Connected Learners Require Connected Teachers

“Our task is to learn how to build smart rooms—that is, how to build networks that make us smarter, especially since, when done badly, networks can make us distressingly stupider.”

― David Weinberger, Too Big to Know


True Confession:  Sometimes I fancy myself more of a motivational speaker than an educational speaker. This is because I want so badly to inspire change, not for me but for the millions of students who no longer find school worthwhile.


To inspire people, sometimes you have to make them a tad bit uncomfortable.  To accomplish this in a gentle fashion, I borrow a line from a trusted friend. The line is a hard to hear for some people and others leap out of their seats ready to get on board!  The line is this:

“In 2015, if you’re not on Twitter you are becoming illiterate.”

George Couros. says this solely to make you think!   By repeating it, so do I –  hopefully. It is intended to solicit a certain response…I prefer the jump-out-of -your-seat kind, but it’s really about what you might be missing because you’re not building your own smart room. Maybe it is about the opportunities that are lost in our classrooms, when a lack of connectedness,  makes it hard to fully understand the mind of the connected learner – that learner who sits in front of us each day.

With that being said, if you are a jump out of your seat – ready to get on board kind of person, here are four easy tips to becoming a connected learner and to constructing your very own smart room.

Get a Twitter Account

Use it to develop your own PLN or Personal Learning Network. Try not to use Twitter to follow Kim Kardashian and LeBron James… instead follow amazing educators who are doing great things to help change education. Learn from them, in a way no professional development or college class can quite convey.

Start small and pick 20 amazing educators you trust and just watch and learn from them. See who they interact with – look at what they share and let the connected learning begin. When you are ready you can start to interact with them. Until you are ready, be a lurker. We all started there and I give you permission to stalk as many educator as you like.

Attend EdChats. Almost every state has an #edchat going on at different points during the week. For more information on EdChats watch this quick tutorial and follow @ChatSalad because they will remind you when chats are starting. A great first chat might be #caedchat – which is every Sunday night starting at 8pm PST. Just follow the hashtag one Sunday night and see what edchats are all about. To help me stay innovative, I plan to stay  up until 3:30 in the morning to attend #AussieED which is based in Sydney, so I can learn from some great Australian educators.

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Next – keep it simple. I spend five minutes a day on Twitter. I watch the feed and then click on and read the articles that catch my interest. I am not on it all day, but I do make sure, like my sought-after morning coffee, to get my daily dose …because it is the best professional development on the planet – and there is no staying after-school or student loan payments associated with this type of real-time learning. If you want a good starting list here is a link to my favorite 20 people to follow.

Google Plus Communities – Join one – just one…and see where it takes you

There are a lot of educator communities from Google Educator Groups in almost every city  – to communities for every curriculum area on the planet. The best way to find one that will help you improve instruction in your classroom is to join Google Plus and then  join a community. For help in finding a great community watch this short tutorial video.

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Share Your Journey on a Blog

To truly understand how impactful blogging has become – some people making millions from their simple – low tech savvy blogs, you must create and write your own. You don’t have to publish more than a short post or two a week or even a month.  If you want to keep it simple, maybe just share a favorite classroom moment each week. Just start the process and see where it leads you…but more importantly how it helps you understand you’re the new socially connected world – where a mix of words and pictures can draw a large audience and turn your students into global contributors who might make a difference in the world someday.

George Couros, told me  he only takes about  20-60 minutes to reflect 2-3 times a week. He is amazingly prolific with this time investment, imagine what you could do in just 10 minutes a day!

Power Tip: Follow a few great educational blogs

Make a list of five to 10 blogs you like and add them to your Google Alerts or Flipboard.

Here are a list of my favorites.

Blogs to Follow

  1. The Principal of Change
  2. Connected Principals
  3. TeachThought
  4. Edutopia
  5. EdTechTeam Blog
  6. Getting Smart
  7. EdSurge
  8. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
  9. Mindshift
  10. Teacher Tech
  11. Teacher in a Strange Land

Discover the Power of a Shared Picture…Join Instagram

Move over Facebook! If you really want to understand your learners…this is where they live! Understanding the impact of a picture is incredibly important for an educator. So, sign up and get on instagram.  Follow a few good people…take a few good pics yourself, and ignite your inner creative genius. Instagram can make you a world traveler, a foodie, a color expert and an art critic all from the comfort of your own home. There are so many incredible connections for education and the connected classroom.

I used to pick an Instagram picture from one of my students  and use it as a writing or blog prompt. A lot of much fun and creativity came out, when I used their material.

Creating your own personal learning network is key to understanding networked learning. Promise yourself you will do all of these in the next year. Don’t jump in at the deep end just spend a few minutes a day looking at these and soon you will be almost addicted to the amazing information being shared by other really passionate educators.

Being connected will serve as your roadmap, and other educators will soon become your guides… your Sherpas to a more innovative and disruptive classroom – where learning once again becomes something more worthwhile.

Author: HollyClark

Holly is the co-author of Google Infused Classroom. She lives and works in San Diego, California. She delivers professional development to schools internationally and speaks at conferences about empowering teachers and students with iPads and Google Apps for Education. Contact her at to have her present or work with your school.

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