Teaching Teachers, Honoring Learners: Interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

As digital media and networks make possible more networked and collaborative pedagogies, who teaches the teachers how to take advantage of the opportunities (and avoid the pitfalls) that new technologies afford? I have recounted previously on this blog how I discovered Will Richardson’s book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, when I started combining my own classroom teaching with social media. Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, a former classroom teacher, charter school principal, district administrator, technology coach, and university instructor, teamed up to found the Powerful Learning Practice Network to not only enable, instruct, and empower educators, but to introduce them to each other. When I heard that Nussbaum-Beach had published The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age, I knew I should interview her. We talked about big questions with practical, local implications: What do global, online communities of practice mean for day to day life in classrooms? How do educators use personal learning networks purposefully in their practice? How can teachers bring their questions and problems to solve to networked communities of inquiry? How do connected learning communities form? Here are a few highlights of her many insights but check out the whole video below: 

We’ve got to figure out how to take the wisdom that we’re gaining out in our network spaces and bring it into global communities of inquiry where we can really think more deeply.

You start by publishing, by being “Google-able” or findable, and you move from there to connecting, and you move from there to maybe a remix and a collaboration, and from there to some kind of collective action that we do together as a result of taking a step of being findable.

The way that I’ve been learning all along, it always began with inquiry, it began with this passionate desire, this wild curiosity, this sense of wonderment. And then, when I started teaching I came to be known as an inquiry-driven teacher in that I wanted to start with, what is it that you really wonder about?

Inquiry is really the secret to allowing ownership of the learning for kids in a K-12 setting or for adults in adult learning settings.

Appreciative inquiry is basically deep respect and honor of the learner; where you talk about what they can do, what they’re interested in. And then, as you’re coaching or making suggestions, you do it from a perspective of, well, what if this, or let’s think about this possibility, or does this idea interest you? Then you take the learning in that direction rather than coming in and saying, alright look, I’ve already pre-ordained what we’re going to learn, how we’re going to learn it, how you’re going to regurgitate it back to me to prove mastery, and then how I’m going to assess you, and it’s all going to be based on my strength and what I prefer, and we’re not going to consider what the learner prefers in any way, shape, or form.

Kimberly Lim contributed to this post.

Banner image credit: gibsonsgolfer http://www.flickr.com/photos/gibsonsgolfer/5159486321/