According to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall, “Teachers must learn to model connectedness and enable students to develop personal learning networks, made up of people and resources from both their physical and virtual worlds---but first, teachers must become connected collaborators themselves.” With that, in their book The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age, Nussbaum-Beach and Hall introduce the idea of the teacher-modeler of connectedness, and throughout their book, they tell educators how to become a “connected educator.”
Nussbaum-Beach and Hall begin by defining what a connected educator is. According to these authors, a connected educator has these characteristics:
- Connected educators are "do-it-yourself learners." They don't wait for someone to deliver professional development to them. They seek out professional development and learning that meets their individual needs.
- Connected educators have a "network of collective wisdom" to turn to when information and knowledge is needed. Educators who are connected have fostered and developed, over time, a network of other professionals to turn to for professional knowledge needs.
- Connected educators are "collaborative learners." They rely on others to help provide learning and they contribute to the learning of those in their personal learning network.
- Connected educators have moved away from the "paradigm of isolation and closed doors" to sharing a strong commitment with other educators to learn and understand more and more about teaching and learning. The educator who is connected no longer closes their classroom door and carries on teaching. They actively enlist the help of others and offer their help in return.
- Connected educators have leveraged online networks to solve their instructional problems through crowdsourcing and relying on the wisdom of the crowd for resources on teaching and learning. The educator who is connected does not hesitate to engage others in the face of the issues and problems of teaching. They use the crowd to learn more about the craft of teaching.
Nussbaum-Beach and Hall's book The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age is powerful book. For the educator and 21st century leader who is just wading in to the development of personal learning networks, it provides a clear path to making that happen. For the experienced connected educator, you walk away with a comprehensive understanding of what personal learning networks are, how they work, and how to optimize your own network. It is an excellent manual for administrators too, who want to transform educational practice in their schools or districts to capitalizes on 21st century technologies.