Saturday, April 16, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 10: A Reflection on Connected Leadership

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 10: A Reflection on Connected Leadership

The need to be connected is nothing new in education.  Since the beginning of time people have gotten fulfillment through being connected with others.  In the past many our connections were in the form of physical contact (F2F).  With the advancement of technology, the definition of connectedness expanded to include conversations on the telephone and the medium of television.  Now in the 21st Century we find ourselves again redefining what it means to be connected.  Having a 1990s super computer that fits in our pocket today, our ability to connect continues to grow.  The resources of the 21st century now allow us once again redefine what it means to be a connected.

With the realization of the need to redefine what it means to be connected in education in the 21st century, we must become active and contributing members of this expansion.  We do this through leadership.  It is not enough as leaders to ride the wave of this new age of connectedness.  We must innovate and initiate our medium to better what we do as educators.  At the end of the day, we now have an opportunity to meet students where they are at, connect with them, and take them to beyond their potential.  There is no replacement for a great teacher.  Great teachers can now enhance student learning through connected leadership.

Twitter Realization

Connectedness comes in many different forms.  As an initial skeptic of Twitter, I was proven wrong on my perspective of the effectiveness in the educational environment.  The idea of using Twitter as a method for professional development seemed unattainable and mythical.  I have come to find that Twitter is a medium that can connect many different levels of my professional life.  This includes others from across the globe in my music content area, educators from other content areas, and professionals in the field outside of education.  I have found out that I have instant access to the educators and innovators that can open my eyes to new resources and trends in education.  Twitter on the personal social side I still don't buy in to, but in my professional life... ...GO TWITTER!

Google Enhancements

The Google world has engaged me in creative collaboration and resource building.  Google Drive has allowed me to share my files, resources, and even concert videos with the masses.  Through privacy and sharing controls I have also been able to restrict access to particular folks, or in many cases open access to the public.  I no longer fear privacy issues.  I have convinced myself that in order to fully take advantage of the connected world, you must openly immerse yourself in the connected world.  Google has allowed me the ability to do that.

Collaboration Micro/Macro

I truly have enjoyed collaborating with other educators, administrators, and students from all over the world.  Most of all I have enjoyed getting to work with my WSU Cohort.  As we continue this journey we are engaging in deeper and more meaningful conversations and projects.  We as a group are now tapping into the innovation side of being Innovative Instructional Leaders.  The world seems a bit more welcoming and friendly now thanks to the WSU Cohort folks.  I appreciate you and look forward to working with you in the future.  Together we are making a difference!

Final Thoughts

I believe in connectedness.  Not just our ability to connect in the digital age, but also connectedness all forms.  From physical F2F to video/audio to digitize chats and sharing.  I think connectedness is what we are called to do as human beings.  The Connected Educator Course has fallen comfortably on my lap of professional development.  I continue this mentality as I work towards becoming a better educator and leader.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 9: Connected Concerns

Connected Educator: Chapter 9... ...Connected Concerns

While being a connected educator brings about many positives, in this blog I wanted to look at concerns.  These include both as a colleague and as an educator.  Being on the fore-front of a new philosophy of education is unknown territory that can be scary and unknown at times.  Some of these concerns also deal with students and how they are to overcome particular hurdles in reference to being connected.  Remember, the grass may not always be greener on the other side.

1.) Too Much Tech

What is the balance that we have to achieve in order to be successful as an educator?  I am finding that there are few days where I will go tech free.  Yes we do discuss the idea of "unplugged" for a day but being connected in the digital world and reaping the benefits of that connectivity implies that we are needing to use digital technology often.  We are spending less time doing what we did and more time on digital devices.  What are the consequences?

From a student's perspective I am concerned about screen time and the lack of physical socialization.  While students may be living out their lives online, are they loosing out on the traditional activities of life from riding a bicycle to playing a musical instrument?  Only time will reveal the outcomes, but it is a concern.

Balance is what we strive for in the digital age and I think we as educators must remember that too.  When assigning activities which require digital connection we must be sure to put ourselves in the "shoes" of our students and that the pros are outweighing the cons.

2.) Can't Keep Up

I sometimes feel that the connected educator platforms in the digital world are vast and continue to change at such an extreme rate that by the time you learn how to fully implement the digital application it is obsolete.  There are apps that I would call fundamental (such as Twitter) when I think of being connected, but those even at times are becoming obsolete in the classroom.  If we are to truly become connected educators how do we keep up.

I think the solution to this will come naturally.  The digital market place will find quality over quantity and place particular programs at the forefront of connected education.  While we may always have to decipher what is best for our own classroom, I do believe there will be a clear and proven standard to digital education.

3.) Access

The buzz is loud and proud in many districts about tech across the US, but there are students who struggle not because of capability, but because of access.  Currently our city, state, and federal internet infrastructure does not support connected learning.  There are particular elements that exist to aid students in school, but what about at home.  How can we expect students to maintain connectivity and put learning into practice if we are not supplying them with internet access and the devices necessary to complete the tasks?

