Archive for September, 2013

connected educator

The United States Department of Education has designated the month of October as “Connected Educator Month.” The description below comes from the Connected Educator Month District Toolkit created by Powerful Learning Practice:

Connected Educator Month (CEM) is a month-long celebration of community, with educators at all levels, from all disciplines, moving toward a fully connected and collaborative profession.

The goals of Connected Educator Month include:

  • Helping more districts promote and integrate online social learning into their formal professional development
  • Stimulating and supporting collaboration and innovation in professional development
  • Getting more educators connected (to each other)
  • Deepening and sustaining the learning of those already connected


How do you know if you are a Connected Educator?  Jessica Johnson, an elementary school principal and district assessment coordinator from Dodgeland School District in Juneau, Wisconsin, in a recent article, tells us 10 ways to identify if you are a Connected Educator …

1.  The first words out of your mouth each day at school are usually, “Last night on Twitter” …

With Twitter it is easy to get sucked into conversations you never expected to have and to find ideas and resources that you didn’t even know you were looking for.  Maybe you were just checking your twitter feed, maybe you joined in on a great discussion in a scheduled chat like #edchat, #educoach, #atplc (all things PLC), or your state’s educator chat.  After being involved in a great sharing discussion on Twitter, it’s hard to “shut it off” and you just want to share what you’ve learned with others at school.  I share the great ideas I find on Twitter by “Retweeting” them and sharing with my staff in my weekly memo.

2.  Whenever a staff member in your building asks a question, you can find many possible solutions on Twitter.

Do you know of an iPad app for keyboarding? Can we look at other examples of standards based report cards? “How do we get started with Battle of the Books? I’m struggling with ____ do you know any teachers that have been using this for a while?

As a principal, I hear questions like this on a daily basis. Just because I don’t always know the answers, doesn’t mean I don’t have them. Prior to being connected on Twitter, I would have just sent out an email to the handful of principals that I know in nearby school districts. Now I turn to Twitter. I ask thousands of educators my question and find someone who’s an expert.

3.  Need to meet up outside your building?  You can turn to Skype, Google Hangout, or Voxer.

Twitter is great to find ideas and get connected with others, but sometimes 140 characters just won’t do. To have more in-depth conversations I turn to Skype or Google Hangout. Voxer is great when you want to leave voicemails or walkie talkie back and forth with a group of principals/educators, allowing us to continue to have an ongoing audio discussion that all four of us can hear. Educators (both principals and teachers) are so busy, that it’s nearly impossible to find a large chunk of time for an extended conversation. Voxer allows you to leave each other messages (for one individual or for a group of people on Voxer) and pick up with the conversation whenever you have time to check in.

4.  You read numerous blogs from other educators/administrators.

There are so many great educators sharing what works and what doesn’t. It can save you time from making the same mistakes. When I first discovered great blogs to read I would check each individual website weekly, wondering if there was a new post…but no one has time for that! Now I use the tool Feedly which allows me to subscribe to blogs. All I have to do is check Feedly when I have time to read the latest blog posts…no more wasting my time going to each individual site.

5.  You look forward to attending conferences even more.

You probably enjoyed learning at conferences prior to being a Connected Educator, but conferences take on a new level of learning when you already know several of your “tweeps” (people you’re connected with on Twitter) will be there. Instead of just attending, taking notes on what you’re learning and thinking about it, you have others to discuss with and continue the conversation afterwards on Twitter. If there are many Connected Educators at the conference, then it’s likely that you’ll also get to socialize with them at a “Tweet Up” at the end of the day. It is very common for someone attending the conference to set a time/location for a “Tweet Up” (usually at a place for some choice beverages) and starting tweeting out the details with the conference hashtag so that anyone on Twitter attending the conference can meet up (thus the phrase “Tweet Up”) together to meet all their Tweeps.

6.  Even if you don’t have time to blog  / tweet, you do so in your head.

Blogging and tweeting can be such a great tool reflection. As stated in #4, blogging is not bragging; it is great to share your reflections online and get feedback from others in the comments to offer further suggestions or challenge your thinking. I only make the time to write a new blog post a couple times a month, but often find myself “blogging in my head” as I’m reflecting on something at school. Even though I don’t get to write that blog post, the reflection process has been helpful for me.

7.  You’re guilty of pulling out your phone to check Twitter while you’re in the bathroom.

I know I’m not alone. It only takes a minute to check Twitter. Find that minute waiting in line at the grocery store, muting TV commercials or yes, even in the bathroom.

8.  You have learned more from Twitter than your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees combined.

I always intended to attain my doctorate in education. However, I have learned so much from being a Connected Educator that now I don’t feel a need to pursue higher education anymore. All this learning is at my fingertips for free. There is a wealth of free online learning opportunities; following the tweets of a conference hashtag as others tweet from it, joining in on free webinars that educators on Twitter organize, or joining MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) that you learn about from Twitter.

9.  Your daily routine includes listening to educational podcasts.

Podcasts are a great way to continue your learning while walking the dog, cleaning your house or on your daily commute. I have first learned about the many choices out there via Twitter. Some of them include: Techlandia, TeacherCast, Choice Literacy, and any broadcast from the EdReach network. I love learning about best practices and new ideas from the tech/literacy/building level leaders that record these. Can’t find one that speaks to your topic? Then start your own! Just recently a couple other principals and I started the Principalcast Podcast since we couldn’t find anything specifically for principals.

