I am a regular Twitter and connected educator evangelist.
As I tout the benefits of being connected — the new ideas, the connections, the unique perspectives, all of that — I see the same look in so many educators’ eyes.
They don’t doubt the benefits.
They just see it as “something else.” Another item on the seemingly endless “must have, must do” list for educators.
Their lives are so jam-packed with stuff that they don’t have room in the suitcase for an extra pair of socks, so to speak.
One of my readers, Ken Keene, recently asked me about this. He had read my article — 7 ways to transform your teaching — and wondered about my time commitment to being a connected educator
“I assume these items require time in addition to lesson planning, presentation preparation, grading (although you save some time with automated approaches), school administration, etc.,” he said, and added, “I need to gain perspective regarding how to accomplish all that you have proposed to transform my teaching.”
This is the type of question, I believe, that so many teachers wonder about but rarely ask.
The real answer: You determine the time commitment.
The easiest connected educator activity to fit in a busy schedule, in my opinion, is Twitter. Each post is 140 characters, so they’re quick and easy to fly through. To get quality content in a flash, just log in to Twitter (or sign up for an account … easy instructions at my Twitter for teachers screencast) and search for “#edchat” or “#edtech”. Those hashtags are always full of great content.
Twitter is the easiest because it can fill the spaces in between the things in your life. I’ll check Twitter:
It’s even easier if you have a smartphone with a data plan (which I currently don’t) because you can check without being tied to WiFi. (But don’t tweet and drive!)
Twitter chats take an hour, but they’re so worth it. I’ve seen countless educators say that Twitter chats are the best, fastest-paced professional development around. In a good chat, you’ll get more out of it than a full day of PD elsewhere. I try to regularly attend my state Twitter chat — #INeLearn — and pop in to others occasionally. (Find Twitter chats at the official list.)
Following blogs is just about as easy. There are thousands of education-related blogs. When you find some you like, I suggest that you set up a Feedly account and plug them in. Feedly will display their new content as it appears so you don’t have to navigate to each and every blog site to read their articles. You can easily share articles you read in Feedly to Twitter, by e-mail and more.
Blog following is another one that can take as much time as you want. Sometimes I’ll look at Feedly for a minute or two, scanning article headlines for one or two to scan. Other times, I’ll read multiple articles in one sitting (which hardly ever happens with three kids and a busy teaching career).
I also write articles for this blog. That’s a greater time commitment. Each blog post takes me an hour to an hour and a half to write (it’s the former journalist in me that wants to be thorough and to write precisely). However, I know of plenty of other bloggers who take much less time than that to produce a blog post.
To fit blogging in with family time and other responsibilities, I usually write at 5:30 a.m., when my wife and children are in bed, and wrap up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. (Any later and I’m in the dog house for not helping to get the kids ready for school.)
Other stuff — tweaking design, responding to comments, checking site stats, etc. — can take as much time as you want. I recently wrapped up my Ditch That Textbook ebook (click here to follow my blog by e-mail for your copy!) and made it an incentive for getting e-mail notifications, which took some time to set up. It wasn’t a requirement, though, and you can choose the length and frequency of your posts so they fit your schedule.
(Want some ideas on blogging — for yourself or for your students? Check out my materials for a session I’ve presented about blogging.)
Being a connected educator is the single most important thing I’ve done to transform what I do as a teacher.
I have new ideas I wouldn’t get otherwise.
I can throw a question out to my professional learning network and get responses in minutes.
Some days, I can only invest a few minutes in it.
Other days, like today (I’m headed to the National Association for Gifted Children conference in Indianapolis), the whole day is about becoming a better teacher.
If I can squeeze a little PD in during a TV commercial break and it makes me better, I’m willing to make that investment.
What does your connected educator time commitment look like? Is it worth it? How would you change your time commitment? Let us know with a comment!
(For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links, “like” Ditch That Textbook on Facebook and follow @jmattmiller on Twitter!)
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I wholeheartedly agree! You make the time when you realize that when you do squeeze in the time to connect, that it pays off. I have a great group of PLN people on Twitter and hosted my first chat on Tues. It was amazing! Keep up the good work