Someday, when I get my life back from high school swimming, I’ll be able to write more! Yesterday I left the house at 7:30 AM and got back in about 10:00 PM.  My oldest daughter swims for a team who’s practice pool is about a 35 minute drive for us and yesterday, the bus left for the a swim meet at 3:30.  I don’t get out of school until, at the earliest, 3:45 so I drove her to the meet, watched her swim, the drove her home.  Not a bad gig mind you, but just has been tiring on all of us.  I can’t wait until I can take my shoes off at 5:30 and be home for the night, for a few days until basketball starts! 🙂

Anyway, it seems like many teachers are writing their “how I got connected” story, so I figured I’d throw mine up there too!  My being connected starts back in 1994 in my first school, Bering Strait School District, and my school in Unalakleet, AK. Yes, AK does stand for Alaska.  It is a school district with 15 schools and the square milage of the state of Washington.  This district had it’s own plane that flew our basketball team (my wife and I coached) to different away games.  Yes, we flew to away games.  I took a group of sixth graders to a tournament, and we flew there.  It was some of the most incredible highs and heart wrenching lows I’ve ever encountered.  I’ve had some wonderful educational adventures, but this will never be topped.  My father used to tell our family friends that his son lived “400 miles away from the nearest McDonalds” which was pretty much true because it was a two hour plane ride and a rental car later that would could enjoy that fast food, terrible for your body goodness.

Anyway, as we flew in, we were told that our school had been awarded an Apple grant of some kind, so my first experience with being a connected educator was spending a week at a technology retreat with teachers from all over the country, learning technology, teaching, and how to work this whole thing.  We were given laptops, digital cameras, and told “create something”.  We created Hyperstudio presentations about the village, the elders, the area, and sent them via dial up Internet to schools in Texas and New York.  I used to set the modem up at night so it would run the whole time and still have our line be busy for hours during the day.  My students were low income Eskimo kids who’d hardly ever touched technology, and here were making a snap shot of their lives for inner city Harlem students and hispanic students in San Antonio.  How awesome is that??

We moved to Missouri where I used our budding network to create sharing opportunities for my fifth graders, email buddies, a diagram of a school web site we presented to the board, and I had the chance to get to conference where I could see the genius of others and their technology.  We left Missouri just as the eMINT program was just starting to get off the ground and am still jealous of those who use that.

In Iowa, I jumped right into our building and district technology teams, helping to craft a plan that our district would use with technology.  At one point, I was a part time technology coordinator, but because of my classroom responsibilities, a full time coordinator was picked.  I struggled with technology, always being able to use it with my students, but never able to really make connections personally with other classrooms or teachers.  That all changed two years ago with the challenge of “try Twitter”.

Twitter has been that life line (like it has been for many) to bring me into my teaching a truly a passion.  Those I’ve met, both online and in real life, have made such an impact on my professional life.  Their positive attitudes, their willingness to share, and their true passion for students gives me hope every single day.  We can make a difference in the life of a child, but it may take years for that to manifest and that’s ok.  I’ve also enjoy the interactions with teachers of such a wide range of ability and location.  LIving where I live, I’m not “the” sixth grade teacher.  This social media gives me the chance to connect with others in my grade level to share ideas, stories, and the connection that comes with this age group.  Edmodo is another form of social media I use with my students, but it works so well with myself as a teacher because of the various groups that are there.  I can ask questions about math, ELA, and common core, getting real, teacher tested responses back!

I cannot image going back to being in my classroom with the walls around me.  While I’m not always very good at making personal connections, I feel like my teaching has been changed forever because of the contacts I’ve made.  I had a preservice teacher in my room last week and one of the pieces of advice I gave her: get connected.  I’ve heard a couple of different people say that being connect will at some point be that tie breaker in who gets a teaching job and why not?  Who would not want to hire someone who’s used their connections and used them well?  She was surprised that “teachers use Twitter” and I’m hoping she’s taken that advice to heart.

All in all, being that connected educator gives me that ability to learn what I need right now, help those who may have questions, and just be more relevant in my profession.  It’s professional development and personal connections at the speed in which I need them.  And who doesn’t want that: the ability to be relevant, to learn what they need, and to do so in a manner that fits their schedule and life style?

If you are reading this, you probably are all ready connected, but if not: get connected! 🙂