This morning my wife and I experienced a benefit of being “connected educators” together: We participated in a virtual field trip with students and adults in both Tanzania and New York thanks to Google’s Connected Classrooms website. Here’s the quick story of how we ended up learning about the global water crisis on a free virtual field trip on our Spring Break. Among other things, it’s a concrete example of how it can be extremely beneficial to become a “connected educator” using Twitter and other social networking platforms like Google+.

Yesterday I received a direct message on Twitter from another teacher wanting to find a comprehensive list of upcoming Google Apps for Education Summits. I know these are coordinated by Mark Wagner and the EdTechTeam, so I checked their main website and found the #gafesummit site.

I wanted to include Twitter attribution for the link, so I visited the EdTechTeam’s Twitter channel to copy their ID (@edtechteam) and noticed a recent tweet about John Bailey and his work with Google Fusion Tables. I noticed on March 18th John had shared a link on Google+ about Google’s Connected Classrooms website, which I’d seen previously but not visited recently.

I clicked the link to Google’s Connected Classrooms website, saw a live Google Hangout videoconference was starting in 30 minutes from Tanzania, told my wife about it, and we decided to join in and both watch and participate. During the live conference, the students in Tanzania actually answered one of the questions I posted about whether the government or private companies control the water there.

This was my wife’s first opportunity to participate in a live Google Hangout On Air, and the first time either of us had participated in an international Google Hangout On Air. She has been mulling over different theme and project options for her students to tackle next, and had actually been considering the global water crisis because of several different people we know through our church and in our Oklahoma City community who have been on mission trips to Africa building different kinds of water wells and water purification systems. The videoconference sparked a lot of new ideas for her and encouraged her to go this direction with her class in upcoming weeks.

When she asked me later in the morning how I found out about the Tanzania water crisis videoconference, I related the previous sequence of events to her. It was all because we’re “connected educators.”

If you’re not already on Twitter and Google+, it’s time to join both communities. Start making connections with other teachers. You don’t have to log in every day, and you certainly don’t want to read everything that will stream across your computer screen when you check these “channels” of information you can follow through your growing personal learning network. From time to time, however, you’ll stumble across some really fantastic information or links that you’ll want to pursue further and share with others, as my wife and I did today. This is one example of what “connected learning” and “connected professional development” can look like today.

It’s 2014, and as educators we owe it to ourselves and to our students to be connected teachers. Being connected can present fortuitous opportunities, like this one today, to learn, become inspired, and share with others.

If you’d like to watch the hour-long Google Hangout On Air, it’s archived on YouTube!

Also, by all means visit and check out Google’s Connected Classrooms website. It’s fantastic how streamlined Google has made the process of participating in interactive virtual field trip experiences like this! Consider joining one soon and then finding one to join with your students in class!

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  • Mapnmop

    My son, who is in fourth grade, is gearing up to participate in a similar experience that his teacher is setting up for next week. She told me about it yesterday at carpool dismissal. We are in Mobile, AL, the birthplace of Mardi Gras. She and the students in her room will share about this local tradition with students from New Jersey, as our Mobile students are then in turn exposed to what the New Jersey students share about local traditions where they live.

    My son, who is Catholic, was asked questions by the teacher and students to share about how carnival is a season leading up to the season of Lent. Most of his peers are not Catholic, and had no idea about Lent. I was really proud of the way she said he was able to explain about Ash Wednesday, Lenten sacrifices, the ‘why’ behind it, how it prepares ones heart for Easter, etc. When I shared this with my husband, he mentioned that a lot of New Jersey folk are Catholic as well, so that might be a neat experience, for my son and his classmates/teacher, to see that this understanding of Lent is not so limited, but more universal, while introducing the NJ students to Mardi Gras as tying into this season (because they may know very little about Mardi Gras). We’re excited. It’s a far smaller scale than the global water crisis, but it’s a first step in exposure to seeing how connected we can become and how we can learn from each other through technology, which is cool.

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