Becoming a Connected Educator and B.Y.O.L. with Social Media


To me being a connected educator means having access to a large collective brain consisting of diverse ideas & perspectives. Being connected means that I am part of that collective — learning, sharing, collecting, and exploring what learning is and can be for ourselves as well as for our students. Read more about my thoughts on this here.

Today’s world requires us to become more connected. Networks, mass collaboration, connections, and the wide variety of online social tools allow instant-access to an amazing collective intelligence on a 24/7/365 basis. This means that knowledge is now at our fingertips when and where we need it. Knowledge is now at our students’ fingertips when and where they need it — if they know how to find it.

It is our responsibility as educators to know how to connect with and tap into this collective intelligence so that we can help our students understand how to do so most effectively and efficiently. This isn’t too different from the concept of driver’s education. We don’t learn how to drive a car just by reading a manual or by learning from someone who has never driven a car themselves. Our students live and will work in an increasingly highly connected and collaborative world, and we have to understand what this means for learning, working, and living in order to provide a more personal, self-directed, and more effective learning environment for our students.

“As educators, our challenge is to match the needs of our learners to a world that is changing with great rapidity. To meet this challenge, we need to become strategic learners ourselves by deliberately expanding our perspectives and updating our approaches.” — Heidi Hayes Jacobs in Curriculum 21

“Becoming a connected, do-it-yourself learner begins with your willingness to be a findable, clickable, searchable-on-Google person who shares openly and transparently. From there we can form a connection, a conversation, a relationship and begin to collaborate.” – Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall in The Connected Educator

“We see this process of connecting playing out all around us online all the time. Through our interactions with the people and resources in our networks, we become a part of an ongoing flow of learning. Every day there is new knowledge to make sense of and new ways of thinking about and looking at the world. As we participate in these spaces, we become one node, one participant of many in a network that in aggregate is constantly learning. In other words, even though we may not be connected at a given moment, invariably others in our network are, and they are reading, filtering, thinking, and sharing in transparent ways that will be available to us when we do go back online.” – Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli in Personal Learning Networks

“The educational community that I would become a part of that day changed the way I viewed students, schools, and education. I had become a node of knowledge in a network of learners. With one simple click of a button, I had created my little piece of the web that would allow me to communicate and collaborate with others who were all passionate about the same thing: learning.” – Jeff Utecht in Reach

What is a PLN? A basic definition for a Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN) is "a network of peers from which we learn." Traditionally, this may be the members of our department on our campuses, other teachers on our campuses, and/or former colleagues at other schools with whom we maintain contact and share learning experiences. Web 2.0 allows us to expand this network beyond our immediate environment to include educators (and non educators) from across our regions, our states, our country, and around the world. Connect "across the hall" or "around the globe."

My PLN consists of educators all over the world from a wide variety of countries.

What tools are typically used to develop online, global PLNs?
  • Twitter
  • Blogs & RSS aggregators (like Google Reader)
  • Facebook
  • Plurk (like Twitter)
  • Ning (Classroom 2.0)
  • Google+ (new/emerging -- still in experimental stages)

-- Important to keep in mind that tools continue to emerge and change. Up until now, Twitter and blogs (following using an RSS aggregator like Google Reader) seem to have been around the longest and seem to be the most stable. Facebook also has been a fairly stable tool for quite a while, but is facing some potential competition with Google+. It is necessary to remain flexible and to know that the tools we use will eventually change -- some will disappear, others will evolve, some may become absorbed by others (see how Google and Facebook tend to purchase competitors or smaller niche tools and then absorb them into their own networks), and new tools will continue to emerge (example: Google+). Flexibility, adaptation, and expectation of "change" are essential traits/skills needed for the development and maintenance of a PLN.

All of the tools listed above are examples of online Social Networking -- the means by which we connect with and communicate with others online. We "self organize" online using Web 2.0 social networking websites and tools.

Each PLN is unique and personal to each individual. My PLN will not be the same as your PLN. We each control our own PLN by choosing who we connect with, when we connect, and how we connect.

Why create a PLN?


Who should you include in your PLN?

subject areas
professional interests
grades or levels
industries and other fields (business, marketing, science, politics, etc.)

Where do you start?

Blogs (use Google Reader to follow blog feeds)

Next steps:
Google+ -- Link to list of Ed Tech Google+ communities for educators:

How do you find PLN members?

Search Classroom 2.0 Ning
Search on Twitter


Join Classroom 2.0
- find "friends"

Join Twitter
- search for people to follow
- post tweets
- search on hashtags of interest

Anatomy of a Tweet:
external image TweetAnatomy.jpg


Helpful Twitter tools
Tweetdeck (download app onto computer and/or smartphone)
Hootsuite (web-based)

"Protecting tweets is like yelling from the mountaintop while wearing a muzzle." -- Jennifer Wagner (on Twitter)

Links & Resources

Classroom 2.0
Educator's PLN (another Ning community)

Connected Learning

Articles & Blog Posts

Twitter evolving into a professional development tool
Kathy's Basket (on the use of RSS)


Google+ for Educators Livebinders Collection -
Google+ Cheat Sheet at Mashable -

Connected Learning & Connected Educators

A Day in the Life of a Connected Educator at PLPNetwork
Connected Learning Manifesto
Connected Learning Research Network
Connected Learning Principles at

Just a few of my favorite books related to connected learning and being a connected educator…

The Connected Educator (Get your copy of this book and then join the official Connected Educator Month Book Club) by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall

Personal Learning Networks by Will Richardson

Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis

Teaching 2030 by Barnett Berry and the TeacherSolutions 2030 Team: Jennifer Barnett, Kilian Betlach, Shannon C’de Baca, Susie Highley, John M. Hollad, Carrie J. Kamm, Renee Moore, Cindi Rigsbee, Ariel Sacks, Emily Vickery, Jose Vilson, and Laurie Wasserman

Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams

Wikis for School Leaders by Stephanie Sandifer

What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media edited by Scott McLeod and Chris Lehmann

Making Connections with Blogging by Lisa Parisi and Brian Crosby

Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner

Natural Learning for a Connected World by Renate N. Caine and Geoffrey Caine

Over time I’ve enjoyed the following benefits from being connected:

  • Less feeling of isolation
  • Increased exposure to more diverse ideas and learning experiences
  • Increased networking — getting to know a wide variety of educators from other states, regions, and countries — many on a personal level
  • Opportunities to collaborate on a variety of research, speaking, and writing projects
  • New ideas to inform my local practice — to use and to share with other local colleagues
  • Developing a new way of thinking about the entire learning process for all learners (children and adults)

To me being a connected educator means having access to a large collective brain consisting of diverse ideas & perspectives. Being connected means that I am part of that collective — learning, sharing, collecting, and exploring what learning is and can be for ourselves as well as for our students.

The Original Connected Learner Manifesto Brainstorming Document

Connected Educator Self-Evaluation - follow instructions at top of document to make a copy for yourself that you can edit or print.

Twitter Resources

Connect Via Facebook

Groups & Pages for connecting with other educators

Connected Educator Month

Had to include this one — a direct source for all of the CEM goodness this month! The official Facebook page for Connected Educator Month.
Facebook in Education

A Facebook Page for information about how educators can best use Facebook
The Connected Learner

The Connected Learner is a space for change agents, children advocates, parents, educators and others who understand the power of connections as a means to making the world a better place for children. This is a collaboratively built place. Where we can all share the great work we are doing in our own spaces and a place where we can commit to learning together, sharing what we know, and collectively creating innovations. This is a deep learning space. This is where we forget competition and instead explore collaboration. This is a space of action. Where we take back what we learn and use it to inform meaningful change in our local practice, organization, or home.
The Innovative Educator

This is a group for anyone interested in providing innovative learning opportunities that would provide a brand new type of learning environment outside of traditional school options. Ideally members of this group will be interested in getting involved with taking action to ensure innovative learning options that best meet the needs of children exist in their communities.
Mobile Learning

This group is dedicated to improving education by raising awareness of mobile learning and emerging educational strategies.
Make Magazine

Facebook page of Make Magazine — links to great projects.

TED-Ed is TED’s education initiative. Our mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world.
The Flat Classroom Book

Global collaboration is transformational. Learn it. Live it. Do it. The Flat Classroom® is not just a book, it is an experience that will forever transform your teaching.
Digital Learning Day

Digital Learning Day celebrates innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology that engages students and provides them with a rich, personalized educational experience.
T.H.E. Journal

T.H.E. Journal informs K-12 administrators, technologists and educators of ways to improve teaching and administration through technology.
Technology Tidbits

A resource sharing blog for educators to help bring web 2.0/21st Century tools to the classroom and bridge the gap between education and technology.

#Edchat is a hashtag discussion among educators from all over the world on education related topics. This Facebook page includes related resources and continued discussions around the weekly #EdChat chats.
Powerful Learning Practice

Powerful Learning Practice is professional development for the 21st Century. PLP Alums meet here to catch up, share, and celebrate all things PLP!
Tech & Learning Magazine

Cutting-edge news, emerging technology trends, practical tips and best practices.
The New Media Consortium

Sparking innovation, learning, and creativity.
Technology Leadership Network

TLN fosters a team approach to technology decision-making. As one of the most respected and established networking programs in the field, it includes every level of the district’s technology team: superintendent, educational technology and curriculum directors, principals, teachers, and school board members.

Inspiration and information for what works in education.

Advancing excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology.

ASCD is a membership organization that develops programs, products, and services essential to the way educators learn, teach, and lead.

Change Agency Connected Educator Month Blog Posts

Connected Educator Month Day “0” – Why Connected Educator Month Matters #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 1 – Get Your Free Starter Kit! #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 2 – Join the book club! #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 3 – Being a Connected Educator #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 4 – Recommended Reading #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 5 – The Importance of Disconnecting #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 6 – The Connected Learning Manifesto #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 7 – Leadership for Connected Professional Learning #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 8 – (a few of) My Favorite Quotes #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 9 – Facebook Connections #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 10 – The How of Connected Learning: Advice for Twitter Beginners #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 11 – Wikis in Our Work #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 12 – Working With Wikis #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 13 – Transformative Experiences #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 14 – Other Connected Ed Blog Posts #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 15 – Leadership Day 2012 #ce12 #leadershipday12

Connected Educator Month Day 16 – About Conundrums, Echo Chambers, &Team Planning Meetings #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 17 – Ongoing & Upcoming #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 18 – Community Engagement #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 19 – You Might Be a Connected Educator If… #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 20 – Still Connecting and Collaborating #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 21 – My Personal Connected Learning Toolbox #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 22 – The Cruciality of Connected Educator Month #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 23 – Connected Commenting Challenge #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 24 – 7 Habits of Connected Educators #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 25 – Pin all the things! Pinterest as a Gateway #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 26 – 70+ Hours of PD #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 27 – What Are Your Next Steps? #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 28 – The Final Week #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 29 – Step-by-Step From PLCs to PLNs #ce12

Connected Educator Month Day 31 – A Few Closing Thoughts #ce12

People/Organizations associated with the emerging thinking around Personal Learning Networks, Connected Learning, Connectivism, learning networks, etc.

Will Richardson (personal learning networks) -
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (connected educators, connected learning) -
George Seimens (connectivism) -
U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology - -- specifically explore their projects: