Sunday, 26 October 2014

So you are a Connected Educator - what now?

The final week of CENZ14 is starting tomorrow, coinciding with New Zealand celebrating Labour Day, traditionally a weekend to get stuck into chores around house and garden. No different in the BeLchick's household, especially as we are getting ready for our move to Brisbane where I will join the fabulous team at Expanding Learning Horizons in January. So how to manage it all? I have blogged about FOMO and trying to stay sane this month, and I highly recommend for you to read +Catriona Pene's post on 'The Art of Switching off'. 

TeachMeetNZ ran a second session this month, celebrating CENZ with a combined session with TeachMeet Sydney on Saturday 25 October, 2pm NZDT. I had a deck to water blast, and I have enough plenty of (too many?) devices I can play with - so I decided to combine both! iPhone in the pocket, headphones in my ears I set off, water blasting, while I was listening to the presentations - and weren't they stunning! Please visit to visit individual pages with recordings, presentations and reflections. Here is the full recording:

Why did this work for me on a Saturday afternoon?
I was interested in the presentations (admittedly also because I want to find out more about Australian educators). I was familiar with the tools I needed to connect - and as an auditory-sequential learner listening is my preferred mode of learning anyway. And I chose to connect. The former two points are the main outcomes from my Professional Inquiry into building capacity for blended teacher learning, but I am starting to realise how important the last point is - CHOICE. Choice makes the difference between Professional Development (done to you) and Professional Learning (your choice).

Connected Educator
I am proud to be a connected educator, it is my choice; though it helps in my profession to be modelling to teachers what I want them to do, it would be a lot less effective if this was the only reason for me to connect. A lot of other educators have chosen to get connected also. While I was listening to the TeachMeetNZ session, I kept on thinking "what now?" Once you are connected, is that it, or what happens next?

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Connections do nothing for us if we don't use them. Imagine a garden with pathways initially marked out; unless they are used and maintained, they will overgrow and disappear. So what are we doing with our connections?

When people ask me why I use Twitter for example, I usually talk about the great ideas, links and resources I get from my PLN. I am talking about consuming what others are putting out there though I keep on going on in my schools that we need to create in order for someone to be able to consume. So why do I only talk about taking? Do I give anything back? Do you give back and what?

(Off on a little tangent here, feel free to skip!  I am not out for any ego-stroking here, I just wanted to share with you the thought process I have gone through as there might be other people in a similar situation.)
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I know I give back, but whether it's 'a Kiwi thing', modesty or lack of self-confidence, I usually think of everyone else's work much more highly than of my own. I had a couple of interesting conversations about this lately, and I have come across the metaphor (I think via +Catriona Pene) of your own knowledge filling a balloon, with the balloon surface representing what you realise you don't know. The more your balloon is filled, the bigger that surface becomes. So to a certain degree the people who realise how immense the amount is they don't know might be the people with the biggest balloon of knowledge...
If I don't think highly of my own work, what does this say about the people who value what I am doing? Am I calling them liars, or saying they are simply too polite? So now I have decided that I will value myself more highly, I will honour the opinions of the people who think I am adding value. In all honesty I can say I work very hard and I think I am pretty good at what I am doing, especially at filling up that balloon more and more into the void of what I don't know yet...
(End of tangent)

Giving and taking in online spaces reminds me of growing children; when a baby is first born they are utterly dependent on someone to take care of them. As they grow up, they become more independent and eventually take care of others. Similarly a twitter newby will start out lurking, consuming. Favouriting and RTing reinforces messages and starts them down the 'creating' pathway. Share links you come across, share resources, discuss, debate, ask questions etc.

I have learnt so much through my PLN, just the other day +Sonya Van Schaijik shared a +Pam Hook video about #SOLOTaxonomy and #Minecraft. Where do I fit in on the rubrics?

From recollection it was Julie Lindsay who talked about collaboration and co-creation at TeachMeetNZ. I think I collaborate a lot, but how often am I involved in true co-creation? How would co-creation shape that garden with its well-used pathways?

So you are a Connected Educator - what now?
Your choice of being connected means nothing unless you use the connections. Lurk and consume, learn from others. Get creating and share your learning, and allow others to consume, to learn from you. Keep on stretching your balloon into the void of 'not yet knowing' and keep on asking yourself question over question: Am I doing this yet? What should my next step be?
Being connected is just the beginning...
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