Just recently I’ve been consumed by design. In part this is because my wife wants to spend $50000 on a redesigned bathroom. Yep, you read that correctly, $50000! (Like all good husbands, I used the only two words I’ve ever needed, “Yes Dear.”) But, I’ve also been focusing on design aspects related to both this blog and education in general.
If you look to the top of the sidebar you’ll see that I have a newly designed, professional logo for “The Connected Teacher.” (Alix Schuppan is a colleague and a gifted graphic designer, you’ll find her website at http://www.schuppandesigns.com/) Of course, if you’ve been here before, you may have noticed that I also have a new, customised theme. This is all part of a process to redesign and lift my digital presence. In the months to come I will be launching a website under my recently acquired business name, “The Connected Teacher.” Was that a sharp, expectant intake of breath I heard? I make no apologies for setting out to build a “corporate image” online; I believe it is necessary for my future plans.
Buddy the Elf responds to the announcement of a Connected Teacher website Image from www.redbubble.com
I have also, of necessity, been putting a great deal of thought into learning design. (see my Simon Breakspear inspired post immediately below.) Next year, my school will be ditching iPads in favour of a laptop program. As I’ve stated previously, my greatest fear is that teachers will not know how to unlock the potential for improved student learning within these, admittedly, very different devices. I’ve realised that the most immediate need is to have teachers (everywhere) accept the difference between digital and digitized learning design. I could go into a long explanation, but here is the distinction perfectly captured in a great graphic from Dr. Tim Clark on www.byotnetwork.com
Digital .v. Digitized Learning Design
And the other need … accepting that I will now design online, digital learning for teachers. This year, as eLearning Manager, I’ve published a fortnightly newsletter on all things learning tech. I’ve also conducted some (sparsely attended) voluntary after school PD. Teachers are “time poor” and taking our PD digital will provide them with more opportunities to tap in. And that is part of my overall plan; designing online professional development for teachers. I also know that in some education systems, teacherpreneurs are already working to create digital products for others to employ in their classrooms. So, stay tuned for “The New Adventures of The Connected Teacher.” Anyone want to buy a TShirt?
It’s good to be blogging again after the insanity that was end of term examinations and student reports. This post will be somewhat of a compilation although I’m certainly not ready as yet to release a “Best Of” or “Greatest Hits” collection. (Can you guess who attended a Blues Festival last week? Oh, and by the way Jimmy Cliff is still kicking it at 68. Only hope I’m as impressive fifteen years from now!)
In an online community which has started to utilise, whilst still debating, the term teacherpreneur, I have come to understand the need for “building a brand.” Whilst entrepreneurship and brand immediately summon up the idea of monetary gain, I can assure you I haven’t made a cent! Dave Orphal gives the following definition of a teacherpreneur as distinct from a teacher leader or an educational entrepreneur. (You might also want to use the link below to access Dave’s excellent Prezi on this idea.)
“These are part-time classroom teachers. This is the big idea — job sharing so that the traditionally non-teaching jobs associated with a school; the traditionally non-teaching role of ed-policy maker; the traditionally non-teacher role of researcher, staff developer, etc… can all be done by people still have a foot in the classroom.”
Having taught for over 30 years whilst holding a range of positions of added responsibility, this is the job I want now! Of course, I can’t see this happening in the real world; my school is highly unlikely to make me their resident teacherpreneur. So, I figure that the way to succeed is by building an online brand which is “legitimised” by the fact that I am still active in the classroom. The problem of course, is exactly how to construct my brand. I believe I have made the correct choices … so here are my “Four Cornerstones For Teacherpreneurs.”
1. Build A PLN: This Friday I will celebrate my first “Twirthday.” In that first year on Twitter I have accumulated 700 followers and have sent around 3300 tweets. Not a bad effort considering that I spent the first three or four months as a lurker. All of my followers are either teachers or companies involved in the field of education. Whilst I do occasionally tweet about films or books or music … I believe it is essential to be perceived by my PLN as someone who is excited about and heavily involved in education. I visit Twitter several times a day and ensure that I respond to all direct messages and mentions. I also consider it imperative to thank new followers for connecting and to promise to build a relationship of sharing with them.
2. Create Content: We certainly live in an age where creation has overtaken consumption. I emphasise this fact with my students and accept that I too must be a genuine creator of content. Obviously, this blog is one forum in which I can share what I am doing in class, what I believe and what I have “made.” It is also important to make your content available to the wider global market, to “put it out there.” Earlier this year, I created a Haiku Deck presentation entitled “The New Mindset” for colleagues at my school. (Yeah, I know I mention this at every opportunity!) I decided to put it online through the Haiku Deck gallery from where it has been picked up, tweeted about, pinned, embedded and shared. I am astonished that this presentation has now been downloaded over 6000 times and has garnered responses like this one. (Thanks, Matt.)
3. Seek and Accept Opportunities: I was pleasantly surprised when a random Twitter mention of owning a home in South Australia led to me being offered a guest post spot on Fractus Learning. (Nick Grantham, one of their principals, is an Australian!) Writing my contribution took a great deal of time but was well worth the effort, both personally and professionally. My post “You Can’t Adjust the Sails from an Armchair” was very well received and Fractus Learning offered me a “regular gig.” If you haven’t read my musings as yet, I would certainly welcome your feedback.
I am also delighted, as I’ve no doubt mentioned more than once before, to have built an association with Haiku Deck. Becoming one of their International Gurus has secured the opportunity for me to present about the application at conferences later this year. For me, the best part of this will be having the opportunity to meet some of my tweeps in person for the first time.
4. Connect With Preservice Teachers: I am flattered (… and that’s definitely the right word) that I have connected with many preservice teachers as part of my PLN. I think that all educators, especially those with lots of classroom experience, have an obligation to give back to the profession. I have begun to share resources and ideas via Twitter with young (and not so young) student teachers at Flinders, USQ and ACU. I sincerely hope that they remember that you can be 53 and open to the “Winds of Change” in education. This post has almost devolved into self-love but I want to offer one final artefact before signing off. I relish the downloads and the positive feedback but this video from preservice teacher Jenni Brown (follow her on Twitter @jenbrown01) is most definitely the kind of reinforcement I enjoy the most. It lets me know I’m well on my way to attaining my desired teacherpreneurship. (Is that even a word?)
Jenni’s video on “How ICTs Can Promote Professional Development” is well worth viewing, even if her drawing of “The Connected Teacher” looks nothing like me. We would both welcome your feedback.
PS: For the period from April 5-April 20 inclusive, I will be travelling overseas with my Year 12 Ancient History students. We will be visiting Istanbul, Troy, Ephesus, Athens, Mycenae, Delphi and Olympia. I will be live blogging during the trip. These posts (which prove to parents that I haven’t lost their children!) may be of interest to my fellow History teachers and can be found at