Dot Connecting

Some of the best teachers I know are "Dot Connectors."

Teachers who are dot connectors are good at...

  1. Being learners themselves, even when the topic or idea doesn't immediately show its usefulness.
    We have monthly professional development meetings (AKA "faculty meetings") and at our last gathering I introduced the concept that computer science is not just a class or subject specific discipline that needs its own curriculum and teacher in the elementary and middle school (I know some would disagree with this, but you've got to start somewhere, right?). Rather, by using online tools like Scratch, or apps like Scratch Jr., Tynker, Hopscotch, or Kodables, teachers could introduce fundamental logic concepts with out having to implement a full blown CS curriculum, or work without having to teach coding.

    Inevitably there were teachers who felt it was a waste of time, because "this doesn't pertain to me," or "I'm not a computer teacher." There were however those teachers who took time to do the difficult intellectual work of recognizing the importance of introducing these simple logic concepts and then went a step further to identify WHERE in their current curriculum these ideas fit the best. They connected the dots!

    It is these teachers, these "dot connecting" teachers, who are willing to engage ideas about new learning outcomes, even if they don't understand the full impact on their classroom practice yet. They are willing to to give the time and mental energy for the future learning of their students.
  2. Seeing learning opportunities as a way to grow there practice.

    Dot connecting teachers recognize that their practice is shaped by the world around them, and not just the discipline that they teach. These are teachers who will be able to say that they've been teaching for 25 years, but didn't teach the same lesson 25 times.

    Using the faculty meeting example above, I started our faculty introduction to computer science by reading from Douglas Rushkoff's book Program or Be Programmed. In it he challenges the reader by saying,

    “Programming is the sweet spot, the high leverage point in a digital society. If we don’t learn to program, we risk being programmed ourselves.”

    The world is a much different place today than it was even ten years ago, and as the world changes, so do some of the needs of our students. A dot connecting teacher recognizes the changing world and adjusts their practice to meet the needs of their students. Teaching is job similar to paddling a canoe up stream, if you're not paddling, your going backwards.
I'm not sure that teachers are intuitively dot connectors on their own.  Is dot connecting a skill? Is it a personal characteristic or creativity trait? I tend to lean more toward it being a disposition.

After experiencing my third #edcampSTL this past weekend, I find it hard to believe that not all teachers are "dot connectors."

I'm NOT saying "non-dot connecting" teachers are bad teachers. There are a plethora of caring, loving, and awesome teachers who just happen to need stuff laid out for them in detail before they will engage new ideas, new methods, or new technologies. No, I'm not saying they are bad teachers, but there is just so much more they could teach their students besides core curricular area, if they didn't want the immediate gratification of professional development.

I praise God for the dot connecting teachers! I want to BE dot connecting teacher and I admit that I am not always a dot connector.  Tomorrow will begin my eighth or ninth Midwest Educational Technology Conference. There have been times when I haven't wanted to go, because I wasn't "getting anything out of" the sessions. I was always looking for the latest and greatest new web tool, or website, or resource and when I wasn't getting it, I started to blame other people. The reality is that I only have myself to blame. So this year, I'm showing up with a renewed attitude to connect more dots! I'm going to be doing a lot more thinking about my students and the potential impact new learning spaces, places, and tools, will have on their future. God willing, I'll even share my learning along the way...likely with the readers of his blog....but for sure with my students!