Reciprocal connections…

Which image represents who you are an educator?

It’s a check-in I often use in workshops as an ice breaker and a window into the beliefs of the people with whom I’m working.

I always choose the image of paper clips. There are multiple possible explanations but, most often, I talk about the value of being a connected educator, about how much I have learned through connecting globally with others to exchange ideas, collaborate, support and be supported.

No matter what workshop I lead, there will almost always be a time included for some or all of the participants to connect virtually with educators in the world beyond. Sometimes it’s because participants have questions about areas in which I don’t have expertise. Sometimes it’s to meet the needs of specific participants and give them opportunities to pursue their own inquiries. And, sometimes it’s to demonstrate the power of global connections.

I’m always extremely grateful to the educators who give of their time, often on weekends, to join in virtually and share so freely with others. Usually they are ‘my people’, the incredible leaders and teachers with whom I work at my own school. Often they are ‘my other people’ – the generous educators who are part of my online professional learning network, many of whom I have never met face to face, with whom I have a reciprocal relationship. But sometimes, they are people I don’t know at all, recommended by others or identified through my online networks. To those contributors, I am especially grateful.

And here’s the surprise… While I’ve always seen it as others doing me a favour, in particular the people whom I don’t even know, it turns out that they see it as an opportunity! They appreciate being asked. They are delighted to have the chance to talk about what they do. They like making new connections and extending their own learning. The fact that they need to share pushes them to clarify their own thinking and identify what matters. I hadn’t really thought about it in this way till I received messages like these:

“That would be a treat. Thank you so much for thinking of me. I love sharing what we do here in this corner of the world… For me, this is a wonderful opportunity.”

” I really enjoy those discussions and am happy to help again… The practice I get in situations like this could only possibly help me to come out of my shell more and share more about what I do.”

And now, the drama teacher whom I met at my previous workshop in India, who so enjoyed his virtual conversations with teachers in Brazil, Korea and China (the first time he’d had such experiences) has jumped at the opportunity to pay it forward by connecting with a drama teacher in a coming Australian workshop…

With whom do you learn?

With whom do you learn?

Do you collaborate with a group of teachers at your grade level?

Do you share and bounce ideas with others in your school, your building, your area?

Do you belong to a network of teachers who meet to exchange ideas and share practice?

Do you participate in voluntary reading and learning groups?

Have you been to informal ‘teachmeets’ organised by teachers for teachers?

Have you participated  in global online conferences?

Do you write your own blog to share your ideas, reflections and practice with other educators?

Do you participate in the global education conversation by reading and commenting on educational blogs?

Do you engage with other educators on Twitter?

A session with teachers yesterday on developing our class blogs,  highlighted ways we can learn together.

  • A group of teachers of different grade levels gathered together (voluntarily) to share ideas and learn together.
  • A  range of great ideas was crowd sourced via Twitter before the session, with contributions from educators around the globe.
  • At the last minute, David Mitchell offered to Skype in (at midnight!) from the UK to share his schools experiences with blogging.
  • David introduced the concept of Quadblogging, in which classes around the world are grouped together

I was reminded of one of the most powerful influences in the building of my online  PLN.

It was Kelly Tenkely‘s blogging alliance that first connected me with many other educational bloggers around the world.

  • The more I read other’s blogs, the more I wanted to find and read.
  • The more comments I began to get on my posts, the more I wanted to write and share.
  • I was exposed to different people, places and practice.
  • I began to engage with teachers and learners around the globe.
  • Connections were made, friendships were formed, ideas were exchanged.
  • The learning was addictive.

It seems to me that connecting our students via Quadblogging can have similar effects. It’s much more than what David describes on the website as ‘a leg up to an audience for your class/school blog’,  although that’s an important starting point. Writing for an authentic audience, receiving feedback from the world, reading what others write and responding to them are all undoubtedly valuable outcomes.

But it’s more than that.

With whom do your students learn?

Are they expected to spend a whole year engaging with the same group of  twenty or thirty students in your classroom?

There are so many ways we can help our students create their own personal learning networks.

Quadblogging is another way to extend the potential for learning beyond the classroom walls…

Potential for learning…

Dear Heads and Co-ordinators,

Thanks for being such an appreciative audience at the PYP network meeting. I’m glad you enjoyed my presentation about what it means to be a connected educator.

It didn’t matter that it was the end of a long day and a long meeting or that we were all tired before I even started to speak.

It didn’t matter that Twitter is blocked at the host school and I couldn’t even show you a live Twitter interaction.

It didn’t matter that the internet stopped working and I had to talk my way round images of blogs and nings instead of showing them to you.

It didn’t matter that most people were taking pen and paper notes in a session about the use of technology.

It didn’t matter that some of you have yet to take the first step into this world of perpetual learning.

We are all educators and we care deeply about learning.

As soon as you saw what’s possible in terms of learning, both our own and our students’, I saw the light in your eyes.

I liked how you smiled when you saw I had borrowed some of my lines  from Steven Anderson’s video, which I showed at the end. It gave you a glimpse into the sharing and collaboration that is so much part of being a connected educator.

You seemed to enjoy being introduced to individual members of my PLN (most of whom I have yet to meet myself!) and hearing about how they have inspired me. I wish I’d had time to tell you what I have learned from each of them.

I was delighted by your enthusiastic response to our global plant inquiry and the way we use Skype to connect our students with the world. It was great to see you talking amongst yourselves about how you could apply some of the ideas I shared.

I liked the fact that you laughed at the image of the toe in the water because you could relate to it. Either because you’ve already put yours in and seen the result, or because you felt that making  just a small start isn’t too intimidating.

I loved that people came up to me afterwards to say that they were ready to put their toes in the water for the first time and begin their exploration. They were inspired, not by my presentation itself, but by their understanding of the enormous potential for learning.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my personal learning network….


Amazon Peru photos by Mazz Sackson.

Thanks @klbeasely for the inspiration.