So, I come home after showing teachers how to use Google Reader for subscribing to blogs and online news, and find out it is being retired this summer. My initial reaction was, “What?!?” I felt I had just wasted my colleagues’ time by exploring a tool that no longer would be usable.
Being the eternal optimist, I sent out this tweet:
Here were the responses I got back from my personal learning network:
I really appreciated their advice. It helped me remember a couple of key elements when learning anything new:
Understand Concepts, Not Just Tools
Prior to me sharing how Google Reader works, the participants for my course “Becoming a Connected Educator” and I have discussed why we should use online networks for learning and teaching. For example, we explored the Connected Learning Communities framework by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. This is from their book The Connected Educator. It nicely describes how professional learning communities, personal learning networks, and communities of practice can work in concert to help us reach our potential as learners. Once we have that foundation, we are more resilient to the ever changing technology landscape, as well as flexible enough to pick up the new tools and drop the ones that aren’t working.
Have an Open Mind
I try to model how to use a few technology tools at each session while teaching the major concepts for the course. It’s embedded in my instruction so teachers can see them in practice. I also repeatedly make the point that teachers need to be selective about what Web 2.0 tools they want to use in their classroom and/or for their own learning.
To help ourselves focus, we used “Reflection Circles”. I discovered this graphic organizer at a Department of Public Instruction training in 2006. The participants wrote a quick reflection about each tool shared so far during the course.
Know Where You Are Going
It is also important that there is a clear direction as to why and how we should become more connected. I created this template to help everyone prepare to embed technology into their instruction:
To make this point in a different way, I shared my school’s vision:
We are a community of engaged learners,
focused on academic and social growth,
preparing for our changing world.
That last line means a lot to me right now. When we meet again next week, I will stress the same thing. How does what happened with Google Reader apply to us as educators? Can we become irrelevant? How quickly could this transition take place? I feel confident that being a mindful and connected learner is the best way for all educators to remain relevant, as well as to provide authentic and engaging learning activities for our students.