Category Archives: Connected Educator

Becoming Connected Is Personal and a Challenge. Please Make It FUN!

Wow. We just finished our first Twitter Challenge (#BASDChallenge) in my district and all I have to say is: gamification in professional learning can motivate teachers!

Connecting Is Personal

Becoming a Connected Educator is a highly personal journey. Over the past year,  I have been trying to gather interest in creating PLNs and PLCs in the high schools that I support. I have had a few die hard teachers attend my trainings and participate in Connected Educator Month.  Connecting teachers together can transform your school. But until they experience it for themselves, it is a really abstract concept and frightening.  When I tried to help teacher “set goals” about how PLNs to could help them grow professionally I got mixed stares. It was as if they were thinking, “Ok, this WAS fun! Please don’t ruin it with goals!” I’ve heard PLN spelled out as Personal Learning Network or Professional Learning Network. After working with teachers, I am going to stick with Personal Learning Network.

Teachers Have to Be Learners First

Like Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has often said, teachers have to be learners first in order to recharge and evolve as educators. I have found there is an a-ha moment with Twitter once the person understands the parameters of the tool and THEN connects with other educators.  But until then, baby steps. We need to walk (tweet) before we can run (a Twitter chat).

Make It Fun

My training is normally well received by teachers at my district.  I make all of my trainings to be available online (synchronously or asynchronously) or in person.  I’d say most of the teachers opt for the online training as their lives are so full and busy. The last training was completely online as teachers took part in a 15 Day Twitter Challenge. It was a hit! While we had roughly 40 teachers participate across the district, I would receive inquiries on joining it due to an excited colleague that was participating. Before we started, I informed teachers they would be recognized and have a chance at a prize if they participated in each of the tasks. Some teachers asked if they were still receiving recognition because they couldn’t complete one of the tasks on time. And some teachers even taunted each other on Twitter because THEY wanted to win the prize at the end. I wondered if the gamification would turn teachers off. Well, it looks like the pilot was a success so I am investigating how to gamify my other trainings for next school year.

But I didn’t invent the Twitter Challenge – read about how do your own here!



True Confessions of a Connected (Math) Teacher

I had the opportunity to connect with another Connected Educator, Mark James (@mdjames67), at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference in  2015. He gave a session on using Google Apps with Math. What struck me the most about Mark was not the math instruction techniques or cool tools. I was impressed and extremely interested in the other math teachers he mentioned during the presentation.  One that figured prominently was Dan Meir. Look him up if you don’t follow him. He was a Math teacher, now the Chief Academic Officer of Desmos.

Educators are trying their best to do one main thing: Help Kids Learn™. We each take a different role whether it be that of a classroom teacher, an administrator that keeps the school running smoothly or an educational coach that helps teachers get better at this one thing. We are part of a team.

Connecting to other educators that are doing things differently or better is one of the most important thing a teacher can do. While their classroom is their domain, it is a challenge to maintain the stamina of Help(ing) Kids Learn™ in a vacuum.

Yesterday, Mark came to one of my high schools to talk about how he has made connections through Twitter to inspire and help him through the challenges many teachers face on the front lines in the classroom environment.

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Using Angela Watson’s blog post to guide the presentation (and a really cool demo of Pear Deck!), he walked us through the top 4 reasons why educators do not connect (but how they can overcome them).

  1. I don’t want to spend my free time thinking about school. (But do you have time to think about what made you excited about teaching in the first place?)
  2. I don’t think it’s necessary/I didn’t know I needed a PLN/PLC. (The way to breathe new life into your teaching is to tap into your inner motivation and connect with the things, people, and ideas that matter to you). Yeah, I quoted that from Angela Watson but it was so good that I had to include it.
  3. I don’t have time. (How much time do we spend on things that are time wasters? Why not make your job easier by connecting for a few minutes instead?)
  4. I don’t know how. (No worries, the Twitter Educator community has your back.  If not, Jerry Blumengarten, self-appointed Cybrarian).

Interested in Mark’s talk? 

We have a recording of the first session here. Please check it out but please pardon our sweatshirts and sweatpants as we had PD from home on a snow day!

Interested in getting Connected or learning more about it?

Well, we can help you with this!

  • On March 1 (Liberty High School) and 2 (Freedom High School) I will be hosting Growing Professionally with Twitter workshops. These can be completed online as well.
  • On March 7, we will begin a 15 Day Twitter Challenge (including our own #BASDChallenge Twitter Chat)!
  • On March 8, we will have our first Connected Educator Book Club Meeting. Our first book will be Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age. We’ll set the parameters for the club and the first 8 lucky people will get a book on loan to use during the book club.
For Bethlehem Area School District teachers, please sign up on CPE Tracker for these sessions. If you are from outside the district but are interested, please contact me if any of these topics interest you!

Are You a Robo-Tweeter?

noun_62030_ccAfter some recent sleepless nights, I discovered something. When I hopped on Twitter in the wee hours of the morning to feed my sleep-deprived mind, many people in my PLN (Personal Learning Network) are posting in the middle of the night!  Actually, they are posting A LOT in the middle of the night. Yes, these people live in the USA and are within relative time-zones to me.

Well, actually what’s more likely is that they are using a tool like Hootsuite to robo-tweet.

Robo-tweet, you ask?

Urban Dictionary defines robo-tweet as: “Automatic direct messages (DM’s) used by Twitter users. Often used to send a DM to new followers, or as auto-replies on vacation.” I’m going to broaden the definition here for this blog post. Some Twitter users use programs like Hootsuite to automate their posts to go live at various times. I won’t go so far as to compare robo-tweets to robo-calls, but I think they share some characteristics.

Don’t get me wrong. I like being able to find content 24/7, especially as I lay awake on sleepless nights. But there is something to be said for LIVE TWEETING vs robo-tweeting.  To be honest, I feel like some people’s feeds are mostly content sharing mills.

Part of what makes a PLN valuable is the fact that many people I follow are supposedly curating good content and sharing it with the world. And many do!  I learn every time I go on Twitter. But if we are to become curating factories, scheduling tweets to go out all through the wee hours, will ALL of the posts we share this way worthwhile? And vetted?

In addition, PLN’s should involve in conversations. Are these conversations happening sometime between those robo-tweets? Or are these certain people talking but not really listening? In some cases, I feel like I no longer follow people, but rather, their robot that tweets for them. Ok, I will admit I am making many generalizations, but I think you get my point.

In closing, I’ll cite a blog post by Dr. Joe Mazza about PLN culture a few months back that really got me thinking. His concluding thoughts are

How would others (new, experienced, early adopters) describe the present “culture of our PLN? What are YOU doing to innovate in order to take it to the next level of support, collaboration, personal and professional learning?

I issue this challenge to anyone reading this article. Are you taking your collaboration and learning to the next level? I will be the first to admit that I still require a lot of work in that area. Take a moment to answer and then comment on my post or tweet your answer to me at @ezundel. I’d love to hear your thoughts!