Friday, November 9, 2012

Are we REALLY connected educators? Some thoughts about being disconnected

If you're reading this post, chances are you're what we call a connected educator. Connected educators have vibrant, dynamic personal learning networks (PLNs) and are continuously learning from others while contributing to the growth of other educators. My PLN is one of the most valuable things to me professionally and has contributed to my own development in more ways than I can describe. I have made numerous connections with educators that have developed into strong collaborative partnerships.

Lately, I've been thinking about the disconnect between my PLN and my local network of colleagues. Those of us who are connected educators often share more through Twitter and blogs than we do with our co-workers. Somehow, it feels safe sending my thoughts out to the world through tweets and blog posts. At the same time, it feels risky to walk down the hall and have the same conversations I'm having on Twitter with a colleague in my department. I participate regularly in Twitter chats - #ncadmin, #edchat, #atplc - and engage in international conversations around educational issues. I think you'll agree that we should be having those same conversations with the people with whom we work most closely, but that may not be happening for a lot of us.

Two things initially sparked my curiosity about this disconnect. First, I had the awesome opportunity to moderate the #ncadmin chat on October 3rd. The topic of the chat was new teacher support. Several of my pre-service teachers joined us for the chat, and it was great to hear their perspective on new teacher support and to see them making connections with administrators. You can read a Storify version of the chat here. During the chat, @philgriffins, an elementary Assistant Principal, tweeted:

That got me thinking. My students follow me on Twitter (because I make them), while most of my colleagues in the School of Education are not on Twitter. Through Twitter, my students have come to know a lot about me that my colleagues don't know. Case in point:

On a Friday afternoon, a student in the teacher education program where I work as Director of Teacher Education came to my office to tell me about a blog she'd found which she thought I'd be interested in. She mentioned that she had read a post on the blog about homework. She said something like this: "I know how you feel about homework, so I thought you might like to read this blog." Here's the thing: Before this exchange about Joe Bower's blog, I had never even introduced myself to the student. She's a junior, and I teach mainly senior-level courses, so she hasn't taken any of my classes yet. She and I had never even had a conversation. Not once. But she follows me on Twitter and she knew my philosophy on homework. I doubt that any of my colleagues in the School of Education know my philosophy on homework, because we don't talk about it.

I have come to the realization that I have to be bold enough to have the same conversations I'm having on Twitter with the people down the hall. So here's my question for you: How can those of us who are connected educators bring that same level of connection to those with whom we work closely?

This has been on my mind for a while now. I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment!


  1. Your post resonates with me, as I often find myself in the same situation as a principal. I try to weave ideas and conversations I'm having on Twitter and through blogs with staff. It's starting to happen! We need to overcome the fear of possible rejection of our ideas and put ourselves out there. Conversations are a powerful way to learn.

    1. Thank you Sue for your words! You're right... there is a fear that sometimes keeps us from exposing our ideas. It's easier to share our thoughts with the world through social media than it is to share them with someone down the hall. I appreciate your comment! I hope that your connections locally and globally continue to grow.