by William Yang
October 18, 2013
Did you know that October is “Connected Educator Month?” In an effort to raise awareness of social learning and collaboration through technology, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology in partnership with other organizations encourage you to connect with educators within online communities of practice. Being a connected educator can help you learn more about the craft of teaching as well as the diverse tools available to support that process.
Complementing traditional professional development, online communities can break down the walls of the classroom, school, or district and encourage the sharing of ideas with educators from around the world. Whether it is responding to a blog entry, replying to a social network post, or discussions during a videoconference, the interaction of multiple perspectives can lead to new thinking and new ideas. Engaging in professional dialogue with other educators has the potential to strengthen professional relationships and build upon existing thinking and good practice.
Online communities can also be utilized to meet diverse needs of teacher interests. Learning can be more personalized and informal as the learner can seek out the information he or she needs through their learning network. Connected educators support one another and connect each other to educators who can support the process of seeking more information related to specific inquiries. There are many examples of how this kind of learning has impacted educators within this NY Times article.
To get started with being a connected educator, many online events are taking place this month. You can learn along with educators from around the globe through the connected educator website or by joining an online literacy community like Literacy in Learning Exchange. Sites like Reading Today Online and the online home of the National Writing Project offer online resources such as blogs and podcasts for educators to learn new topics as well as participate in conversations.
There are many social media tools that can also support your growth. The English Companion Ning, an online community for K-12 English teachers, received the 2009/2010 Edublog award for best use of social networking in education. You can also participate in many literacy communities or social groups organized within Google+ and Edmodo. Twitter can also be a great way to find new ideas by following conversations or other literacy educators.
Videoconferencing is also another way of discussing ideas with other literacy educators. Some districts are using tools like Google Hangout or Skype to connect with experts in other parts of the world or gain feedback from them as they virtually observe lessons. Google sponsors educational “hangouts” on their site while Skype also has a series of speakers in the area of reading and writing where you can participate in the conversations.
So during this month, try engaging in one of the many ways to be a connected educator. After a while, you’ll find yourself being a connected educator not just in the month of October but year round!
William Yang is an educational technology teacher and staff developer for the Scarsdale Public Schools in New York.
This article is part of a series from the International Reading Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).