1. In the first week of December, I hosted what I called a “Tech Potluck” at my school. I invited everyone for an after school get-together to share our favorite tech treasures for any and all purposes. It had an open house feel. People were free to come and go, have a snack, add an idea or two to our list and chat informally about tools they used and liked. About 9 people attended and we generated a list of 24 different apps and products for health and wellness, chat/messaging, language learning, video production & editing, transportation, data filing & management which we then also shared with the community after the event. Our group included teachers, an administrator, and office staff and the enthusiasm for doing it again was frequently voiced. So I will do it again.
2. Over the winter break I got to do a fair amount of reading and browsing. Among the treasures I found, this syllabus for an 8th grade language arts course stood out for me as absolutely phenomenal. Based on 4 central questions posed by W.E.B. DuBois, the course offers a selection of extremely compelling literature which encourages exploration of a variety of identity perspectives in terms of geography, history, class, race, gender and age.
I was so excited by this document that I immediately it had to share it with my colleagues in middle school who teach language arts. The three of us ran into each other on that first day back and had a rich conversation about great books with a social justice theme. One colleague mentioned TaNahesi Coates’ Between the World and Me and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and offered to loan them to me.
The simple act of sharing what I found sparked a conversation about literature and how it connects to our lives in progress. With very little extra effort, my colleagues and I have set ourselves up for further talk about practice, about reading, about being human. Connected.
3. A couple of weeks before the winter break I ran across a think piece about understanding the teaching of literature as teaching students to re-read. As with the LA syllabus I was intrigued and excited by the ideas presented and chose to share this find with my high school English colleagues who in preparing students for International Baccalaureate (IB) exams are expected to go both wide and deep in their content areas. One colleague found the time to read the article and liked it. In response, he suggested a text he’ll be using in Theory of Knowledge course that I might enjoy.
Easy share, generous response. Connected.
There are certainly other instances of little shares here and there which were appreciated and became a source of deeper connection with my colleagues and friends. These three very recent examples illustrate for me the larger purpose of being ‘out there’ on social media – in order to connect with the folks with whom we share our students. I love being active on Twitter and taking advantage of the multiple opportunities it provides for intellectual, political and cultural exchange. That is my choice. Some of my school colleagues are on other social media channels doing other things and some are not. All good. If I truly want to be worth my salt as a connected educator, then I need to become proficient at sharing with and responding to my immediate community – to the people I see and work with every day.
Being connected has as many iterations as there are communication channels. In our digital euphoria, we need to continue to pay close attention to what is happening and of importance outside of our distinctly digital webs of reference. Our individual follower counts are of little significance if we cannot find ways to invite our local learning communities to share the wealth in small and large ways. This is not about bringing people ‘on board’. Rather, our cause as connected educators may well be to build bridges across various expanses right where we are: subject matter areas, school divisions, school to homes, school to community. We can do this digitally and in person; as experts and novices; as learners and teachers – and in fluid and shifting roles. There is no single right way to live our connectedness, digital or otherwise.