Lessons from Connected Educator Month: The Case of #RSD13CT

Innovative. Inspirational. Insightful. After a week of struggling to develop a definition of connected educators I have settled on these three words. Innovative. Inspirational. Insightful.

Connected educators provide me with the motivation to always try moving forward. To push my limits. To fail a little better each time. I also learned that despite our global community, the most innovative, inspirational, and insightful educators are often in your backyard.

That was my first lesson of #ce13. I attended the webinar with Scott Mcleod and a few other thought leaders on school leadership and connected education. Scott recommended to start local first. Like real local. Like at the building level first. It is good advice, but for many teachers they may have to look outside their school walls. If the leadership isn’t in place in your building I would suggest looking at the state or county level.

After thinking about Scott’s comments I thought about the local connected educators who inspired me with with their innovative pedagogy and insightful reflections. This brought me back to the wonderful teachers I have met through #edcampct and other unconferences in Connecticut.

While there are too many discuss here (especially the #edcampct organizers and Paul Bogash @paulbogash) my thoughts focused on the many teachers in Regional School District 13. I find the teachers #rsd13ct to be innovative, inspirational, and insightful.

Innovative

Jenny Lussier (@jluss), Lindsay Petroski (@PetroskiLindsay), Michelle Gohagon (@mgohagon) innovate in their classroom everyday. They focus a good portion of their curriculum on developing the computational thinking skills of their students.

The trio define computational thinkerrs as learners who can effectively identify, solve problems, and use technology to carry out their solutions. As one of their students noted, “coding helps us become better thinkers, workers and creators.”

They have built a curriculum around makers and creators.

How can we be more innovative?

Steal. Poach. Borrow. That is the point of Connected Educator month. Good teachers innovate. Great teachers often borrow from the innovative. I encourage everyone to follow these three on Twitter and learn more about how they build computational thinking into their curriculum.

We also need to create a culture of meaning making in the classroom. Our students need to be content constructors. They have to engineer new ideas and new stuff. We need curriculum that gives students problems to solve in the context of disciplinary literacies. In other words students need to develop into makers within the communities of specific disciplines.

Inspirational

Connected educators are also inspirational. I learned this lesson in a webinar with Vicki Davis (@coolcateacher). She reminded us that followers (or as I call them connections) are not something you get. They are earned. You must offer something to your community, local or global. Jenny, Lindsay, and Michelle provide this inspiration for me.

Jenny and Michelle both organize #edcampct. They also helped to organize the first Print2Pixel unconference with me and other connected educators. I have found inspiration ion the dedication of these three teachers and #rsdct13 as a whole. If you follow their hashtag on Twitter you will find teachers engaged in digital teaching and learning.

What has been most inspirational for me is their commitment to the maker community both in school and out of school. If you listen to Lindsay and Michelle tell it Jenny is THE maker mom. Some legends hold that she has had her kids turn a toaster into self driving car.

How can we be more inspirational?

Try new things. Fail a little better each time. Share your passion to learn with others.

I have found inspiration in their commitment to both the maker community and their dedication to teaching children computational thinking. This lead me to try and learn Arduino. It also lead me to introduce computational thinking with my son.

At an #edcampct smackdown Jenny introduced me to both Kodable and Daisy the Dinosaur. I went home and installed both apps for my kindergarten son. He loves them and I love to watch him tinkering.

I shot a quick video of my son the other night (apoligize for quality it was spontaneous and filmed on my phone):

Both Kodable and Daisy the Dinosaur are great and build in computational thinking. Kodable challenges get more and more complex. Daisy the Dinosaur requires specific block programming commands which is great (I wish they had more challenges).

Insightful

I also realized, after the first week of #CEM13, that connected educators are also insightful. They use reflection to drive their practice. More importantly they share these reflections with others often through blogs. We have long talked about portfolios as an assessment tool. Connected Educators go beyond that. They do not have just a portfolio. They have a presence.

Connected educators share their thinkign across networks. In both f2f situationas and online. For example #RSDCT13 had students come to the the Print2Pixel conference and run a session on kids coding in the classroom.

How can we be more insightful?

Blog. Teach students to blog. Use the space as an opportunity to reflect on your own teaching and learning. Blogging is not the only way to be a reflective praxctioner but I believe it to be the best way. That is why I set being a better blogger as my goal for both #CE13 and #OOE13.

We also need to interact as an educational blogging community. To this ewnd I am goign to take one of my allocated writing days each week and instead spend it reading and commenting on others blogs. That is why I want to make an effort to collect blog posts about #CE13. If you are sharing your reflections through the month please add your blog to this Google Doc. I will make and share an RSS feed.

In order to model being insightful We also need to teach our students multimodal composition. We should be looking for mentor texts: specific blog posts and bloggers that engage in effective practice. We should annotate the writing and discuss the design choices bloggers make. We need students to reflect on the intersection of meaning and design.

It is through our online spaces that we become connected educators but I also learned that the most innovative, inspirational, and insightful teachers are often in your backyard.

Who are the local connected educators you have met? How do you get involved with connected educators in your area. Please share your stories with me and I will try to curate some ideas.

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