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A Relevance Recipe For Educators

A Relevancy Salad is a nutritious mixture of communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, plus connectedness. For many, the "4-Cs of 21st Century Education" have become a daily part of our school-based jargon. However, there is still some question as to what defines a relevant educator. What are the ingredients and processes necessary for creating a nutritious, tasty, and satisfying relevancy salad?

The first step in creating your relevance salad is the embracing of a learner's mindset. Many, if not all, educators speak highly of lifelong learning, but the best relevancy salads are made by educators who make learning a healthy part of their daily routine. Much like the open air kitchen at your favorite bakery or delicatessen, relevant educators are transparent with their learning processes and reflections. They know getting just the right flavor requires taking some chances. They also acknowledge there may be mistakes and miscalculations along the way, but their growth mindset comes with the understanding that failure can provide beneficial seasoning in the learning process.

Second, sharing is a welcome and essential process in creating a nutritious relevancy salad. The defining quality of an effective personal learning network (PLN) revolves around members contributing a variety of high-quality ingredients to the learning mixture. Just as the variety of fruits and vegetables contribute to the overall flavor of a salad, collaboration invites unique perspective and skills sets to the learning process, along with the creative products of learning.

Third, even old world recipes take on new flavor by incorporating digital technologies and innovative techniques. Connections alone are not enough. In the produce area, it takes a keen eye, a sharp sense of smell, and experienced hands to select the best foods for a fresh, flavorful salad. Following effective contributors, and curating high-quality resources take time, deliberate thought, and experience. Relevant educators have a willingness to try different tools and new techniques for curating, creating, and sharing. 

Relevancy coupled with true innovation involves a shifting of constructs and paradigms. What has worked in the past may still be viable, but may not be what's best for "next-gen" preparedness. Relevant educators, through a process of reflection, realize the learning never ends.

Let's get into the details of our relevancy salad. Adjust ingredients and quantities to personal preference. Season to taste. In a large mixing bowl add the following items;

  1. Layer in several parts social media. For robust, hearty flavor includes a mixture of the following; 1 cup Twitter, 1 cup Linkedin, 1 cup Pinterest, and 1 cup YouTube. Other ingredients that can be substituted or added to this mix include; Google+, Facebook, Instagram, and Remind. These ingredients will form the foundation of connection in the relevancy salad, and will enhance networking capacity.
  2. For more body and depth of flavor, add blogs and social readers. Social readers such as Feedly, Zite, and my personal favorite, Flipboard, introduce timely variety and tastes into the relevancy mix. The reading and writing of blogs add depth to the presentation while providing a platform to share with authentic audiences.
  3. Immediacy and excitement can be added by mixing in video conferencing (Google Hangouts), webinars (Skype), podcasts, and online chats. Technology allows real-time interaction and collaboration to give the relevancy salad unmatched freshness. The capability of global connection increases the likelihood of wider perspective and deeper understanding.
  4. Conferences add face-to-face seasoning to the relevancy salad. EdCamps allow personalized, empowering aspects to the traditional conference model. The social media ingredients increase the capacity for real-time sharing of the conference experience. These opportunities can add meaning and strengthen PLN relationships. Relationships form the heart-healthy, flavorful dressing of the relevancy salad.
As mentioned previously, these processes and quantities can be adjusted to taste. However, the basic ingredients of the relevancy salad must include learning and sharing.

Now it's your turn to contribute to a collaborative recipe. Feel free to break out the mixing spoons and add your insights or questions in the comments area.

  • What steps and ingredients do you include in your relevancy salad? 
  • Who embodies the concept of a relevant educator? 
  • What contributions have relevant educators made to your recipe?
  • How will you assist other learners in gaining relevance?

Related Resources

The Relevant Educator; How Connectedness... - Tom Whitby & Steven W. Anderson

photo credit: Breakfast via photopin (license)


boonec1974 said…
For me a relevant middle school educator is 1/4 knowledgeable, 1/4 creative, 1/4 realist, and 1/4 class clown.
Unknown said…
Your metaphor for relevance in the classroom is wonderful. While most of my salads have fewer ingredients than what you recommend, I think the point still widely holds. Walking in to a classroom where the educator has carefully considered how she is modeling life-long learning is delicious.

I do wonder, though, on your/our reliance on "name brand" items to put into our relevancy salad. By mentioning Twitter or YouTube, do we discount any social network or video service that isn't those? What if we recommended the idea rather than the product. Say, "creating lasting connections with others online" or "using video for reflective practice". Could those be like the amazing olives that we get at the olive bar of our grocery store that have no name brands attached to them?

More than anything, I want the classroom (and the teacher) to never be dependent upon a single device or product for its learning. There are just too many opportunities for exploration and change to limit a learning salad to Newman's Own dressing or Chiquita Bananas.

P.S. This comment is a part of the #C4C15 project. Find out more here:
Thank you Ben. I value your perspective on topics such as this. You are correct, my "tech tool" bias was sprinkled throughout this recipe. Furthermore, your recommendation is spot on! Learner / creative choice should be a primary aspect of the exploration. Thanks again for contributing to our learning. I hope all is well with you. Let's talk again soon, Bob

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