Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lessons Learned - Part 2

Rich, Vicki, Patti, Lisa, Peter, Me & Tony
Digital Leadership Conference, Liverpool NY 2014

This is Part 2 in a three-part series on lessons that I have learned over the course of this school year. In my first post I wrote about the lessons I have learned from the students in Room 103. This post will focus on the contributions of my colleagues, both near and far and the value of being a connected educator. So picking up where I left off...

4. The Connected Educator & The PLN (Professional Learning Network) 

A few songs come to mind immediately, "With A Little Help From My Friends" by the Beatles and "Thank You For Being A Friend" by Andrew Gold...Yes, I'm a little sentimental and a touch nostalgic, but it's the truth. Having colleagues in your building or district that encourage, support, empower, inspire, and challenge you is critical. Having colleagues spread across the globe that also play these parts is just as important. I really believe that the more we interact, the more we connect, the more we share, the more we learn, the better we become. We have to look beyond our own front door. Of cours, venturing out into the unknown can be scary, and for many beginning the "connected educator" journey can be just that. Putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, it takes no small degree of courage. Baby steps. (Cue the classic Bill Murray in "What About Bob?" ) Connecting with educators around the world however, is transformative. Being a connected educator has introduced me to people, and opened up opportunities I never could have imagined.

The beginning of becoming a connected educator for me was participation in the weekly organized chats on Twitter. It is through these chats that I have engaged in professional development weekly, if not daily. A few that I participate in fairly regularly are #SATCHAT, #COLLABED, #EDTECHCHAT, #NYEDCHAT, #ARKEDCHAT. These are the chats where I "met" Tony Sinanis, Daisy Dyer Duerr, Brad Currie, Tom Murray, Scott Totten, Jamie Armin, TwoTeacherZ, Marty Keltz, Jena Ball and Scott Bedley, all tremendous teachers and leaders in their own right. I do feel the need, however to highlight  #NYEDCHAT in particular, which has allowed me to connect with other great educators in my own state. Peter DeWitt, Lisa Meade, Vicki Day, Tim Dawkins and Patti Siano, a group that I now consider my "go to" educators. Over the past 6 months we have worked together to plan EdCampUNY, a project that has brought us closer. Now when I need to share an idea, gather feedback or vent, they are there, and again, most of them I did not know a year ago.

I have learned so much from all of the educators listed above that it is difficult to encapsulate it all, but it is probably best summed up as courageous leadership. Whether they are teacher leaders, building leaders, or leaders in educational enterprise, all of these individuals lead with heart, and understand the importance of developing the whole-child.

My journey as a connected educator had me looking for other professional development opportunities as well.  This past fall I attended the Edscape Conference in New Milford, New Jersey where I was able to meet many of the people that I had been interacting with regularly through Twitter. You can read more about my reflections following Edscape here. Attending conferences such as the CNYRIC ITD: Talks, NYSCATE annual conference, Edscape, and the Digital Leadership Conference this year allowed me to expand my professional network and provided an opportunity for me to meet face-to-face for the first time with many of the educators that I have connected with online.   Sitting here now, reflecting on how much I have grown professionally and personally as a result of the relationships that have been forged and built over the past year, connecting with these individuals and many, many more, well I am truly overwhelmed. I have been blessed beyond measure. I have written about the power of the PLN before - see this.

5. The Power of the GHO

This year I wanted to learn more about using Google Hangouts in the classroom. I know it sounds cliche, but Google Hangouts have been an absolute game changer! We were able to connect with amazing students, teachers and creative geniuses. We participated in Google Hangout sessions with:

  • Scott Totten, Music Teacher in New Jersey
  • Scott Bedley and his students in California
  • Bill Selak and his students in California
  • Michael and his teacher, John Lozano in California
  • Barbara Phillips and her students in Ohio
  • Lauren Lenzini and her students in Illinois
  • Susan Hippelli and her students in Pennsylvania
  • Jena Ball and Marty Keltz of CritterKin (more about this in a future post)

These opportunities enriched the dialogue in our classroom, provided us with an authentic audience for our work, and gave greater meaning to what we were learning. Google Hangouts allowed us to connect with peers from across the country, and in doing so, learn how truly connected we all are. We learned about each other and our communities and what makes our part of the world unique. We learned about kindness and empathy. We learned  that the words of Mem Fox are indeed true, "Little one, whoever you are, wherever you are, there are little ones just like you, all over the world..."

I feel again, like I have only just begun to scratch the surface here. I may have to come back and add to this post, as I sit a little longer and reflect a little more. But I think right now, if I had to sum it up. It would be the importance of relationships and human connections, because that is what is at the heart of being a connected educator, participating in a PLN and connecting with others through tools such as Google Hangout. What do you think? How have you built professional relationships this year? How have you modeled learning from others for your students? Hoping some of you will share by adding comments below.


  1. Christina,
    I enjoyed reading your reflection and was wondering if you would like to share it at the Showcase of Teaching and Learning site, . The Showcase is hosted by #njed and #NYEDChat. We are trying to have a global share so spread the word. Thank you.

  2. Carol,
    Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I would be honored to have you share it. I'd be happy to spread the word. Thanks again!