For the past 20 years I have worked in the field of Public Education, first as a teacher in both upstate NY and RI, then as an assistant principal at both the Middle and High School levels and finally as a principal for a Transformation High School in Pawtucket, RI, Shea High School for the last 4 years. At each step along my journey I was pushed by a desire to improve the lives of the students I worked with. I wanted to make sure that because of the time they spent with me, these students would have a better opportunity for success in life, whether it was through our social interaction, or the knowledge that I was able to impart on them. That is largely why I moved from the classroom to administration at the age of 29. My hope was that in each new role I might be able to impact a larger group of students. Instead of impacting the 120 or so students that I had in my classes, I was now working with the 1000 or so students in my school.
About 5 years ago I became what many of us in education call a Connected Educator. By using the power of the internet and social media, first Twitter and now LinkedIn, I expanded my influence and benefited greatly from the knowledge of others. I have been able to learn an immense amount in short period of time. At one point a few years ago, I tweeted that "I have learned more in 18 months, than I did in the last 18 years, because of Twitter". For someone who is not connected that may seem like a ridiculous statement, however it was best explained by Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd), a colleague who I have been digitally connected with for about five years, but only met for the first time at the 2016 Model Schools conference last month. He said, "connecting on social media is like going to Disney World…it is difficult to describe to people who have never experienced it”. The experience of being a Connected Educator at Model Schools was best captured in a recent blog post The Magic of Being Connected, by another friend Chuck Gardner (@charleswgardner), who I also originally connected with virtually, but finally met face to face at Model Schools.
I have always believed that relationships are the key to everything that we do in life and certainly in the field of education. The reality is that relationships today are in many ways much different than they were when we were younger or even five years ago. Today, many relationship start online and often never result in face to face interaction. However, it is the conversations, the learning and the networking that occurs across states, countries and even the world, that helps us improve ourselves and in turn, those around us, including our teachers and students. Having experienced the growth as a Connected Educator for the last five years, I believe that we have an obligation now to our students to help teach them how to become Connected Learners. In doing so, we also have an obligation to teach them how to become successful and appropriate digital citizens, because although the internet and social media can be a tremendous tool to use in personal growth, it can also be a place where people, students in particular, create a negative impression of themselves, know as their digital footprint. This footprint, can stay with them for life and it can impact them as they apply to colleges and eventually careers. Research shows that colleges and employers are looking and using the information they find to make determinations about acceptance to schools and/or hiring of employees.
Although schools have a major focus on content knowledge, specifically in the areas of ELA, Math and now STEM, it is clear that the soft skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, public speaking and networking are going to be vital to their success in life, so we need to make sure that as educators we are supporting our students with the tools and knowledge to grow in these areas as well. Knowledge is changing and doubling so fast. In his article for Industry Tap, David Russell Shilling, examines how prior to 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of WWII knowledge was doubling every 25 years, compared today, where it is doubling every 13 months and according to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. Since we are preparing our students in many cases for jobs that do not yet exist, let's make sure that we teach them these soft life skills to better prepare them for any workforce setting.
As I’ve myself experienced the value of networking and benefited from the many connections I have made over the last 5 years, I am excited to now be in a position to impart these lessons onto many students. I’ve recently taken on a position as VP of Education Innovation at GoEnnounce. I am very passionate about the award winning learner profile platform GoEnnounce has created which helps students develop, grow and understand the value of a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Continued use of GoEnnounce teaches students these important people skills and empowers them to be connected learners. I believe that with continued use of GoEnnounce students will learn these important people skills and be empowered to grow their own network that will ultimately be able to do the same for them as it did for me.
Don Miller -