REVIEW: The Connected Educator

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

The Connected Educator, by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall, provides a thorough introduction to becoming more connected. Through a mixture of anecdotes, elaborations and questions, the authors invite those wishing to adapt their practice for a participatory culture made possible by Web 2.0. Although technology plays its part throughout, this book is about the educator as learner first and in the process taking control of their own professional development.

At the heart of this change are three layers integral to the connected learning communities:

Although it can be easy to treat these layers in isolation, the reality is that each influences the other in their own way. For example, deep inquiry fostered within a community of practice is often fed by the breadth of sources and connections derived from the personalised learning network, while professional learning communities often add context and purpose to the process.

A different way of appreciating these connections and  communities is that each support the construction of knowledge. As Nussbaum-Beach and Ritter Hall explain,

Connected learning allows the learner to construct knowledge through passive (knowledge for), active (knowledge in), and reflective (knowledge of) strategies.

This is a significant change from the consumption of knowledge perpetuated through the implementation of off-the-shelf instruction models and pre-conceived curriculum.

The adjustment from top-down reform to more organic and agile learning environments brings a set of challenges, particularly in regards to leadership and the building of trust. According to Nussbaum-Beach and Ritter Hall, this comes back to the question of collegiality. Whether it be the development of relationships or a willingness to share openly, much of this is not possible without a sense of community and a belief in distributed leadership.

Having said all of this, I had a few frustrations with the book. Firstly, such a heavy focus on applications is always going to risk dating quickly. Although most of the applications discussed are still active, there were quite a few missing, such as Voxer, news aggregation and newsletters. In addition to this, there were few alternatives provided, especially in regards to open source options. The second concern I had was the lack of critical discourse around the use of various applications and the scraping of data. I am not sure if this is a consequence of being written in a pre-Snowden era or whether it simply did not fit the scope of the book.

In the end, I felt that The Connected Educator is one of those books I wished I had discovered earlier, especially in regards to my work around communities of practice. Yet in some ways I feel that although I may not have read the book until now, I had experienced its message through some sort of digital osmosis, often via other people’s support and writing.

Like Will Richardson’s Master Teacher to Master Learner and Steve Wheeler’s Learning with E’s, The Connected Educator offers a useful starting point for those wishing to take a stand for the children we serve and choose to be powerful.

DISCLOSURE: I read this book as a precursor to working with Sheryl Nausbaum-Beach. Apparently everyone has read it and therefore I felt compelled.


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5 Ways to Change the World Yesterday


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I am continually questioned about why I blog. Often this leads to discussion about who has the right to speak? How do I know if what I am saying is of value? Asking such questions can get us caught in thinking that sharing has some specific consequence or outcome. Thinking like this misses the growth and opportunity that such reflection provides.

First and foremost, this blog is about me. This is a point that Royan Lee touches on. Dean Shareski though sums the personal up best in his celebration of ten years of blogging. As he states:

What I will tell you is that I need to blog more. Not for you, but for me. I need to get back to sharing more frequently, my thinking. Not for you, but for me. Unfinished thoughts, marginal insights and conversations that have sparked my interest need to be shared and explored here. Not for you, but for me. This is the space for me to mull over ideas and thoughts (see what I did there) which is what I intended this to be 10 years ago.

The other side of all this is what happens when ideas are shared. Clive Thompson suggests that, “once thinking is public, connections take over.” What is important about these connections is that as much as we try and manage them, they often have a journey that is somewhat beyond me. Whether it be the different experiences and interpretations. What is important isn’t always what we gain, rather it is the potential to start new lines of thought and inquiry. Such seeds have the potential to blossom into untold possibilities.

An example of such serendipity is the story associated with Adrian Camm’s ‘Permission to Innovate‘ card:

I was given this card at Digicon15, but this is the really the end of the story. My part in it all came about when I reached out to my PLN for thoughts on the topic of feedback. I was in a team at school in charge of investigating different practises in order to identify areas for improvement. One of the great resources I was referred to was a presentation by Cameron Paterson investigating formative assessment and documentation. One of the slides was a coupon to be free of criticism:

I shared this out on Twitter, where it was then picked up by Camm who took the idea and created a loyalty style card, which he gave out to his staff and me.

To come back to the title, what are the five ways to change the world yesterday? I could list five, but you don’t really need that many. Instead, I am going to give you just one, because at the end of the day that is all you need. Be the change you want in the world. Like Cory Doctorow’s dandelion, share freely, with the knowledge that you never know who may benefit and what change it may bring. For as Steve Wheeler suggests,

Giving away ideas and knowledge is a bit like love, as told in the story of Jesus and the feeding of the 5000. You can share it around as much as you like, but you still get to keep it, and there is always plenty left over.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.