This book review is a long time coming. The book took me some time to completely finish, for an ironical reason. The book helped me professionally so much, that I found myself being asked to be involved with various tech-related committees and groups withing my school board. I could have said no of course, but I found the experience thrilling as I was involved in some wonderful discussions surrounding technology, professional development for teachers, and the future direction of our Board and education as a whole. This came at the expense of my reading time.
The Connected Educator is written by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (@snbeach) and Lani Ritter Hall (@lanihall). I heard about the book right around its release date in October. Sheryl was co-delivering the keynote address at the ECOO Conference in North York Ontario. The address was far and away anything but a “speech.” It was an interactive and thought provoking session. This was someone who’s views on education I was definitely interested in. So I started reading the book (and later following them on Twitter and Facebook.)
The book wastes no time jumping into ideas and concepts immediately useful to a teacher or administrator. I have read my share of edu-books that touch on studies with very little practical use to a classroom teacher. The Connected Educator masters a blend of ideas, activities, and supporting research to get a teacher “connected.” I have always been a tech savvy person, but the book had me trying new things and expanding my Personal Learning Network (PLN) before I finished the first chapter. It certainly opened my eyes to the benefiets of being connected. I had always scoured the web for teaching resources, but this was more.
Sheryl and Lani got me thinking about things in a new way. I found myself becoming connected to teachers, authors, researchers and others who challenged my own views. I became much more of a participant in a conversation about education, and what is best for our kids. I was no longer just sitting on the sidelines of the discussion. I think the best thing I can say about this book is that it was a catalyst for my own professional development. Once I followed some of the activities in the book, it wasn’t long before I was learning and discovering resources and ideas more beneficial to my classroom practice than most (all?) of my previous traditional PD. This took place within the first couple chapters. I did not have to wait to complete the book to see the value in reading.
Beyond being connected, Sheryl and Lani discuss direct ways change your teaching practice. Rather than just a “how-to” on being connected, they discuss the importance of helping students create their own learning networks. They bring up many resources available to be introduced into the lives of your students to not only enhance their learning of curriculum, but to develop them as lifelong learners (and not just as a buzz word.)
The later chapters really speak to not only teachers, but administrators as well. I think it is a must-read for teachers; it is probably that much more important for school and board administrators to read as well. We need to question where are resources are directed when we support teacher’s professional development. The book speaks to implementing a connected learning community among staff. It is one of the gems in the book. If the book is a catalyst for my own development, than any teacher I “bring into the fold” certainly owes thanks to the authors. I think connecting teachers together and to the wider community should be a mandate of administrators. It is the way to ensure continual and meaningful professional development for educators.
As I mentioned, once I started this book I really had the vocabulary to have meaningful discussions with other teachers and administrators. I was asked to be part of my board’s professional development planning committee, planning for our board-wide PD day next year. While I might not be able to overthrow the PD system, I’m certainly trying to embed some elements of teacher development I have taken away from this book. I certainly feel more knowledgeable about the future of teacher development, and confident to share those ideas.
Finally, the book simply reads well. It gets you to think critically without being overpowering. The only reason to put it down is to get online and start putting into practice the activities shared throughout. If you think you don’t have time to read a book right now, do yourself a favour and purchase it for the summer.