My friends and family would certainly tell you that I am a very social person. As a matter of fact, they claim I can’t go anywhere without bumping into someone who I know somehow. With that in mind, I have to admit that during my career in schools I was somewhat isolated. Yes, I did attend the occasional conference, and yes I would talk to other teachers during lunch and before and after the school day. We would also have the opportunity to collaborate when we had professional development days.
The problem is that even with those connections, it was a rare event to get out of the building and connect with other educators. This really limits the ways that schools can change and it reinforces the status quo. Can we really expect people to change when they spend the majority of their time in the same system with people who have similar experiences and mindsets? Where do we expect new ideas, resources, and opportunities to come from?
This past year I have been able to connect with educators from around the state, nation, and world with extremely diversified backgrounds, interests, beliefs, and strengths. Those individuals have been an extremely powerful resource for me. You could argue that I have been able to do that now because my job has changed and I travel much more frequently. You would be partly correct, but more than that I have been able to connect because of technology. I’ve listed some of those technologies below that have profoundly impacted my professional growth. Please note that this list is not one of those top ten cool technology tools lists. I do like those lists, but my purpose is to simply reflect on technologies that have helped me stay connected.
- Twitter-I was a big skeptic at first, but now I am a believer! I get tons of resources from Twitter because I follow people who put out great stuff! Links to web sites, blogs, articles, and provoking thoughts are the major benefits for me. I also have enough “followers” that I can post a question and generally receive a quick response from someone with a wealth of knowledge. My time isn’t wasted following someone like Brittany Spears who will share what they had for dinner.
- RSS-My Google Reader is also invaluable to me. Rather than searching to see when blogs or websites are updated, everything comes to me. I use this frequently when I am writing my blog! Although I keep subscribing to more and more sites, my reader makes it fairly manageable to read all of those sites.
- Blogs-When I made the move to Iowa State, I was given the task of blogging about one-to-one schools. By blogging on a regular basis, I have to continually read and search for resources on the topic. This has been an extremely powerful way for me to increase my knowledge about the topic.
- Google Docs-Much of the work I do is collaborative. Google docs allow me to work with others on the same documents without playing email tag with one another. It also ensures that I have the documents I need even if I don’t have my computer.
- Pirate pad-OK, maybe this isn’t at the top of the list, but it is still valuable. Being able to take notes simultaneously with a group of people enhances the quality of my notes and it keeps me much more engaged with a workshop or presentation.
These five tools have been a great way for me to stay connected. I would strongly recommend every educator use these tools as resources to continue to grow professionally. They certainly are not difficult to learn!