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The Value of Connection: Bringing the World Into Classrooms

Pernille Ripp

 I didn't know I was unconnected until I got connected.  I thought I was doing just fine, I read some education books, I had some new ideas, and I spoke to my colleagues.  I thought I was connected but I really didn't know what that meant.  I didn't realize that there were other ways to share, other ways to be inspired, other ways to be challenged. I didn't realize that there was a whole global community of educators who were reaching out to one another, pushing each other forward, teaching and reaching for a better way to do education. You can say that being unconnected wasn't that bad, I just didn't know how amazing being connected could be.

Now with more than 3 years of being a connected educator, I know the difference it has made in my life.  At first I preached connectedness to anyone that would listen.  If you asked where my new idea came from I tell a long tale of the incredible world of Twitter and blogs.  I would regale you with stories of friendships, supports, and moments in which I was so inspired I wanted to cry. Often, by this time, my audience was clearly tuned out.  After a while I shortened the answer, sure, I told them that I got the idea on Twitter or so and so's blog, but I left it at that.  Strangers and their ideas were my constant companion and inspiration but others clearly didn't see how reaching out to complete strangers would in any way benefit a classroom when we had all that we need right outside our own classroom doors.  

Yet it's the strangers that push me forward.  It is the strangers that feed me new ideas, new initiatives, new challenges, that mold me now as a connected educator.  It is these 140 character interactions that push me to fight for what it means to be connected. So when someone rolls their eyes at Twitter, or accuses me of self-promoting through my blog, I know it is not out of viciousness but rather that they just don't get it. I know that they think that they are connected, that their colleagues are enough, that their district is all they need to know.  I know they do it more out of fear of the unknown, of the fear of the stigma that comes with being on Twitter, of the investment of time that they think I must sacrifice every day.  

But it is time to realize that being a connected educator is not just a frivolous choice that somehow feeds my ego.  It is time to realize that being connected is something we must model for our students so that they in turn can become true global citizens that know there are others to reach out to.  So we can bring the world into our classrooms in an authentic manner and model international relationship building.  We don't stay connected to self-promote, or to feel better than others because of our connectedness.  We stay connected because of what it has done to our teaching, to our thinking and to our students' lives.  

Being connected has proven itself worthy of our time, and it will for you as well.  But you have to get connected to experience it, trust me, you are, indeed, missing out on a whole world of knowledge.

Pernille Ripp (@PernilleRipp) is a 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, a proud techy geek, creator of the GlobalRead Aloud Project, co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. Her first book, Passionate Learners: Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today, will be released by PLPress this fall.

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