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?