Teaching

It’s time for connected educators to slow down

It's time for connected educators to slow down

Being a connected educator is a powerful, revolutionary experience. But the frenzied pace can lead to shallow ideas. Be careful.

I distinctly remember the conference where being a connected educator finally clicked for me.

I was at the Indiana Conference on Learning in Indianapolis. All it took was following the conference’s Twitter hashtag during the keynote address to hook me.

I noticed all of the educators.

I noticed all of the great opinions and ideas.

And when someone retweeted or replied to my ideas, it was electrifying.

From the moment I got connected to other educators and their ideas through social media, I couldn’t get enough of the fast pace.

Lists of apps. Lists of ideas. The sheer volume of great resources available instantly.

I wanted to ditch my textbooks, ditch my textbook theories and ideas about education. I found all the ammunition I needed to wage that war.

It was the pace that got me hooked.

Now, it’s the pace that starts to scare me.

I think it’s time to slow down.

I fear that I’m headed toward a microwaved TV dinner version of professional learning: too quick and too shallow. I don’t know if that’s good for education or my students.

bammy award banner for DTTTwitter chats used to make my night. I could gather all of these great quotes, anecdotes, websites and one-liners about virtually any education topic. I could throw out my own ideas and they would be noticed and shared with other educators.

That’s all good stuff. Twitter chats are still revolutionary and a powerful force for education.

But when thought on education, on reform, on solid technology integration is boiled down to 140 characters at a time, complex ideas can become too simple. Important issues can become trivialized.

The Internet has to hold thousands (maybe millions) of blog posts, articles and pages about education. All it takes is a quick Twitter, Google or Google Plus search to find information or opinion on anything education-related.

I’m catching myself adopting a “scan and share” mentality with all of these good ideas. I can scan my massive Twitter feed, find a handful of posts that interest me and spend 10 seconds on each before retweeting them. I think, “That post had some good ideas,” but I don’t end up implementing them and they’re filed away with the thousands of other tweets.

I think it’s time that I slow down too. (Maybe this post is more for me than anyone else.)

It’s like the term “first-world problems,” like complaining about a cell phone whose battery dies too quickly or trash service that doesn’t empty the garbage cans on time.

These are connected educator problems. They’re the kind that didn’t exist when I started teaching 10 years ago, but they’re great problems to have. The fire hose of resources is great to have, but when it’s time to drink from it, you can’t just open up your mouth and fire away.

We need to slow down. We need to think about the issues that face our classes and the education system as a whole. We need to avoid the temptation to scan and share, to digest and dismiss.

What the education system and our schools need are thoughtful, well developed ideas. What we need is execution instead of information consumption.

The resources and networks that exist to support teachers these days are powerful and game-changing.

And if they’re game-changing, we need to use them to change the game instead of kill time or fill cyberspace.

(For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links, “like” Ditch That Textbook on Facebook and follow @jmattmiller on Twitter!)

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We’re all cheaters as educators, but we have to be

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