Sunday, December 29, 2013

On Being Connected

As I enjoy this wonderful December vacation in beautiful Maine with my husband, two dogs and my son's puppy, I've had time to reflect on the past few months.  It's been an amazing time of growth and inspiration for me professionally, probably the most learning ever in such a condensed time period.  And why?  It's all because I became a "Connected Educator."  Last year,  T-21: Teaching in the 21st Century, an all year course was offered to elementary teachers in Medfield. I ran, not walked, to be part of this experience.  I've been running ever since.  Beth Holland (@brholland), taught our group and opened our eyes to the possibilities of 21st Century education. We learned about web-based applications to use with our students and to manage and organize our own work. There was a lot of learning and lots of work as well, but the work was all very much hands-on and practical- projects we could use with students and in our own practices immediately.

For one assignment I made an Animoto featuring new informational books added to our library collection  thinking it would be a fun way to share titles with staff:

We also learned about the CRCD Framework: Collect, Relate, Create and Donate. About how social media can be of use to us and to our students. We talked about the 3 A's, that information can be accessed, adapted and archived.

Then at our last session led by Tom Daccord (@thomasdaccord) and Samantha Morra (@sammorra), we delved into Twitter.  I had been lurking on Twitter for a little while, but that day it clicked for me.  I was ready and willingly went down the Twitter rabbit hole. 

There was so much to learn.  A few hashtags that were tailor made for me as a school librarian such as #tlchat and #tlelem.  One tweet led to another and slowly I began building my PLN (personal learning network).  Now I was connected with passionate and committed educators.  I started reading relevant blogs, got led to amazing websites and began to feel my brain was exploding with inspiration. I was collecting ideas and knowledge that I related to in a big way.

As Twitter was literally blowing my mind, I had also decided to change things up with the summer reading list I prepared each June for our young students. Out with the old, in with the new! I decided to create a Pinterest board for the Summer Reading List.   I could add descriptions to all the books and have links to author websites and to other literacy based sites.  Here's what it looked like:

Soon after I completed the board, I was led to Joyce Valenza's NeverEnding Search Blog where she was asking for new ideas for summer reading lists.  Hmmmm, I thought my pinterest board might be what she was looking for, but wasn't sure.  And then, I did something brave - I "donated" the board to her.  I will admit I was a bit nervous about putting myself and my work out there but to my great astonishment, she wrote back  and asked if she could use it in her blog and to add it to her ISTE 13 presentation.  To say I was blown away is an understatement.  This is Joyce Valenza we're talking about.  To say this was a top professional moment for me is also an understatement! The only reason this happened, is because I am connected, oh, and I was brave.

Then I started seeing tweets about edcamp BLC13. I quickly registered.  It was a day of PD unlike anything I've ever experienced.  Spending a day with passionate educators who are excited about what they do, who love change and want to share knowledge and experiences was exhilarating. I love this model of PD. 

Because I became a connected educator, I learned about International Dot Day. Here is a Smore I created describing our celebration:

So far this school year, I have attended 2 edcamps, my first national AASL Conference (American Association of School Librarians), have particpated in several twitter chats,  and have nErdamp Northern New England,  Edcamp Boston and the MSLA (MA School Library Association) conference on my calendar.  All because I am connected virtually but still crave actual connections too.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I have learned from and have been inspired by Diane Horvath (@techmonstah).  She is a technology integration specialist who loves to share her enthusiasm and love for all tech things.  She is a wonderful addition to our school district and I thank her for always being so patient...

It was so much fun skyping with Wendy Garland (@dancelibrarian) for International Dot Day and Edie Crook (@WESMediaCenter) for The Global Read Aloud.  I want to especially thank Shannon Miller (@shannonmiller) for being an outstanding library teacher and for always being so generous in sharing her work and Beth Holland for helping to get me started on this journey.  I've also learned from Amy Short (@amyshort2).  It would be impossible to thank my PLN adequately - I appreciate every single one of you.

What's ahead?  More learning and connecting.  I'm still working on the 3 A's. Archiving deserves it's own future post.  In a couple of weeks, a first grade class will be skyping with a class in Pennsylvania to share their Global Gingerbread projects.  I can't wait.

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