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3 nondigital ways to get connected

By Nicholas Provenzano 10/29/2015 Professional learning

This is an updated version of a post that was originally published on Oct. 24, 2014. 

Many people assume that being a connected educator is all about jumping on the computer and staring at a screen for hours on end. Engaging with educators through Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media is one way to connect, but it is not the only way.

Sometimes it helps to use the old-fashioned method of building a professional learning network before you start connecting digitally. Here are some tips for making analog connections as well:

1. Look around your building.

Educators often forget that they are surrounded by experts every day. It’s easy to assume there is little to learn from someone who teaches in a different subject area, but the opposite is often true. While the content may differ, the common methods for reaching students are varied and valuable to all educators.

Start reaching out to other educators in your own building and talk shop. You can do this at lunch or on a Friday after school over frosty beverages. There are people doing great things all around you, and it is important not to forget about them when looking to become more connected.

2. Attend conferences.

Many conferences happen year-round that cater to educators. Conferences provide a huge opportunity to connect with like-minded educators and initiate meaningful conversations. This can happen in the hallways between sessions or during the sessions themselves.

Presenting at these conferences is another way to make connections. You may have to push outside your comfort zone, but the value it adds to your personal network is worth it.

3. Visit other districts.

Once you’ve made connections within your district and at conferences, I recommend visiting other districts and taking your learning network to a new level. Seeing firsthand how other teachers engage students — and how other schools are managed — can be a powerful catalyst for change within your own school or classroom.

Building relationships with other schools can also help bring together students from different backgrounds to collaborate on projects and create a larger learning community that benefits students as well as educators.

These three tips can help any educator break out of their ruts and change their approach to teaching and leadership. Making connections is important because it allows you to encounter diverse opinions and requires you to reflect on your thoughts and beliefs. These are essential for educators who want to grow and perfect their craft.

Taking the time this school year to reach out and connect — with the colleagues in your school and with the far-flung peeps in your professional learning network — will be well worth it.

Nicholas Provenzano is an English teacher for Gross Pointe Public Schools in Michigan, host of the #NerdyCast podcast and the 2013 ISTE Outstanding Educator of the Year. Find out more on his blog, The Nerdy Teacher

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