It is with the theme of connecting that my own blogging journey continues. I have long been intrigued by the power of connecting and have been strongly influenced by the ease of connecting with others through the use of technology. In this day and age, teachers and students have so many tools that they can access to share ideas and information with each other.
But we can’t leave people out of the equation here – the technology is only so beneficial if we don’t work toward developing relationships and getting to know the people behind their profiles. And this step, though it takes time, is crucial. It’s also important to note that it’s not just a one-way street. If we wish to truly cultivate communities of learners in our classrooms, within our schools or across our districts, we must find opportunities to encourage participation. This applies to both our students and our teachers.
Take a look at the following image, ‘Networked Teacher’ (created by Alec Couros) and consider what it really means to be a networked learner…
This image clearly depicts the reality that exists in our schools today. As teachers, we’re impacted and influenced by multiple sources of information. A number of these factors have shaped the role of the teacher forever, like curriculum and input from the family or community. But the growing numbers of digital factors that are depicted above heavily influence the work that we do on a daily basis. The most important thing to note, however, is that with a networked teacher the arrows go both ways.
As networked teachers, we don’t just sit back and let these factors influence us – rather, we take advantage of the power that’s afforded by these many tools and we’re using them to shape the future of teaching and learning. We create engaging content that can be shared across a variety of mediums so that we can teach our students the way they like to be taught.
As networked teachers, we’re not content with simply taking in all of the good ideas that can be discovered through Twitter, YouTube, podcasts, blogs and wikis. Instead, we chew on some of these ideas and consider how they will impact our colleagues and/or our students. But then we proceed to share these ideas with our own personal/professional learning networks.
As networked teachers, we value the process of contributing to our communities. I came to realize this about three years ago, while loosely participating in one of the very first MOOC’s (Massively Open Online Courses). George Siemens & Stephen Downes co-facilitated the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge course and I participated along with hundreds of other educators from around the world. As the course wrapped up, I posted my reflection:
“Over the years, I can honestly say that I’ve experienced an equal amount of give and take through my face to face connections with others. But when it comes to my online connections, I’ve been too much of a lurker for too long. I’ve lingered on the fringes of my online networks and I’ve collected a bunch of knowledge that I’ve really only been sharing effectively with small groups of people through my traditional networks. I have come to the realization that I need to find more ways to give back to some of the people in my online networks. It’s time for me to find more ways to reciprocate and share some of the knowledge that I’ve been guarding.”
As networked teachers, we model collaboration for our students. We show them what it takes to make their own learning transparent. We teach them how they, too, can become networked learners…
– take time to reflect –
Are you a networked teacher?
If so, how did you begin your journey?
And, if not, how do you plan to get started?