Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Connectedness as the Standard

In my opinion, being a connected learner, leader, and/or educator is no longer an option.  My personal and professional journey in this area is well documented and something that I regularly present on.  When I think back to my life as an educator prior to becoming connected, I can honestly say that I was isolated, naive, and definitely not as well rounded as I am today. 

Image by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano- based on image (CC) by Alec Couros- /

Here is my quick list of reasons why all educators should become connected and form their own Personal Learning Network(PLN):
  • We become the epicenter of our learning and determine what, where, and when we want to learn.  This makes the learning process meaningful, relevant, applicable, and convenient.  With these structures in place, the foundation is established to unleash passion, creativity, and a pursuit of innovation to do what we do better.  Connectedness and control of our learning provide each of us with the ability to determine our own path and to differentiate to meet each of our diverse learning needs. 
  • This type of learning is fueled by intrinsic motivation, which is the most pivotal ingredient essential to life-long learning, growth, innovation, and sustainable change. 
  • Access to a wealth of free resources.  Using tools to share and acquire resources expands our horizons.  Many educators, including myself a few years ago, don’t even know what tools exist, let alone how they can enhance the teaching and learning process.
  • A two-way mechanism for constructive feedback, support, and advice.  In my mind this is priceless.  No longer do we need to feel like we inhabit isolated islands in our respective positions.
  • You do not have to pay for this powerful opportunity to grow.  All it costs is an investment of time, which you ultimately determine.
  • The ability and means to connect with the best minds in the field of education.  One of the most amazing attributes associated with social media is that it makes the world a much smaller place.  You can now connect with world-renowned educational researchers or experts from your living room.  Possibly even more powerful is the ability to learn from actual practitioners doing the same job as you.  Accessibility to these ideas, strategies, and collective knowledge from both of these groups will ultimately make you a better educator.  Silos of information become a thing of the past.
Your PLN will provide you with the seeds of change, but is up to you to plant, take care of, and cultivate them in order to witness their growth and development into transformative culture elements. If you do, it will not take long before these seeds of change mature and begin to bear fruit by becoming embedded, sustainable components of the school culture and your professional growth. with the tools that are now available connectedness should be the standard, not just an option in education.

What do you think are some of the benefits of becoming connected that I might not have touched on? Can we afford not to become connected?  Please share your thoughts. Below are some more resources to either help you get connected and/or strengthen the connections that you already have.


  1. Well said Eric and I couldn't agree more. In the past 12 months I've become somewhat of an evangelist for being connected. I have encouraged my colleagues to connect and contribute for the greater good and their own edification.

    Hope to move into presenting in the next couple of months.

  2. GREAT POST, ERIC! This is our future, I think all educators will have an expectation/training to get connected. Like Scott, my recent presentations have been on getting connected as an administrative function! We have to get connected to grow!

  3. I absolutely agree. I've had people that are much more famous and intelligent than I give me feedback, help, assistance, and so much more. It has been a great journey, so far.

  4. Eric I completely agree! The professional and personal growth I have had over the past few years of being a connected educator has been nothing short of tremendous.

  5. Thanks for the insightful and interesting post. I'm doing the best I can to convince my colleagues to follow me down the PLN path. This post is a valuable arrow in my quiver...

  6. I totally agree! I have learned so much in the last few years as I've expanded my PLN. I benefit, my colleagues benefit, but most of all, my students benefit.

  7. Hey Eric,

    I am big on what you are saying as you know and have a question about the following statement:

    "I am extremely excited that August is Connected Educator month. In my opinion, being a connected learner, leader, and/or educator is no longer an option. "

    With that statement and you being a principal, is it an option at your school? I know that it is really easy to get people from others outside those you work with to connect, but within your own school, it is not easy. What do you do to get your own school not just tweeting, but meaningful sharing and connecting with people outside of your own school. I look forward to your thoughts as I think that it is toughest to spread this message at home.

  8. I totally agree! I have spent the summer investigating/learning about Twitter, Pinterest and Linkedin. I really think that Twitter has so much to offer. So many connections!

  9. It's funny that you should ask that question George as I was just working on Thursday to address this when my staff returns in September. You are correct when saying that it is not easy to move an entire school in this direction. I am very careful not to mandate certain things as that tends to build resentment. However, the one advantage I have is our Professional Growth Period ( It is during this time that I will encourage and work with my teachers to build their own PLN's and hopefully develop an sense of value for connected learning. This will definitely be a challenge, but with the recent change and transformation along various fronts at my school I think that by this time next year many of my teachers will be willingly on board.

    1. Awesome conversation. Our school year just began in August, and I challenged the educators at my school to commit to connecting in new ways over the month of August and throughout the year. We all filled out Connected Educator pledge cards, and departments will be sharing their learning in staff meetings throughout the year.

