Congratulations! You have created a Twitter account and followed some great people like @ShellTerrell and @Web20Classroom. You spent a few days lurking and favoriting great resources shared by your slowly growing PLN. Wow, you even participated in your first #edchat and responded to @MBTeach and even received a RT from @Cybraryman1. I’m sure you have this awesome feeling now that you have connected to other educators from around the globe, but the big questions is this: “Now what?”
I am all for being a connected educator. I love that fact that I have thousands of amazing educators I can reach out to when I have questions or I just want to share something amazing. Those are the nice parts of being a connected educator, but there is much more to it that that. How can you turn these connections into something valuable for your students? For me, becoming connected was about trying to become a better teacher. I want to be a better teacher because I want to have a greater impact on the students I see in my classroom. Here are some suggestions on using your new found connectedness to impact your students.
- Connect classrooms: One of the greatest things I have ever done was to connect my classes with Van Meter High School. I used my connection with @ShannonMMiller to create the Epic Romeo and Juliet Project. This project had students from two different states re-write and film a new version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Students worked in groups and connected on Skype to create one of the best student projects I have ever been a part of as a teacher. A connected educator should look around their connections and try to see if other educators are interesting in working together. This is a great way to engage students in something a little different this school year.
- Broaden the audience: Students have grown accustomed to writing for their teacher and maybe their peers. They do it so often, they find it hard to write for anyone else. This is a problem easily solved for the connected educator. By using Twitter, connected educators can add the hashtag #Comments4Kids to encourage other educators and students to read student work and share their thoughts. If students are using blogs, this is a great way to extend the audience way beyond the classroom. As the world becomes more and more flat, students need to be prepared to write for a world audience, and a connected educator is in the perfect position to help students with this important skill.
- Connect students: Look at your school policy and see if it is possible to connect your students or classroom. Class Twitter accounts or blogs are a great way to interact with the world. By using a class Twitter account, students can reach out to authors, politicians, news outlets and many other types of account holders to see what is going on in their world. These types of real-world connections will allow for deeper engagement in many different areas of the curriculum. We think of connected educators as instructors or administrators, but really, we need to think of the role of connecting students as well. A connected educator needs to find ways to connect students so they can continue meaningful learning outside of the classroom.
These are just a few ways that a connected educator can use their connections to impact their classrooms. The longer a person stays connected, the more ideas and approaches they will find to improving themselves and the education for their students.
Nicholas Provenzano is a high-school English teacher and a technology-curriculum specialist for the Grosse Pointe Public School System in Michigan. He has a master’s degree in educational technology from Central Michigan University and is a regular presenter for the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning and ISTE. When he is not writing on his blog or tweeting @TheNerdyTeacher, he is working on an educational e-zine and a free “unconference,” Edcamp Detroit. He also blogs for Edutopia on the value of technology in education.