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Networking with Purpose

I've never been very good at networking in the traditional sense. Superficial conversations with people I didn't know, trying my hand at small talk, and sharing my passions and dreams with others has not always come naturally to me. However, few years ago I received the book, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and I discovered that although networking did not appeal to me, connecting did. Ferrazzi defines connecting as "a constant process of giving and receiving--of asking for and offering help." In my mind that's more than networking; it's a community, a collaborative circle.

When I served as a professional development director, building a collaborative circle was always part of my role. Reaching out to other professional development directors and coordinators in my immediate area, and then later to others in different states and provinces allowed me to solicit and share expertise. We leveraged what we knew by learning from and with one another. Using a variety of social media and collaborative tools grew my circle even further, expanding my conversations to networks in other countries.

Knowing that educators have different learning needs and benefit from more than one type of learning, the new Learning Designs standard now speaks to the power of technology to help us share, construct, and analyze information to enhance practice.

In order to impact increase educator effectiveness, selecting technology as a learning design should be approached like any other model of professional learning. The use of technology should not stray from the traditional planning process. The tools and processes are identified after the intended outcomes and needs are defined.

When making selections about technology, remember the following:

  1. Start with the intended outcomes, drawn from an analysis of student and educator learning needs;

  2. Identify the technology tools that will engage educators in applying the processes they are expected to use;

  3. Attend to the learners' knowledge, skills, and attitudes;

  4. Select a tool that will move teachers beyond comprehension of the surface features of a new idea to a deep understanding; and

  5. Determine ways to provide feedback, ongoing assessment of and for learning, and coaching so the learning becomes fully integrated into practice.

Ferrazzi talks about expanding your circle by connecting someone else's circle to yours. While collaboration may not always come easily for teachers, what matters is how we begin to reframe our thinking. When educators see changes in student learning as a result of their work with other teachers both inside and outside their schools, the potential for continued and richer learning is endless.

Jacqueline Kennedy
Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives, Learning Forward

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The opinions expressed in Learning Forward's PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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