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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Connected Educators: Are We Using the Right Drivers?

By Peter DeWitt — August 10, 2014 5 min read
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In Motion Leadership, systems expert Michael Fullan writes about how state and federal education departments, as well as many school districts, use the wrong drivers when trying to implement change. According to Michael Fullan a driver is a policy that will help drive the system. In this video, Michael says that he used the following criteria when referring to what make the right and wrong drivers. The criteria are:

  • Foster intrinsic motivation
  • Engage students and teachers in continuous improvement
  • Inspires collective or teamwork
  • Affects all teachers and students

In the video, Fullan says that technology is the wrong driver that districts typically pick to create systems change. The more technology...the better the school...right? Unfortunately, we know that there are schools with laptops, tablets and Smartboards in every classroom that never get used, which shows that technology is the wrong driver...good pedagogy is the right driver. Technology can be used as a method to meet that need.

Since reading Motion Leadership I felt a strong sense that Michael was right. I am a fan of technology but I do not use it for everything I do. It’s a tool that can connect us in different ways but it can only helps us communicate better if we use it in the right way. Social media and technology have transformed my life, both as a school leader and as a writer. It has helped me connect and learn from people around the world...but not everyone sees it the way I do. Not everyone sees the benefit of being connected.


A little over a year ago I had dinner in California with Mike Soules. Mike is the President of Corwin Press, a publisher that took a risk and published my first educational book about safeguarding LGBT students. At dinner, I decided that I would rely on all of my years in publishing (0 years) to talk with Mike (many years in publishing) about a series of books focused on connected education. There is a whole world out there in social media, and more educators need to embrace it.

But they need to know more about it first...

The books would all be short form, like other books that Corwin had published, but they would be practical books to help teachers, parents or school leaders understand how to use technology as a right driver....meaning readers would learn to use technology to help understand students better or communicate with teachers and parents in more authentic ways.

A few months later I found myself working with Associate Editor Ariel Price and Senior Editor Arnis Burvikovs on the Connected Educators Series. Through many conversations, and a very rough idea of what the books should be focused on, we came up with 6 ideas and I assured everyone we could find the authors.

And we did...

Through my professional learning network (PLN) on Twitter, I had been connecting with some amazing educators for about 2 years (Social Media is powerful). I knew their strengths and passion areas by reading their blogs, and Corwin allowed me to approach the bloggers and ask them to write books for the series. We worked with each author on the Table of Contents, and got an understanding of why they loved being teachers or school leaders, and also got to see their very creative “connect” side.

I have long been a fan of sharing best practices. Given the opportunity most educators have passion and expertise that need to be shared with others. It’s a testament to how fortunate we are in education to have such great teachers and school leaders working with students every day.


Critics of social media believe that Twitter and other social networking tools do not allow for authentic conversation. Like on-line dating of yesteryear, there are people who feel that social media use comes with a stigma...and they cannot see passed it. Those critics would never put their true feelings out in a Tweet, blog or on Facebook. Instead, they most likely create fake accounts and do not Tweet but watch others Tweeting like voyeurs. They use their spouses’ Facebook account to keep up with everyone.

But then there are others...

There are educators who want to learn from other educators but are not sure how. They have a Twitter address but they are not sure how to use it correctly. They hear about cool apps but aren’t confident enough to ask for help so they can get the benefit of those cool apps. There are school leaders who want to flip their meetings and parent communication, but they just aren’t sure how to start it.

And that is why I approached Mike Soules. The Connected Educators Series comes out at the end of this month. We focused on how to begin a life as a connected leader (Spike Cook), create edcamps (Edcamp Foundation), use technology tools in a relevant way (Tom Whitby & Steve Anderson), how to teach the iStudent (Mark Barnes), empower students (Pernille Ripp), communicate with the school community (Brad Currie), and how to brand your schools (Joe Sanfelippo & Tony Sinanis).

Ariel Price, and a few other great people from Corwin, created the Connected Educators website where those educators who are interested in learning more can go and find “how to” videos and other resources to aid them in their connected journey. Educators helping other educators become connected, and through all of our conversations we have created a community of learners who not only can teach about the effective use of technology, but want to learn from others as well.

In the End

In our present systems it is really easy to follow the shiny new thing that we believe may be the silver bullet that will rid us of all of our problems. The reality is that there is no shiny new thing that can do that. It’s the people behind the thing that are doing the work that can help rid us of some of our problems.

Michael Fullan was right. Technology is not the right driver. Focusing on why we need to use technology to create relationships, form special bonds with colleagues and parents, communicate in effective ways, and gain a better understanding of our students is what should drive us, and I hope the Connected Educators Series will help meet that need.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.