Monday, July 30, 2012

Happy Connected Educator Month

What does it mean to be a Connected Educator?

When I began my teaching career a few short years ago, I never would have imagined having such an expansive network of people that I consider colleagues and friends.  During my undergraduate studies, we used the Internet to collaborate with each other.  We also developed projects and presentations using various software programs.  As I completed my graduate program, I was required to set up a blog and use certain web 2.0 tools.  What I found interesting was that I wasn't allowed to choose the host for my site.  We all were required to follow a rigid set of guidelines that were actually rules, not guides.  Each rule was assigned a point value.  Each blog in our class looked like a replica of every one's site.  There was no room for creativity - only control.  Perhaps this was because much of the Internet was unknown.  Perhaps I should have felt lucky that I was even allowed to do these sorts of tasks years ago.

I can't stand by the idea that control should ever trump creativity.  This is why I'm so happy to have the liberty to connect with the people I decide to include in my network, create projects that are of interest to me, and write posts that I determine are worthy of writing.  I'm no longer bound by a rigid point system that only awards gold stars for following directions rather than thinking critically or failing miserably but learning immensely. 

After overcoming my fear of Twitter, I've grown to rely on the tool almost to the point of being dependent on the resource to shape who I am as an educator.  It's not the tool that helps shape who I am; it's the way the tool is utilized and who I connect with that make it an invaluable resource.

People always ask me how Twitter can be such a powerful tool.  Once recent example includes a conversation I had with my friend, Michelle.  We were discussing how great it was that our friend, Summer, was going to join Michelle at her school, Anastasis.   I was quite interested in finding out more because I've followed Anastasis Academy since it's beginning.  Blogging mentor to many and #edtech pioneer, Kelly Tenkely, started this school.  As Michelle and I continued our conversation over Twitter, many other people began to add questions and thoughts to our conversation.  We mentioned that we should Skype one day to further the dialogue.  Well, that comment added a few more friends in our PLN, personal learning network, to the conversation.  It was decided that since so many were interested in hearing about the philosophy of Anastasis and what it was like to teach at this amazing institution, we should all Hangout on Google.  Within hours, we had a time coordinated that all ten of us could meet.  Two days later, we all joined each other's company in a Google Hangout to continue the conversation.  It was insightful to say the least!  What was meant to last 20 - 40 minutes lasted nearly two hours.  It was a wonderful experience talking with everyone.  Truly, we were among friends discussing our passions, sharing our concerns, and celebrating our successes.  

Yesterday I traveled an hour down the road to meet a group of teachers and bloggers for the Michigan Meet Up. About a month ago, Maria decided we should host this event for any teacher or blogger in Michigan that was interested and available.  We had people from all over the state join us for coffee.  It's always a pleasure meeting the faces behind the blogs you follow.  There truly are people behind the networks.  It's such a joy to connect in person!  You can read more about this event by clicking here or by clicking here.  

Josh Stumpenhorst, 2012 Illinois teacher of the year, recently published a post titled, "Does Twitter Matter."  If ever a post will persuade you to believe in the power of Twitter, this is it!  Josh has had some amazing opportunities, and I'm happy to have such an amazing person in my PLN.  Josh is a great example of how Twitter can connect you with great teachers across the country.  I recommend connecting with him on Twitter and his blog

This summer, I've had a few amazing opportunities come my way due to social networking and staying connected with other friends in the community.  I was able to travel to San Diego and present with a fabulous group of educators.

I even gave an Ignite Talk while at the ISTE conference.  This was a challenging and rewarding experience.  I'm blessed to have been sharing the stage with a few wonderful friends.  We each had 5 minutes to present while the slides auto-advanced throughout the entire segment. 

This summer I also started doing webinars for SimpleK12.  I recently participated in their day of learning focused on the Common Core.  On August 17, I will be their Spotlight Presenter doing several sessions on the Common Core.

You can sign up for each webinar.  They're free! You can attend your session in your pajamas!  I'll be doing four separate webinars on Friday, August, 17.  They are as follows...

Create Common Core Content with Confidence!
click here to register

Create Engaging Lessons to Support the Common Core
click here to register

Integrating Technology to Enhance the Common Core
click here to register

Project Ideas for Elementary Students that Align to Common Core Language Arts
click here to register


This summer I received an invitation to attend the first ever Bammy! Awards held in Washington D.C.  Because of Twitter, I've been able to connect and collaborate with so many distinguished professionals.  I'm beyond excited to attend this event.

Jeannette Bernstein  writes, "The Bammy Awards are presented by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences, made up of 164 of the nation’s most prominent and influential education leaders. The inaugural black-tie event will take place on September 15, 2012, at the landmark Arena Stage at the Mead Center in Washington, D.C. Awards will be presented in 24 categories. In addition, Linda Darling-Hammond, John Merrow and Diane Ravitch will receive special honors for their distinguished lifetime achievements."

Amazing Grades! launches tomorrow.  This summer, I worked on a chapter to contribute to this book.  It will be available on Amazon August 1, 2012.  You can purchase the pre-release  at 60% off by clicking here.

Amazing Grades is a worldwide goodwill book with 101 best selling authors and experts, from 13 countries around the world, sharing their strategies for getting better grades faster.

Amazing Grades is the result of a year's collaboration by 101 authors and is the first book ever to include 3 learning style strategies so that students can master the information in their own style and improve their grades faster. There are video strategies, (scan tags which include related videos); auditory strategies (all authors read their chapters aloud) and kinesthetic strategies so that students can interact with the material in the book.

The Classroom 2.0 Book consists of quality, innovative resources for teachers.  This year's book project was put together by three fantastic powerhouses in education: Steve Hargadon, Richard Byrne, and Chris Dawson.  They opened the invitation for submissions to their networks, very large ones indeed.  After the submission deadline, the three worked with a committed and tireless pace to select the first round of entries.

I'm honored (and thrilled) that my submission was selected for the cohort of published submissions.  My submission focuses on digital writing as a medium for process and product.  As a member of The National Writing Project and continuous collaboration with dear friend, Troy Hicks, digital writing is something I value greatly. 

You can download my free chapter on digital writing by clicking here.

Staying connected is important.  I love the connections I've made.  The people I meet inspire me to be creative.  Tomorrow I have a panel conference call with Georgia Pacific to discuss conservation in the classroom and how it relates to nature and education.  This Friday - Sunday I'm attending the annual ScreenCast Camp hosted on the TechSmith campus.  Next weekend my buddy, Eric, from ClassConnect is flying me out to meet his team and visit in Pal Alto, CA.  This is why I love Twitter ~ it's the best way to get connected and stay in touch with exciting happenings in the world of education.  

In honor of Connected Educator Month, I encourage you to click here and see some great ways you can get connected today!


  1. This article was awesome! I'm somewhat new to twitter and I'm learning about all of the advantages. Thanks for the inspiration! I plan on attending the webinars :)

  2. Great post, Erin! I've only used Twitter for half a day and I'm already impressed! I love networking and social media, so I should have joined up long ago! Thanks for helping to get me hooked :)

    EduKate and Inspire

  3. Pennie,

    Thank you so much for the comment! Twitter is a great resource. I think you'll grow to love it more and more. :)

    I'm excited you'll be attending the webinars. It will be great to have a friend in the room.



  4. Kate,

    Yay! A super Twitter newbie. You'll be addicted in no time.

    I'm so glad your a part of my PLN.