October is Connected Educator Month (CEM)! Organized by the U.S. Department of Education, this is CEM’s 3rd year and the calendar is full with online and on-ground sessions.
Why is connecting with other educators so important?
How can online instructors in higher education benefit from participation?
For me, the answer to these questions is the ongoing conversation-at-large. Teaching online can be somewhat isolating, even from other instructors from your own institution and program. Making connections with others who are facing the same situations I’m facing has value. Connecting this way is also about developing a powerful and knowledgeable professional network that I can turn to for input on my never ending list of questions. CEM is one of the annual, predominantly online, events that encourages and facilitates the process of meeting other educators and sharing what you have in common.
Prepare to Participate
Virtual attendance is immensely convenient. You don’t have to leave your home or office, and there’s no cost other than your time and attention. We can log in and listen to a live session, participate in a chat, or browse a resource page during a work break, over lunch, and in the evening. But, if you are like me, unless you take the initiative to add a virtual event to your schedule, you never make it there.
Get started as a CEM participant with these ideas and activities:
- Familiarize yourself with the themes. You’ll find these seven program themes connecting people and sessions throughout the month: Blended Learning; Collaboration & Capacity Building; Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Global Education; Educator Professional Development & Learning; Leadership for Change; Student Agency, Student Voice, and the Maker Movement; Whole Community Engagement.
- Filter with the hashtag (#ce14). Social media is a great way to get involved. Use the Twitter search tool or a management system like Hootsuite to filter your feed and see who is tweeting about CEM. You can also add #ce14 to your social media updates (Pinterest, Google+, and Facebook also use hashtags) to share your experiences during CEM and found resources.
- Follow @edconnectr. This is the official Twitter account of the Connected Educators Initiative. Be sure to follow so you’ll receive event updates and reminders.
- Find a few sessions. Attending all of the sessions is not realistic. (There are more than 400!) Set your own target, maybe one per week or one per theme, as a way to get started. CEM offers a new focus this year on connecting educators globally, so there are events scheduled across a wide range of time zones. Find out how to log into each session before it begins. This usually takes place via URL, but different platforms are in use and some require advance registration.
Highlights for Online Educators
Use the Connected Educator Month searchable calendar to find out what’s happening and when. Sessions are color-coded by format (e.g., Book Club, Workshop, Podcast, Chat) and tagged with keywords, so you’ve got multiple ways to locate items that are relevant to your work and interests.
There are more sessions than you can possibly attend (and they continue to be added to the schedule), so I’ve tried to narrow the options down to a few that focus on higher education and technology subjects. Explore this short list with examples of session types and topics:
- Office Hours for Online Facilitators (WEBINAR: Tuesday, 10/7, 3:00 pm ET) – Join EdTech Leaders Online for a live question and answer session held via Collaborate.
- EdTechX: Design and Development of Educational Technology (COURSE: begins Wednesday, 10/8) – This six-week MOOC is offered via edX and provides a project-based experience that culminates with the creation of a “kickstarter style pitch for a new educational technology.”
- Creating iBooks with iBooks Author (WORKSHOP: Wednesday, 10/15, 1:00am ET) – If you are a Mac user, check out this session for a hands-on walk through of using this tool to create course materials. Additional times are scheduled on 10/23 and 10/30.
- National Day on Writing (TWITTER: Monday, 10/20) – This annual event is coordinated by the National Council of Teachers of English. Use the #WriteMyCommunity hashtag all day to connect with other educators “drawing attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in” via social media, video, articles, essays, and more.
- Tech & Learning Live: 60 Apps in 60 Minutes (WORKSHOP: Friday, 10/24, 1:20 pm ET) – This session is billed for “advanced connected educators” and promises to provide an interactive exchange of helpful tech tools. Be prepared to share your favorites and learn about new tools that have been helpful for other attendees.
In addition to live sessions happening during CEM you’ll find a host of resources available via the event website, including:
- Innovations Exchange Blog: Follow the CEM blog for event welcome messages and information about central presentations, such as the Connected Café series of Twitter chats taking place throughout the month.
- Connected Educator Badges: Explore this collection of digital learning badges designed to motivate your participation in CEM. There are options for basic and advanced involvement, and you can nominate other participants for badges in the peer-to-peer series.
- Connected Educator Profiles: Not sure what it means to be a connected educator? View profiles of a few people who’ve been identified as exemplary connected educators. These include bios as well as interviews and personal stories to inspire your professional development.
- People Matches: A keyword search of the main schedule reveals “people matches” as well as sessions. Use this feature to find and connect with other participants who share your interest in online education and technology.
- CEM 2013 Resources: Check out the archive, which includes recorded sessions, information about related courses, and activities organized by topic (e.g., gaming and mobile learning).
The IOL blog and #IOLchat have been a part of CEM since 2012. This year, we’re doing it again! Join us on Wednesday, October 8th at 12pm ET for a special topic related to this year’s CEM: Making Professional Learning Connections.
As part of the Educator Professional Development and Learning theme, we are interested in finding out how you make connections that lead to enhanced learning and skills in online teaching. Take some time to inventory your current professional connections:
- Q1. Where do you find the most relevant learning opportunities?
- Q2. Where do you serve in the role of mentor or teacher for other educators?
- Q3. What resources communities, organizations, committees, and associations do you recommend for educators interested in teaching online?
- Q4. Where do you want to improve your learning connections?
- Q5. Are you participating in other CEM sessions and interactions?
Whether you choose to follow the CEM backchannel via social media or attend a few live sessions, use this opportunity to bridge the distance. Connect with other online educators for support, professional development, teaching tips, and motivation. And consider how you might contribute to the list of sessions as a presenter or event sponsor in 2015.
Source: Inside Online Learning Blog