When being connected is more than a PLN…

My one year anniversary as an active participant on Twitter just passed.  In that time I have become a regular participant in several Twitter chats, began the very blog I am writing this post for, read “Teach Like a Pirate” and did my first online book chat, attended my first #edcampHOME, launched Genius Hour in my own classroom, encouraged others to embrace the idea of Genius Hour, entered into a new position as an Instructional Technology Coach and wrote my first educational magazine article (see my previous post- Genius Hour- From Another Perspective).

While I give oodles of credit to the impact of being connected through the formats of Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Hangouts…. Twitter having the greatest influence; the whirlwind of growth stems from much more than just being connected through Social Media.  Being virtually connected is an exercise in vain if the learning/knowledge gained isn’t carried back into the live learning environment of classrooms and colleagues.

It amazes me that when the senses are heightened with learning and growth how every contact, conversation and connection lends itself to strengthening and affirming that process. The articles that are shared with me, conversations of collaboration, current events, books, a sermon, and/or reflection, without intention, will present a common thread or threads of truth about this process of learning, teaching and connectedness.

My church’s recent sermon series is one such example of how being aware of our personal learning and the affirmation of the process comes from a multitude of formats.

The series was called: The Red Zone (it’s Texas and it’s Super Bowl season)

While the implications of this lesson were an inspiration and challenged me, I immediately saw the application of the five key words (Connect, Grow, Honor, Serve, and Share) in the realm of the professional educator.

Connect- To be effective we must connect through Social Media, in our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), and with our professional associations. We can no longer be an island on our own.  We need each other, we need the knowledge; our students deserve a well-connected educator.

Grow- We must have a growth-mindset.  Learning is vast and inexhaustible.  At every turn new learning/knowledge is being created.  What was once a hard and fast rule has more than one way to get to the same solution.  We must be divergent in our thinking, flexible in our learning and adaptive in our approach.  There is nothing static in the instruction provided to our students. Why should we think our own professional learning would be static?

Honor- As we connect and grow it can be messy.  Honor the process.  Reflect often and celebrate the successes as well as the learning that resulted in the midst of adventurous risks that didn’t turn out as planned.  Honoring the risks, the learning both in the instruction and the reflection are essential.  Often this piece is overlooked. If educators don’t take time to honor and reflect on their practice nor give their students the opportunity to honor the process of learning, the significance of the growth that may have occurred is lost.  Honor gives learning significance; it provides a marker point.

Serve- Servant leadership has been given a substantial amount of attention in recent years.  How one serves as an educator is an individual choice, but this profession, as a calling and serves a greater purpose.  We serve to develop life-long learners, and grow future leaders.  Our presence and partnership with stakeholders impact community.  We understand our outreach, to be effective in the classroom, must go beyond the classroom.

Share- To be truly effective as an educator we have relied on the collaboration and mentor-ship of others. We in turn share our humble craft. Transparency is key as we share relevant strategies, effective interventions and innovative ideas.  To support one another we must be a willing, available and essential resource.

This job, that is a calling, brings its own set of challenges, celebrations, and surprises.  The beauty of a calling is that it is connected to every aspect of who you are, to the core.  While most who are educators agree this is a job like no other, I believe it is our connectedness that makes our individual way in which we approach the craft perfection. It’s not an easy craft, but when it is our passion intertwined with all aspects of life, the difficulties pale in comparison to the joy of the journey.

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Genius Hour- from another perspective

I just recently was published in TechEdge Magazine through TCEA on the topic of Genius Hour. It was a huge honor and happened all because of connections both professionally through the TCEA network and through my wonderful #geniushour PLN.
The biggest factor in Genius Hour being a success was transparency, collaboration and continually keeping it student focused. Initially when the article went “live” a week and a half ago I was embarrassed by my colleagues congratulations. This whole journey and my passion to share has been driven by the lights that were brightened in my student’s eyes when they discovered learning from the most meaningful place… their passions. This wasn’t about my success or my teaching, this was about them. So it feels wrong to know that I published this article on the experience of their re-awakening to learning.
My solace is in knowing that the message cannot stop with me and knowing that in my new role as an Instructional Facilitator I can be an ambassador and guide for those teachers wanting to launch their own Genius Hour.
I have benefited from those that have gone before me because of their transparency, encouragement and humility. In the Genius Hour inner circle it isn’t about accolades or selfish gain. They all see the greater purpose… students being truly passionate learners and active positive contributors to their world.
So I share the link to my article, not for bragging rights but to provide yet another layer in the message of the calling to bring passionate learning opportunities to all classrooms and beyond.

Image of Tech Edge Article

Genius Hour, TechEdge Magazine, TCEA, February 2014, by Kirsten Wilson

I hope you enjoy it and it encourages you in your own journey or inspires you to take this journey of passionate learning called Genius Hour with your students. If Genius Hour goes viral the world will never be the same!