necessarily mean “uses twitter.” If being connected actually means that we share, collaborate, learn and reflect through building relationships with others, then it leaves lots of room for choice. Yes, educators can connect through Twitter, but Voxer, Slack, Periscope, live podcasts, Google Hangouts, blogging, Instagram, Pinterest, face to face, and even Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn are viable options. I learn from being connected, not to an app or device, but to a vast collection of people who have a greater collection of knowledge and experiences than my own.

Connected EducatorsThe term “connected educator” is not then a bivalent description, but one that extends along a continuum that allows for learning and improvement on an individual basis. One way is not necessarily superior to another, it is the learning and improving that matter, not the format. We cannot brazenly strut about with the belief that if other people don’t see what we want them to, that they are beneath us. We cannot pretend to be wearing ornate robes.

There is a difference between the Connected Educator and the Emperor– everyone can see our new clothes. The truth is, most of us have developed an amazing wardrobe. It is up to all of us to do more than just show them off, but to find as many possible ways to let others tailor their own. We ought to promote connecting, but we ought to do it in a way that is open, allows people to use their strengths, learn from one another, and forge greater opportunities for education.

His follow up blog:
Standard

For the better part of a year, I have strongly believed that we should endeavor to get as many teachers connected(in some way) as possible.  Doing this is important, and here is why:

To me, being connected means we share, collaborate, learn, and reflect through the relationships we have built.  We take all of the wonderful support and resources that are readily at our disposal and we find ways to transform them into better learning opportunities for our kids.  By engaging in and developing those relationships, we make ourselves both better educators and better people.  Being connected is this incredible revelation for myself and many others which I have at times compared to being unplugged from the Matrix.

So many of education’s thought leaders are readily available for us to question, learn with, and grow alongside.  Why is it, that the average teacher/administrator  is not a part of this?  What keeps them from being connected?

When I first became a connected educator I found myself relentlessly eager to spread the word.  I had seen the light and soon I would help save others!  I have learned much since those days.  I recently shared that story and my reflections on what I see as a divisive attempt to push connectedness with CUE.  What I was left with at the end of my musings was an important question:

How do we expand the pockets of connected educators?  How do we reach those that have not “seen the light”?  

The truth is, I am not sure.  I am hoping to draw on the wealth of knowledge from intelligent, creative people.  I am looking for answers, and not the kind that come from the stockpile.  The reality is, we are very much the minority in education.

We are the few, making decisions and setting trends for the many.  I want the voices of the many, and I want new ways to engage them.  I am no longer content to be a candle, burning brightly in the dark (admitting I stole that phrase from a favorite Sci-Fi novel: Spinward Fringe).

This week Justin Schleider has been kind enough to lend me his platform of #SlowChatPE to discuss this important topic.  Please be prepared to come up with your best ideas, even if they are only ideas.  Those of you that have been in chats I have moderated know I will not take a canned answer.  Be ready to expand, to think, to have me push back the way many often do.  Here are this week’s questions.  Please take time to think and share.  Finding ways to get more educators to share, collaborate, learn, and grow should be of paramount importance to education leaders everywhere.

Monday: Q1- How did you find the right way for you to be connected?

Tuesday: Q2- How does being connected translate into better teaching and learning in your classroom/school?  Give specific examples.

Wednesday: Q3- “Show them” is ALWAYS the answer: How have you used being connected to help someone else improve their classroom?

Thursday: Q4- How can being a connected educator have negative effects on your teaching?

Friday: Q5- What can we gain from being connected to people outside education?

Advertisements

Finding Your Swagger

The great Dr. Will Deyamport III runs #beyouEDU. This month’s subject is swagger. In his video he defines swagger as your essence and what you bring to the table. This is a great topic for me because my swagger was a little shaken earlier this month. I started to question myself and my use of social media. I need this blog post to remind me of where my swagger comes from.

My swagger comes from the undying faith that I will be able to achieve whatever goal I set for myself. I will learn what I need to learn, do what I need to do, go where I need to go in order to accomplish my aim. My swagger comes from my life’s experiences in school and sports. I succeeded because I was willing to work hard and learn. My swagger comes from two parents who loved and supported me in any endeavor I was willing to entertain. My swagger comes from accomplishing what I wanted time and time again. My swagger comes from learning that don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. My swagger comes from finding someone that loves and supports me. I bring my swagger with me in all walks of life.

Why did I think I was able to raise children? I had never changed a diaper before. I didn’t know the first thing about newborns or infants. I relied on my ability to get things done. I had undying faith in myself. I would conquer being a parent. Swagger.

Another goal of mine was to become a teacher. What makes me think that students should listen to what I have to say? Why am I the best person chosen to teach physical education and health? I am the finest person because I care about my students and my job enough to keep improving. I won’t settle for being good when I can continue to chase great. Swagger.

I earned my master’s degree in administration. I want to lead a school made up of leaders. What makes me think that I am good enough to help great people do their jobs? My undying faith that I will do whatever it takes to succeed in whatever job or position that I hold. The knowledge that I will read as many books or articles about leadership and improve my ability to lead. What makes me want to attain a position I have no experience in yet? Swagger.

When I walk into a room I know that I will be able to contribute to the conversation in some way shape or form. I know this because I read everything and anything I can constantly. I know this because I am socially aware enough to realize what to say and when to say it. I realize this because I am smart enough to ask questions when I need clarification without worrying about how I will be perceived by others in the room. At least one other person had the same question in their head but might not have had the confidence to ask it for fear of being looked down upon. Swagger.

