Make Connections

I like brainstorming with a pencil and paper.  Digital tools are great, but I think I will always like the feel of a sharp pencil and clean sheet of paper when I’m quickly jotting down ideas.  This week I was tasked with creating a mind map to represent my
personal learning network.  As my brainstorming progressed and my scribbled arrows on my paper increased, I was surprised to acknowledge that I have a pretty large network of resources I can tap into to support my personal and professional learning goals.

Before I could create my masterpiece, I had to answer “What’s a learning network?”  Connectivism is a theory of learning that emphasizes learning as a process through which we find connections between our many personal learning sources – especially technologically supported resources.  “Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network and then continue to provide learning to the individual ( Elearnspace, n.d.).  As we tap into the networks at our disposal and share our information with others, we are “cross-pollinating” the learning environments around us (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).

When I examine my interconnecting web of bubbles and arrows linking the various resources at my fingertips, I first recognize that I am very fortunate to have such a wide array of learning possibilities.  Also I’m pleased to note, it’s clear that within my own personal network there are several obvious relationships that share information back and forth supporting the “cross-pollination” of learning.  For example, one of my personal connections is my Church and one of my internet connections is the use of Pinterest.  I regularly search the pins I place onto my Pinterest Sunday School and VBS boards to help me find activities that I can use at Church.  I often share links I find with others at my church.  The flow of information is dynamic as it flows to me as I’m learning and out as I share my new knowledge.

Creating my learning network mind map reinforced the importance of using the resources and connections available to us.  These connections support our lifelong learning goals.  Our responsibility to ourselves as well as our many connections is to support our collective intelligence as a society.  When I’m in need of new knowledge, these are the first places I’m going to go to seek out my answers.  Many of the bubbles on my mind map are filled with connections using the many technology tools at our fingertips – Pinterest, Blogs, Google docs, Facebook groups and messages, email, texts and more.  The Internet is now more easily accessed than ever as Wi-Fi and mobile devices allow us to stay connected virtually 24 hours a day.  As I think of how my learning network has grown through the years, I recognize as I’ve added more internet resources and connections, I’ve increased my ability to maximize my learning and my ability to easily share my new knowledge.  Learning has never been easier and our potential is limitless.

            So, what’s the take away lesson? 


make connections

You want success?  Boldly maximize your current learning connections and actively seek to add new ones.  Take your knowledge to the next level by deliberately sharing your experiences and watch the interconnections between your learning connections intersect and guide you to a limitless future.




Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Elearnspace, learning, networks, knowledge, technology, community. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Galileo – You cannot teach a person anything…



Fellow teachers, we often lose sight of our own limitations.  As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink… The same is true for our students.  Young or old. Learned or unlearned.  We can offer multiple opportunities and strategies but the ultimate act of embracing new knowledge and taking ownership as of their learning is a personal endeavor – that each of our students must choose to make.

Before we throw up our hands in defeat, let’s pause for a moment and see the opportunity before us.  As teachers we can find success if we slightly shift our focus and remember to guide our students to acknowledge “how to learn” and “how to study.”  If true learning requires our students to embrace it on a personal level, then we must guide them and show them how!

Recently I was helping my middle son prepare for an upcoming spelling test. I had a eureka moment.  I asked him to tell me what it means to study.  How does he do it?  He stammered around and couldn’t really explain what that meant.  Lightbulb flashing to me.  How can I expect him to learn his spelling words if he really doesn’t understand what that means?  So, we spent a few minutes talking and sharing why we study and how we can study.  Now he has a clearer idea of what the big goal is!  We want to practice each of our spelling words enough for the correct spelling to be cemented in our mind and we can accurately spell it correctly anytime we need to use the word – for our spelling test but also anytime in our daily lives.

This suggested to me that perhaps I should engage my own students in acknowledging and assessing what they think studying involves.  A step further leads me to see a need to guide my students in my classroom to identify how to be an active learner and how to work together as a learning team completing group work.

So, what does the word “study” mean to you?

Cult of Pedagogy digs deeper into “how” we can guide our students to learn within themselves.

My Recommended Instructional Resources

Teacher Nerds, Unite. If you view teaching as an art, a craft and a science and you are busy with the act of teaching but want to stay informed of the latest new tech tools, current methodology research or professional development opportunities follow Cult of Pedagogy.  The author, Jennifer Gonzalez, began her teaching career as a middle school teacher then moved to teaching undergraduate pre-service teachers.  There she found her passion for providing an encouraging forum for teacher support.  She uses her blog as an innovative place for teachers to support each other, learn about new ideas and share struggles and accomplishments.  Gonzalez has co-authored Hacking Education: 10 Quick fixes for Every School with Mark Barnes.  She also authored The Teacher’s Guide to Tech: A Cult of Pedagogy Digital Binder available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Her posts offer such a flavorful variety that each month it’s easy to dig into an encouraging post, or links to a technology tool or an easy to use learning strategy.  The Reciprocal Learning Strategy was one such post.  This is a twist on partner work with each student having a set of problems to complete and their partner holds the correct answers.  Partners help coach each other as they work through their problems.  If you’re looking for a variety of posts to hold your attention and keep you excited in your classroom, follow Cult of Pedagogy.


The Innovative Educator is written by Lisa Nielsen, the director of digital engagement and professional learning.  This award winning blog is a great place to easily follow innovative ways to reach our students and prepare for the future of education.  Nielsen launched her blog in 2008 and has been recognized as a Top 100 Education Blog.  Currently her blog boasts more than 25K followers.  The Innovative Educator is an excellent source of cutting edge technology resources from coast to coast with topics ranging from Google and Social Media uses in the classroom to Smart-board resources and innovative Personal Learning Network ideas.  This site has something of use for any educator.


If you’re looking for a resource with “A view from the Schoolhouse”, you must check out Chris Lehmann’s blog, Practical Theory.  Lehmann provides a powerhouse of progressive science and technology resources.  Building on his role as founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, Lehmann has earned awards, spoken at educational conferences worldwide and has been published in several education publications as well as co-authored Building School 2.0: How to create the Schools We Need. He has a passion for empowering modern learning experiences for all students and integrating technology.  The first clear indicator to me that Practical Theory was a blog I would love to follow closely is Lehmann’s page dedicated to his 18 favorite education theory books.  The second indicator was a series of statements he wrote to end a post from August 2015 titled Professional Development and Collective Wisdom.

 If we want teachers to create collaborative classrooms, we have to create a collaborative culture in our adult learning and problem solving.

If we want teachers to value the ideas and experiences of our students, then we must value the ideas and experiences of our teachers when they come together to learn. 

And if we want our schools to find innovative, powerful solutions to the problems we face, we must all learn to seek out the collective wisdom of the room.

His obvious connection with the delicate balance between respecting our teachers as professionals and the need to use the best teaching practices available have convinced me that this is a blog I am dedicated to watching closely.  I hope you will find some encouraging posts there as well.


Use these resources as places to find a professional learning community to support your goals of providing positive, productive educational experiences for our future generations.  Feel free to comment and share your favorite online resources.  Thanks!