As with many words, the word “connected “ can be used for many things. At one point in time “being connected” implied a criminal connection to some sort of organized crime. Being connected has also meant having ties to the higher ups in an organization for the purpose of favors and perks. The word connection, simply stated, means to be united, or linked.
At one point in history for people to connect with each other they had to be face to face. That changed when writing letters was introduced and used on a greater scale to connect many more people. Communications took another leap with the telephone being used to connect people in even greater numbers. Cell phones have taken all of this to another dimension. Yes, we have had connections and connected people from the beginning of humanity.
As to the quality of connections, that varies, depending on how connected people really want to be. When people work on their connections, they do evolve into relationships. For the record here, we are limiting this to intellectual relationships. There are many professions in which success is based on successful connections, or relationships between the professional and another individual, be it a patient, client, student, or colleague. Of all the existing, or potential connections that people have, or may have, they all vary in degrees of success in terms of relationships from poor to great.
Now let’s jump to a 21st Century model of education in a Tech-driven culture. A model within a society that is dependent on computers in almost every industry and service in order to function. A population where a work force at all levels increasingly needs to be digitally literate for employment. A population in this computer-driven society is enduring change, which is occurring at a pace never before experienced in history. Information and content change, or are created in an instant every day in the year. An education system, designed for a world two centuries prior to this, is trying to, at the very least, cope and at best, effectively deal with the new dynamics. Educators either reject, struggle, work at moving forward, or are comfortable with the new literacy required to deal with this new dynamic.
The term “connected educator” in this context refers to educators who are exploring or embracing the development of collegial sources and access to all sources through connections made using technology. They are not abandoning their face-to-face connections. They are still maintaining relationships with colleagues in their buildings and district, and they still maintain connections with students and parents. They are expanding their reach however to global connections made possible through technology. They are taking advantage of the ability to connect with a vast array of education experts in order to improve their own expertise in education. They are connecting with authors, thought leaders and lead learners around the world in order to achieve this. We call these collaborative innovators, “connected educators”. Their number is growing and we call this a “connected community”.
Individuals in this “connected community” of educators are directing their own learning to meet their needs. They are exploring experiences of other educators to build on their own innovation. They are being exposed to new ideas and innovation from other connected educators daily. They are each developing Personalized Learning Networks to improve their personal skills and abilities to advance their profession. They are creating a relevant and meaningful environment in which their students may learn. These educators are modeling the mindset and tools of a 21st Century learner to the very people who will grow up and need to thrive in that Century.
In discussions of the “connected educator” in various blog posts, we should not need to redefine it time and again. It is an established term and it should be recognized after years of being used. We need not be reminded that there are other forms of connectedness. We need not hear how there is more to life than technology. We are probably all in agreement on all of those points. Do not diminish what educators are trying to do to advance their profession and our kids’ educations by using technology to learn, communicate, and create. Connected educators are a growing community in a continually, rapidly changing world. It is a world where once Tech was a choice for educators, but now Tech has become a large part of learning through collaboration and creation. Digital Literacy is still a choice for many educators, but it has never been a choice for their students. This is not a debate. Digital literacy is essential for educators. Being a connected educator is being a relevant educator. If we are to better educate our kids, we must first better educate their educators. Welcome to the 21st Century educators!