If you read my Twitter bio it says I will change the world. How do I have the cojones to think that I will change the world? Because I don’t aim small. It is not enough to be a parent. I want to be the best parent I can be. It is not enough to be a teacher. I want to be the best teacher I can be. It is not enough to be an administrator. I want to be the best administrator I can be. It is not enough to live. I want to change the world I live in. Swagger.

Q1: Where did you get your swagger from? #slowchatpe

Q2: Did anything ever shake your swagger? What was it? #slowchatpe

Q3: How do we allow our ss to find their swagger? #slowchatpe

Q4: Does your swagger help or hurt you? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who do you know in education has the most swagger? #slowchatpe

The Art of Engagement

Becoming a connected educator is the new vogue. It allows you to explore the world of education from the comfort of your favorite internet enabled device. There is a downside to it which is illustrated here and here. Both authors I believe would agree that the positives of being connected far outweigh the negatives because they are still connected educators. This blog is not about why it’s fantastic to be connected. It is about how to engage with people once you are connected.

Let’s dissect the ways we can become connected and how we engage with those people we become connected to. The best way to become connected is at conferences. This could be edcamps, ISTE, district conferences, or anything in between. The art of engagement at conferences are where most educators shine. These connections run very little risk of miscommunications. You are face to face. This allows you to see the person, hear their voice, and pick up on exactly what they are saying as well as how they are saying it. I would imagine most educators are somewhat effective at this type of engagement. We learn how to become active listeners early in our career and practice it every day with students, staff, parents, and other stakeholders.

The next way a lot of educators become connected is Twitter. Twitter has a ton of communication limitations. You only get 140 characters to write, no one can see your face or body language, anyone can see what you post, and there is no tone of voice to gauge where the writer is coming from. In addition to all that, people are jumping in and out of your conversation all the time giving their opinion or versionof the truth from their perspective. I have personally run into multiple problems when discussing sensitive topics on Twitter. People either don’t understand what I am saying or my message comes across in an entirely different manner than I meant it.

I thought this was other people’s problem at first. I know what I was saying and how I meant it. If they knew me they would know this as well. That is where the problem lies. We don’t intimately know the people we interact with. We assume everyone understands what we wrote and why we wrote it. When we engage on Twitter we have to understand that what we say can be taken in from anyone in any number of ways. Different subjects have different levels of sensitivity to different people.

Every tweet must be analyzed from multiple perspectives before we send it out. If your tweet offends someone or a group of people you must look at it and figure out exactly what happened and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Also be aware that Twitter can become emotionally turbulent very quickly. It is hard to emotionally regulate yourself when multiple people are questioning you and your posts. Do not let things spiral out of control by allowing yourself to lash out at people. You only look bad. When you feel emotions start to spiral out of control, step away from your device and comeback later. This will save you a lot of shame later.

Another way people connect is through Facebook, Linked In, or Google plus. This medium allows more characters when posting. Communication may still become a problem when you are engaging with your PLN. You may limit who can see your posts in most cases though. This allows you to control much of your audience. We know with social media though that there is nothing that can’t be viewed by people though. When engaging with your PLN continue to follow all the rules of Twitter. Be aware that not all people know what you are saying and that things can be misconstrued quickly.

A very popular way of collaborating is through Google Hangouts, Skype, or Appear.in. These are all awesome ways to engage because you can see a person’s face when they are talking. This allows you to get a much better idea of how they are saying things. Psychologically (don’t have my psych degree) I think it reminds you that you are interacting with a person. This is not a name with a picture you are typing to. This relieves some of the digital detachment that I myself feel when I interact through the written word.

There are much fewer pitfalls when we engage in digital face to face situations. Emotions seem easier to regulate, the audience you interact with is usually small, and you are able to read you PLN’s facial expressions to get instant feedback. The drawback is that you can only engage with eight people live at a time.

Voxer is my favorite way of communication. It alleviates a ton of the limitations that Twitter has. You can write messages as long as you want, you control who sees your original message, and people hear your voice. Voice inflection is the game changer here. People can hear what you say and how you say it. This assuages much of the communication problems the above mediums have. Jokes and sarcasm come through much clearer. Voxer is where I have had my perspective challenged and changed. It is much easier to have deeper conversations and debates when you don’t have to worry about character limits, abbreviations, or the tone of your message not coming across.

Voxer does have some engagement issues to be aware of though. Any message or conversation could be forwarded by someone in your group to the outside universe with or without your consent. Your voice does convey much more of your message than the typed word but it still doesn’t replace body language. Voxer also allows a much broader stream of consciousness than a lot of the other communication tools. That isn’t always the best thing!!

The art of engagement is much more than the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use. It is really focusing and concentrating on how to get the most out of your PLN in a positive and constructive manner. Engaging with your PLN is an art that has to be fine-tuned. You constantly refine what you say and how you say it. I know I am still working on perfecting how I engage.

Q1: What is your favorite medium to engage your PLN? Why? #slowchatpe

Q2: What is your least favorite medium to engage your PLN? Why? #slowchatpe

Q3: What struggles have you had using social media? #slowchatpe

Q4: What do people do that gets your emotions boiling on sm? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who is in your PLN that you model your PLN engagement after? #slowchatpe