Thursday, August 16, 2012

Practical Ways to Be a Connected Educator in the Classroom

Since the beginning of August, I've been attending webinars, bookclubs, online chats, following educators on twitter, etc. in order to become a more connected educator myself. All along, I've wondered how to go from the discussion of importance of being connected to the actual act of becoming connected.

I only teach one class - AP English Literature. The rest of my day I am a Vice Principal handling various administrative duties. I have found myself for the past few years knowing connectedness is important, and 21st century skills are vital for me and my students, but I have made a million excuses as to why I cannot use these tools in my classroom.

This past week I was encouraged by a few interactions I've had with teachers. I've seen how we can actually use these tools. I can no longer make excuses for my personal classroom.

First, there is a 6th grade teacher in my building, Joanna Lieberman, who just recently became a connected educator. Joanna didn't just stay with the theory of connected but actually has begun to implement it for her upcoming class. She will have her 6th graders blog about the various parts of the world they learn about in World Geography class. The blog she created contains various elements that I've been learning about like a word cloud created in Wordle, a Flag Counter to track where website visitors live, and Joanna clearly expresses the requirements of students as they blog. Check it out at I am so excited for her and, more importantly, her students.

Secondly, I attended an online bookclub last night with PLP regarding the book The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. We started out in a main room with about 70 participants from all over the world to discuss the first chapter of the book. This is a format I am familiar with as I attend webinars and bookchats often. While I receive a ton of information in such a setting, I do not feel the need to raise my virtual hand and speak into the microphone since so many others speak. However, Sheryl then broke us up into small groups of 6-8 teachers to discuss more intimately. I did not have my microphone hooked up and therefore only participated in the smaller discussion via the chat box and my speedy fingers. I felt that I missed out on a major part of the bookclub due to this fact. Afterwards, I began thinking that it would be a wonderful experience to connect my classroom with another somewhere else in the world if I could create that intimate discussion level.

Lastly, I learned from a first grade teacher, Kim. Kim was in my small group during the bookclub chat last night. I don't recall where Kim lives and teaches, but I recall vividly how she contributed and encouraged me. Like me, Kim did not have a microphone, but she shared via the chat box that this past year she had her 1st grade classroom skype with another class in another school. She saw the idea while on twitter and just jumped in to implement it. She often had to use her own personal laptop because the computers at school could not always handle the programs necessary. I began thinking.... if this teacher in 1st grade can hear about an idea on twitter and incorporate it with such young students, I need to be brave enough to simply try a new idea with my 12th graders.

What will I try first? I'm not exactly sure. I believe I will use Edmodo this year in my AP class, but I would also like to find some authors to chat with via skype or other online forums. It is time for the rubber to meet the road and for me to move from theory to practice.

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