Power Up for Connected Teaching

The Connected Teacher: Powering Up
Edited by John Norton & Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
(Powerful Learning Press, 2012)
Updated 8/20/20 to include free PDF download of the book.

Reviewed by Kevin Hodgson

(Disclosure note: John Norton is one of the founders of the MiddleWeb website, which hosts this book review, but he had no influence on the writing of this piece other than providing me access to the book.)

This published collection of blog posts and reflections from the Powerful Learning Practice network group blogVoices from the Learning Revolution – is a handy guidepost for educators wondering not just about the ways to bring more digital literacy into their classroom, but also about the personal impacts those shifts will have on their experiences as learners themselves.

The book is built around four main themes that playfully hinge off the “power” reference in the title of the collection: Flipping the Switch, Feeling the Current, Turning up the Juice, and Ready for the Power Surge. The pieces in these overarching categories move from where to take that first step forward, to stepping back to consider the rationale behind our choices and what it all means for our students.

Norton and Nussbaum-Beach wisely not only allow the teachers’ voices to come through as they help convert blog posts into text chapters, but they also include some significant comments from readers on the blog as part of the texts here. This use of “other voices” is most effective when the comments and reactions by the writers stretch the ideas of the chapter, as opposed to just reaffirming the topic at hand. What we need is more of these kinds of difficult conversations so that we do keep pushing our thinking around the rationale of the shifts towards literacy and learning. An introduction by Will Richardson (another leader of the PLP network) about the changing face of learning really sets the stage for teacher- and class-based inquiry writing.

I was particularly drawn to pieces in this book by Patti Grayson (“Will My Third Graders Be Educated When They Grown Up?”), Becky Blair (“Growing Self-Directed Learners: Baby Steps”), Chris Preston (“How We’re Cultivating Inventive Thinkers in the Middle Grades”) and to a pair of articles by Jenny Luca (“Evolution of an Information Junkie” and “I’m a Connected Teacher But At What Price?”). Luca’s pieces really pushed my own thinking about how technology and information have both expanded my sense of the world but also made me wonder about the balance between physical and virtual connections with other educators.

Powering Up concludes with an insightful interview with Nussbaum-Beach about the role of a “connected educator” in schools and in the lives of young people, and then transitions into an appendix of shorter pieces about the value of Personal Learning Practice ideas, suggestions for how to get connected, and some advertisements for PLP programs. This book is a nice addition to the growing number of resources emerging to help teachers make a thoughtful transition to an inquiry-based, digital/technology-rich classroom that raises the bar for student engagement and work.

[Editor’s note: Kevin reviewed the print edition of Powering Up. A free digital edition is also available in PDF format. Click to download.]

Kevin Hodgson is a sixth grade teacher in Southampton, Massachusetts, and is the technology liaison with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Kevin blogs regularly at Kevin’s Meandering Mind and tweets more often than is healthy under his @dogtrax handle.

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