1. Teacher Life

Creating Our Own Connections for Learning

You can listen to the full podcast discussing the post below on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify, or watch it on YouTube

I read a comment on a feedback form that said something like, “These are great ideas, but how do they apply to teaching math?” 

Every educator, including myself, wants ideas and examples directly to the work that they do.  This is human nature.  

But on the other hand, one of the things that I have always focused on is how do I create those connections myself and make my learning personal?  

I shared this quote by Stephen Downes in “The Innovator’s Mindset,” and it has always resonated with me:

For example, I find value in every professional learning opportunity that I attend because I do my best to create meaning for myself.  The ideas might not be directly applicable to what I do, but I make the learning personal by creating my own connections.

In “Innovate Inside the Box,” I discuss the importance of being “observant” and how that is a necessary skill in our world today:

As more and more information is thrown our way and the “noise” becomes louder, the ability to slow down, listen, find great information, and make deep connections is becoming much more essential; for example, if you are new to a social media platform, finding relevant and meaningful information feels a lot like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It seems impossible and overwhelming. The skill of finding nuggets of wisdom and powerful links to information is one that you develop over time. And it’s a skill that directly relates to two of the “21st Century Literacies” as presented by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE):

• Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information

• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts

In short, these literacies rely on our (and our students’) ability to be observant of the right information—not all the information.

Being observant requires critical thinking as we decide and decipher what to listen to.

The ability to be observant, where we find and create our connections, is a crucial characteristic of “The Innovators Mindset.” It is the ability to find ideas and create learning for one’s self.

Years ago, when I used to be a basketball referee, I wanted to do an incredible job. As a huge basketball fan, I have watched 1000’s of games in my lifetime, but when I became an official, I no longer watched the games, but I watched the referees. I would learn from the way they move, how they interact with coaches and the players, how they would make calls, amongst many aspects of the game. What I noticed was that I could learn from referees that were at the top of their game, and ones that struggled. I would also watch referees in different sports where I wasn’t an official.  The rules and the game weren’t the same, but I could create and connect my learning.

I took this same attitude toward professional learning. What I learned from “learning” as a referee, I applied to my knowledge as an educator. Yes, the PD might not be specifically targeted toward what I do, but what could I learn and create for myself?

Taking ownership of our own learning is more necessary than ever for our students and ourselves. Katie Martin shares the following in her post “Why a Sense of Purpose Matters More Than Ever for Remote Learning“:

“As we emerge on the other side of this crisis, although there may be gaps in content knowledge and skills, I will be content knowing that my kids are more resilient and they understand that life is unpredictable but have skills to navigate and cope when things don’t turn out as expected.” 

Great educators, at all levels, can provide ideas and inspiration. Still, I genuinely believe the most important thing we can develop in others is the ability to create learning for themselves. 

Learning is more powerful long term when we can create it for ourselves.

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