What's a Connected Educator, Anyway?
by Matt Pauls
"Well, we’re all connected educators. We’re
all online, you know. There’s nothing
special about that. What’s the big deal?”
That’s the response I get from teachers who
are unclear on this radical new thing called
being a connected educator. Apparently, the
assumption is that since their classroom is
now connected to a larger computer network,
they must be connected educators. And sure,
on some level, they could call themselves
But it goes deeper than that. Being
connected to the Internet for the modern
educator, as important as it is, doesn’t make
that educator any more special than a school
having a copier 20 years ago, a library 30
years ago, or electricity 50 years ago. (I’m not
singling out those districts who truly don’t
have those amenitiesthey exist, and they
do need helpbut they are probably not the
norm, and I daresay anyone who is reading
this doesn’t work at one.)
An educator who thinks they are a
connected one simply because of their access
to the Internet might as well believe they are
an Olympic weightlifter because they have a
pair of arms. It doesn’t qualify.
“Well,” some others have argued to me, “I
have a Facebook account. I’m on Instagram.
I even have a Twitter handle.” (In most cases,
the teachers making this argument haven’t accessed their Twitter account since 2015, or
think it’s "too confusing," but never mind.) “I’m
active on social media. I’m connected.” Yep,
you are. But to whom or what?
Being on social media is necessary to being
a connected educator. But how are you using
those social media tools? Are they part of your
approach to education? Are you using them to
deepen your practices or discover new ones?
To connect with your students in a meaningful
and appropriate way (if your district allows)?
Do you communicate with other teachers to
share resources, experiences, or to discuss the
issues you each are facing with your students?
Or are you doing what the majority of
people on social media are doing: posting
pictures of food or pets, getting into pointless
flame wars over politics, or playing games?
“Well, then, what’s a connected educator?”
my colleagues sigh at me huffily, thinking that
I’ve got to be the densest or most esoteric
teacher who ever came down the pike.
It means you’re making connections with
other teachers and with students.
It means you communicate with kids
regularly, not just when you give the whole
group instruction we all have to deliver with
some regularity. It means you let them know
that you are there for them, to listen, to support,
to clarify, to motivate, to assist. It means you
build a relationship with the students you’re
teachingnot to be their buddy, but to be their
lifeline of sanity and practical love in a world
of confusing information and contradiction. It
means you use all the channels at your disposal
to make that communication work, and yes,
that includes technology if you are sensible and
practical about it.
It means you communicate with other
teachers regularly. Not at your department meetings, not at the PD that your
administrators make you go to, not on Friday
nights at the local watering hole, and not in
your teachers’ lounge (where you’ll often hear
more pissing and moaning than constructive
ideas). I mean you communicate with
teachers who want to grow, who know they
haven’t arrived, who would rather light the
proverbial candle than curse the proverbial
How? Use that Internet connection you’re
so proud of or that social media you think
plugs you into the lives of others. Join that
Twitter chat. Find that Facebook group and
get in it. Dive into that Voxer group. Make
contact with other people who listen to that
podcasts about education. Look around
for that PLN or tribe of teachers that are as
passionate about kids and learning as you are.
"But I don’t have time for that,” my
counterparts protest. “I’m too busy. I have the
people here at school to talk to. I don’t need
that other stuff.”
Okay, I get it. Take care of business. But
don’t call yourself a connected educator.
I know it’s hard to quantify educational
enrichment, and I don’t want to put myself
on any sort of pedestal; I’m nowhere near
an educational rockstar, and I’m making
up for lost time in my own professional
development. But I’d be willing to bet that I’ll
be more enriched, ennobled, and empowered
as a teacher, by virtue of being more
connected the way I’ve just described when I
get to my retirement age than my colleagues
who aren’t connected. Maybe I won’t be the
teacher they make movies about, but I hope
I’ll be the one who knows what he has to do
in order to get better every day he goes into