Imagine connecting with practicing teachers on your own and asking them about their opinions concerning teaching. This is something that we are challenging our students at UNI to do. We are asking them to expand their PLN (Professional Learning Network) to find teachers in the field. Once they have found them, we are asking them to begin a discussion with them about teaching. In some cases, it is a one-shot experience and in other cases it turns into an on-going connection. This is a process that we use with our future teachers, but it is a practice that could be just as valuable with other practicing teachers.
Finding a Teacher
How do you find other teachers? There are multiple ways to connect with other educators, but here are a few that I especially like:
Did you know that if you searched Twitter for #3rdchat that you would find a plethora of 3rd grade teachers who want to connect with distant colleagues? This holds true with #2ndchat and #8thchat and #HSchat and #MSchat. Here is a whole list of educator #hashtags by Cybrary Man. (Yes, I know that these #hashtags are also used for Twitter Chats, but they are a treasure trove for making connections.)
Global Collaboration Databases
You can also find teachers waiting for connections in Global Collaboration databases. These are databases where educators post their names and contact information hoping that they can find other educators with whom they can connect. There is a variety of these databases out there, but one that I share with my students is Classroom Bridges. This is a project created by Katie Siemer for her Google Certified Innovator project.
What Should I Ask?
I have had a few students who have searched this database to connect with educators. One of my students recently made a connection with an educator in Colorado. They have an appointment to have a Google Hangout discussion next week. Everything seems to be set except when this student sent me an interesting question: What should I ask her?
Great Question!! I had been so intent on them making the connections that we didn't actually talk about what she could/should ask this teacher. Should she ask about running a classroom? Should she query about building connections with her students? Should all of the questions be professional or should some be about the personal side of being a teacher? What about time management?
So how should I answer her? I asked some of my Ed Tech and Design team and these are some of our suggestions.
- What skills (technology and otherwise) do you wish you had when you started teaching?
- Why did you become a teacher?
- What have been your favorite projects and learning opportunities you have had with your kids?
- What global collaboration projects have you done? Tell me some stories.
- How diverse is your class? How do you use technology to enhance your classroom's cultural inclusivity?
- Do each of your students have their own computer/tablet? If so, how has it changed the way you teach and how they learn?
And Finally, "Can we stay in touch?"
What are your suggestions for what she should ask her new professional connection? What would you ask another teacher if you were in this situation?
Leave your suggestions in the comments sections or tell us a story of when you connected with another teacher this way.