This is one of my biggest concerns.  As teachers we need to be sure once again we are putting ourselves in the students perspective.  Public education presents itself as an equalizer.  This is not the case pertaining to internet access in homes.  While someday this may change, for now a connected educator must always know the limitations of his/her students.

As we tap into the unknown in the digital age of connected education, it is important to meet our concerns head on.  While pretending they are not there will no doubt lead to disaster, confronting our greatest fears I know will lead to success.

The Challenges of Raising a Digital Native | Devorah Heitner, Ph.D. | TEDxNaperville

The Question (Please respond in comment area)

What concerns you most about being "connected?"

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 8: What Motivates Us to be Connected?

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 8: What Motivates Us to be Connected?

The 21st Century has arrived!  With it has come a change in how we are motivated as educators.  One of the most interesting books I have ever read on motivation is Drive by Daniel Pink.  In it he discusses the extrinsic and  intrinsic motivations that we have in our lives and how those motivations influence our decisions.   Society is changing and whether we know it or not there is a strong motivation to be connected digitally.

Motivation applying to teachers falls into a category all of it's own.  As a young high school student (never thinking of being in the role of a teacher) I had the perspective that teachers taught because they only had to work 9 months out of the year and the rest of the time was "vacation."  I also thought that teachers taught because they wanted to have power over other people (students).  As I graduated from college and began to teach I discovered a whole new motivation to why teachers teach.  I teach to make a difference!  I teach to connect with students!  I teach because I see potential in people.  Being an educator is one of the only jobs where your success is based on the performance and execution of others. It was always hard to explain to non-teachers why I am willing to take a pay cut.   I will never financially make what some will, but I know that I make a difference in the world... ...for the better.

Check this video out!

Taylor Mali: What Do Teachers Make?

So where does being connected fit into the whole idea of why we teach.

1.) How.
Educators are life-long learners and experts at professional development.  We do not settle for good-enough.  We are always striving for something better.  We can't do this alone and the expectations on teachers continue to grow on a daily basis.  Not only do we have to teach, we have to prove to everybody outside of the classroom that our teaching is effective.  The add-ons seem endless.  But there are ways to go about doing our job better.  New ideas and broader perspectives are only a click away.  By sharing our ways how to teach with others we are opening doors that lead to endless potential for our students.  We strive to thrive!

2.) Support.
While I often teach in a room filled with 50-70 students, I often feel alone.  We need to have a professional learning network and a support system to reassure us that the risks and chances we take are well worth it.

3.) Innovate.
There are new and better ways of educating our students out there and before we were connected, we didn't even know they existed.  Being connected gives us the power to innovate with our students on a level where we can make an impact with more people in the classroom.  By connecting with others I am able to discover different perspectives on particular topics.  This brings me to look through a new lens and drives me to innovate and share my discoveries.

4.) Fun.
Being connected is fun.  Through being connected in our social lives we are creating endless relationships.  We don't have to go to the coffee shop to find out the latest and greatest, we just jump on connected digital technology and are able to discover the latest and greatest.  Being connected digitally bridges the gap between social and professional.  I continue to observe educators building relationships socially and turning those interactions into new learning opportunities.

There are reasons why we continue the digital trend of being connected. The time and energy that it takes must be worth it as so many people are "drinking the water."

The Question (Please respond in comment area)

What motivates you to be connected?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 7: Attitude and Opportunity in the Digital Age

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 7: Attitude and Opportunity in the Digital Age

Skeptic: According to the Oxford Dictionary, a skeptic is "a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions."

I lately indulged myself in the book The Professor and the Madman and discovered that I myself am a skeptic.  I make assumptions of validity until I am convinced otherwise by cold and hard facts (or that which I define as truth).  In now considering myself a "Connected Educator," I no doubt have shifted my thoughts on connectedness and technology in the digital age a 180 degrees.  What once was wrong is now an opportunity.

We as educators find ourselves traveling in canyons, up mountains, and back again when considering professional growth and opportunity.  What does it take for us to drastically shift our way of thinking?  I argue that it is attitude.  If we are looking for deception and void we will find it.  If we are looking for opportunity and possibility, we discover that we only know what we know.

There are 3 different circumstances which have led me to defining myself as a connected educator.  Some seem trivial while others seem prolific.  I leave you to judge.  First a connection with "the madman."

The Professor and the Madman tells the story of the greatest human contributor to the Oxford dictionary.  After reading this book I will never "read" another dictionary the same way again.  The "madman" as he is termed in the book takes the attitude of a philanthropist in his darkest time.   Jailed, insane, and alone, he uses the opportunity to follow a calling to contribute to an unrewarded project in which he desires no recompense.  This leads to a mystery in which opportunity leads to greatness.  What is the setting of our professional life?  Where do our opportunities lie?  What is our attitude?

Out With the Old and in With the New

Courtesy of

One of my first opportunities to dive into the digital age had to do with a yellow notepad.  I took extreme care to always take notes and have my yellow notepads with me at all times.  What I didn't realize is the opportunity knocking at my door with the introduction of the Ipad.  I took notes, drew pictures, planned out lessons, and even sketched marching band formations on my yellow notepads.  They were near and dear to me, but I needed more.  While I indulged in my yellow notepads there was an entire digital world waiting to be discovered.  I knew for my own sake if I was going to make the change I needed to let the yellow notepads go entirely and completely give myself over to the digital age... ...and I did just that.  Five years later with little regret, I continue to use digital devices to record my notes, drawings, lessons, and even sketches.  With opportunity came reward (yes I still have all my old yellow notepads, but just as keepsakes).

