Do connections fuel innovation in education?
Connections on their own, don't fuel innovation - Collaborations do. I am connected with many people via Twitter, and other platforms. I also work with many other SUPERSTAR educators. I steal many great ideas from those fantastic educators. Sometimes I use them as is, sometimes I make modifications to suit my own needs. Those connections help to share ideas to a large audience, which is amazing. However great these connections are, they don’t hold a candle to the brightness that can be achieved through collaboration. Two or more brains working together to create and support new ideas that work. Wonderful things happen when educators are given, or take for themselves, the opportunity to collaborate.
I remember being a first year teacher 18 years ago. I taught 8th grade Civics along with 2 other new teachers, Patti and Erin. None of us had taught the class before, so we collaborated every day with one another to create a course which was engaging and purposeful for our students. Erin has since moved on, but I still find myself collaborating with Patti at least on a weekly basis; still working on ways to be innovative. This was the first time that I realized it is better to teach in a school of openness, rather than behind a closed door, isolated to my own thoughts, beliefs, and biases. Individually, we affect the students in our own classrooms, but collectively the impacts grow exponentially.
About 5 or 6 years ago, I was asked by my principal to start attending a monthly meeting of technology integrationists from other schools in our East Central Region of Minnesota. The meetings of this group for the first year were a little strained, conversations were reserved, and people generally felt uncomfortable. The second year, things became easier, ideas shared more freely, and connections that were made the year before became solidified. The third year, we took the connections to the next level - we collaborated to create a local technology in education conference for teachers from all 13 schools represented by our small group. These connections and collaborations have led to an even bigger and better network of educators that we can all turn to when we have questions or problems. Now when we get together, I feel like it is a chance to work with my friends, not just colleagues.
Working with all these great people, either face-to-face, or virtually, through twitter chats or google hangouts has kept me on top of game. It’s not that I’m trying to impress others with what I know, but rather it is about chasing my own curiosity, and continually trying to improve. It is knowing that my own growth will lead to gains in learning for students. After all, Learning Matters Most.