Where I Am Right Now with Being a Connected Learner

In order to unconnect, do we still have to disconnect?

In this post for Powerful Learning Practice, I explore whether or not teachers should disconnect from their personal learning networks over the summer. I can see both sides of the argument, simply stated here:

I think this is a dilemma that many professional educators face. Do we get away from all things school-related for the summer? Or should we stay connected to and continue to develop our personal learning networks and nurture our professional growth?

In the comments section, Joy Kirr shares her perspective:

Matt, What I know right now… is that I’m PASSIONATE about teaching. I take breaks, it’s true, but my summer is all about growing myself and striving to make next year even BETTER. I think, if we strive for mastery, it is because we WANT to, and we know we’ll never get there – such is the allure. 🙂 So, yes, I agree that we need to fit in valuable time with family and friends while unplugged from other teachers. I also believe that if it is truly our passion, no one can keep us from it.

I happen to share a similar passion for lifelong learning and education as Joy. Like her, I seek to better myself as an elementary principal for my students, as well as my own desire to be the best I can be. For example, I am taking my first MOOC, about teaching and assessment in the 21st century, through the University of Melbourne. There are assignments and certain expectations, and I am certainly not obligated to complete it. Yet I am one of 13,000 people enrolled in this course. That is a lot of educators who have the same dispositions as Joy and me, who want to grow themselves.

After the post was shared, I have had time to reflect on it some more. This is the nature of learning: It is never done, and the more we learn, the more we want to learn more. One thought I had was, are there any instances where I am disconnected, but I am still able to utilize digital-based resources? Immediately, I though of the garden blog/journal I recently created with Postach.io. To share images, audio, and/or text and publish it on the blog, all I have to do is put the media into a note within the appropriate Evernote notebook. Tag it “published”, and it pops up.

So why not get a regular garden journal to document any discoveries from this hobby of mine? I did have one, actually, but I had a propensity for leaving it outside as I became enamored with one of my beds. It did not last long after a few rains.


So there it is. A way to use connected tools while still staying disconnected. Maybe these two worlds are not as mutually exclusive as I may have initial thought. At the same time, a key in keeping our life in balance is realizing when it is out of balance. That usually means being too connected. When I realize this, I put away my digital toys and do something that doesn’t require electricity, unless it involves running the sprinklers.

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 (http://mineralpointschools.org/). 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 (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

3 thoughts on “Where I Am Right Now with Being a Connected Learner”

  1. I personally find it hard to disconnect over the summer too. I brought home a large basket of work and just last week had a chance to go through one resource. It felt like it was hanging over my head and I felt better after getting one thing done. I find I am spending a lot more time on Pinterest too, probably because I have more time than during the school year. Even though I can’t turn the teacher in my heart and brain off in the summer, there is still plenty of time for family and quality time with my family and friends!


    1. Yes, very challenging to separate home and work in this age of ubiquitous connectivity.

      Your comment reminds of a post from TeachThought, about 21st century work: http://www.teachthought.com/learning/c-areer-readiniess-21st-century-work/ I found it interesting that they see “Work-Life Balance” evolving into “Life-Work”. Maybe that is how it has always been for many professionals in education. As Joy stated, teaching is a passion. I have also heard it referred to as a “vocation”.

      What do you think?


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