What's a Tweet?

Another digital opportunity that I recently took advantage of is Twitter.  I have always been an extreme skeptic of Twitter as the media often presents it as a way for celebrities to express themselves universally.  I didn't want that on my plate.  But now... ...I discover that with a positive attitude and an open-mind I am able to see the benefits of participating in a Twitter environment.  The endless amount of connections one can make opens doors and opportunities for a life time.  I have discovered that I have so much more to learn from other music educators, general educators, administrators and even students via Twitter.  In our digital connected society we do what we need to do to make a difference and connect.  Twitter has become a practical and profound resource in my professional development.  What's a Tweet?  An opportunity.  Who knows, some day we may even be able to get our news from Twitter.  (check out the link below from the Wall Street Journal)

Let's Share: Google Drive

"Hey Mr. Mangan.  Where's that file?"  One of my most constant forms of organization in my professional life is Google Drive.  Once a skeptic of security breach and intrusion by Google, I now find myself constantly developing new methods to better organize and share files.  I developed a method in which I can access anything I've ever wanted to reference in an endless pool of data through Google Drive.  The opportunity to have resources digitally and at my fingertips brought me to the realization that information equals value and I need to organize my value through a system.  The paper cuts and many hours of filing are over.  With a productive attitude and willingness to take advantage of a product I once found skeptical, I now find myself with the substance I need to be successful.

Meet Google Drive

I have found that my attitude limits my advances in opportunities in the digital age.  While skepticism is sometimes a necessary characteristic for survival.  I am finding more and more that attitude and a willingness to try often lead to success.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 6: Do As I Do, Not As I Say

Connected Educator... ...Chapter 6:  Do As I Do, Not As I Say

So often we as educators feel pressured to say the right words, when in fact students are often better watchers than listeners.  I notice particular trends with my students that have nothing to do with what I am asking them to do, but more so with what I am doing on a day to day basis.

I am going to focus on 2 areas where we as educators can "do" in order to get our students to become leaders in the classroom.  It's time we start walking the walk.

Setup for Success

How do we setup for success in the classroom?  In the music education setting this is a phrase that I use quite often.  It could be physical to the space such as an arrangement or placement.  It could also be a pedagogical setup.  When working on a new exercise, chorale, or section of music I remind my students of what elements are necessary for success.  It could simply be having a plan for the day which is centrally focused on student learning.  Whatever it is, it is a recipe for achievement.

The physical space in the band room where I teach is the blank canvas which will eventually become a masterpiece.  I take pride in the appearance and organization of my room and have the same expectation of my students.  Are the chairs setup in an organized fashion?  Are the music stands straight?  Is the percussion section appropriately setup for the upcoming?  Are the number of chairs in each row appropriate?  The physical space is the launching point for success.  I have found that students take pride in appearance and structure.  There are times when I enter the band room and magically the stands and chairs are placed for the next class.  To my surprise a student has done this.  Actions over words...  This is not my space.  This is our space and we come to learn and paint our masterpiece.

Another way we setup for success is preparing ourselves for achievement.  We first look through our music and decide which areas are the most challenging.  From there we break down the fundamentals of those areas and make them pristine.  They become simple when looked at in a micro setting.  As we then look to play the entire excerpt, success seems to come easy.  What was once unattainable is all of the sudden a problem solved.

No matter how an educator (or anyone for that matter) sets up their environment for success, we know that a little prep goes along way.  If we expect our students to connect in the classroom, we must connect.  If we expect greatness, we must be great.  Often times more is said in silence than in words.

Check out this article on the "path of least resistance."  It's a great resource for ideas on how to better the physical classroom environment.

Setting Students Up For Success

If at First We Don't Succeed... 

Take pride in the failed attempt.  Why do we feel we have to be perfect.  Some of my greatest moments as a educator have come from my greatest failure.  Once we accept that we are not perfect and will fail (and often at that) we become more focused on what is important... ...educating our students.  This goes the same way with colleagues.  Those that are talked about the most are often those that take the greatest risks... ...and fail!  We are not in teaching to show we don't make mistakes.  We are in teaching to encourage our students to try new things and take risks even if they might fail.

I enjoy greatly when a student in my class catches me making a mistake.  I make no notice of it and move on.  Through my actions I try to show them that it is okay to make mistakes.  "If my teacher tries and fails why not try?"

Check out the video below of 2 former presidents discussing the importance of trying and being willing to fail...

People search out role models and examples to follow.  We are constantly bombarded with people telling us what to do and how to act, and so are our students.  Actions speak louder than words.  Let's as educators focus on what we are doing instead what we are saying. Recall the 2 ways we can go about doing this in our classroom.  First setup our environment for success.  A little prep goes a long way.  Second, teach our students that it is okay to fail.  We don't know what we don't try.

Onward we go!