Being Connected No Longer an Option

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Most people who know me know that I am passionate about engaging students with technology. Not technology for the sake of using it, but rather technology because we can and because we should and because and when it just makes sense.  My view on educational pedagogy totally changed a few years ago when I took my Masters Degree and was exposed to the ideas of people such as Alec Couros and Dean Shareski.  My first exposure was scary and I felt way out of my element, but the idea that we could connect, communicate and grow as a global community made me very excited about my future as an educator.

My journey of growth and “connectedness” has been going forward since then, slowly but surely, and of course not without road blocks and frustrations.  The outcome of my perseverance, despite the frustrations, is what keeps me moving in a steady direction towards what I know is right for students.

All too often I am still hearing things like “I don’t really like technology” or “I can’t do that, because I am just too old to change”, or “I don’t have time” or “I am not really interested.” When I am hearing these things I have to wonder if the option is even there for teachers to feel this way.  When we think about the digitally orientated world our students are living in, participating with and contributing to, can we really choose to ignore that world and the opportunity for our students to write and share with a larger audience?

I have had a few experiences in my classroom connecting my students with other learners on Skype in the Classroom, having my students working on projects with other classrooms, sharing the interesting things I find and learn from my PLN and using blogs, wiki spaces and other web tools.   I am not saying I am any kind of expert, quite the opposite in fact, but what I have learned from what I have been able to do so far is that I need to do it more.

In a recent post I was reading by Justin Tarte, Life of An Educator, “Who decides when it is no longer optional?”, he was asking some of the same questions I have to wonder about…

 When is the choice of reaching out to educators from around the globe to collaborate no longer an option?
 
When is truly differentiating classroom instruction and meetings kids where they are no longer an option?
When is taking ownership of your own professional learning and growth not a duty and responsibility of the district, but an expectation of the individual?

About a year ago I got brave enough to start actively participating in twitter.  Previously I had sort of lurked around the outside edges wanting to jump in.  I can remember my nervousness when I made my first tweet, wondering if I had anything to say worth listening to. My first tweet was a response to a question my grade 4 class had put on twitter asking about favorite novels.  It is nice to have teachers that are leading the way and helping me on my journey.

 

 

 Once I bridged the gap between being a lurker to a participator, I have never looked back.  It is the best professional development opportunity that I have had in my teaching career.  The things that make it the best for me is being real-time, tailored to my interests and the fact that I can grow and learn in my profession from wherever I want and whenever I want and can follow whoever I want.

 

I came across an article titled Connectedness: The New Standard, by Eric Sheniger, which he had posted on twitter yesterday.  In the article Sheniger writes about the ease of connecting because we have so many tools available to us that allow us easy access. He feels “Connectedness is no longer an option, but rather a standard and a professional obligation.” The power of being connected is hard to ignore. He encourages teachers and leaders to take advantage of the power of sharing.

 

I have to admit that when I am passionate about something, I don’t let anything get in my way and I have to really work on keeping myself in check so I don’t blast people over with my desire for them to join in my passions.  You can probably ask any of the teachers in my school and they can easily tell you what my passions are and what I desire education to look like.   I have learned to pull back a little and I have realized that everyone follows a different path toward the desired destination.

 

I just finished reading Kathy Cassidy’s book, Connected From the Start, for the second time.  When I read her descriptions of the learning in her classroom and the connections her young students are able to make it validates for me what we need to be doing. She describes her grade one students writing on the classroom blog and recognizes that this is the world her primary students are growing up in and will be working and living in as adults.  She feels she is not only helping them grow as writers, but they are learning how to write in public and safely create their online presence.

 

“Whether you are working with five-year olds or fifteen year olds, the student want to know that what they are learning has value.  Sharing learning online often produces affirmation of value-not just day by day but over time as a student’s digital portfolio grown and becomes public evidence of his or her advancing knowledge and skills.”  

 

 We can no longer ignore real world connections and opportunities for our students to be sharing with real audiences.

 

What an exciting time it is to teach and learn.  So many opportunities to connect and learn from each other and to make real word changes.  When are these things no longer an option?