With my decidedly Canadian accent (or at least that's what I have been told--I don't believe it), I could puff my chest out and say..."Pretty impressive, eh?". I could, I guess. But I won't.
I think that we need to be cautious when we "get connected". I believe that it is pretty easy to feel an air of superiority, of being 'more enlightened' than our colleagues who have yet to connect. In fact, I find that the tone of some chats on Twitter, a number of blog posts, and other online spaces can have a pontificating and even condescending tenor surrounding them because of their being 'hooked up'. A teacher who is not connected is becoming less relevant. An administrator who is not connected can't possibly innovate in this exponentially-changing society. An @ in front of your last name means more than the letters that come after it. It's as though they have seen the light, and those who are less or disconnected are completely in the dark.
Well, I am a person who is somewhat 'connected'. Not nearly as 'connected' as others, but definitely connected. And as 'connected' as I am, I firmly believe in one thing:
I believe that being connected doesn't matter.*
There are outstanding teachers that develop positive relationships with their students and parents, create engaging lessons that maximize interactions between students, and have tremendous skills in developing creativity, critical thinking, collaborative skills, and any number of 'c's that we can think of. And they don't know a Twitter account from a Blockbuster membership.
There are excellent administrators that create dynamic cultures of inquiry and reflection in their buildings, that engage partners in the process of student learning, that flatten out hierarchies and demonstrably support teachers and students in all facets curriculum, instruction, and assessment. And to them, a Google circle is something that Mrs. James used for reading in the Kindergarten class.
They are certainly better than I am at what they do. They may even be better than you. And we need to be very careful when we begin to judge educators on their degree of 'connectedness'. If you are on your high horse because you are more connected than someone else you know, I cordially invite you to get off.
Because being connected doesn't matter as an educator. Not one bit. There are many 'disconnected' educators that are continuously reflecting upon and finding new ways to meet the needs of their students and teachers simply because they want to do so. They are introspective, and have the humility to admit that they don't know all of the answers. They are courageous, and are willing to start things that need to be started, and perhaps more challenging, they are willing to confront and stop practices that need to be stopped. They consistently ensure that they have the student at the center of the work that they do. You don't get that from having a Twitter account.
Back to my asterisk...
*Where being connected absolutely matters is when you DO something with the knowledge that you have gained from your Personal Learning Network. If you think that being simply being on Twitter makes you a better administrator, a better teacher, I disagree. It is my feeling that is you are connected to a PLN, you should be able to demonstrate HOW it has made you better. Others should be able to articulate how you have become better at what you do. Your students, your parents, your teachers, your colleagues--each of them should have seen some tangible difference in your practices or the way things are done in your school. Whether it is something that you have learned from a colleague about altering the way you assess a lesson, or using a web tool to do something more efficiently, having a PLN makes you better when you actually do something differently. Simply having a Facebook account and being on Google Plus does not make any of us better than anyone else.
For people who are connected:
- Being connected affords us access to an infinite number of ideas about all things education. We have a responsibility to use this knowledge to make positive changes for the learners in our schools. If we are reading and collaborating and learning about different pieces of assessment, instruction, and curriculum, we need to take the bits that fit and apply them in our own learning situation. DO something, don't just talk about it.
- Looking down upon people who are not connected is both rude and counterproductive. It is about what you DO, not what you are connected to. And what is worse, someone who is disconnected and is not changing their practice, or someone who IS connected and is not changing their practice? Something to consider.
At the point at which we move from knowing to doing, only then does our being connected truly matter.