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Paula Naugle: Connected Educator of the Week

What is your current job of position?

I teach fourth graders math, science, and social studies at a public elementary school in the suburbs of New Orleans.

What is your educational background?

I earned my BS in Elementary Education from York College of Pennsylvania and my MEd in Educational Technology Leadership from Southeastern University of Louisiana. I continue my education by attending conferences, reading professional journals and books, attending webinars, and engaging in educational chats online. By doing this I have become a DEN Star and member of the DEN Leadership Council of Louisiana, a Microsoft Innovative Educator, a PBWorks certified educator, a Simple K12 Ambassador, an Edmodo and Promethean trainer. I am currently working on becoming a Google Educator.

Describe your educational philosophy and educational vision?

I believe that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and engaging atmosphere in which to grow and mature. Not only should I be concerned about developing each student intellectually, but I must also attend to his/her emotional, physical, and social needs. As an educator I want to help my students meet their fullest potential in these areas by providing an environment that is safe, encourages risk-taking, and invites each student to add to the conversation and share ideas. The three components to establishing such an environment are: (1) the teacher acting as a guide and lead-learner, (2) allowing the child’s natural curiosity to direct his/her learning, and (3) promoting respect of self, others, and property.

I see myself as a lifelong learner and want to instill the love of learning in every child I teach.

My educational vision is to provide a classroom where every student can engage in the 4C’s of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. I see my students directing their own learning and developing their passions. I will strive to prepare my students for their futures, as globally connected citizens of the 21st century.

How do you grow and engage your professional learning network?

I use social media daily to connect with other educators. We share and learn from one another through links to great articles, blog posts, and upcoming webinars. We discuss best practices, explore new web tools together, get to know each other on a more personal level,  and so much more. While Twitter is the site I use most often to engage with my PLN, I also use Discovery Educator Network (the DEN), Facebook, Google+, Edmodo, Pinterest, Diigo Social Bookmarking, Linkedin, and Nings to connect with others.

By following hashtags on Twitter such as #4thchat, #DENchat, #Edtechtech, I find other educators to follow and grow my PLN. I can honestly say that I learn more from an hour long Twitter chat than I do in most all-day professional development sessions I’ve attended.

How do you use social media to connect with other educators? What is the greatest benefit of your professional network?

Twitter is the social media tool I use most often to connect with other educators. I am a moderator for #4thchat and #LAedchat. There is hardly a day goes by that I am not on Twitter for at least a part of my day. I engage in conversations on Twitter with educators from around the world on a wide variety of topics and have been fortunate enough to have met many of the members of my PLN face to face. I also use Facebook and Google+ to connect with other educators.

As a connected educator with a large PLN, I can get answers to a question I might have within minutes. I love sharing out links that I hope others will find valuable also. When I need an idea on how best to integrate technology into a lesson plan I’m developing or run into a glitch with a tool I turn to my PLN.

I stay current and up-to-date on educational technology tools and trends because of my PLN. In the past when a new model or initiative was coming to the forefront in education, it would take a long time before I learned about it. Now I am kept on the cutting edge of all new educational trends because my PLN is in the know.

If you blog, what is the focus of it? How long have you been writing? Who is your audience?

Ms. Naugle’s Classroom Blog which I started in 2009 is mostly written to inform parents and others who visit about what is happening in my classroom. My professional blog is titled PLN – Not Just My Initials. I also began it in 2009 and it is where I share tools I’ve used, information about conferences I’ve attended and reflect on my teaching life. While I struggle to maintain these two blogs, I am truly more adept at microblogging and my over 31,000 tweets can attest to that.

What is your advice to teachers on social media and education?

Ask yourself this – Are you Googleable? What does your digital footprint say about you? Go ahead, type your name into the Google search bar. What results are returned? If you smile because nothing comes back – don’t. Not having a digital footprint in today’s society is almost as bad as having a negative one.

Being on social media is scary for some folks. My thoughts are instead of being scared, make social media work for you. Comment on blogs, send out meaningful tweets, post pictures of great things happening in your classroom, share links to noteworthy articles on Facebook and Google+. Then when you are Googled by an employer (current or future), a parent, a student, they will see an educator who has built a positive digital footprint and takes pride in that fact.

Create a brand for yourself. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a common name, but when I started using social media I used the name PLNaugle (@plnaugle). I use the same username and profile picture on almost every site on which I create an account. I blogged and tweeted about student blogging, building a PLN, using Edmodo as my classroom management system, Mystery Location Calls, using Skype and Google Hangouts in my classroom, Google search tips and tricks and my blended learning approach to teaching. I have presented at conferences both in person and virtually about these topics many times. People recognize my name and my picture and have gotten to know the topics where I can offer my expertise.

What advice in general do you have to teachers today?

Every educator should be a connected one. If we are expected to teach our students to be globally connected citizens, we must set an example by being one ourselves. Developing a PLN takes time, but like all things that are worthwhile, it is time well-spent. Start out slowly by following a hashtag that is appropriate or interesting to your role in education. (Click here for a list of educational chats.) Just follow the stream of tweets and when you feel ready, create a Twitter account and join the conversation. You can follow the people whose tweets have had the most impact on you while you lurked. Most people hesitate (lurk) because they believe they have nothing to offer. Let me put that fear to rest by stating empathically that everyone has something to offer. We have all made mistakes, but just like our students, sometimes we learn the most from our mistakes.

Be the lead learner in your classroom. Don’t be afraid to let your students know that you don’t have all of the answers, or know the ins and outs of every device or site. Learn alongside them. Let them take the lead when appropriate. Create engaging lessons that your students are excited to be a part of. Let them have choice when it comes to how they will demonstrate their learning, whether that be through a blog, a digital story, a video, an interactive online poster or image. The ways are so varied today thanks to the technology we have available. When possible give them time to explore their passions. Build great relationships with your students in your classroom. Get to know them as individuals. I like to use the analogy that each student is like a box of Cracker Jack. Take the time to find the “prize” inside each one of them.

Don’t wait for professional development to come your way. Forge your own learning path. Whatever it is you feel you need to learn to become a better teacher, research it online, ask your PLN, and take hold of your own PD.

Describe a teacher who has had a significant impact on your professional development?

I have had many mentors over my very long career, but I am eternally grateful to the person I consider my first mentor in teaching, Carolyn Woods. Carolyn was the principal at the second school where I taught. I arrived at her school with three years of teaching experience from a private school but I had so much to learn. After her first observation she made no bones about the fact that I had a lot of areas that needed improvement. She offered to take me under her wing and guided my evolution from an inept educator to one who became an excellent educator. She gave up many weekend hours to meet me at school and help me hone my teaching skills. I truly believe if Carolyn had not crossed my path when she did, I probably would not have remained in the teaching profession. So, Carolyn Woods, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I have so many teachers today who help me be the best that I can be. I’d love to be able to thank each and every one of them.

What book would you recommend to teachers?

Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rath Esquith – He is the only teacher to have been awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts.

The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and Learning by Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold – Learn about where passion meets practice every day in the classroom.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink – He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action.