Saturday, August 17, 2013

Education Leaders, Now is the Time to Connect

CC image Chris Harrison
Earlier this week, I witnessed a graphic illustration of a significant learning gap. In this case, the connected versus the unconnected educator. My district hosts a leadership summit for the all of our administrators to kick off the new school year. Since we are moving from pilot to program phase with 1:1 iPads, the theme of this meeting was our new "brand"; extraordinary opportunities, innovative teaching, exceptional learning.

I genuinely appreciate the simplicity and values expressed in this motto. Unlike previous mission statements and overarching goals that we have produced - this one actually used the word "learning".

Innovative teachers and administrators were selected to present their experiences of teaching and leading in a 1:1 learning environment. Nearly all of these dozen or so presenters, including myself, share thoughts and resources with each other as part of a growing, enriching, and engaging personal learning network. I was thoroughly locked into the presentations as my colleagues were speaking the language of connected learning. However, in the back of my mind, I felt that the main message was glossing over most of our audience.

This became apparent when my principal began his humorous presentation sharing stories about his discoveries as a connected educator. He asked our gathering of 150 leaders, "How many of you have a personal learning network?" Besides the handful of presenters that I already have in a Twitter list, only three or four other administrators raised their hands. I could hardly believe what I was seeing! We are in the midst of spending millions of dollars on devices that play music, take pictures and video, access files, but most importantly, connect learners to other learners.

How can we expect to make this 1:1 program a success when an overwhelming majority of our leaders and teachers remain unconnected? Most of our students live, breath, and socialize in the digitally connected world. In most cases, we remove them from this environment when we bring them into our classrooms. If it hasn't happened already, the time is right now, to get students, faculty, and administrators connected in the name of learning. If not, here's what we can expect...
  1. Group think from students and teachers will threaten the ideas of an unconnected, uninformed, irrelevant leadership. Distrust and suspicion will undermine the promise of 360 degree leadership.
  2. Isolation and burnout will become common as teachers feel undervalued and unsupported.
  3. Students will miss out on opportunities to share authentic, meaningful learning with authentic audiences.
  4. Parents and community members will question and challenge programs that lack relevance for their children.
  5. People will continue to challenge the value of school as learning opportunities continue to become more readily available via the Internet.
I am able to personalize my professional development by engaging with others through social media. Twitter and Blogger make up the foundation for my connected learning and connected sharing. It takes just a few minutes each day for me to stay relevant, engaged, and energized as a learner in the educational arena. As a technology coordinator, my effectiveness and impact would be minimized without the support of my PLN. My primary professional goal for this year is to help everyone at our school embrace the idea of being a learner first, and then capitalize on this identity by connecting with other learners through their own personal learning networks. This was my message at our leadership summit. Unfortunately, it became obvious that it will take more than a five minute presentation to get everyone on board.

October is Connected Educator's Month, and I have some ideas in mind as to how I plan to promote and support connected learning, but I am interested in hearing your suggestions on how we can get all of our educational stakeholders, particularly our students, connected as learners. What do you think? How can we increase connected learning in our schools? Doesn't this need to start with school leadership?

2 comments:

Joseph Gliddon said...

We have reached the point where the cost of connecting has fallen and the benefits of sharing have grown - it appears to those of us who are already connected to be a "No Brainer". The stumbling point is as always engaging those who have not yet engaged, I love the idea of an connected educators month, in the UK we dont have this but we do have a growing number of educators calling for people to connect (I discussed this in a blog post a few weeks back Why do people think Blogs will transform education?)

Robert Schuetz said...

Hello Joseph. Thank you for taking time to read and comment on this post. I read your post earlier today and found it very interesting. I agree with you, it's the learning processes that are the keys to meaningful collaboration. Thanks again, Bob