Confessions of a Digital Leader: Connectedness is a Part of This Work

There was a time in my academic career that I thought that every classroom should have an interactive whiteboard. As a matter of fact, I was my school district’s in-house “expert” on all things SMART. I trained every teacher in our district at some point and even conducted outside trainings and conferences. I had clickers, a slate and a mindset that I could not and would not teach in a classroom without it.

And then…everything changed…

1. The ipad released and my school bought some.

2. I found twitter, Edcamp and connected to teachers.

3. I changed the way that I taught a little bit at a time.

It was as if the walls of my classroom crumbled and everything that I thought about student engagement shifted. I wanted students to have more “hands-on” contact…not “drag and drop” technology, but to create beyond presentations. All of a sudden, it mattered that their work contained their own questions and research…their voice. It mattered that we didn’t go to a lab for access but that kids had access when needed.

I stopped spending so much time “pre-creating” SMART lessons and started putting more time in inquiry, facilitation and even understanding the power of curiosity.

The onslaught of innovation that occurred coupled with being connected forced me to look at who I was as a teacher, who my students were…and change.

This is why connectedness is a part of this work. You are different because you have no choice but to be. Curating and sharing implies that you want to support the learning of others. Contributing your own work to the academic space shows that you are willing to share your own practice.

A few months ago, I hired a specialist in my dept. I was looking for something specific. I wanted a connected educator. I wanted someone who was sharing online in such a way that one could easily understand their belief in the work that they shared. I searched for twitter feeds, blogs, facebook, youtube, pinterest, edmodo and even school websites. I talked to other directors who engaged in the exact same practice. I found that as much as we understand the power of such connectedness…it does not always exist. However, it can be inspired. It was important to know that.

When you apply to work in a space with connected leadership, your resume isn’t the one that you submit on paper but your digital footprint online. Trust me…we are looking, even if you don’t list it.

When you are connected, you have immediate access to ideas. Conversely when you are not connected and only live within the realm of your own school/district…your exposure to “different” is completely limited to what you hear at conferences and in this day and age, we do not have time to wait for once per year learning.

When you are not connected, you are also only hearing the sounds of “where we are now” as an organization instead of “where we can be”.

In a perfect world, all instructional specialist…tech and content…would be connected. After-all, we are on the frontline of supporting teachers, ideas and growth. What we have to be careful about as leaders is mandating connectedness. It should be an internal desire…not a requirement.

Yes…I believe and want our specialist and teachers to be active online practitioners but outside of the normal school day, demanding continuous online activity is not only vile but legally unacceptable.

At the end of the day, as much as I want to see us all contributing to this space, the continuum of connectedness should not take precedence over personal living. You can’t expect people to give of their time 24/7 to talk about reaching kids when doing so could mean that they themselves aren’t reaching the children in their own home.

With that said, we have to find and have balance because not being connected isn’t an option either.

Truthfully, without my PLN…I would still live in a bubble where…

  • Learning only happened from the front of the room because a lesson was projected on a touch screen board.
  • Student privacy/data wasn’t a part of my vocabulary.
  • Students solve “naked problems” in math and didn’t tackle real relevant work. (3 Act math = life changing)
  • Whiteboard recording apps were everything. (That’s all I had initially on my ipads)
  • “Making” was something that you did during art.
  • POC didn’t exist in tech.
  • I would still be making all graphics via power point.

One more thing…If I were not connected, you wouldn’t be reading this post. My voice would still be silent in this space.

Comments 2

  1. Enjoyed you post. You make important points re: being the best educator possible. At the same time, one must strive for a healthy life-work balance. There is a reason why life is placed before work. 🙂 And yes: Educators must strive to be connected. Online via a healthy and vibrant PLN, but, and I think equally as important, with people on-the-ground, in their brick-and-mortar environments.

  2. It is vital to find the balance and to know that great teaching is supplemented with tech. Students shouldn’t have to wait to get into a lab to gain access because their teachers take their phones away upon entering the class. The desire to be better can only come from within but We (connected educators) can continue to model what Rocks our World!!!

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