August 2012 is Connected Educator Month [CEM], a time dedicated to educators for sharing ideas and developing professional skills. An interdisciplinary initiative of the United States Department of Education, CEM is based on networking and collaboration amongst educators, researchers and thinkers who wish to foster innovative plans and skills through online events and activities like webinars, discussions and forums. A wide variety of relevant topics such as evolution of the education process, integration and importance of technology, personalized learning and professional changes, are being discussed during this event. Numerous private and public educational related organizations are participating in this venture including, American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages, online educational resources like BrainPOP, BrightTalk, Cable in the Classroom, Cisco, Adobe, etc.
If you are interested in participating in any capacity, there are various opportunities to virtually get involved in CEM. The schedule of webinars, forums, tours, projects, activities, and contests can be accessed here. If an entire school district is keen to partake in this venture, there are specific “District Toolkits” developed for their convenience. In addition to Keynote speakers and webinars on different subjects, a book club is also organized by CEM. The book, “The Connected Educator” by Sheryl Nussbaum Brach, is discussed on a weekly basis through webinar meetings which take place on Wednesday at 9:00pm ET. Although the book club began on August 8th, 2012, one is free to join the conversation anytime during the duration of the month. Furthermore, a virtual global event will take place from August 20-24th, aptly titled, the Learning 2.0 Conference. It will be a platform that facilitates a global dialogue on the evolution of teaching, alterations in the classroom setting, influence of social media and digital knowledge on students, and the importance of entrepreneurship. As a substantial aspect of CEM, it will focus on enhancing the professional and personal growth of teachers.
I attended one of the introductory seminars which proved to be an enlightening discussion amongst leaders in the education field. The topic of discussion was, “Connected Education and New Technologies- Key Themes for Learning,” which is currently a pressing issue in the field of education. The panelists included a mix of experienced academics and education entrepreneurs like Drew Davidson, Chris Dede, Cable Green and John Katzman. They discussed the significance of moving forward towards technological integration, the practicality of this endeavour, outlets of incorporating technology in the classroom, and their corresponding financial and economical implications. Dede, the Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, remarked that it is an interesting time in the evolvement of the education model due to the cultural shift caused by technological advancements. Thus, teachers play a key role in improving the effectiveness of the current system. While they agreed that the scale and social aspects of technology are considerably advantageous, the credibility of copious amounts of information available on the internet is of concern. For many students, myself included, the internet conveniently serves as a first stop of research, before most of us consider paying a visit to the library. Search engines, and sources like Google Books and Scholar, have altered the way information is circulated and made available to people. Thus, teachers have to consider various modes of knowledge transfer, because a different type of learning occurs outside the walls of the classroom.
If you are in the education field, this is a professional learning opportunity you would not want to miss.