The Lurk & Learn Process of Becoming a Connected Educator

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. – Mark Twain.7696058_s

The hardest part of doing anything challenging is simply getting started. Navigating the EdTech space is very intimidating. There’s so much to learn and by the time you learn it, everything changes; there is newest hot item, app or tool. Then there is the whole social space. How do I get started, who should I follow, who in the world will follow me, will what I say matter to the gurus who already have established platforms. Thinking like this keeps many brilliant educators away from the empowerment that comes with getting connected.

I’m in what I call the lurk and learn stage of getting connected. I realized there was so much I wanted and needed to learn, but didn’t know how to go about the process. So, I put together some steps I’ve taken during this connective learning journey.

1. Began Using my twitter account. I first joined Twitter way back in 2009 through a 23Things course taken at my school. I didn’t use it much and couldn’t fathom the benefits of using it in the educational arena. Boy was I wrong. However, I wasn’t surrounded by users to help me understand the power of connecting with educators who were using twitter to not only build a PLN, but start movements to change education for the better.

Which brings me to the next step 2. Figuring Out Who To Follow. This one is still an interesting decision that I weigh with each click of the button. You must determine what you want to learn. I began with leaders that I either have read something from or heard at conferences and workshops. Then I began to look at who followed them, and who followed them and …you get the drift. I became a fly on the wall of those who were doing the learning because their conversations surrounding questions about learning and collectively they offered solutions. Sometimes, the leaders just disseminate information without facilitating conversation. Relationships occur when you listen more than you talk. So I followed those who listened.

Then I moved to 3. Retweeting. So, after I began to listen to the listeners I decided that it was time to start sharing. Now, I didn’t have much of my own message to share, so I shared the message of those I followed. If someone tweeted a blog post that I thought was insightful, or maybe an inspirational quote, or maybe a relevant article, I simply pressed the retweet button as a way of saying, thank you for sharing, I’ll pass your wisdom to the folk I know. I did that for a while to understand where the good information actually came from. This led me to wonderful websites, bloggers and publications that have become essential in my current educational philosophy. Well, the more I read, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more opinions I began to develop. Therefore…4. Retweet With Quotes became another step in my Lurking and Learning process. When there was room, I would not only retweet, but with the remaining character space, I tried to creatively add my 2 cents. Then I moved a little beyond that by going to the actual article or post and make comments directly and tweet that while providing a shout out to the person who original shared the knowledge. This has lead me to begin…5. Tweeting My Own Words. I’m still working on this craft. So, I’ll come back to this on a later post. Still learning to provide meaningful content without the help of an attachment. Therefore, 6. Sharing Content Is what I began to do. I started blogging, not consistently, but I did start. However, from blogging I found myself researching a little more and coming up with ways to aggregate information from various sources into one place. if I found something interesting and that could potentially be influential in some manner, I would share it. However, I begin to notice that the content I was sharing was written by those I was following. So, how do I begin to make that connection meaningful for me and my learning. I was closing the circle so I needed something to disrupt the potential loop of the same ole’ same ole’. 7. Participating in Twitter Chats is my answer and most intimidating step. When I first heard the term, I didn’t quite understand how you could have a live conversation on twitter without becoming lost in the conversation until I realized that was the intent. I don’t mean to a state of confusion, but to the point of being surrounded by a room full of answers. Using a common hashtag to consolidate the conversation, there is no true flow. Therefore, you have to become accustom to what could seem like chaos with people talking and responding simultaneously. However, you can engage at your own pace and still participate in real-time. There are a ton of chats that happen on a consistent basis. @cybraryman1 has put together a marvelous calendar of Education Twitter Chats for anyone to choose to connect with. The list is overwhelming just looking at it, so don’t just jump into the cold water. Dip your toes in first. Start with one or two, get comfortable with the formats and then cannonball if you like. I however am still just getting my feet wet. While doing that I am also beginning to participate in 8. Voxer Groups. I wrote a post about Voxer some time ago titled Have You Looked inside the Vox Lately? so I will not go into detail. However, like twitter, the opportunity to put your voice to the conversation, but without the use of a hashtag is very compelling. However I am also 9. Finding Other Avenues to Connect and Share. There is so much out there, that I want to be able to experience a much as possible while making meaningful global connections. Google+ Communities have been extremely engaging among other, but I’m being careful not to do too much. The most important aspect to the lurking and Learning process is 10. Creating Balance. My salvation is first, my family comes next and everything else is a distant third and beyond. Therefore, prioritizing the process is key. I’m still working on that and as soon as I figure it all out, I’ll let you know. Don’t hold your breath waiting though.

Why do all this? Well, how else can I meet them where they are if I don’t go where they are? That’s how educators make a difference.

On another note…

“help the learning process continue by investing in my efforts to get to #ISTE15 with @isteconnects


When To Put the  Lesson Plans Down


I saw some incredible learning today. I walked into a High School Social Studies classroom for a routine Tech Check and found myself wanting to forgo the remainder of my schedule to just to sit in. When I entered, students were providing political responses that were simple regurgitations of what their parents believe. Then suddenly a brave student said, “Mr. , what would make a good political party work?” The teacher tossed his notes to the side, pulled up a blank flip chart on his promethean board and simply said, “You tell me.” All heads were raised, eyes lit and students begin to design a Party based on their understanding of various features and characteristics of the current Democratic, Republican and Independent systems. The teacher would spit out an issue and the students would create their new party’s stance.

Personally, I despise whole group discussions regarding politics, but the students were extremely engaged. Every student had a say, I didn’t see any reluctance from anyone. Even the kid who was drawing when I walked in had something to add. The funny thing was, the students didn’t realize that they were demonstrating mastery during this activity. All they knew was this teacher valued their thoughts. What they also didn’t realize was the teacher simply wanted them to find their own voice and not the voice of others. He in turned realized to never underestimate the voice of his students.

I went a little further though. My suggestion was to provide the students with some sort of silhouette figure and decorate it by developing the perfect candidate to represent their newly created political party. Have them find a way to label the representatives characteristics, viewpoints, civic responsibilities, and anything else the would explain why they would be the exemplary candidate. This would also entail a full background that would most likely  be researched when being analyzed as a potential face of the party.

I know what you’re thinking. How many TEKS was he able to check off on that lesson. Who cares! I wonder how many students now truly understand the topic all because it suddenly became relevant. Sometimes it takes putting the lesson down for moment to make it applicable to where our students are today.