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Technology in the Classroom: The Connected Teacher

Jordan Catapano

We push our students more and more each year to get connected. We have originally encouraged our students to work together in small groups to complete specific academic tasks. Then we enabled them to avail themselves of the wealth of information on the Internet. And with the advent of social media communications, we have instructed them on how to utilize these technologies to leverage their own personalized education.

But are we teachers taking advantage of technology in the classroom to get “connected” too?

When it comes to getting connected, although we know that this is good for our students, we don’t always take advantage of these technology in the classroom opportunities ourselves. But it is essential that we begin to consider ourselves as “connected educators.”

What is a Connected Teacher?

A connected teacher is an educator who has actively established associations with other professionals and resources from across the world. An “unconnected” teacher is one who remains relatively isolated from the abundance of communications and resources available. These connections exist both in “real” life and in the digital arena, usually connected to:

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  • Others in your building. Being happy, extroverted and communicative goes a long way in establishing professional relationships that help make you a better teacher. You don’t have to look far to find other teachers with similar challenges, fresh ideas, and equal passions.
  • Teachers in your region. You can connect with familiar faces at conferences, seminars, cross-district interactions, and even at competitions. It’s helpful to gain insight into what’s occurring at other buildings and what’s trending across your region.
  • Professionals and resources online. This is what many who say “connected” mean, since it associates you with like-minded individuals across the world who can link you to experiences, ideas, resources, or literally anything else you may need to get to that next level of instructional performance.

The Benefits of Connection

Relationships take time and energy. What teacher has extra of either one of those? But the modern idea of connectivity does not require exorbitant quantities of each. Instead, through leveraging the individuals in your life and the buttons at your fingertips, connections are just moments away from being utilized.

Getting connected plugs you into an active, passionate, customizable network of professionals ready to equip you with whatever you need, including:

  • Lesson plans. If you need an idea for how to teach a specific piece of content, just ask. You’re not the first person to try to teach this!
  • Solutions. Have a problem with a student, a class, or a parent? Have a challenge with policies, laws, or anything else? Put out the vibe and get the answers you’re looking for.
  • Encouragement. No matter what you’re going through, you’re not alone. Even just some kind words and reviving insights are available for you.
  • Perspectives. You see things one way, but is that all there is to it? Open up your eyes to the range of possibilities by hearing what others have to say.
  • New Information. You don’t know what you don’t know. But maybe there are several tools, methods or facts out there that are just waiting for someone to tell you about them.
  • Advice. If there’s a dilemma you’ve encountered or a goal you have, find some steps to approach it with the friendly advice of your personalized professional network.
  • Materials. Looking for that “special something” that would make your next lesson fantastic? Someone else may already have it. Ask around and you shall find!
  • Resources. There are thousands of educational resources created by teachers, institutions, and businesses. You may never know what’s there until you start seeing what they offer.
  • More Connections. Hey, the people you know may not have what you need … but they may know the person who does. Get referrals to more beneficial connections as you go.

Use Technology in the Classroom to Get Yourself Connected

So now you know the benefits of creating a network of connections to other educators. But how do you actually go about doing this? In addition to simply forging relationships with the people you work with or know regionally, here are the most powerful ways teachers have already discovered for connecting with each other.

Social Media: Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc. Teachers love Twitter, despite the grammar it encourages in students. The reason? Connections are fast and easy. If you like what another educator has to say or the links they share, follow them. In a matter of moments you can create a personalized professional network of teachers you like to learn from, and at any given moment you can scroll through recent “tweets” and learn from them. You can even get engaged in educational conversations yourself by asking questions, using hashtags, and participating in twitter chats. Google+ and Facebook are similar by providing the fundamentals for allowing you to find and follow other professionals as well as a platform for sharing your own micro-blog commentaries, updates, resources and data.

Blogs. Do you have a blog of your own? Consider starting one at blogspot.com, weebly.com, tumblr.com, or the teacher-specific edublogs.com. Amass subscribers and commenters. Or if you’re not ready for sharing your own blog, then subscribe to others and participate with them!

YouTube. Did you know that behind Google, Youtube is the second-largest search engine in the world? Post videos of your ideas and lessons for students and teachers to observe. Find videos of others and subscribe to your favorite contributors and share comments and connections.

Podcasts. Want to just listen to some awesome information? Try downloading podcasts that fit your needs and tastes. You can find podcasts specific to your discipline, or just podcasts that features great universal teacher tools. Check out this list of 50 educational podcasts to whet your appetite.

Social Bookmarking. You know how you slip a bookmark in a page to mark where you’re at? Well, with social bookmarking, you can similarly mark a website or piece of digital information and simultaneously share that marking with others. You can even go further by leaving a comment on your bookmark as well as see what other users might have to say about the same resources. To use this, websites like Facebook and Twitter already allow this, but also try others like Pintrest.com, Delicious.com, or Reddit.com.

When it comes to being a connected educator, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Do what suits you … but by all means, do something to get connected. The resources we have today allow for unprecedented opportunities for expanding the mastery of your practice. There are millions of teachers waiting to get connected to you. Are you ready to hear from them, and are you ready to share?

How do you like to get connected? Get connected with us and share your thoughts by leaving a comment on connected educators below!

Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com