Becoming a Connected Educator (TL21C)

Published at Nov 18, 2015
This is a presentation for the DEECD's Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Reboot Session sharing what it is to be a 'connected educator'

PRESENTATION OUTLINE

Becoming a Connected Educator

TL21C Reboot 2014 w/ Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs)
Photo by Dogtrax

This is my [connected] story

Becoming a connected educator is so unique. There is no rule or recipe to follow and no two stories are the same. The reality is that it is many things to many people. The biggest challenge is continually defining what it actually means to be connected and why it is important. I don't wish to offer some cure, rather I hope to keep the conversation going.
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A journey, not a destination

Instead of providing a recipe, my approach has always been to share some of the choices that I have made and my thoughts behind them. Although signing up to various platforms is important, it is the journey associated with this that matters most to me. As Tony Sinanis says, in reflecting on his own connected experiences, "the Twitter experience is a journey ... it is not an experience that can simply be replicated for those who have yet to be connected."
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“Even if the smartest person in the room is the room itself, the room does not magically make all who enter it smarter.” David Weinberger

It is important to understand that being a connected educator does not automatically make you a better learner. Just because you have a Twitter handle doesn't make you special in itself. Although it may give you access to a global audience, this does not magically make you connected. As David Weinberger points out in his book Too Big To Know, “Even if the smartest person in the room is the room itself, the room does not magically make all who enter it smarter.” The question that we need to consider is not whether we are connected or not, but rather how we connect.
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PLN AS A VERB

Too often people believe that being connected somehow leads to something more, a conduit to some higher being. They enter with the question, 'What's in it for me?' I am not sure exactly what I thought being a connected educator would be, however the one thing that I have come to realise is that networks are not constant, they are more akin to a verb, rather than a noun.
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A PLN is not something that we build, rather it is something that we grow and nurture

Too often people describe PLN's as something we build. However, this misses the organic nature. I believe that they are better understood as a plant which we help grow and nurture. Our networks will only ever flourish as much as we let them.
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Tinkering, passion and the wildfire of lifelong learning

Associated with the focus on networks is a focus on learning. To get the most out of being connected I allocate learning time. In a recent post, +Peter Skillen made the suggestion that the goal of a project should be to formulate questions, rather than starting with one. I think that this definitely applies to being connected. Sometimes you just need to tinker and play, wonder and explore, in order to know what it is you are looking for.
Photo by H Dragon

Mixing pedagogical cocktails

I feel that connecting and conversing is better thought of as sitting at a bar drinking pedagogical cocktails where we can mix different ingredients to come up with our own flavours. This does not mean that everyone should do Problem Based Learning or didactic learning should be banished, instead it is about choosing the right method for the moment, rather than keep on drinking the same old cocktail again and again
Photo by Thomas Hawk

Pop-up PD

One of the most empowering aspects about learning online is that there is always some form of learning just waiting for us. As Alec Couros suggested, "some of the best learning happens each day on Youtube whether it is meant to happen or not" I once described this as 'hidden professional development', playing on the idea of the hidden curriculum, but I really like John Pearce's notion of pop-up PD, that learning that can happen anywhere, any time, where there are people willing to learn.
Photo by Jonas Hansel

Click to Edit

One of the keys to learning online is actually giving back. If everyone just lurked from a distance, not only would this limit the depth of conversations that occur online, but it also limits how much you actually get out of such connections. There are many different ways of giving back, from simply sharing links to remixing ideas. The choice of how we do this is up to us.
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Sharing as a way of being

Sharing should be thought of as a way of being. Many worry about whether there is worth in what they are sharing. However, only the community can decide such worth. As Clive Thompson states in reference to blogging, "Having an audience can clarify thinking. It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing." Surely then sharing can only be a good thing.
Photo by Frerieke

Connect with people, not just resources

When we share it is important to give reference to where our ideas come from, as much because it is the right thing to do, but more importantly because it recognises that there are people behind such ideas. For often it is the power of professional relationships in turning our ideas into signals, rather than just adding to the clatter of noise.
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Taking ownership of identity

One of the most important elements to building relationships is having a clear and definable identity. After spending sometime hiding behind various quirky images and username, inspired by Anne Mirtschen, I took the steps to create a consistent digital badge that I 'wear' online. Associated with this, I developed an About.Me to connect together all the different spaces where I exist. I feel that making these changes has aided with my connections.
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The choice is yours

In the end, the biggest challenge are all the choices to be made when it comes to being a connected educator. That these for example:
- Who do I follow?
- What details do I provide about myself?
- Which platforms should I work on?
- How many times should I re-tweet/republish links to my own work?
As Chris Wejr points out, although it is easy to suggest that everyone should sign up and start sharing every last detail, not everyone is able to tweet and post who they are.
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Be the connection that gives other learners a voice

I think that Steve Brophy sums up the situation best when he makes the challenge, "Be the connection that gives other learners a voice."
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REFLECTIONS: What hurdles have you faced? How are you giving other learners a voice? Please share here: http://goo.gl/dLWuWt