Listen teacher, listen to me. Don’t look away.
See my eyes they hold messages that make you understand me.
Are you a 21st century teacher? Are you a future focussed educator using effective pedagogy? Do you teach in a modern learning environment and use digital tools? Are you conscious of digital citizenship? Are you an active member of a virtual community and use social media to make connections and broadcast? Do you foster digital collaboration with your elearners?
What?….. #halt! Let’s flip that learning? We must be connected educators because we relate with all of the above… Right?
So what is a Connected Educator? Let me carry out a personal inquiry.
October has been branded “Connected Educator Month”. I was determined to unpack this coined phrase. I have found dropping the term ‘connected’ a challenge, considering this has been my inquiry for 2014. I relied on connecting for this EdbookNZ project. I crowdsourced for this collaborative project using social media and invited educators to give up their precious time and to help me write a book that would debunk several current educational terms being bandied around. I envisaged we might make a difference to education by disrupting some of the current thinking taking place. Well goodness me my learning community responded.
Initially I wrote a blog post to clarify my understanding and help me unpack the term ‘Connected Educator’ in readiness for sharing my learning with colleagues at ULearn14 with my principal Dr Wendy Kofoed. So if you are looking for a definition of Connected Educator then go to this link and read a carefully thought out definition there. Access the ULearn video and watch the discussion or rewind our Ulearn slides to demonstrate your connectedness.
Connections can take many forms. I had a lightbulb moment when my SOLO Taxonomy mentor said, “Sometimes educator blogs read like a description and very few take their reflection to an analytical level.”
Sometimes I need a prod to help me with my thinking and that was the prod I needed. The focus for this ‘disruptive article’ is ‘Educator’. My personal inquiry has centred around connected educators at my school and my own understanding of educator has been clarified by using the term ‘connected’ educator. I now realise that this educator does not need the term connected in front. This educator does not need a digital badge to say I am a connected educator because first and foremost I am a teacher therefore I am an educator and I am a learner too. I have my teaching certificate to prove this. Each year I carry out an inquiry to show I am learning. Each year I work with another cohort of teachers and students who challenge my thinking and I, hopefully, challenge theirs. Each year I create and leave a legacy for other learners as is encouraged by the New Zealand Teachers Council. Therefore a badge is handy for this process of evidence based learning.
Considering all this learning as inquiry that has taken place, should I have focussed on the educator as a learner? A large part of my own learning results from online collaboration. The online learning environment continues to shape my thinking and the connections I make shape my learning. For my reworked contribution to #EdBookNZ as part of Connected Educator Month, my topic is ‘Educator’ – I have stripped away the term connected as I believe it is not needed to describe being a teacher because to educate requires connection. It is a prerequisite. Without connecting with our learners, can we educate effectively? Without connections, can we collaborate effectively? Without collaboration can we share as effectively?
I believe connectedness is one of three concepts relevant to being an educator.
At any New Zealand school, being connected requires the learner to develop a secure sense of their own identity and agency to think and work towards where their potential might lie.
At my school our three values are whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga.
I use these concepts and their definition to frame my current thinking around Educators.
In Aotearoa New Zealand an educator understands the Maori concept of whanaungatanga which focuses on building relationships with each other, the community and our children. Therefore an educator knows how to use the managed online learning tools to find people and knows how to connect with them. They think carefully about the dynamics of interactions. They use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Google+, LinkedIn, and other tools to make connections and to build their own personal learning community. They actively seek other New Zealand educators to connect and build learning relationships with.
In Aotearoa New Zealand an educator understands the concept of Manaakitanga or Generosity of Spirit. This is about developing the ability to walk in others’ shoes which includes seeing issues from others’ perspectives and thinking carefully about the dynamics of interactions. It is about cultural awareness. An educator knows how to use and take the tools from their kete to move their practice forward. They know how to get the learning needed to improve the craft of teaching. An educator uses online tools to crowdsource to share ideas and to call for help in creating resources for their learners and for other educators. Generally they are participants in learning communities and take part in twitter chats such as #edchatnz to connect nationally and globally with other New Zealand educators. They comprehend the concept of an educational bubble and actively seek virtual chats to connect them with educators globally because they understand that sometimes the New Zealand bubble is just that, a bubble. They use a wiki, blog and or google sites as a sandbox to test their learning and show what has been learnt. They attend online New Zealand webinar such as the Virtual Learning Network monthly sessions. They participate in national online projects- such as Connected Educator Month or even better, they contribute to online projects. Even much better they take part in or create their own global collaborative project that includes their students, keeping citizenship at the heart of what takes place. They curate their own learning using Pond and make connections with other New Zealand educators to share what has been found and learnt. They know how to bring back what they have found and learnt online and share it with their school community via a reflective educator blog, a face to face discussion or via a different media. Personal learning is transparent, visible and accessible by all.
In Aotearoa New Zealand an educator understands the concept of Kaitiakitanga or Guardianship for Sustainability of our world. They understand the notion of stewardship by ensuring sensitivity and thoughtfulness of actions in environments both local and distant. An educator knows how to build their community of practice so that it has active participants like guest speakers or blog authors and where everyone constructs knowledge collaboratively. They identify the voices that are silent and actively seek them out to ensure that all voices are heard. They know how to reflect on what they have learnt and make this available for all via a blog, Google Doc, wiki and or a site. They have identified video as the new text and have taken personal responsibility to learn how to craft their learning using video. An educator uses several communication tools to find people and connect with them. An educator knows how to access the learning needed to improve their own teaching. They know how to empower each other and the children that they teach to build their own learning environment. They take pride in leaving a legacy for other educators.
An educator is visible online and can be identified by the work that they do with the children that they teach and with other educators through the legacy that they collaboratively create. The educator’s attitude, knowledge and skills change as they learn. The change in their thinking can be mapped. They continuously gather and analyse data of what they are doing for quality improvement.
Most importantly an educator is a professional learner who creates, contributes and converses. They know how to empower each other and their students to build their own networks to learn from and use the tools and resources that are available. They have the mindset to learn from each other, with each other, from and with the children that they teach and from and with the families/whanau of their children.
So, if I assess my outcome using the levels of SOLO Taxonomy; have I clarified my thinking around what a connected educator is, elaborated on and justified my definition, prodded you to rethink the connected educator label? Have I disrupted your thinking? Have I created a new way of defining connected educator?
Where to next, can an educator, without access to technology, still be a connected educator? Can they not still connect with those around them? Can they not still connect with learners, family, community?
Do give me feedback because quality improvement drives my learning.
Prashnig, B. (2008). Pg 12. In The power of diversity: New ways of learning and teaching through learning styles (3rd ed.). London: Continuum.