Five Steps For Schools to Become More Connected

Lani Ritter Hall, co-author of The Connected Educator (Solution Tree, 2011), responded to my previous post about blending technology into professional learning communities:

I’ll be interested in others’ comments here on their favorite blend and hope that you might be a bit more explicit in the blend you see working best for you and your faculty–

Here is my response, much too large for the comments’ section:

In my school, I have loosely observed five steps toward becoming more collectively connected. Within each step, I share the primary tool we have “blended” into our important work.

#1 – Create a Forum for Collaboration

Our tool of choice is Google. We use Sites to house all of our important work. Drive is our tool of choice for creating our online documents, such as collaborative units of study (docs) and digital data walls (spreadsheets). Google+ has been a cool tool to share resources with team members between times when we physically meet as learning communities.

#2 – Document our Learning

For this we have been using Evernote. Teachers and students are curating their work in digital portfolios. The audio function allows even the youngest writers to share their ideas using multiple formats. As a principal, I am also starting to use Evernote for instructional walkthroughs and for organizing information from a staff training to share with everyone later.

#3 – Connect Beyond the Schoolhouse

Twitter has been a tool more of my staff are using, in addition to Pinterest and Facebook. Several of the ideas and strategies I see in our classrooms come from other teachers and thinkers via these social media tools. This leads to…

#4 – Increase our Collective Intelligence

We have been able to bring in some very knowledgeable people into our school via Skype – yourself included! Students and/or staff have had the opportunity to speak with scientists, instructional experts, and other classrooms through Skype.

#5 – Become an Expert for Others

As we have gained deeper understandings of what it means to be connected, I have encouraged my staff to share their innovative practices with others. YouTube seems to be an excellent way to create tutorials and post our work on classrooms blogs and webpages.

Becoming more connected is a constant process of learning, sharing, dialoging, reflecting, and then relearning. That is why I like the blended approach. It reinforces the concept of getting connected one step at a time. As we add strategies to our instructional toolbox, we observe what practices become augmented, or possibly even be replaced. These efforts to change how we do business takes time, persistence, lots of encouragement, points for celebration, and time.

Did I mention time? 🙂

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

2 thoughts on “Five Steps For Schools to Become More Connected”

  1. Matt,
    Really appreciating how you’ve chunked your blend with purpose–
    and when you said
    “Becoming more connected is a constant process of learning, sharing, dialoging, reflecting, and then relearning.”
    I was nodding my head in agreement.

    You, your faculty have a model that can pretty easily be replicated and has the potential to transform practice and learning for your students– but you know that 🙂

    Your transparent sharing here can become a light for others to follow who are not as far down this path —


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