Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Connected Educator: a review

Here we go. As I mentioned in my first post, I had agreed to review a book, "The Connected Educator", by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (@snbeach) and Lani Ritter Hall (@lanihall). Sheryl was kind enough to send me a copy, which I have really enjoyed reading. I wanted to do the book justice, so I took my time.

  The thing is, though, that you do not just read it and are done with it. Oh no. Sheryl and Lani will ask you at several points to actually DO something. For example, add yourself to The Connected Educator map (the Map Yourself! activity), which I promptly did. Or create an account on Diigo; something I didn't do, seeing as I already have a delicious account (now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I must have one anyway, created during my 2008 discovery of Web 2.0 apps while in Leicester. But that's another story/post). Or start a blog. ;)

And so it goes, covering this or that topic, asking you to go ahead and try something, making yourself stop and reflect. It is not a manual, in the sense that following all the steps won't magically transform you into a connected educator, but it will challenge you, question you, open your eyes for new ways of doing things, trying new tools, and generally helping you change or improve your approach to teaching and learning.
Is this a book for everyone? I'm sure some of my colleagues will take a look at it and say that they don't need it - been there, done that. And that's probably true. But sadly, they/we are still a minority. Most educators WILL benefit from reading this book. If they are already on their way to being "connected educators", this book will help them fill in some gaps. If they are new to this world, they will have a great time - probably the key to this: if you don't enjoy it, chances are you won't try it.

I have been teaching for 16 years, and have been interested in learning technologies for almost as long, even before realising there was such as a concept as Learning Technologists. Some of the concepts were familiar to me, and even some of the authors that are referenced throughout the book. I have been lucky enough to have met Alec Couros, Cristina Costa, Grainne Conole, George Couros, Gabriela Grosseck, Carmen Holotescu, Malinka Ivanova, Yong Zhao and George Siemens, during the four or so years I have been doing research on learning technologies.

In most cases, I had met them virtually before actually having the opportunity to have a face to face conversation with them. And that is just one example of how technologies allow us to develop strong communities and networks, even if we never actually meet some of the colleagues that are part of them.

Something else I liked about the book, and that resonates with the way my team and I approach helping teachers embed ICTs in their practice, is the fact that tools DO NOT take center stage. They are presented as that, tools, in a very matter-of-factly way: "This is X, it works this way, why don't you try it? What other uses can you think of? How would you use with your students?". There are many examples and testimonials throughout the book, something that conveys the right message: until you actually try these applications, don't dismiss them as just another gimmick or gadget; see for yourself whether they are actually any good.

Is this a perfect book? Maybe not - there are always things that can be improved, and as it is usually the case with printed works, some of the things that are mentioned in it will change, disappear or something new will take their place; this is particularly true in the case of tools and applications. Many of us still remember the "will they close it, will they not" scare with delicious, courtesy of Yahoo. But that's how the Internet is,  and I think we need to learn to live with it.

I would have used QR codes for some of the URLs, figures or tables, not just for convenience, but also to show these tools by example. But this is just my personal opinion, and in no way a shortcoming of the book. One more thing that is very interesting is the fact that you can subscribe to The Connected Educator self-paced eCourse, and you will receive a newsletter that will guide you as you read the book and help you put it into practice.

Something did surprise me: I found no specific mention of Personal Learning Environments. Should they have been mentioned, though? This is an issue that in some way or another we have been debating for the last three years, in the context of The PLE Conference. Is the PLE a part of the Personal Learning Network? is it the other way around? are they the same thing? and so on. Other related concepts are indeed discussed in the book, such as Communities of Practice and Personal Learning Networks and, in my opinion, anyone that manages to create a PLN is at the same time developing a PLE.

I see myself re-reading this book, discovering new things, and using it for my work with teachers and educators. A great resource, and definitely recommended!

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking the time to read our book and write a review. You gave me some solid feedback to think about.

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    1. Thanks for the book and for this opportunity... we'll keep in touch!

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  2. Ricardo,
    Thank you for reading, for connecting, and for providing this review and feedback.

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    1. Thanks, Lani. I enjoyed the book very much!

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