  10. Thank you for your insightful post. The key word in your refection is learning. Inspiring those around us by modelling learning and best practice is the key to increasing student achievement and wel being. I think that this model of success can only work with leaders who understand that learning is a process that takes time and ffilters down / difusses to all learners. Leading Student Achievement is an organization that promotes the learning based approach you write about. They have a site with great llinks and data and information on best practices. Here is the link for anyone that may be interested. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  11. The link to the Leadiing Student Achievement website is "

  12. I think we are already connected and just don't know it. It is the ways that we connect both useful and not that we need to be aware of. As a principal I charge you as the one who must help others see their connections. When someone gives without thought of return, that is a connection that you need to trumpet. When someone gives credit and 'light' to others that needs to be shared. When you uncover hidden connections you must help others find them in their own teaching lives and they must pass them on.

    I think that as you work with your teachers on their PLN's you need to show them how they can connect within text boxes like this and video boxes like YouTube and audio ones like Soundcloud and, need to remind them that it is the connections behind these boxes that matter. And you need to remind them there is such a wealth of connection within their immediate world to make life rich and complete for all of them and their students.

    Lastly, you need to help them connect with the profound shift that is taking place beneath or feet right now. You need to help them connect with the fact that each of us connected to everyone else including our students, our staff, parents, and stakeholder near and far. I highly recommend a very powerful video by Manual Lima on RSA Animate that show just how much the world is changing:

    Thanks for letting me tell you what to do ;-). You probably need more of that, don't you?

  13. dream.. co create... prototype with us here:

    imagine if we redefine public ed and let tech aggregate all our thinking, connecting, doing, .. in such a useful way.. that we no longer need to spend time and money on measuring and proving and managing things...

  14. Monika: That presentation sure has my brain spinning!

  15. I am doing a workshop/discussion on the topic of connected educators next week and I can't wait to share this post. I feel like one area often overlooked by educators is our impact as role models for students as we engage in use of social media. A PLN gives teachers the opportunity to model the appropriate use of some fantastic tools that our students could use too.

  16. Dear Mr. Sheninger,
    As a classroom veteran of 30 years, half in college and half in secondary, I like the obviously positive motivation you bring to your post, but I am a bit cynical that the ephemeral notion of "connectedness" is really possible on more than a superficial level.

    As every classroom teacher knows, connections are positive and negative and happen with every student, every day. The approval-seeking students will want to connect and the withdrawn ones resist. Today's technology is all well and good and may open a few doors now and then, but seems to me to be a superficial siren seeking mass participation accomplishing little to nothing. While students send text messages a hundred times a day, they don't send them to us, and we don't really want that anyway as it invades our necessary privacy. Our district actively discourages having a Facebook, or if one has one, to be sure to exclude students from contact. These connections are open doors to litigious mishaps.

    As far as connecting within our PLNs, this is necessary and beneficial. We have common planning within our core disciplines and use that time to meet, share lessons, do lesson studies and help each other use the technologies out there that we can use to interest and motivate students. As I recall, my own high school teachers had none of this technology, but I can remember many of them being excellent teachers, personally connected to the success of the students, and not encumbered by trendiness in so-called professional educatorism. Too many people today are full of their own centrality in the role of administrator and/or teacher, and like the failed self-esteem movement of 25 years ago, are hopping from feel-good moment to feel-good moment.

    Let's stop being sucked in by trendy "ism" siren songs and get back to the genuine caring connectedness of our profession, demonstrated by our willingness to learn from each other and our experiences in the classrooms in which we teach. Let's shed this trendy notion of the corporate model of education where students are clients and everyone is a "stakeholder." This is not new, or helpful. The liberal arts model of education commands simply that knowledgable teachers use appropriate and meaningful methods in the classroom to stimulate every mind of every student as far as it is possible. The outlying stakeholders need to mind their own role in this and do their part. This way, a partnership will organically develop without having to put silly terms on it, bowing down to the next technological Trojan Horse, and being bombarded by every blogger's view that somehow many teachers operate in some sort of fog of isolation. I teach in a rural high school in FL, and I can assure you that the 60 or so faculty here work as hard as they can to make real connections with each other and their students. Some are more successful than others, but all try with their indivdual gifts and talents. We use technology to achieve some of this, but first a teacher must have the right frame of mind and the right spirit to do anything worthwhile in the classroom.

    How many more workshops do we have to attend to remind us of what our intrinsic role in the lives of students actually is? While some may have value, I have been made to sit through hundreds of these things and am convinced that most of them could have put their content in a single e-mail, and that this is just another shell industry in education.

    Let's just get back to work with our colleagues and make sure that from the first day in the classroom that we make the connection from our minds to the minds of the students, that we teach from the heart in the sense of sincerity, not some addle-brained sense of "love" for students.

  17. I am currently beginning my journey as a connected educator and think your blog has not only a wealth of resources, but also provides an example of another educator’s journey in this area. I love this concept of a Personal Learning Network. Wow! Like you said, it is a meaningful, relevant, applicable, highly motivating way to learn. Since I think that these are also important elements of a successful classroom, I think that guiding students in developing their own PLNs could be powerful tool as well. I look forward to developing further in this area and continuing to follow your blog! Thanks!