With forty-five states plus Washington DC and four territories adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I’m a little surprised educators are still questioning the benefits of becoming a connected educator. I’ve enjoyed the privilege of serving as the Elementary School Principal in Boyne City, Michigan for 13 years. I became a principal because I believe in the power of visionary leadership. I love what happens when you get a group of individuals behind an idea and working towards a common set of goals. If implemented correctly, the Common Core presents the opportunity for the greater educational community to work together towards the ultimate goal of educating our youth.
I’ve enjoyed a relatively seamless transition to the CCSS thanks to a hard-working and dedicated teaching staff. In fact, our teachers have overwhelmingly appreciated the shift to the CCSS and have spent a tremendous amount of time building detailed pacing guides and common assessments to effectively teach and assess the new standards. However, our progress would not have been so quick, nor our staff buy in so strong, had we not first learned the benefits of connecting and collaborating. Therefore, if there was one piece of advice that I would offer to school administrators, curriculum directors, classroom teachers, and anyone else involved in the adoption of the Common Core, it would be to help foster connected educators within your school.
Some of the tools we’ve found to be most effective for fostering these connections include the use of Twitter, Edmodo, iTunes U, YouTube, and Google Hangouts. Of course, technology and social media tools are in a state of constant change so the tools we are using today may not necessarily be the same tools we will be using next year. However, one thing is constant; technology has tremendous capabilities for helping individuals to connect and collaborate, and educators should be taking full advantage of these capabilities.
Twitter is the engine that drives many individual’s PLN. When it comes to the CCSS, Twitter can serve many roles. I’ve enjoyed watching my teachers make connections with educators that teach their same grade level or content area and these simple connections have spawned a tremendous number of innovative practices that not only excite our students and families, but also invigorate our teachers. Sometimes these connections are a one time sharing of lesson ideas, assessments, or particular tools and resources from a Twitter chat, but other times, I’ve observed strong relationships develop between educators on Twitter where regular resource sharing, inspiration, encouragement and nudging occur. I’ve observed that the teachers who regularly participate in Twitter chats such as #miched or #ohedchat or interact with other educators on Twitter on a regular basis seem to be extremely passionate and consequently infectious. This passion and excitement is contagious and can often have a positive impact on their fellow educators and the students that they teach as well.
Often referred to as the Facebook of education, Edmodo is a social learning platform designed for teachers, students and parents. Edmodo can serve many roles from classroom management, document sharing, communication, to grading. However, one of the services Edmodo provides, which is often unheralded, is the opportunity for educators to connect and collaborate through the greater Edmodo community. There are many groups built into Edmodo, covering most any topic a teacher would be interested in. For example, I belong to the Computer Technology community and as a result have a constant stream of information being shared from 1000’s of other educators on the topic of computer technology in an educational environment. However, the best part of these communities for me is that they are a powerful forum for getting questions answered. I haven’t found a technology related question I can’t post to this group that hasn’t been answered. These are active learning communities with great potential for building collaborative learning groups supporting the CCSS.
Apple’s tremendous educational course management tool is a valuable asset to any school working in the Apple ecosystem. While I love iTunes U for the many benefits for student learning, the benefits to staff learning and collaboration are also endless. iTunes U allows teachers to build and share courses which could prove to the wide spread adoption of the CCSS. Our teachers have built many courses teaching the CCSS this year and through iTunes U, these courses have been shared for free with thousands of teachers wishing to teach those same CCSS’s for their students. Not only is iTunes U great for resource sharing, but it also provides a wonderful teacher professional learning network. There is a tremendous amount of content available for teachers wishing to learn new strategies for reaching their students.
As the second largest search engine, YouTube is proving to be a great resource for learning how to do just about anything. Not only can teachers take advantage of YouTube for learning how to use new tools and techniques for teaching the CCSS, but it is also a wonderful place for students to share the knowledge and information they’ve learned through the CCSS. Many classrooms across the country are taking advantage of the wide spread adoption of mobile technology and allowing their students to share their knowledge in exciting new ways and YouTube is often the place where this information saved, accessed and shared. As an example, check out this video (embedded below too) of a 4th grade student using the Ask 3 app to share what they learned while studying morel mushrooms. Another description and examples of using iMovie trailers to demonstrate student learning can be found by accessing Smarter Learning.
Google is providing some incredible tools that educators are running to in droves. One of the best tools for collaborating with fellow educators is through the use of a Google Hangout. Google Hangouts is a free video chat for group chats up to ten people at a time. Google Hangouts are already proving invaluable to educators who wish to connect and collaborate on common projects. The fact that it supports full screen sharing, the ability to share documents, images, and YouTube videos with other participants is a huge benefit. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several Google Hangouts like the one below with APPitic and can attest to their simplicity and flexibility. With the advent of Google Hangouts, traditional conference calls should be a thing of the past. Because the Google platform is completely designed around the idea of connecting and collaborating with others, a Google Hangout is the perfect tool for like minded individuals wishing to work together to meet the needs of the students they serve. To exemplify this point, check out this blog post from Tech Girl Savvy describing her first experience with a Google Hangout. I see infinite possibilities for teaches wishing to collaborate on CCSS lessons and ideas through the use of Google Hangouts.
Any project covering the scale of the CCSS should come with a fair amount of scrutiny. Like most things in life, there are positives and negatives and I, for one, believe that the potential for the CCSS to connect classrooms across this country is a great positive. The tools available for teachers to connect and collaborate are vast and their potential for benefiting student learning is tremendous. Becoming a connected educator will allow us to take full advantage of the Common Core.