High Quality Connections

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

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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.

I dare you to not be excited!

Things I’m excited about and I hope you will share in at least some of my excitement with me:

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Flickr image by John Christopher

1. My PLN. How can you not be excited about what your PLN can/will do for you and what it continues to do 24/7? It’s like the Energizer Bunny of professional development! I was amazed at the number of responses I received as to why teachers should have a PLN the other day when I shared Twitter with them. This type of collaboration and communication is exciting! I truly feel we’re on the brink of something big with social networking and the real-time web in education. This is something to be excited about!

2. My new “old” friends. I feel like I’ve known so many of you for such a long time. Many of you I met for the first time last month at #ISTE10. We jumped right into conversation like it was old hat. I suppose in a virtual way it was. 🙂 Remember: It’s Just The Beginning. This is something to be excited about!

3. #EdChat. I am honored to be a moderator for the evening edition of this educational forum. Every Tuesday at noon and 7PM EST there is great conversation happening. Sure it’s fast paced, no doubt about it. Jump in when you can with maybe just a few. The conversations are happening well beyond the pre-determined hour(s) that #EdChat takes place. We have our Facebook page. You can also find the archive over at the #EdChat wiki. Then of course we have the EDU PLN Ning. The conversation does not even stop there. Blog posts a-plenty are published every week as post-#edchat reflections. This is something to be excited about!

4. More technology in students’ hands. I keep hearing so many great things about schools, districts, teachers, and administrators that are making this the priority it needs to be. We’ve got administrators like Eric Sheninger, George Couros, Deron Durflinger, Chris Lehmann, and John Carver. Teachers like Nick Provenzano, Simon Crook, Cory Plough, Yoon Soo Lim, and Shannon Miller. Technology leaders like Jason Bedell, Mary Beth Hertz, Howard Chan, Sue Waters, and Paul Wood. The lists could go on and on. Is technology an amazing tool for us to teach with? Absolutely! Let’s get more of it in students’ hands. At least somewhat regularly, if not daily. This is something to be excited about!

What are you excited about when you think of technology’s impact on teaching and learning? I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

It’s Just The Beginning…

As I sit here at 30,000 feet I begin the process of reflecting on the amazing experience that was ISTE 2010 in Denver. I’ll be honest that my initial emotion is a feeling of sadness that I am leaving so much excellent learning amongst so many brilliant people.  These are the members of my PLN. My personal learning network. People that I have have had the privilege of speaking with, presenting with, moderating alongside, collaborating with, chit-chatting with, and generally getting to know for quite some time. Through the power of the PLN we have what began as professional relationships, but now have evolved into meaningful, long-lasting, friendships.

There is no question about the amount of learning. Happened in the formal sessions, poster sessions, unplugged sessions, bloggers’ cafe, etc. Just look at the tweets under the #ISTE10 hashtag. I learned of new tools and resources with rock-solid examples of their application in K-12 classrooms. For example, in the #SIGMS10 (special interest group media specialists) Smackdown I learned of some great new tools for teaching digital citizenship, mobile researching apps, and digital storytelling. It was relevant and applicable to teachers and students; while delivered in a fun, interactive format that kept us engaged, laughing, and collaborating.

Despite my feelings of being bummed about the end of ISTE 2010 and leaving my new friends, I think of this as just the beginning. Why? This tweet by Bud Hunt caught my attention:

I believe that’s a great way to sum it up. How can we be bummed about that?!? I’m excited for what this coming school year has in store for me in working with teachers and students. I hope you are too. Remember, there’s lots of fellow teachers that need YOU! There are students that need YOU!

It’ll soon be the beginning of a new school year. “Do important things. Be brave. Share lots.”

Thanks for reading.