“Connected Educator” or “Educator that Connects”? #CE13

I had a great experience at #Edscape in New Jersey (thank you Eric Sheninger and school for being such great hosts!) and as a speaker and participant, it was great to learn from so many people that I knew already, and met for the first time.  Honestly, what has really changed about conferences for me is that I never feel that I am alone because I already know people when I walk into a building because of my use of social media. That being said, I really love connecting with people for the first time and hearing what they are trying and where they are at in their teaching careers.  I love meeting new people and I really believe in the Bill Nye idea:



One of the discussions that really resonated was the idea of having more “connected educators.”  I found it to be really interesting as, obviously, there is real power in connecting as an educator through the use of social media. But, to be honest, educators connected way before that in other ways.

Social media obviously provides something pretty powerful though.  I have a tremendous belief in technology, and have stated clearly that I believe that isolation is a choice that educators now make. This being said, there is something about the term “connected educator” that just irks me.

Here is my rationale…

You hear often that we shouldn’t really use “digital citizenship,” but use “citizenship,” and that “digital literacy” is just “literacy.” So, when we say “connected educator,” I wonder why we don’t just say “educator?”  Now, people still use “digital” when describing those other aspects because they feel (as I do) that those things need to be explicit for people to embrace them.  But one difference is that those are “things” that we are describing–educators are people.  That changes my mindset immediately.

As I sat and listened to one educator defend that it should be extremely explicit that we need to push people to become “connected educators,” I sat in the audience with a young teacher that felt so embarrassed that she was not where others were at.  Immediately, you could see that she felt a huge divide and almost felt that there was an “elitist” attitude in being “connected.”  In no way was the speaker doing that, but language matters and when I say I am “this” and you are “that,” a divide is created.

My belief?  Educators should connect.  It should be a part of what we all do.  That being said, I have also learned that there are many ways that people connect (I have no idea how to use Google+ the way that I know how to use Twitter), and that people are on different timelines in their learning.  That has to be respected.  As everything, this journey to get people “connected” should be differentiated, but it can be dangerous when we use it as an adjective as opposed to a verb.

Here is a question…do you think that if you are a “connected educator” that you are better off than someone else who isn’t?  If the answer is “yes,” then when you describe yourself as that very thing, it is creating a notion of elitism.  Instead of trying to describe an educator by what they do or don’t do, maybe we should look at each other’s strengths and build on that.

When we use the term “connected educator” are we sometimes alienating the people that we want so badly to connect in the first place?




  1. You describe exactly what my friend felt during that discussion, and you also hit on many of things we discussed on the ride home. It is a great reminder about being thoughtful about the language we use, and I think highlighting the need to be inclusive vs exclusive, if that makes sense.

  2. I so admire your constant focus on people. As you mentioned in your keynote yesterday (which was amazing, by the way) it’s all about relationships. I will continue to encourage the teachers I work with to make connections (whether online or in real life) to push their own learning and thinking; but I will be more conscious of the words I use and how I say them. It’s not about how many followers you have or how many people you follow. It’s about the relationships you form and the learning and sharing that happens because of those relationships. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. I agree that the person should come first. We are not defined by one aspect of our professional activities. Educators connect in the real world as well as on the internet.

    We should not “push” educators to connect online, but we should be
    giving educators resources and opportunities as it is an exciting way to connect and learn!

    Sadly, It sounds like equity is the issue here. At this time, many educators are excluded by default due to low salaries and a lack of resources on the job.

  4. I have had similar hesitations around connected educator month. Three half-done blog posts really illustrate my torn point of view. All three posts began to sound judgmental about those who don’t connect. Not my intention at all. So now I wonder what kind of message I’m sending when talking social media with teachers. Thanks for helping me realize my dilemma.

    Bottom line: We all connect in different ways. I can encourage, coach and bring an understanding about the ways I chose to connect, and I always jphave much to learn from others’.

  5. I think the key point you draw is that “isolation is a choice.” Owning our choices while respecting others’ deserves effort. That being said, those with passions & strengths (whether for technology, data, or relationships) have a duty to share that knowledge with others moving our practice as a whole forward.

    Thanks for the perspective!

  6. Those who connect through Twitter or Pinterest or Google+ (which i don’t get either) are no better than the people who connect in the hallways, classrooms and staff rooms. It’s those who close their doors completely that we need to help.

    Another thought… it’s great to connect ABOUT teaching, but we need structures that allow teachers to actually WORK and LEARN together in classrooms with kids. The job is still placing most teachers in isolation for most of their work day.

  7. There’s also still a lot of prejudice about social media; people think we only post bagels and banter. Sometimes the ‘them and us’ comes from those who refuse to take part. I’m always quietly amazed that teachers can be so anti communicating.

  8. I have connected face to face for years through, articulation and workshops. But I needed the push to use social media. Now that I am on social media, I find that I am exposed to more points of view that allow me to REFLECT on my own practices.

    The real reason I use social media is to improve myself through REFLECTION, and this article has provided me yet another opportunity to do that. Thank you for the point of view.

  9. George you make some interesting points, especially about how the language we use matters. However, I would argue that the young educator who you sat with was in fact connected, even I she has not yet developed her social media PLN. She was there learning and sharing, that is part of how she will make a difference.
    I don’t believe it is educators like her that we have to convince to connect. I believe the problem is that in many of our schools we still have educators who live in their own world with myopic vision, and do not continue to learn and grow. This is what all educators should do, they need to “connect,” even if they just means checking out the classroom next door.
    As you you said on Saturday morning, isolation is now a choice educators make, and I don’t think it is a choice our students can afford.

    Also I want to say it was great to get a chance to chat with you at #edscape, even if it was for only 30 seconds (I was the science teacher in the hallway).

  10. Damn you Couros – just when I thought I had a great post in my head, I read yours and you say it better. I had the opportunity to present in Indiana last June and my keynote was title “Windows of Change: How Connected Educators are Driving REAL Reform”… and during the session, I tried to make it very clear about the importance of “connecting” and how this did not JUST mean online. I think when we state how everyone needs to be on Twitter, we actually alienate those who are not and often create a wedge in our staff/community. I have made the mistake of thinking that because I am connected online, I am more in the know… I have learned better now as I look at some teachers on my staff and how wonderfully connected they are with each other and with their students and families.

    Do we need to connect? Absolutely – but this is defined by each person. The key is that we need to share ideas and learn from others – how this looks and works will depend on individual/community strengths, structures and context. A connected educator can mean so much but it is more important about what happens with these connections and how it benefits the learning (professional and student).

    For me, trying to connect first and foremost with those in front of me while also connecting with people online is my goal. This is a balance that many of us continually strive for.

  11. …So, when we say “connected educator,” I wonder why we don’t just say “educator?”

    That’s what I think every time I hear the phrase “21st Century Learning”. But how else do we communicate that without being explicit?

  12. My first post about connected educator month dealt with my hesitation. It does create a sense of elitism and echochamber. I think I have to agree with Scott McLeod that the first place to connect is the local level. For me I take it a step further and say connect with learners first. Instead of a connected educator I’d rather have my kids in classrooms where the teachers believe in connected learning.

  13. I agree that we want teachers to connect. The “connected educator” can be elitist and alienating, but I like to think that part of the connotation of the term is that educators are embracing/connecting different ways to approach learning. And when I say learning, I don’t mean ways to get THE curriculum into kids. Digital media creates new possibilities. I agree that we should approach each other from positions of strength and not deficit.

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