Sunday, October 19, 2014

Getting and Staying Connected

Several experiences this week have highlighted for me the importance of making connections with other educators.  This has been an unbelievably busy week - and one almost entirely without blogging as a result - but one that has me thinking a lot about the ways I want and need to continue to connect with people.

This week I was lucky to participate in a teleconference with some teachers from the Beijing Royal School in China.  This was my third interaction with teachers from this school and I continue to be excited about our intercontinental connections.  I first met Amanda Cheng, Executive Principal of the BRS, at Chemed2013 at the University of Waterloo last summer.  I was presenting on using iPads in the classroom and she was embarking on an iPad 1:1 project at her school.  We did some emailing following the conference, hoping to continue a collaboration.  This past summer Amanda was in the US to grade AP Chemistry tests in Kentucky and made a quick stop in my district to talk with me and some district leaders about our middle school iPad 1:1 project.  We all hoped the collaboration would continue.

That hope became a reality this week when a few teachers and administrators from our district met with teachers from the BRS in China via teleconference.  We shared ideas for using iPads in the classroom, including some of our favorite apps and uses.  It was such a great experience to get to talk with people from the other side of the planet about how similar (and different!) our students and teaching experiences are.  Near the end of the hour, they asked us to talk about one thing we would pass on as advice.  For me, it was to use the technology to connect with as many other educators as possible.  

Later in the week a fellow chemistry teacher emailed me for advice on introducing iPads.  She has just learned that she will be getting a class set of iPads and is looking for ways to use them to teach chemistry.  She found me through the internet and, again, it felt lucky to connect with another teacher who is trying some similar things in her classroom.  I hope we will start interstate collaborating on chemistry and iPads too.

Closer to home, I delivered some PD in my school this week.  My focus was the use of the Google Drive template gallery, but connections played a role here too.  Our staff is large (150+) teachers and we teach in a weird cloverleaf shaped building (well, minecraft cloverleaf) that doesn't always force interaction.  It's easy to see the same 15 colleagues every day and can be challenging to see the others.  When we can't always be in the same room together for PLC, the template gallery can be a great way that we can still share and help each other.  As my school moves forward with a large grant to increase our blended learning opportunities, we will need our staff connections more than ever.

Two of the digital ways I like best are Diigo and Google+.  I love the convenience of Diigo for saving and accessing my bookmarks from any computer on the planet, but I also love the social features too.  The other Diigo users find excellent stuff every week that I always enjoy checking out.  Google+ has some of the same features that I like about Diigo -- excellent education communities, an easy-to-use interface, and a great energy from forward-thinking educators.  Today I reshared a Richard Byrne blog post on Google+ and it is getting a lot of +1s.  Check it out if you are using chromebooks.  There is so much good stuff on his blog every day!

How do you best connect with others?  

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