Take the Leap, Get Connected!

For the last four years I was living in Shanghai, stuck behind The Great Firewall of China, and it was frustrating!  The government restricted internet access to the sites that they wanted people to view and nothing else.  This meant that social media sites like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and many blogs were considered off limits.  Fortunately for communication purposes with my family and friends back home I was able to find a way to access Facebook 🙂  An even better break was that I learned to access and take advantage of Twitter and blogging as a tool for professional growth.

Over the last few years I have slowly built my Personal Learning Network (PLN) in what, I’ve come to realize, is a very close knit and supportive educational network organized on social media sites.  It was no accident that I came to be involved in this network, it was very intentional and motivated by the tremendous amount of articles I was reading about Twitter for educators.

As I continued to read about the power of social media, specifically Twitter, as a tool for educators to grow professionally I realized I needed to investigate further.  I started my Twitter account and began lurking, it was intimidating for a long time, so I just kind of watched.  Then things slowly started to come clear and Twitter became a tool for my personal growth.  At the height of my use I was interacting with people all over the world on a regular basis including standing, hour-long, Twitter chats twice a week.  I’ve slowed down a bit with the transition to a new job but I continue to use Twitter as a resource for professional growth.  The power of social media to help educators find the tools, resources, and support needed to grow in a very individualized way is truly inspiring.

Next week we will hold our first SIPs of the year and I will be offering a SIP on getting your Twitter network up and running.  I plan to supplement this session with follow ups and perhaps more intermediate level sessions in the future.  If you could use a solid resource for growing as a professional, come check out my SIP.  If you’re at all intrigued but just not sure of how or what to do, please come to this session.  If you’ve heard of this “Twitter thing” and just want to learn more about the possibilities, come investigate!!

This past summer by PLN led me to some amazing opportunities that, without Twitter, I would’ve never discovered.  I attended a free edcamp, I was given a free book and wrote a review for Middleweb, and I was able to meet some of my virtual PLN friends in real life…it was really cool!!  I’m still learning, growing, and expanding my PLN – the process will never end.

At this point in time, with the power of the internet and social media, there’s just too many amazing ideas out there for you NOT to go explore and discover.  Take the leap, get connected.

Do you have a PLN? You should!

I often share relevant articles or videos when I come across them and in response I have frequently heard something to the effect of, “Where do you find all this great stuff?”  There are so many good things out there for educators that it’s also irresponsible of us not to be accessing such great tools and resources.  So how can you do it without spending hours and hours sorting through nonsense?

The power of the Personal Learning Network (PLN) is something that I’ve discovered during this process of searching for online resources.  I feel as though I’m late getting in the game on PLNs but I’m going to go ahead and blame China and the Great Fire Wall for that 🙂  However, over the last couple years I’ve been working hard to establish more of an online presence and build my PLN.

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase – All educators should have a Twitter account and be building a strong PLN.  This doesn’t mean you have to be some crazy Twitter maniac who is constantly sending out Tweets.  Rather, it means you begin to slowly build a network of connections and resources around the world whom you know you can rely on for relevant educational information.  Then, from this point you grow and learn with the technology and the resources you gain from your network.  Your network essentially does the research and collecting of awesome resources for you.  All you do is sit back and reap the benefits, occasionally sending some great info back out into the mix.  It’s brilliant!

Check out this info graphic that shows Seven Degrees of Connectedness and think about where you fall.  If you’re not yet at Stage 1 then I’d like to strongly urge you to come and begin the journey of getting connected.  If you’re already connected but want to join the conversation you’re absolutely invited as well!

Inspiration from Harvard Graduate School of Education

This week I had a whole other topic written out and then I came across some great stuff.  I was reading through a few of my older Marshall Memos when I stumbled upon some awesome videos.  If you follow this link you can see Eight 8-minute talks about education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education:  http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/14/09/8×8-hgse-faculty-share-their-bold-ideas-improve-education

I highly recommend any of the eight videos but these specific few may be more relevant to our context than the others.  Here are the relevant titles along with Kim Marshall’s brief summaries of each.  Do your students a favor and take 8 minutes to watch one of these (or more) videos.

Karen Brennan: Getting Unstuck – Helping students and teachers move beyond using social media and use computers more powerfully. Brennan describes using ScratchEd, a platform for creating projects, and students’ problem-solving strategies when they’re stuck.

Todd Rose: The End of Average (Bret’s personal favorite) – What neuroscientists have found about how differently people remember and process information, leading to the conclusion that we can’t understand individual brains by using group averages. The same goes for how we deal with students; we must treat them as individuals, which we now can do better with recent advances in classroom technology.

Karen Mapp: Linking Family Engagement to Learning – Relationships between schools and families have to be relational, interactive, collaborative, developmental, and linked to what students are learning, says Mapp, so that families can be more effective supporting learning at home. In particular, Mapp is critical of traditional open-house meetings in schools.

Howard Gardner: Beyond Wit and Grit  – Our understanding of “wit” has been expanded to include multiple intelligences, says Gardner, and we now realize the importance of “grit” – the cluster of non-cognitive skills. But these are not enough. Gardner believes we also need a moral dimension. “You can have plenty of grit, and multiple wits,” he says, “but they need to be directed towards becoming a good person, a good worker, and a good citizen… There’s a ‘triple helix’ of good work and good citizenship: excellence, ethics, and engagement.”

Are you having fun?

I love finding good quotes, they are short and to the point (to be fair they are often ambiguous and generalized as well) and they usually come with a certain message.  Recently I was cruising the Twitter-sphere, as I try to do once or twice a week, following my favorite hashtag #edchat.  I saw a tweet that said,


This got me thinking, how many of our teachers are having fun while they are teaching?  Now, I know that there can’t be a person alive who is always having fun, it’s just not possible, we’re human.  BUT, what about the majority of the time?  Last week I wrote about our kids being bored in class, what about you?  No one wants you to teach to a certain style, in fact, I want to encourage you to show yourself in the way you teach.  Everyone here is awesome, fun, and full of passion…don’t be afraid to show it in the classroom!!  I know that we’re all here because we love what we do and we enjoy the kids, teaching, learning, seeing those lightbulbs go on over kids heads; but what are we doing to make sure that we’re having fun?  I’d love to hear back from people this week about things they try in their classrooms to make it fun for themselves…maybe it’s a simple game for the last two minutes, or a certain style of presentations, or perhaps something you imbed into every lesson.  Anything and everything is welcome!!!  Please share and I will share out things I hear back!