Being connected is not just limited to educators as a method of directing an educator’s professional development, but rather it is a shift in culture in the way all people may collaborate and learn. Educators have seized the initiative claiming it to provide collegial collaboration, transparency in schools, as well as its ability to personalize a path to professional development. However, it is a shift that is taking place globally, and the educators’ use is the tip of the iceberg. That is the glaring fact that underscores the need for all educators to be connected and digitally literate. It is not to keep up with colleagues, or achieve social media notoriety, but rather to keep up with the shift in the way all people will approach learning as the digital divide begins to close at an ever-increasing rate.
The only thing that surpasses technology’s ability to simplify our lives is technology’s ability to complicate our lives even more. If change in our world occurred as slowly as it did in previous centuries, it would take far less work to stay relevant. Our culture however has become technology-driven, which promotes change at a pace never before experienced in history. This is not a condition that will slow down. If anything, the evolution of technology will produce much more stuff at even faster rates of speed. That is the world that we are all moving to. That is the world that we are preparing our students to hopefully strive and thrive. As much as the use of technology for learning in a classroom is far less a choice for educators, a connected mindset for an educator or learner is even less a choice.
When it comes to education, the ways of past centuries in terms of methodology and pedagogy no longer serve our needs. We can all be nostalgic about the “good ole days” when content was king and the teacher was the unquestioned expert of all things. That may be a place that existed in the past, but it has no place in education today. The Internet contains more information than any educator could possibly know. With the rapid changes taking place everywhere in our society, we can no longer predict the specific needs for students to live in the world in which they will live. Many jobs today were not in existence when the people now doing them were in school. All of this leads us to realize that teaching kids what to learn is not as important as teaching kids how to learn and how to continue to do so. Life long learning is no longer a lofty sentiment, but a cultural necessity for surviving in an ever-changing world.
This connected mindset comes at a price for educators. It requires more time to collaborate with others. It requires a practice of reflection, which is often talked about, but less often practiced. It requires at a minimum a digital literacy to competently use technology where appropriate for teaching. It requires a change in the concept of a teacher from that of a content expert to that of a lead learner and mentor. Change is never easy or comfortable. It requires learning ways to do things differently. People do not usually volunteer to give up what they are comfortably doing in order to do something that requires more work, time, and other inconveniences. It is that fact that leads me to question how long this connected-community-of-educators idea will take to catch on. More importantly, when can we expect connectedness to be ubiquitous as a mindset for all educators, for that is where we truly must be?
This shift in education will take place. It is a question of how long will it take us to get there? As a conservative institution, education has often been behind the curve when it comes to change. That is one of the reasons a call for innovation has come so loudly from so many voices. We have a rare opportunity to get ahead of the curve, if we recognize collaboration and connectedness through technology not only as the needed change for educators, but an accepted form for learning for everyone. Digital literacy will become as important in this century as reading or writing were in the earlier centuries.
I am growing weary with the rate of time it is taking for this change to take place. I believe that we must be the patient in getting all educators on board, but we must keep moving toward that goal. Patience for the Unconnected was a post I wrote for last year’s Connected Educators Month. My position on connected education was much more tolerant in the first year of Connected Educator Month when I posted: The Connected Conundrum for Education.
What prompted me to revisit this again with a stronger belief for this needed change came from three connected colleagues. People whose opinions I hold in high esteem. Pernille Ripp @pernilleripp who wrote about the drawbacks to being connected in this post: The Downside to Being a Connected Educator. George Couros’s @gcouros comment in my last post also caused me to rethink a little: Whom do we need to educate? The post that had the greatest effect on me was from a prolific blogger and friend Mike Fisher @fisher1000 Connected Professional Development Is Now An Imperative
If there is a better way to learn and teach than we are now employing than we need to support it. If the ways of the last two centuries were working well, we would not be having so many discussions of reform in education. The technology is not going away, so why shouldn’t we use it to our advantage? We need to hasten the change to better meet the needs of our kids, not just for their needs today, but what they will need in their future. To better educate or kids we must first better educate their educators. We can’t have the same conversations on connectedness every October without some expectation for change.