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Busy schedules are one reason why educators don't collaborate and connect through social networking platforms. But a lack of time isn't the main issue. It's priorities.
And because this month is Connected Educators' month, this is a good time to share why educators need to get connected, said Derek McCoy, the new principal of Spring Lake Middle School in North Carolina.
"The Connected Educators Month is a great movement, and it's not about big grand gestures," McCoy said. "It's about doing something that you normally have not done and reaching out and making new connections."
Keep reading to find out why two educators make digital connections a priority and how they do it.
First, educators have to decide that connecting online is important. Then they'll make time for it, said Jen Marten, the gifted and talented coordinator as well as e-school coordinator for Plymouth School District in Wisconsin.
She's starting her 25th year in education and says Twitter helps her stay on top of her game.
"I love what I do, and in order for me to continue to grow and do the best that I can for kids, I have to make myself carve this time out," Marten said.
Over the years, she has made time to collaborate with people in her building or nearby who shared similar teaching philosophies. But when she extended her collaboration into the online communities, she found educators with different perspectives. And they shared ideas she wouldn't have thought of.
Connecting online through Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ has made a tremendous difference for Derek McCoy, the new principal of Spring Lake Middle School in North Carolina.
"I'm learning so much information that I absolutely would not have gotten on my own," McCoy said.
He's fairly new to being a principal, and so are his two assistant principals. He reached out on Twitter to Bill Ferriter, a teacher and professional learning community author, to help make his school better.
"We're going to use [Ferriter] as a resource to strengthen our process," McCoy said. "That connection never would have happened if I was not an active participant through my professional learning network."
After talking about why digital connections are important, Marten and McCoy shared practical processes and ideas that help them prioritize these connections.
When Marten was teaching in the classroom, she spent 15 to 20 minutes of her prep time searching for ideas on Twitter and touching base with other teachers. Currently she still takes 15 minutes every morning to check Twitter. You can see all the things she got done one morning in a blog post she wrote.
If Marten finds something she thinks will be valuable, she favorites it. Then after school, she may spend 30 to 45 minutes reading the things she starred to see if they're helpful.
Marten usually has a focus for her 15 minutes. She may be looking for a new project to do with her students, so she searches for edtech tools and activities that would expose them to different technology.
She encourages educators to start small by carving out 15 minutes twice a week to look around on Twitter and read articles. Then you'll find yourself wanting to respond to what you saw, Marten said.
Educators already have to check email. So McCoy takes a few minutes to check his social networks when he checks his email in the evenings and occasionally during the day.
McCoy finds things that are difference makers for him. Those items could include a math resource or something that helps him and the other building administrators do their job well.
But the most important thing McCoy says he does is share the resources he finds with people who need it most, including other North Carolina administrators, and math teachers and reading coaches in his building.
Each educator will find a different way to find and spend their time connecting online. And that's fine, McCoy said.
"It's a matter of understanding the PLN (personal learning network), then it's a matter of understanding the tools, and then it's a matter of making it work for you."
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