There Is Not Just One Right Way to Be A Connected Educator

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.

9 thoughts on “There Is Not Just One Right Way to Be A Connected Educator

  1. Pingback: There Is Not Just One Right Way to Be A Connect...

  2. I think many teachers might breathe a sigh of relief when they read this post. You are quite right – I have slowly uncovered more ways to connect. From lurking to, retweeting to then finally generating . It takes time but I certainly had much guilt on the way that I was out of the loop – left behind. My next step is to find (at my own pace) my blogging voice,

  3. Actually, I’ve never heard anyone suggest that everyone should follow one particular way to connect with others. And social media for me is any tool that allows individuals to share and create something new, which would include Skype, email, etc. Finally, the real argument for me is against teachers working in isolation; the connected educator refers to both online and offline relationships, synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication, and the type of connection (weak and strong ties) is more important than quantity of connections.

  4. I too am a ‘lurker, stalker’ – call me what you like. However, I believe I am a connected educator who thrives on learning from other connected educators by simply reading blog posts and comments. I enjoy deeply pondering, often taking suggestions and ideas into my classroom where my students benefit, or sharing with my colleagues. When I read something that I feel passionate about , I do not hesitate to reply or comment with a passion and fervency that sometimes surprises me. Connected educators learn from each other in which ever way or form they choose to be connected.

  5. Pingback: What Connected Means To Me | doug — off the record

  6. I believe that you may be confusing collaborative with connected. Although most educators are collaborative, many are not connected. Being connected has come to mean collaborative through tools of technology. Collaboration benefits us all no matter how it is done. Face to face is the oldest method of collaboration, but it does have its limits. People need to be in the same space at the same time to collaborate. Connected collaboration removes those barriers. Being a connected educator requires a certain amount of digital literacy and not all people are comfortable with that yet. Connected collaboration has many advantages over face to face collaboration. Whether that makes it better or not, depends on the collaborators. When it comes to connected collaboration there are many, many ways to connect and that is even expanding almost on a daily basis. Technology advances without anyone’s permission.
    The point here is that all educators collaborate. Connected collaboration however requires technology and Social Media tools are most often employed to accomplish that, but other tools of technology work as well, allowing what we now refer to as connected collaboration. These are all components of an Educators Personal Learning Network. There is a clear distinction between collaboration as it has been understood for centuries, and connected collaboration as technology has defined it in a computer-driven society.
    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this.

    • I am not confusing the two at all, thank you. Where my problem lies, and where this post stems from, is with the sweeping statements that some “connected educators” make about how social media is the most important way to connect, thus lessening the value of all other types of connections. When I first started using social media, I was highly connected with my PLN online, however, had you asked the people that I worked with locally they would not have called me connected, but instead isolated. You could not at that time have claimed that I was somehow a better teacher because of all of my connections online, although they were vast, when I had no clue what it meant to connect face to face. You don’t have to be on Twitter to be a great connected educator, you don’t have to be on Facebook either. You can be a connected educator using other tools to extend your reach.
      Someone used the argument on Twitter that all of the experts have defined being a connected educator as someone who uses social media to connect, that’s great, I however, feel that distinction is limiting and off putting. That is the point of this post, not to discuss how we should all collaborate.

    • Hey Tom – what are your thoughts about those who are “connected with technology” but are not collaborating (nor truly connecting with others)? There are some that appear to be connected but are connecting more with content (consuming) rather than truly collaborating. Can you collaborate without connecting with someone?

      I am a bit confused in your response as you state confusion between connection and collaboration but then the terms are used together as “connected collaboration”.

      I think the “connection” piece is crucial here. It is about connecting with other humans (educators, students, parents) in a way that drives positive change and reflection. I would argue that far from all educators truly “collaborate” in their jobs as there is little time built in and for a variety of reasons, there are many systems in which there is a lack of trust. We all know educators who are isolated in schools which makes that connection with people within the school all that more important. Real collaboration is also a skill that not all educators have not have been given time to learn.

      “Being connected has come to mean being collaborative through tools of technology”. I think this shows huge bias from you in your world online. When we talk about connecting with others and we only speak of online, we miss out on so many important ways of connecting. When we say those that connect through technology are superior than those connecting face to face, we (maybe unintentionally) downplay the importance of a collaborative culture that continually connect face to face. As a principal, there is nothing better than working with a staff that continually connect with each other. Real collaboration is the goal but we cannot have this without connection with others in our buildings.

      What I have found is that sometimes our connecting online can cause a disconnect with those face to face (I have experienced this – I felt like I was so connected online but lacked the connection to those in my own school). Too, by saying one way of connecting is better than the other may actually alienate those we are trying to encourage to connect in new ways. I have actually connected less online and way more face to face that I was a few years ago and I find this has significantly helped me. Connection online is good but finding the right amount is the challenge.

      I agree that connecting online can be very powerful but I struggle when a “connected educator” is someone that MUST connect regularly online or people who aren’t connecting online are seen as not being a modern educator. As Brene Brown says “connection is why we are here… we are hardwired to connect”. She isn’t talking about online… she is talking about the human connection. How we connect with others must work for us. If an educator has some valuable face to face connections with those in his/her district that continually challenge him/her to be better, I want to encourage and embrace this. It in these spaces where the conversations can go deeper and impact significant change. This is possible online but I don’t think it is better.

      In order to help move away from isolation, we need to meet people where they are and help them connect either (or both) online and face to face.

      I think the point that Pernille makes is that we need to talk about connection… not online, not offline… simply connecting with others as educators (and humans). Collaboration is a skill that requires trust and ongoing dialogue that can happen online, offline, or both. We need to encourage all sort of connections, relationships, and collaborations…. and the online should enhance, rather than replace, the offline.

      That was a ramble… I guess it is something I am really reflecting upon these days. Pernille, thanks for writing… and Tom, thanks for commenting… and both of you, thanks for making me think.

  7. Hi Pernillle,
    This is a fabulous post. I love being connected to others and I love learning and being inspired every day by educators in my school and across the country. As the only elementary principal in my district, I treasure the connections I have to other elementary leaders who help me think, challenge me, and who share so many ideas. Many of my connections began on Twitter, and then I went on to meet people face to face at conferences or at their school. This Spring Break I’ve visited 3 schools I would not know about were it not for Twitter, Voxer, and blogs– and it was great to meet face to face, talk and connect in person as well. Thank you for your thoughts and your blog! We have used several of your posts in PD at our school and you are one of those people who inspire me from afar — I would love to meet you in person one day!
    Thank you!
    Jennifer Kloczko

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