For a long time, my favorite part of my Twitter profile is the line “I connect dots”. What does that mean? For me, it’s the best thing about being connected to a PLN, and learning from loads of brilliant people any time I want. You will learn which people to go to for help or to learn more about specific topics. I’ve never claimed to know everything, and I don’t want to try. I’m also not afraid to tell someone “I don’t know” when someone asks me in person or online about a topic I don’t have the answer to. However, I almost always make sure to follow that up with “But you should talk to _____.” or “I’m happy to help you find the answer.”. That’s what connecting dots is all about; if you can’t give them an answer, then get them to the person that can. Maybe this is a culture thing that teachers, leaders, and professional development providers need to embrace more; rather than seeing it as a negative thing when we have to say “I don’t know”. Sometimes when we don’t know, it marks the start of a great learning experience.
The bottom line is getting teachers just what they need so they can give their students the learning experiences they need. Any new topic I’m learning about or whichever way I’m trying to advance myself professionally is about students at the end of the day. If it’s helping a teacher then it’s helping kids, which is why we all do what we do. We’re educators because we love to learn and we love making learning better for our students. When we get some kind of special recognition for it is it nice? Of course it is. It’s exciting and generally amazing to me that someone thought I was deserving. We all know that’s not why we’re in education though. I also know I’m going to keep connecting dots for others; virtual pats on the back or not.
Over the last few weeks in my district we have had The Google Expeditions Pioneer Program visit one of our middle schools and one of our elementary schools. I appreciate having one of our teachers and one of our library media specialists and their administrators invest the time to bring this experience to students. It’s still a really new program that Google is taking to various locations around the country to test it, as well as raise awareness about it. If you’re wondering, when they visit your school they bring everything necessary to give your students the Google Expeditions experience: about 30-60 Google Cardboard viewers, Android phones (and chargers), Nexus 9 tablets, and they even bring their wireless network. The entire experience is guided by the teacher using the Nexus 9 tablet. The teacher takes students on a virtual field trip with about 140 locations worldwide to choose from. The teachers push the expedition to the Cardboard viewers and guide students to various points at each location. The teacher can even see where students are looking from the tablet app. It’s definitely something you have to experience first hand to fully understand how it works.
During the day yesterday I noticed that my friend Devin from Council Bluffs was also watching students have the exact same experience at the exact same time. We both were tweeting/instagramming (is this a word now?) pictures throughout the day. Devin wrote a reflection post called Oooh and Ahhh Moments. Devin and I were on the same wavelength with our respective posts I think.
Watching students have a learning experience like this should be cause for reflection. Their excitement and engagement for learning in this particular instance was infectious to be around. We can all remember (hopefully) a learning or teaching experience like this. Yet, we still are so ingrained with learning being all too static of an experience. Am I saying that we all run out and buy this set up (you can’t yet by the way) and make everything into a Google Expedition? Of course not. My point is, that with all the access and devices we’re providing students, are we truly stopping and reflecting deeply about teaching and learning? All the access and all the devices in the world aren’t going to change a thing. It will be our leaders and teachers that make the time for thoughtful reflection and conversation about what’s best for kids that will. Then it’ll be those same leaders and teachers that are willing to make big changes necessary to truly move us forward. Learning is not confined to a physical space or a given time frame any longer. The world is out there, and our students can be taken to it in an instant.
Here’s a short recap of some of our 2nd thru 6th graders’ day with Google Expeditions. Enjoy.
The title of this post comes from an article I read recently called We Learn More When We Learn Together. From the first sentence I was hooked. “We rarely grow alone.” How true that is! Education parallels anyone? It also made me think back to an older post I wrote that eventually turned into a keynote that I give that stresses the importance of spreading our genius excitedly. But I digress.
I love the idea of creating high-quality connections. It’s not the formal conference or other
professional development event that makes the learning special. It’s the people we get to see, to be with, the people who “get us” that make the experience most rewarding. If you’ve been to a big education conference you might have noticed how organizations are giving more emphasis to this idea. Conferences more and more are adding networking lounges, bloggers’ cafes, etc. because of the high value in providing these spaces to cultivate high quality connections outside of the formal sessions.
We should also want the same for our students. It’s important for us to model what this looks like by crafting learning experiences involving high quality connections in our classrooms.
However, these connections have to be maintained and tended to like a garden. If we don’t properly tend to our garden everything dies and we don’t reap a crop. When I’m speaking to teachers or principals about the value of connected learning, I am always sure to remind them that they get out of it what they put into it. It doesn’t matter whether that’s online or in a face to face setting. As another busy conference season gears up for the rest of the Winter and coming Spring and Summer, make sure you see the value in making high quality connections. It may require some moving out of your comfort zone, but you’ll be glad you did it.