In a connected teaching model, connection replaces isolation. Classroom educators are fully instrumented, with 24/7 access to data about student learning and analytic tools that help them act on the insights the data provide. Educators are connected to their students and to professional content, resources, and systems that empower them to create, manage, and assess engaging and relevant learning experiences for students both in and outside school. They also are connected to resources and expertise that improve their own instructional practices and that guide them in becoming facilitators and collaborators in their students’ increasingly self-directed learning.
In connected teaching, teaching is a team activity. Individual educators build online learning communities consisting of their students and their students’ peers; fellow educators in their schools, libraries, and afterschool programs; professional experts in various disciplines around the world; members of community organizations that serve students in the hours they are not in school; and parents who desire greater participation in their children’s education.
Episodic and ineffective professional development is replaced by professional learning that is collaborative, coherent, and continuous and that blends more effective in-person courses and workshops with the expanded opportunities, immediacy, and convenience enabled by online learning. For their part, the colleges of education and other institutions that prepare teachers play an ongoing role in the professional growth of their graduates by partnering with schools and organizations that provide engaging and relevant learning experiences throughout the entire course of their careers.
Connected teaching also enables our education system to provide access to effective teaching and learning resources where they are not otherwise available and provide more options for all learners at all levels. This is accomplished by augmenting the expertise and competencies of specialized and exceptional educators with online learning systems and through on-demand courses and other self-directed learning opportunities.
The technology that enables connected teaching is available now, but not all the conditions necessary to leverage it are. Many of our existing educators do not have the same understanding of and ease with using technology that is part of the daily lives of professionals in other sectors and with this generation of students. The same can be said of many of the education leaders and policymakers in schools, districts, and states, and of the higher education institutions that prepare new educators for the field. This gap in technology understanding influences program and curriculum development, funding and purchase decisions about educational and information technology in schools, and pre-service and in-service professional learning. Too often, this gap prevents technology from being used in ways that would improve instructional practices and learning outcomes.
Still, we must introduce connected teaching into our education system rapidly, and for that we must rely on the organizations that support educators in their profession – schools and districts, colleges of education, professional learning providers, and professional organizations. We should also call on education leaders and policymakers to remove barriers to connected teaching and provide incentives and recognition for educators who demonstrate effective teaching in a connected model.
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