Connecting is cool. We live in the age of being connected. All the time, or at least anytime. Anytime is probably healthier because we should do other things besides stay connected all the time. The reason I integrate the kinds of technologies I use with my students is to have them connect, collaborate, and create. Every now and then a really good connection is made and I get reinvigorated. That happened to me recently.
I retweeted a tweet about this new service for teachers called ClassConnect. Shortly after that I got a tweet from its creator, Eric Simons (@ericsimons40), saying that he wanted to pick my brain about ClassConnect. We set up a Skype meeting and we talked this past Thursday, March 22.
As we talked I found out that Eric is a recent high school graduate. I asked him if ClassConnect was a hobby because I wanted to know how he was working on it being so recently graduated from high school. I found his story very inspiring. Turns out that Eric began dabbling in php programming his freshman year in high school. By his junior year he was disillusioned with school and his chemistry teacher asked him what it would take to get him motivated. The teacher let him create a website where students in his class could collaborate and connect. I guess making that website spurred his interest in creating ClassConnect because he put off going to college to pursue his dream. And what a noble dream.
Eric wanted to create a space that would work something like a one stop lesson sharing, learning management system, and social network for teachers. He is looking to fashion a site to save teachers time! What is it that is stopping our unconnected colleagues from tweeting and even blogging? Time. Creating such a space has by no means been an easy task for Eric. He told me that even though he got some money invested into his project it went quickly as he purchased servers to run his site. He’s been moving around sleeping on couches and currently has moved back home see this through.
I was so moved by his story. I told him that I had just earlier that same day asked a couple of my 8th graders what it would take to get them motivated to do some learning in my class. And here I got a really cool response from someone I didn’t know before that day! Eric is the embodiment of so much of what I’ve been reading about in the blogs that I read everyday and the tweets that I retweet so much. The fact that we need to find, or at least create the space for our students to find, what it is that they will be passionate about so they will get engaged and take control of their education! (And let’s remember that not all kids figure this out right away. I remind myself of this because I teach kids who are only 11 to 13 years of age. So no, those 8th graders I asked don’t yet have an idea.)
So this young man is working hard following his dream. He is making ClassConnect so that teachers can have a place to share lessons. If you find a lesson you can use and adapt for your students you can add it to your space. It’s like Moodle meets a lesson database that continually gets updated. And what’s more Eric wants to add a social networking component so that if I find a lesson for middle school kids on photosynthesis I can connect with the teacher, or other teachers, who are also teaching photosynthesis and collaborate on it! I told Eric how important that was for a teacher working in a small, rural school where often I am the only teacher in my entire district teaching the content I teach. I am impressed by how Eric is connecting with educators, asking us questions, seeing what we need, all to make his product something we would be able to use to actually save us time!
This is what I want my students to see. How they can use what they do for fun, connecting, as a way to help them do what they are passionate about. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our students already know how to use social networking for fun so I want them to discover how they can use it for whatever career they choose.