I haven’t blogged or been on Twitter nearly as much as I’d like to be recently. Nor have I been reading as much blogs as I have in the past. My world hasn’t fallen apart as a result… But I miss it. I don’t just miss the connections to my PLN (Personal Leaning Network), they are still there any time I need them. I miss the connection to new ideas that challenge my thinking and make me excited to be an educator.
Last (long) weekend I caught up a bit. It actually started the previous weekend as I began prepping for a presentation I did for a parent night and a conference. I don’t present very often, and I find it a real challenge to present a ‘story’ and not just share a collection of ideas. So I bookmark and save interesting perspectives from bloggers and tweeters, steal from my past presentations (since my audience is likely to be either new or forgiving), and I bounce ideas off of people I trust and respect. And hopefully I come up with something of value.
But what inspired this post was what really excites me about being a “Connected Educator“: the ability to learn any time, anywhere from a network of inspiring educators. I’ve heard people talk about the blogging or Twitter “echo chamber” but I don’t see it. The fact is, an echo chamber is a metaphor for a closed system and my network is anything but closed!
Within an hour of playing ‘catch-up’ with my ‘must read’ blogs, here is where I travelled and traversed:
“4 Assumptions We Shouldn’t Make in Education” Where George Couros’ 4th assumption we should not make is:
Disagreement is a bad thing. I have started to really believe that we need to really listen to the “naysayer” in our work as opposed to simply believing that they are wrong. Ultimately, most teachers are there to do what is best for kids, and as long as that leads our conversations, we have to find value when we disagree and promote the opportunity to have those conversations.
Next up, Lana Fleiszig who posted on one of my new favourite blogs, Inquiry Within, “Tension Leads to Learning“. Where she shares wisdom like:
– Learning takes place when you take yourself out of your comfort zone– Powerful learning comes into play when there is tension– Learning is a process not an outcome– Making mistakes led to deeper learning.
And then finally a move on to Justin Baeder’s post: What’s Wrong with Connected Educators’ Month? You should read the whole post, but essentially Justin says:
…I’m convinced that most of the sound and fury around social media in education availeth nothing.
Trying really hard to get educators to “connect” might not be such a good idea.
Why? Because it becomes an end in itself.
If your goal is to be “connected,” you have the wrong goal.
If your goal is to “share ideas” and “connect” with other educators, you have the wrong goal…
The point of a PLN, and of any kind of PD we seek for ourselves, is to improve our practice in order to better serve our students.
This gets me thinking about No Office Day (#NoOfficeDay). Like Connected Educator Month, this is a neat idea that could be done for all the wrong reasons. Rather than being about a ‘visible’ Principal, (who spends time visiting classes regularly anyway), spending an entire day out of the office and in classrooms, No Office Day can be seen as an ‘event’ that partitions off one day to do what should be done on a regular basis. (To me this day is also a reminder to get ‘out there’ even more often!)
Are Connected Educator Month and No Office Days bad things? I don’t think so, but I like that Justin Baeder shares his concerns about educators getting connected for the sake of getting connected and not for the purpose of serving our students and our schools. I also like that I’ve had discussions with educators I respect, like Chris Wejr (see One Day Events Don’t Solve Everyday Problems), who push back on special event days (like No Office Day for example).
Two simple facts come from this:
1. People in my PLN challenge my thinking and push me to see perspectives that I would not see on my own.
2. A good PLN will pull in learning from places I don’t normally go, and this means that even when good ideas bounce around, perspectives on those ideas don’t stay static… they don’t echo, and they morph into new insights.
That all came from one hour of reading blogs. This post took a fair bit longer than that to compose and edit.
This is why I miss spending more time on Twitter and reading blogs. I miss the challenge. I miss the exposure to new ideas and perspectives. In the past I’ve been questioned about how much time I would spend on social media. When that happens, I have a simple response: “All my Tweets and status updates have time stamps, and are open for all to see. Go take a look when I’m engaging online.”
I spend most of my online time after my kids go to bed, at 5am in the morning, and on weekends. I don’t really watch TV. I get lost when my buddies talk about sports teams. As I like to say, “I’m an edu-geek, and learning about learning and education ‘floats my boat’. This past week, I had more conversations at work, and shared more resources with my staff than I have in a long time. Why? Because my PLN fed me some amazing stuff… stuff that can “…improve our practice in order to better serve our students.”
Networked chambers do not echo. There are countless rooms to explore, and a good PLN helps you find the ones you need to explore most. They also remind you what is really important about events like Connected Educator Month and No Office Day. And when the next ‘event’ or new educational fad comes along, I’m sure my PLN will not only give me great insight, it will also excite me about why I love being a (connected) educator.