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On the Shoulders of Giants; 3 Ways Educators Can Increase Relevance

This post was inspired by two of my giants, Tom Whitby & Steven W. Anderson

"Relevancy includes not only skills educators need to use, but educators are also charged to teach these same skills to their students. Digital literacy is now an integral part of education for teaching and learning, going beyond the application in an education setting to that of the world of work. Strategies and methodologies used for collaborative learning in education are easily carried over to the world of work, enabling lifelong learning to become more than just words in a school's mission statement." - The Relevant Educator



What used to constitute relevancy in education was confined to the pages of a textbook, the walls of a classroom, and the words of a teacher. However, today relevancy in education is learning empowered through connectedness. Connectedness and digital literacies create limitless availability to information, diversity in perspective, and access to giants. Who are these giants? Giants are creative, collaborative, communicators of thinking, learning, school, and education. Where are these giants? They are everywhere, but they are most readily found on social media. There are several effective ways to connect and engage with giants. Here are three effective methods for educators to gain relevance by connecting and learning with giants;

Find Giants On Social Media - Many giants are active bloggers. Educators can gain relevance by searching for blog posts and curating them in social readers such as Flipboard or Zite. Educators can also increase their relevancy by sharing their learning transparently. A blog is an ideal tool for sharing reflective learning processes, as well as, sharing the digital products of their learning. Mentioned earlier, social readers intuitively locate posts that suit the learner's reading patterns and interests. As the name suggests, social readers allow educators to readily share interesting, and relevant, material through email or social media. Educators can increase efficiency by subscribing to blogs using an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader such as Feedly. New posts and updates are automatically catalogued for the reader, and that makes the reading and learning "on demand". Teach 100 is a good starting place when searching for bloggers with an education focus. With billions of posts to choose from, educators are sure to find something that supports their teaching and learning.

Invite Giants Into Your PLN - Who wouldn't want at least one giant on their team? A PLN, or personal learning network is a team of people that support and challenge an educator's thinking. Learning relationships are the strength of a PLN. These relationships are usually initiated and maintained through social media. Google+, Skype, and Linkedin are popular virtual meeting places for connected educators. Along with many other educators, Twitter is the foundation of my PLN. Educators can increase relevance with just several daily minutes of "following" and engaging with, their PLN giants. Twitter chats are popular, and engaging, activities for educators to increase relevance and personalize their learning. Dozens of educational Twitter chats occur daily. Educators can determine the depth and frequency of their participation. Whether it's lurking or leading, following giants and subscribing to their lists can certainly increase relevance and personal learning for educators.

Meet Giants At Conferences - Conferences and workshops take on a whole new life when learning relationships are established through social networks. With the philosophical groundwork covered, conference conversations can cut right to improving learning and education. For many educators, the informal PLN meeting spaces often provide a more enjoyable learning experience than the formal sessions, which primarily follow a "sit and get" learning model. Backchanneling is a process by which conference attendees share their learning using a hashtag (#). This sharing of key points and resources adds relevance to the presenter and the participant. Additionally, countless non-attendees can connect and share in the learning conversations about the conference sessions. Meeting your PLN giants in person is terrific, but attending virtually has value too! EdCamps and unconferences have gained tremendous popularity. With no cost, and no agenda, teachers build sessions and engage in conversations about educational practice. Relevance is achieved by attending and connecting at these exciting professional learning events.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with change without the help of social networks. Crowdsourcing learning not only helps build relevance, but it also models learning processes that will help students become "future-ready". Establishing a PLN and fostering learning relationships are both a process and a mindset. Giants have blazed trails for others to follow. Their paths are strewn with established connections, resources, and ideas that allow educators to increase their relevance rather quickly and easily. The keys are adopting a learner's mindset, and committing to connectedness. 

  • Who are the giants helping educators achieve relevance?
  • How can giants support your teaching and learning?
  • What is the relevance of the embedded picture? Suggest a caption!

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photo credit: bill barber via photopin cc

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