Connected Educators, Connected Education

8210762750_7642b21e39_nAre you a connected educator? I am. Or I thought I was. Who knew there was a real, formal club out there? Welcome to connectededucators.org, a site where you can become more connected and engaged with online content and the vast network of people out there thinking and talking about education. I might be late to this party, but I’m absolutely feeling the groove.

Connected Educators Month is in October. So, I’ve pretty much missed it. However what’s best about the web is that there is no set-in-stone start and finish to things. I’m planning to use the links they have provided on the site to continue my own learning both now, and in the future. The whole idea behind Connected Educators is interesting because they are helping schools and school districts in the US ensure teachers are able to develop their connectedness and learning at a pace and in a community which suits them. It really is differentiated for each learner. It’s also updated constantly during the CEM (Connected Educators Month) by all of those folks out on the web generating content. I love this idea. So much so that I’ve been considering ways to use their system in other contexts. For example:

The connectededucators.org site allows learners to move through the different themes for the year (learning goals) at their own pace, but as they do, the learner earns badges to demonstrate they have participated. Those badges are important to earn because:

“Your badges can provide a digital “transcript” of your participation in Connected Educator Month. They can show:

  • How much time you’ve invested in participating in professional learning and collaboration activities throughout the month,
  • The actions you’ve taken to sharpen your connected learning skills, and
  • The impact you’ve had on your peers’ practice.”

(http://connectededucators.org/cem-digital-badges-faq/#whydistrict)

How useful would this be for educators in the context of other professional development? At this very moment, I’m searching for a program that would let me design my own learning to best suit my needs both as an administrator/leader and someone who is interested in 21st Century teaching. (Notice I didn’t use the word Doctorate- the programs I’m finding are so… stiff.) If I only I could earn badges based on reading, discussing, and creating content in this same way, on topics which could be updated and made ever more relevant to me and my needs. THAT would actually interest and encourage me. Instead I feel like my only choice is to go through the motions of traditional schooling- even “traditional” online schooling: me in a room or in front of my computer with the teacher telling me what to learn and testing me on how well I’ve done. Sigh.

What about our students? Couldn’t this type of system be used in current courses to allow flexibility, ownership of learning, and creativity? Khan Academy uses badges. I’m wondering if a badge-system might be used in a more traditional classroom? Say 4th or 7th grade, where the curriculum is designated into a series of badges that students navigate and earn by doing online research/work, or even activities from the textbook. They could even design their own badges.

I can easily envision a high school student for example, moving through badges on biology concepts, reading, participating, and questioning the most up-to-date content on the web, and then creating and contributing her own information. Imagine the engagement!

Thank you connectededucators.org. You’ve “connected me” to much more than what you intended. Or maybe, that was the point all along?

PS- Right before hitting the publish button on this post, I came across this blog which demonstrates some of what I was thinking about. Check it out! http://elementaryedtech.com/2013/10/29/making-a-makerspace-peek-inside-my-plans/

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/86530412@N02/8210762750/in/photostream/

About Jen Munnerlyn

Jen Munnerlyn is the Elementary Principal at the American School of Warsaw. Her international experience began back in 1980 when her parents first started teaching overseas. Jen blogs about her own experiences as a Third Culture Kid, the adventures of being the mother of a TCK, and about elementary education in an international school setting. Her picture book The Adventure Begins, about the first day at an international school, is a favorite among adults and students abroad.
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