Ed Tech | Spotlight

Connecting the Educational Dots

The United States Department of Education has declared August "Connected Educator Month," with an aim toward broadening and deepening educator participation in online communities and networks, and giving education leaders the chance to work together to move the field forward.

The event includes 265 online events, including forums, webinars, guided tours, activities, open houses, contests, and badges. More than 100 major national education organizations, communities, and companies are participating in the event, including American Association of School Administrators, American Association of School Librarians, American Institutes for Research, and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, among others.

The month-long event is focused on those educators, school districts, and states that are not yet taking advantage of the available online communities and learning networks. A two-day online conference--focused on the transformation of teaching and learning in the 21st Century and featuring U.S. educational leaders--will kick off the event.

Darren Cambridge, a senior consultant with American Institutes for Research, in Washington, DC, said the event is part of the larger Connected Educators project that rolled out about 18 months ago. The U. S. Department of Education contracted with the American Institutes for Research and five other organizations to complete the work, which centers on increasing the quality, accessibility, and connectedness of existing and emerging online communities of practice.

It quickly became apparent that achieving those goals wasn't going to be easy. "There's a wealth of very diverse and impactful online social learning opportunities for educators," said Cambridge. "However, it can be difficult for individual educators to get their heads around all of that, find the relevant information, and explore their full range of options."

Working together, the educational groups came up with a plan to spend one month broadening the education community's attention on those resources while also connecting with one another online. "We want to help increase and sustain participation in these online communities and social networks that have demonstrated potential to support learning and performance," said Cambridge. "We also want to help educators see what everyone else was up to and create some new collaborations."

Cambridge said Connected Educator Month differs from previous online conferences or collaborations owing to its broad scope and applicability for everyone, from the individual teacher to the district superintendent.

"The policymakers and thought leaders that we have lined up will address everything from big-picture educational issues to those that directly impact the individual educator and everything in between," said Cambridge. "Our goal is to create a balance between long-term thinking and the stuff that's immediately practical and useful for participants."

To help support educators, Connected Educator Month also features a starter kit that provides daily activity suggestions for users to explore during the month of August. The activities are focused on getting teachers more engaged in social learning online, according to Cambridge. He said he sees the month-long event as a good opportunity for educators to gain free knowledge, skills, and resources that they can use immediately to solve problems and take back to their classrooms for the 2012-2013 school year.

Cambridge also hinted that the event could be repeated in coming years. "This is the first," he said, "and hopefully not the last Connected Educator Month."

Connected Educator Month: List of Events

(all events are listed in Eastern Daylight Savings Time)

Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012

11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - Connected Education and Peer Professional Development Panel and open discussion on peer-to-peer professional development.

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. - Professional Learning and the Learning Profession How teaching and classroom trends will be impacted by 21st Century technology.

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. - Need More Broadband? SETDA Thinks You Do Learn about The Broadband Imperative, a recently released report on student and teacher access to broadband.

3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. - Knocking On The Door: Connected Education and New Technologies – Key Themes for Learning Exploration of which innovations and technologies will most likely effect education in the future.

4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. - Connected Learning and The State of Education Today: Directors of the Office of Educational Technology Online panel discussion about connected education today, featuring past and present directors of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Education Technology.

5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. - Keynote Speaker Deborah Meier

7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. - Keynote Speaker Chris Lehmann

Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - Keynote Speaker Douglas Rushkoff

1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. - Connected Education and Serving Every Student From Gifted to Special Needs Panel and open discussion on how connected education can serve all students.

3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. - It's Personal: Personalized Learning for Students and Educators How technology can facilitate personalized learning in the 2012-13 school year.

5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. - Beyond Top Down: Distributed Leadership and Teacher-Led Change

One of the main forums for CEM, using networks and online communities to effect change throughout education.

7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. - Keynote Speaker Larry Johnson

Friday, Aug. 3, 2012

11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. - Keynote Speaker Connie Yowell

1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. - Point/Counterpoint: Issues & Debates in Connected Education Discussion about key tensions in online community/network development.

2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. - Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: Incenting and Recognizing Teachers for Their Investments in Learning

2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. - Assess4ed.net Open House A virtual tour to learn firsthand about the mission and features of this unique online community of practice.

3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. - Connected Education and The First Six Weeks Using technology to set the pace for the most critical period of the new school year.

5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. - The Sun Never Sets: Connected Education Around the World

Discussion on trends in globally connected education.

Friday, Aug. 17, 2012

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. - Ideas That Work: Programs that Support Drop-Out Prevention and College and Career Readiness This event focuses on the efforts of states and school districts to prepare all students for college and 21st Century careers, even those students who have not excelled in traditional schooling.

More events will be announced. An updated schedule can be found at connectededucators.org/cem.


About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at [email protected].