…Connected Principals’ blogger Lyn Hilt discusses what administrators should be doing to support connected education, measuring the impact of connectedness, and more…
Q: If I were an unconnected colleague you wanted to get more involved in connected education, what’s the first thing you’d send me, show me, or do with me?
One of the first things I’d ask educators who are interested in becoming more connected is for them to consider the sheer number of educators around the world who are doing wonderful things in the classroom with students. Wouldn’t they like to easily tap into the expertise of their colleagues in order to grow professionally? I’d express the need for teachers to network around their passions, and I’d show them how a simple tool such as Twitter allows them to connect in real-time to other teachers, school leaders, and educational specialists who are willing to share resources and offer support to colleagues. I’d show them a Twitter conversation such as #edchat or a collaborative blog such as Connected Principals and help them see the benefit in making time to participate in these shared learning experiences.
Q: What do you think third-party groups like education associations, education companies, and government agencies should be doing to better support connection?
It’s important for these groups to recognize the value in connected learning and to infuse opportunities for educators to network through their organizations. For example, state departments of education charged with designing and delivering professional development sessions for administrators should utilize social networking tools and online communities to connect administrators both within and beyond their local networks. Too often school leaders experience learning on only the local level, and the opportunities to network with colleagues are very limited. These agencies should also seek to become active users of social media, sharing their messages and resources with educators around the world. Doing so will make them more accessible to the educators that rely on their services and expertise.
Q: What do you think your peers at the administrative level should be doing to support connected education?
It’s extremely important for school administrators to lead the way in supporting connected learning for their organizations. Principals and central office administrators should develop an online presence that puts their best digital footprint forward. They should model for teachers, students, and community how to harness the power of social media in order to enhance communications, promote collaborative opportunities, solve problems, make global connections, and showcase creativity. School leaders should work alongside teachers in order to ensure our students are given opportunities to succeed in the global realm as responsible, productive digital citizens.
Q: How has connected education benefited your school and/or have you discovered any specific metrics or measures that help you document the evidence?
While the need for measurable results is important, I think we obsess about “evidence” and the need for an immediate rise in test scores. Perhaps we are overlooking the fact that education and connected networking is about relationships and personal efficacy. Much like the implementation cycle of technology, it is impractical to look for immediate change and improvements when we know change is a multifaceted, incremental process. That said, meaningful ways to assess whether educators are finding value in connected learning could include pre/post surveys, teacher interviews, reflecting on practice through journaling/blogging, etc. Are they growing as professionals as a result of their connected learning? If so, the organization benefits.
When children utilize technology in their learning, we want to look for new creations, new opportunities, increased motivation and drive, etc. I don’t believe student outcomes are influenced by specific technologies that are used, but rather HOW the technology is used the classroom. Design varies, and it matters.
In our school specifically, we have students begin blogging in the primary grades. Many students have shown increased motivation in wanting to write and share their thoughts with a global audience. Many are choosing to write/blog more often and do so on their own time, even at home. This isn’t something that we have measured, and it’s not something that’s consistent among all classrooms/elementary buildings because it is very much dependent on teacher design/effort in including this practice in the classroom. Our school’s writing scores on state assessments have improved over the last three years, although they’ve always been admirable. Can we say that is a result of blogging? Not entirely, but it could definitely have influenced our work with students in the area of writing.
I would encourage school leaders to create a plan for measuring the effectiveness of new technology initiatives that align with their technology integration goals, including connected learning, and to consider a variety of other data sources, not just test scores, when assessing the effectiveness of their efforts.
Q: How do you feel connected education will benefit/change education in the next five years?
A connected educator’s eyes are open to new possibilities. Connected educators think beyond the box. Our education system is rooted in tradition, a system that overall has changed little over the past 100 years. I feel that many of us realize this system is no longer the design that best meets the needs of the modern learner. As more and more educators bring their ideas, minds, resources, and strengths together, true transformation of our education system can occur. This requires dedication to one’s own learning, collaboration with others, commitment to children, and a willingness to embrace challenges and fight standardization. A worldwide team of connected educational professionals can embrace the meaningful traditions of the schools of yesterday while also blazing new trails of innovative teaching and learning. Together, we can act on these visions and support one another through changes big and small. We owe it to our children to start re-imagining what learning is and can be.
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"Too often school leaders experience learning on only the local level, and the opportunities to network with colleagues are very limited..."
About Educator Lyn Hilt
Lyn Hilt is an elementary instructional technology integrator/coach and former K-6 principal in the Eastern Lancaster County School District. Prior to her role as tech integrator and administrator, she was an elementary technology teacher and also taught grades 5 and 6 in both elementary and middle school settings. Lyn is an avid connected learner and enjoys blogging, tweeting, and connecting with educators in online communities in order to reflect and improve her practice.