10 Ways to Become a Connected Online Educator

connected educatorOctober is officially Connected Educator Month 2013 (CEM), part of an initiative from the the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology. Online instructors, and online students preparing to work in the field of education, can expect a “month-long celebration of community, with educators at all levels, from all disciplines, moving towards a fully connected and collaborative profession.”

This is the second year for CEM and it seems to be growing with more than 240 scheduled events and 180 participating organizations. How connected are you? Find out more about all that this month has to offer and take some time to get involved.

1: Sign up online.

Registration is free and provides you with periodic updates throughout the month about CEM activities, such as scheduled webinars, forum discussions, exhibits and tours, and related contests. This will also put you on a mailing list (which in my experience doesn’t send a huge volume of messages) so you’ll receive advanced notice of 2014 dates.

2: Explore CEM resources and themes.

The CEM website catalogs a host of resources including publications, research reports, an online community directory, and archived materials from CEM 2012′s sessions. The CEM Starter Kit [PDF] covers all of the basics and includes a day-by-day task list to keep you on track and actively connecting.

CEM 2013 features six themes that “provide a more cohesive experience for those who want or need one.” This year you will find sessions and activities grouped around these topics – informal social learning, connected leadership, personalized learning, STEM and literacy, moving from connection to collaboration, and 21st century classroom management – to help focus your attention and time.

3: Review the calendar.

With hundreds of events to choose from, the main CEM calendar provides multiple ways to search for specific sessions by topic (e.g., mobile, online education, technology), audience (e.g., administrators, educators, technology specialists), and type (e.g., discussion, course, conference, podcast, webinar). Each calendar entry includes more details about the event and its provider, as well as a link to participation options. Some events will require separate registration, but all are free to attend.

4: Schedule time to participate.

Once you’ve got a list of sessions you are interested in, the next step is to schedule time to attend. Add the dates and times to your existing calendar (keeping time zones in mind!) or create a free calendar account on the CEM site to save events you want to attend to your own personal page.

Here are just a few sessions you may want to consider, which focus on higher education, online learning, and educational technology.

  • Learning Beyond Letter Grades MOOC (Monday, 10/7 – 11/16): Led by Concordia University Wisconsin professor Bernard Bull, this six-week self-paced Massive Open Online Course begins during CEM and is limited to 1000 learners. During this course, “participants will experiment with different forms of assessment and examine a variety of real world examples of learning organizations that do not use letter grades.”
  • Become a Connected Educator – Creating Your PLN (Wednesday, 10/9, 5pm ET): If you are a new teacher or new to online communities, this webinar from edWeb.net will be a good introduction. This community will present a variety of techniques for building a personal learning network as an educator or future teacher.
  • National Writing Project’s #write2connect (Thursday, 10/10, 7pm ET): “How does writing today facilitate connections among ideas? People? Disciplines?” This is the focus of this year’s National Day on Writing to be held on October 21st. Tune in to this information session via Blog Talk Radio to find out how you and your students can participate with the National Writing Project (NWP) via local sites and Twitter.
  • Blended Learning: Personalizing Instruction for Students (Tuesday, 10/15 – 11/26): This is another MOOC that also kicks off during CEM. Offered through Coursera, instructors from the Silicon Schools Fund, New Teacher Center, and Clayton Christensen Institute will cover “the different types of blended learning and the next practices from real schools using these models.”
  • Educator Innovator: Learning to #teachtheweb (Tuesday, 10/15, 12pm ET): Teaching an online course often means learning about new technologies and even developing some of your own materials. This webinar from the Mozilla Foundation will show you how to use specific tools “to create open and sharable ‘teaching kits’”and introduce you to an already active Teach the Web community.
  • Online Educators and Social Networks: Connection, Conversation, and Collaboration. (Wednesday, 10/16, 12pm ET): Our very own #IOLchat is participating in CEM this year. Where do you meet with other online learning professionals? Join me for this Twitter chat to recommend your favorite places to connect with colleagues online and suggest ideas for engaging in more collaborative activities in the future.
  • Creative Classroom Activities: eLearning (Tuesday, 10/22, 5pm ET): This webinar from Adobe will feature a guided tour of the Adobe Education Exchange, which includes activities, lesson plans, and resources. A new e-seminar series will also be introduced.

5: Use the hashtag.

Participants and session sponsors are using the #ce13 hashtag all month long to promote the CEM initiative and share what they are learning along the way. Include the hashtag in your tweets and other social media updates, and use it to filter (and join) the conversation among other educators who are connecting in this way. You can also follow Connected Educators on Twitter for updates.

6: Earn a badge.

There are more than 20 open digital learning badges available to document your activities during Connected Educator Month. If you are new to Twitter, consider completing the required tasks to earn the “Baby Tweet” badge. Collaborate with someone from another country on a CEM activity and you can earn the CEM World-Traveller badge. These are just two of the options available. Check the website and CEM Starter Kit for more details.

7: Join edConnectr.

The edConnectr online community is “designed to help educators and friends of education connect and collaborate with colleagues who are looking for support or have expertise to share.” It will take a few minutes to sign up and complete your profile, but once you are set up and logged in you’ll find several unique tools to help you identify others in the network with similar interests. It is also within this community that you can participate in the CEM Book Club.

8: Take the “A Day in the Life of a Connected Educator” challenge.

The Indiana Department of Education’s Office of eLearning invites each of us to share what it’s like to be a “connected educator.” This challenge has open guidelines that encourage you to be creative with what you develop. You could write a blog post, create an infographic or other illustration, record a video, or any other format of your choosing, as long as it can be accessed online.

9: Share CEM with your students, classmates, and colleagues.

Use the “share this page” buttons to let your network know which online sessions you are planning to attend. You’ll find these options on each event’s detailed calendar page allowing you to extend the reach of CEM through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Email. Have you already attended a session you want others to know about? Find ways to communicate what you learned through a blog post or article, slide presentation, announcement in your online course, or an agenda item in an upcoming meeting.

10: Stay connected through October and beyond.

We're Connected #ce13While Connected Educator Month provides a wide variety of opportunities to meet new colleagues, it’s just a starting point. Several of the sessions, such as the MOOCs and the Book Club, extend into November and December. Use your experiences this month as inspiration to launch new connections and your own professional development initiative in the coming year.

As you attend sessions, meet other educators, learn about new resources, and strengthen existing connections, think about what you might have to offer a wider audience next year. Think of the ways you could assist students, colleagues, and co-workers as you consider adding an event, online or in your local community, to the Connected Educator Month calendar in 2014.

How are you participating in CEM this month? Let us know about your favorite sessions and experiences so far!

Join Melissa Venable on Twitter and Google+.

Source: Inside Online Learning Blog