I am a connected educator, whatever you think that term means. To me it means that at any given moment I have access to thousands, if not millions, of teachers around the world that can help me further my practice. I got those connections because I chose to use social media. I leverage Twitter every day to learn more about being a better teacher. I blog to get further discussion. However, I also work diligently on connecting with people at my school and in my community. I use those people to further my craft every day. So I get that being a connected educator is a great thing, but when we discuss what being connected means to teachers and use exclusionary terms such as saying that you have to use social media to be connected, we are doing nothing for the good of getting people connected. Instead we sound like a bunch of jerks. If we want people to get connected then we have to realize that while the way we are connected may be the most brilliant thing that ever happened to us, might not work for others. And that doesn’t mean they can’t be a connected educator.
Yes, I believe in the power of social media, but no it is not the only way to be connected. We cannot say teachers are not teaching well if they are not connected via social media. Or that they are harming their students. Or that their methods are antiquated. You can be connected using non-social media tools, like Skype, like email, like texting, like meeting someone for a cup of coffee.Who am I to say that my way of connecting, using Twitter or another social media platform, is somehow better than that? That my connections are worth more? Yet, that is what I see happen again and again. For what purpose?
If we are trying to get educators to be more connected, which I absolutely agree with, then we have to realize that those types of connections can happen in many ways. I would even say that some of my best connections are those that happened without social media being our link. Not all of them but some of them. Why not give credit to those types of connections as well rather than only the ones that happen on social media? I know several teachers who are connected on social media and they have not used it for the amazing things we assume everybody does on these platforms. Somehow we have invented a fake reality where all teachers who use social media are amazing.
In the end, it doesn’t matter as much HOW we are connected but rather that we are. I agree that teachers choose to be in isolation in this day and age, but we cannot claim that using social media to connect is the best way for all. That simply isn’t true. Connections help us grow when they matter to us. Not because of how they happened. Let’s not lose sight of what the greater goal is; to get more teachers to be connected. Let’s not think we know how to do it best, but rather offer multiple ways for others to connect. We need to stop saying there is only one right way, it doesn’t help our purpose.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.