I tend to trust education advice from the people to whom I feel connected. For early-career teachers, of course, those connections can take many forms including face-to-face meetings, email newsletters and conversations, and social networks. The U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators initiative is sponsoring Connected Educators Month. The goal is to get more educators talking about the ideas and resources they need to be better leaders in their classrooms. If you’re already a Tweeting, blogging, screencasting, over-connected teacher, this is your month to show off. But for anyone who wants to be a stronger teacher leader, here are some resources to get you started. If you trust my advice, then read on.
A core idea behind being a connected educator is having a “Personal Learning Network.” I’ll admit that I was initially skeptical of “PLNs” because the acronym sounded like tredy lingo for Twitter “tweet-ups”. But everyone who gets education advice from friends and colleagues already has a Personal Learning Network. It’s the web of connections that gets you lesson plans you need to teach tomorrow and tips you off to the upcoming Edcamp in your city. Expanding your own PLN with social tools is a powerful way to share ideas, break down some of the isolation of teaching and get “‘just in time’” access to knowledge” that you need.
The Learning Network blog at the New York Times kicked off Connected Educator month last week with PLN recommendations from 33 educators they admire. They asked each two simple questions:
- What is one important thing you’ve learned from someone in your Personal Learning Network (P.L.N.), however you define that network?
- What one person, group or organization would you recommend every educator add to his or her P.L.N.?
I like the simplicity of the questions, so I wanted to answer them too:
- Early in fall 2011 I saw the name of a new product in early beta called ClassDojo on an edtech site called Beta Classroom. There were several tools reviewed on the site (including Socrative), but I didn’t feel connected to the site enough to trust the reviews. However, a friend had recently introduced me (via email) to a teacher friend of hers in the Bay Area. When Robert Provnost tweeted about Beta Classroom, I went back to the reviews. Not long after, I was using ClassDojo for management and Socrative for exit tickets. Both tools radically changed my thinking about the amount of data I could capture and leverage in my classroom. What pushed me to take these steps? A recommendation from someone I trusted. Even though I’d never met him in person.
- After getting my few wet gathering behavior data with ClassDojo, I added Kickboard to my toolkit. But the folks at the New Orleans startup aren’t just good at building tools for data-driven instruction; they’re good at providing professional development about data-driven instruction. And they share their ever-growing knowledge and connections via Twitter and Facebook. If you want a steady stream of tweets with resources that will help you leverage data in your class for any subject, follow them.
Ready for more? There’s a massive calendar of Connected Educator month events on the initiative website.
Got your own suggestions for invaluable additions to everyone’s PLN? Drop your answer to the questions above in the comments below. Or I’ll catch you online.