10.  You can easily recover from the isolation of your busy school day.

I like to refer to the isolation of busy educators as “Gilligan Syndrome,” which sets in when you get “stranded” and don’t know how to reach out to others for help. This is common for administrators, lone subject teachers or even busy teachers who don’t get to converse with their colleagues often. Utilizing the connections you make on Twitter is a great way to get yourself “unstuck;” you always have other educators to turn to when times get rough. To make the best of Twitter, figure out the strengths of the people you are following. You can always tweet out a question for everyone to see, but when you have a specific question it is great to know someone who is an expert on that topic to send a direct message to so you can talk to in a Google Hangout for further help.

*Gilligan Syndrome is a term that Curt Rees, Jay Posick, Matt Renwick and I have come up with as we present to educators in Wisconsin about becoming connected educators.

Are you a Connected Educator? 

If so, leave a comment as to how this helps you be a better educator. 

If not, what’s stopping you from becoming one?

Teachers … How would you describe your class?  Are you an out-of-the-box type of teacher?  Do you get your students to think outside-the-box?

Administrators … How would you describe your school?  Do you promote out-of-the-box thinking?

outside the box

This is an awesome video! 

I can’t think of any other way to describe this video, created by Paul Bogush, an 8th grade teacher at Moran Middle School in Wallingford, CT.  You can visit his blog and see what all he’s about as well as follow him on twitter @paulbogush.


I agree with Scott McLeod when he says, “I want this for my kids. And yours. And everyone else’s. More of this, please!”

Is this out-of-the-box and unusual, or can this the new norm for modern teachers?  What do you think?

This video fits right along with the message of #YouMatter.



How do you feel about showing compassion?  How do you fell about telling someone … “You Matter” ?

You Matter

How would you feel if someone told you that YOU MATTER?  How hard is it to let someone know that they really do matter?

This weekend I sent an email with a link to a YouTube video from Angela Maiers to everyone in our school district.  I usually don’t do this … I would usually just send to everyone on my campus, but this time I thought the message in this video was so powerful that everyone in my district needed to see it.  My hope is that it touched everyone in a way that would motivate each person to tell someone else … a student, a colleague, a friend, anyone … that YOU MATTER!

I got the following response from one of my teachers and I thought it was worthy to share with everyone.

I think sometimes we are so wrapped up in delivering our curriculum that we forget that our kids learn as much from us about how to treat people and how to appreciate life as they do about our subjects.

No former student over the last twenty four years has ever contacted me to say thank you I really appreciated all the lessons you taught me about Biology!  However, they have looked me up to say thanks for having their back, being their ‘school mom’, or making them feel smart.  I know we all have had this experience and if we are honest it is what keeps us in this profession.  I think the truth of what the lady on the video says is that if we are positive with our kids and make them feel they matter then probably everything else academically has a chance of falling into place.

What boggles my mind is that there are still teachers who perceive students as the ‘enemy’.  Almost every time I go to a workshop there will be someone griping about their students.  This speaks volumes about the attitude of the teacher speaking.  The sad thing is the people who need to watch this video most probably won’t or won’t perceive that they are the type of teacher who puts kids down and build negative barriers.  Alternatively, they take pride in the fact that our students ‘don’t like them’ like it is a badge of honor.  I think this is both sad and deeply disturbing. Everyone loses.

Long response, I know, but I’ve been thinking about this most of the day.  This video has an important message EVERYONE needs to watch it, from the students all the way up!

Thanks Angela Maiers for your Two Words Changing the World … You Matter.

You can follow Angela Maiers on Twitter @AngelaMaiers and you can go to her website at

Here is the video I sent to everybody in our district.  Hopefully it will inspire you like it did me.


What do you think about this movement?  How do you let others know that They Matter?

Remember .. YOU MATTER!


This post is inspired and adapted from a recent blog post I read from Jeff Delp (Fostering a Growth Mindset, follow Jeff on twitter at @azjd).

As educators our jobs is to inspire and create learning opportunities for our students.  But sometimes it is difficult because either the students feel like they can’t learn or they just don’t understand so they give up.  They exhibit what Carol Dweck would say is a “fixed mindset” about learning.  These students feel like “what you see is what you get,” many believing that they have little (or no) control over their level of intelligence.  What we have to do is create that environment to where the students feel that it’s OK not to know the answer. 

As educators, our words matter.  The way we talk to our students, the type of feedback we give, and the little things we do to encourage students are essential to helping them acquire a “growth mindset” — the belief that their intelligence can be developed through hard work, practice, and persistence.  As teachers, it is critical that we work with our students in ways that foster the belief that intelligence is a product of effort, and that we establish classrooms where grit and tenacity are encouraged.

This is something that we have to model.  By doing this ourselves — showing grit and determination in our own learning — we are leading by example.  When our students see us working hard to learn, then they will see the we are “practicing what we preach”.  To me this is the best teaching tool there is.

In the following video, Angela Lee Duckworth explains here theory of “grit” as the greatest predictor of success.


How do you foster a growth mindset with your students?  Do you lead by example?  Do you show “grit” in your personal learning?