Getting Started: Connected Educator Month #CE13

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Meaningful change ain’t gonna happen for our kids if we’re not willing to invest in it for ourselves first. At the heart, it’s not about schools…it’s about us.” — Will Richardson

Many educators see Twitter, in particular, and social media, in general, as frivolous wastes of time. I mean, who really cares what Honey Boo Boo is up to? Who cares what J.T. had for breakfast? Or any other celebrity gossip, really? But, being connected isn’t about Justin, or Kim, or any of the residents of the Jersey Shore. It is about investing in our own learning to make meaningful change for our students.

This week I had the opportunity to talk with educational leaders in Sonoma County about how we can use Twitter to connect and learn and lead in the 21st Century (#scoe21c). During the session, we explored why being connected is important and how it can help us invest in our learning and growth. I shared my own journey from my initial trepidation, to piqued curiosity, to active seeking, to a deeper understanding of the significance of sharing with other educators. It was my hope to provide a little nudge and inspiration for other educators to “get connected” and pursue their own passions and learning.

With Connected Educator Month right around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to stop and reflect on the “why” — “why connect”? and how to get started. Continue reading

Back to the Future?

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This morning I read a thought-provoking blog post by John Bernia, “The Landscape has Changed, the Skills are the Same.”

In his post, Bernia argues that what many refer to as “21st Century Skills” are really no different than the skills that successful people in the past have needed:

If Doc Brown and Marty McFly were here to fly you “Back to the Future,” and we arrived in 1955, the skills and habits of successful people would be identical to those which are now cited as 21st century skills. Leaders and innovators of the mid-20th century had to solve problems, communicate and work with others.

Bernia concludes that: “The skills are not new. The landscape, tools, pace and communication medium are.” He calls upon educators to change our strategies by embracing  “the new landscape and tools” and remembering “that the skills that learners will need to succeed in the future are no different today than they were 58 years ago.”

His post really got me thinking about the essential skills and habits of mind that our students will need for their success and how they compare with those of the past. Are the skills really the same? Continue reading

On the moral obligation of sharing

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I’ve been developing a personal learning network (PLN) through Twitter and online forums for the past few years. I found my initial forays into social media to be a bit disorienting. The flow of information was overwhelming. It was difficult to get my bearings. But, I stuck with it — dipping in, then stepping away, and then returning. I found it to be a process — at first I mainly “lurked”, viewing the contributions of others, then gradually I began to share and engage with others.

Through this process, I have discovered what Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt) has referred to as “Effort In = Reward Out.” Along the way, I have benefited in real ways from the ideas, practices and insights shared by the amazing and thoughtful educators who are part of my PLN. Engaging with the work of others has nudged me to take risks, pushed me to think more deeply, and opened up new ideas for empowering students in their learning.

In the (tongue-in-cheek) words of George Siemens, these powerful learning experiences led me to conclude that “My Personal Learning Network is the most awesomest thing ever!” Siemens’s piece challenged my thinking about PLN’s, in general, and helped me to think differently about the importance of my network and my place within it. Continue reading

Stepping into the social media landscape

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Getting started with social media can be daunting. I remember when I began exploring Twitter a few years ago. Like many others, when I signed up, I didn’t get it. I was almost instantly overwhelmed with the amount of information and could not make sense of it.

As I stumbled my way through the seemingly strange social media landscape, I’ve met some amazing guides who have paved a path. I began to read and delve into the resources they shared and slowly…I learned more. As I learned, I began to get my bearings a bit. Through their example, they have opened up a whole new world to me.

Here are just a few of the educators who are part of my personal learning network and the resources they have generously shared with those interested in learning more about how to use social media for professional learning and community engagement. Continue reading

Moving forward in the face of fear

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.”  — Ambrose Redmoon

In my work, I frequently hear profound trepidation about the big, wide world of social media. The chorus of voices bemoans the ubiquity of Facebook and issues cautionary tales of how social sites are diminishing our personal connections to others. And on and on…

Underneath this reluctance, I hear a genuine sense of fear — fear of our world spinning out of control. In an effort to regain some semblance of control, there is a tendency to react by wanting to “shut it down.” Instead, I’d like to urge us to be courageous in our leadership and move forward in the face of fear.

As Redmoon’s quote suggests, being courageous does not mean “the absence of fear.” Rather, it is “the judgment that something else is more important that one’s fear.” As educators, I would also add that our ability to prepare our students for their future and to engage with our communities to accomplish that goal, in a world that is growing ever more complex and fast-paced, is more important that our own fear.

open leadership

I recently revisited Open Leadership, by Charlene Li (@charleneli). Li’s book provided me with a bit of a road map to begin grappling with my own uncertainty. While the book is not geared specifically for those of us toiling in the field of education, I think educational leaders will find plenty of resources here to get started.

At the outset, Li assesses the new terrain which has been characterized by the “fundamental shift in power” from institutions (like schools) to customers (such as our students, parents, and community members).  With new social technologies, more people are online, using of social sites and sharing digital resources like never before. Li points out that conversations that used to take place in more private realms of offices, phone calls, and even the parking lot, are now taking place online. While these developments may make us squirm, we are powerless to stop them.

The question, then, is how do we manage our fears as we navigate forward in digital spaces to connect more meaningfully with our communities? Li offers four key take aways for educators. Continue reading

Why Twitter is the hub of my personal learning network

A few days ago a teacher in our district asked me about different online publishing platforms for her students. She was looking for ways for her students to share their writing with others, get feedback and publish their work. 

In the days B.T. (Before Twitter), I would have headed right for Google and dug in. But I didn’t. Instead, I sent out the following tweet:

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Within a few minutes, I received two responses.  Continue reading

A Personal Challenge for the New Year

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The approaching new year brings with it an opportunity to reflect upon the past year and focus on new challenges ahead. This year I have been fortunate to connect with and learn from truly courageous educators who are taking on the challenge of creating the kinds of schools and learning spaces our students need for future success.

The power of social networks has enriched my own professional learning in so many ways. While I have been an active consumer of the insights shared by others, I have struggled with how to start contributing to the grand conversation by sharing my own thinking. Then, I encountered a challenge.  Continue reading