Digital Challenge–Week 6: Get Connected

This week wraps up  Connected Educator Month (CEM), a month-long  online conference, discussion and webinar.  CEM encourages and celebrates educators learning and leading in online social environments.

As a connected coach for Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) I participated as a “lead discussant” for two online forums, “The Connected Education and the First Six Weeks of School,” and the “Professional Learning Forum.”  Even though the official conference is over, recordings of webinars and a plethora of materials can still be accessed on the CEM web site.  If you have picked up the tweeting habit, you will find connected educators at #CE12.

So, what’s the big deal you ask?  Imagine this…you enter a digital room with 350 colleagues from around the world.  On a map, the webinar moderator invites folks to place markers, indicating participants’ locations.  You quickly see that six of the seven continents are represented on the map.  The chat log whizzes by at a rapid speed, as your own fingers are flying on the keyboard, contributing your thoughts to the conversation.  You are hearing from a passionate teacher in Australia talking about how to engage kids in learning.  You are clicking on a link in the chat log that directs you to an amazing resource you just discovered from your colleague in China.  Then, an education guru speaks on some fabulous topic like “flipped instruction” and you get a gagillion ideas from your colleagues in the chat log, which you will save at the end of the session so you can read through it again later.  You then get brave enough to grab the mic and add your thoughts about engaging students with technology.  And at the end, you are thankful and energized, not to mention you have a few new colleagues to follow on twitter and maybe even skype another classroom…in Australia!  Now, that’s cool!  And that’s 21st Century learning.

I really love this infographic from the MacArthur Foundation on Connected Learning.  It captures the essence of connected learning:

Three Challenges: 


This week’s post is all about challenging yourself to get connected professionally and to try out some connected learning tools and spaces. Here are a few TOOLS & SPACES to give a try that will start you on your connected teacher path:

Classroom 2.0 – This Ning, founded by Steve Hargadon, is a collaborative space of educators from around the world (75,000 members and 185 countries, oh my!).  You can literally find discussion forums on almost every topic of interest to you.  You do not have to join the ning to peruse the space (this is called “lurking” in the connected education world, by the way.)  If you want to participate via discussion boards, sign up.

Edmodo – This is a safe walled garden for social learning with your class.  If you want something that has the look and feel of Facebook, but totally private and enclosed, this is the tool for you.  Edmodo is totally free for educators.  Edmodo does NOT collect information about your students and it does NOT have advertising. It’s quite awesome, really.

Edublogs – I have written about Edublogs in the past.  They really cater to teachers and students.  Check out the tool.  If you end up really liking it, we can discuss a subscription for your class and how to implement it for instruction.  They even have some lesson ideas and “teacher handouts” for you.  They rock! (And yes, my blog is an Edublog!)

Wikispaces – I especially like Wikispaces for collaborative projects.  Students can design their own content based on challenge-based learning and study.  They love the authentic audience and feedback that is possible in this space.  The link here is a special link for FREE wikis with NO ADVERTISING for teachers.  You can sign up your whole class without wikispaces collecting information about your students.  It’s wonderful.

Canvas Instructure – This is a new one that I just learned about this summer. I plan on trying this out with Michael and the 6th grade digital citizenship class.  I will report back to you on it after quarter 1.  This space is social, allows a wiki environment, has a built in gradebook, and for the individual teacher user, it’s free (schools who buy a campus subscription pay per seat).  In fact, the University of Maryland just got on board with this one.  If you do use it, let me know what you think!


Choose at least one professional development opportunity for yourself, no matter if it is participation in an online conference or one face-to-face.  Here are a few you may not know about…

K12 Online Learning ConferenceOctober 15, Pre-Conference Keynote, Oct 22-25; Oct 29-Nov 2 “This is a FREE, online conference open to ANYONE organized by educators for educators around the world interested in integrating emerging technologies into classroom practice.”  I have attended this conference in the past–it is marvelous.  You will hear from educators from all over the world who are passionate about kids and learning.  And what’s even more incredible is that you can access all the materials indefinitely.  You can choose to go the sessions in real-time or you can watch videos on your own time.

EdCampPDX:  This one is right in our backyard–seriously!  Touted as the “unconference conference,” educators interested in technology as a learning tool for enhancing instruction and engaging students share their ideas from the trenches.  Local independent schools host this gathering about 4 times each year. Check the EdCampPDX wiki for the next event.  I bet it will be on our state-wide PD day!  To find out about updates, follow the twitter handle #edcampPDX.  There are “edcamp” conferences all over the world, actually.

JEDCHAT – Jedchat is a Jewish education tweet chat occurring every Wednesday at 6pm PDT.  The twitter handle is #jedchat.  The first one of the school year is September 5th.

Lookstein Listserv – Sign up for the Lookstein Center’s listservs.  Lookstein was established by the Bar-Ilan University to promote Jewish education in the diaspora.  The site also have many wonderful resources.


And finally, set a professional goal for yourself as a connected learner and instructional leader.  What would you like to try?  What would you like to accomplish?  What do you want to know about connected learning? Here are some articles and a video to jump start your thinking…


Cultural Anthropologist, Mimi Ito (7:06) from the Digital Media Learning Hub

Mimi Ito speaks about the impact of digital media on youth and learning.

 Articles & Resources for Connected Learning and Leading:

5 Tips for New Teachers to Become Connected Educators from Edutopia (Ps. This applies to ALL teachers!)

Researchers “Introduce” a New Model of Connected Learning

What is Connected Learning?

And finally, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach from Powerful Learning Practice designed and authored a wonderful Starter Kit for Educators who want to get connected:



One thought on “Digital Challenge–Week 6: Get Connected

  1. So what do you want to accomplish as a connected educator? What tools do you want to try? What spaces? What value do you see in connected learning for kids? How do you think social media is impacting learning? Schools? Share your thoughts!