Staying “Connected” in October
October is Connected Educator Month—celebrating educators who leverage online communities of practice to ‘connect’ around improving teacher and leader effectiveness and enhancing student learning.
Today, more than ever, educators can connect, lead, learn, and master their practice through sites like TeacherTube.com and teachingchannel.org, to name a few. Through these sites, teachers are recording themselves teaching, posting their recordings, and are getting immediate feedback from fellow teachers around the world. Additionally, teachers are gaining increased professional development, free and online, through massive open online courses (MOOCS).
Founded in 2012, Connected Educator month has it’s own website which has free online activities, occurring every day throughout the month of October, that highlight online innovations for teachers. I highly encourage you visit this website—the upcoming activities cover topics such as social media in the classroom, MOOCs, and eBooks.
And what would Connected Educator month be without the internet connectivity in the buildings at which our educators teach? Not much. Yet today, most schools in the U.S. lack the necessary connectivity to keep up with education tools such as the upcoming Smarter Balanced online assessments.
Why haven’t schools kept up? Since 1996, schools have received rebates for internet services through a program called E-Rate. For the past few years, however, demand has far out-stripped funding. Additionally, E-Rate’s funding priorities are no longer current; for example, funding pagers is considered a priority (when I was in middle school, the “cool” kids carried pagers; today’s middle school students have no idea what a pager is).
Catalyzed by these challenges, in June 2013, President Obama launched the ConnectED initiative, a modernized E-Rate, which seeks to bring 21st century technology to our nation’s schools. The Federal Communications Commission is seeking feedback (until October 16) on this better E-Rate to make it so schools can get more federal funding (and funding flexibility) to support today’s academic demands of increased bandwidth, as well as wireless technologies and learning management systems. I encourage you to provide feedback and public comment. (Note: the link is dead because the Federal Government is closed. When they’re back open for business, I highly encourage you to comment!)
Keeping our schools current keeps our students and educators connected. And there’s no better a month to make this clear than Connected Educator month.