October is Connected Educator Month. Stay tuned throughout the month for advice from your peers about connected teaching and learning. In this blog post, education leader Fred Ende considers what it means to be connected.
Connected Education Month is here, and chances are, if you’re reading this, you likely consider yourself a connected educator. However, not every connection is the same, and what is “Connected” for some might be “connected” for others. That big “C” is important, because the most connected educators, the educators who I strive to be more like each and every day, are connected in more than just process, and through more than just app usage or online “presence.” In fact, truly “Connected” educators see the connections themselves as the means to an end, rather than an end itself.
What helps to differentiate between those of us who are “connected” and those who are “Connected”? Check your connection below to find out.
“C” is for Collaborative. “Connected” educators understand that the connections they make provide additional opportunities to be true collaborators. These educators relish working with others, and every connection they make, every additional node that gets added to their network, serves as another opportunity to give and take. That combination of give and take is key, as truly “Connected” educators don’t just “use” their network; rather they make sure that they use their own expertise to better the lives of those who they have formed connections with. A one-sided connection is not a connection at all. The most connected of us put collaboration at the forefront, understanding that the more people we work with, the more people can benefit from the end result.
“C” is for Consistent. True connections never shut down. They’re always operating, just like your Twitter feed. You may not be there, but it’s moving and grooving, whether you’re with it or not. But, like anything else, connections and networks change over time. Sometimes webs fray, and other times they become further strengthened. This is normal. But the truly “Connected” keep their connections alive through consistency. They treat everyone in their network as a priority, and make sure they expand the boundaries of their network, within the network itself. The truly “Connected” blur relational lines, knowing that the best way to keep a network going is to build in redundancy in all aspects. There are no cliques, there are no tribes. Everyone can be everyone else’s direct connect. Through this consistent network maintenance, the most “Connected” educators make sure that even if their networks bend, they’ll never break. Consistency isn’t just the network key, it’s the operating system itself.
“C” is for Committed. Consistency and commitment are two sides to the same coin. But like any coin worth its currency, you can’t have one side without the other. Sure we can be consistent in our actions, but if we don’t really care, and don’t show passion, then we’re a bit like Rachel Dratch’s Debbie Downer, always able to be counted on, but not necessarily for something we want. Truly “Connected” educators are committed to the cause of seeing their network as a tool of action research. It is never enough to just be connected. Instead, these educators commit to themselves, and to their network, that their interactions will result in change, and usually, change for the better. Commitment means risk-taking, hard work, and putting continuous improvement before the strive for success. Truly “Connected” educators keep moving themselves, and their networks, forward with learning as the constant driving force.
“C” is for Creative. Certainly we can network without being true creatives. But, our networks will never act different and won’t become innovative, if we can’t be creative in working with the connections we’ve formed. The most “Connected” of our colleagues are also creatives. These artists welcome the opportunity to try new things with the learners and leaders in their networks, and are happy to share, implement and reflect on any practice, however “crazy” it might seem (oh yeah, “C” is also for a little crazy). Like their ideas or not, a creative can never be faulted for loving the status quo; a network without nodes who are creative is a network that can’t keep up with the times. In other words, it is a network without a future.
I’m comfortable saying that while I feel very “connected,” I’m not yet at the “Connected” level. Few of us actually are. We may showcase some of these “Cs” at some times, but rarely do we CAPITALIZE on all of them. Being “connected” is a great place to be. But to have the greatest impact, that “C” has to stand for so much more than the “connection” itself.
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