Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader


Spike C. Cook, Jessica Johnson & Theresa Stager

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    My best friend is a high school math teacher. When I started working on the Corwin Connected Educators series, I excitedly told her about the power of using social media to connect with other educators. I passed on what I learned from the authors in this series: that the greatest resource educators have is each other. At a conference, she heard Jennie Magiera speak and finally made the leap to getting on Twitter. Although I wasn’t sure she would continue tweeting, she did, and even joined Twitter chats like #connectedtl and #slowmathchat. A few days later, she texted me saying, “I seriously cannot thank you enough. You have changed my life.”

    Being “connected” seems deceptively simple: Just get on Twitter, right? But that’s really not enough. For those who truly embrace connectedness, it’s a lifestyle change, an openness to sharing and learning in an entirely new environment. We’re seeing the impact of this shift in mindset worldwide. Policies are changing, new jobs in education are being created, hitherto impossible collaborations are happening, pedagogy is evolving, and there’s a heightened awareness of each person’s individual impact. All of these changes are explored in the Connected Educators series.

    While you can see the full list of books on the series page, we’re introducing several new books to the series; they will be published in the fall of 2015 and spring of 2016. These books each contribute something unique and necessary not only for educators who are new to the world of connected education, but also for those who have been immersed in it for some time.

    Tom Whitby, coauthor of The Relevant Educator, has brought together a group of experienced connected educators in his new book, The Educator’s Guide to Creating Connections. Contributors Pam Moran, George Couros, Kyle Pace, Adam Bellow, Lisa Nielsen, Kristen Swanson, Steven Anderson, and Shannon McClintock Miller discuss the ways that connectedness has impacted them and the benefits it can have for all educators—policy makers, school and district leaders, and teachers.

    While all connected educators are evangelists for being connected, connectedness does not necessarily prevent common problems, such as isolation in leadership. In Breaking Out of Isolation, Spike Cook, Jessica Johnson, and Theresa Stager explain how connectedness can alleviate the loneliness leaders can feel in their position and also, when used effectively, help leaders maintain balance in their lives and stay motivated.

    For districts and schools embracing the connected mindset and empowering all of their learners to use technology, a solid plan for digital citizenship is a must. In Digital Citizenship, Susan Bearden provides a look at how leaders can prepare teachers and students for the new responsibilities of using technology and interacting with others on a truly global platform.

    Connected education provides unique opportunities for teachers in their classrooms as well. In Standing in the Gap, Lisa Dabbs and Nicol Howard explore the ways that social media can specifically help new teachers find resources, connect to mentors, and encourage each other in their careers. Erin Klein, Tom Murray, A. J. Juliani, and Ben Gilpin show how teachers can purposefully integrate technology and empower their students in both physical and digital classrooms in Redesigning Learning Spaces.

    One of the most powerful impacts connected education can have is in reaching marginalized populations. In Confident Voices, John Spencer shows how social media and other technology tools can empower English language learners. Billy Krakower and Sharon LePage Plante have also discovered that technology can reach special and gifted learners as well.

    The books in the Corwin Connected Educators series are supported by a companion website featuring videos, articles, downloadable forms, and other resources to help you as you start and continue your journey. Best of all, the authors in the series want to connect with you! We’ve provided their Twitter handles and other contact information on the companion website.

    Once you’ve taken the step to joining a network, don’t stop there. Share what you’re doing; you never know when it will help someone else!

    —Peter DeWitt, Series Editor @PeterMDeWitt
    —Ariel Price, Associate Editor @arielkprice

    About the Authors

    Spike C. Cook is the principal at RM Bacon Elementary School in Millville, New Jersey. He is a lifelong learner who enjoys collaborating with other educators throughout the world to improve teaching and learning. As a new administrator, Dr. Cook used social media to transform his leadership into a 21st century mindset. He built the technology capacity within his school so that teachers, parents, and students can connect with others throughout the globe. He is the cocreator of the participant-driven professional development “unconference” model called “Tech Fridays” at his school and works collaboratively with other administrators to promote 21st century learning. Spike is committed to assisting and learning from other educators. Spike was featured in Eric Sheninger’s best-selling book Digital Leadership. In Chapter 3, Eric Sheninger captured Spike’s keys to sustainable change in his school. Spike is also the cofounder of the popular Principalcast, a weekly round table podcast on educational tech and pedagogy. He has presented at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) national conferences, as well as at state and local conferences. Spike earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a doctorate from Rowan University. He is currently an adjunct professor at Rowan University in the College of Education where he teaches aspiring administrators in the Master’s of School Administration. He lives in Turnersville, New Jersey, with his wife Theresa and two children, Henry and Catherine. Spike’s blog Insights Into Learning was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards in 2013. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter.

    Jessica Johnson is an elementary school principal and district assessment coordinator for Dodgeland School District in Juneau, Wisconsin. She is the 2014 Wisconsin Elementary School Principal of the Year. She has previously taught in Minnesota, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree at Bemidji State University. She also taught and worked as an instructional coach and assistant principal in Arizona, earning her master’s degree at Arizona State University. As a continuing learner, she is passionate about literacy, principal productivity, social media, technology integration, and the concept of leading with a “coaching hat” as an administrator. She has a self-published children’s novel Adventures in Blockworld: A Novel for the Young Minecraft Fans. She comoderates the #educoach chat on Twitter each Wednesday night at 9pm CST and also cohosts the PrincipalPLN Podcast. You can follow Jessica on Twitter as @PrincipalJ, follow her blog at, or contact her at

    Theresa Stager earned her bachelor of music education degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, in 2003 and a master in educational administration (assessment and evaluation) degree at University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2007. She taught for 8 years as a public school music educator teaching general music, band, and high school choir. She worked for 2 years as an implementation director at a human resources company until 2013. Theresa has presented at many music, administration, and technology conferences in her career. Her music education blog was nominated and chosen as one of the Top 75 eCollegeFinder Music and Arts Enthusiasts Award Winners. Theresa was featured in Dr. Spike Cook’s first book Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away. Theresa is a cohost of PrincipalPLN podcast that can be found at and on iTunes. She is currently in her 2nd year as lead learner and building principal at St. Mary Catholic School in Rockwood, Michigan. She has implemented a one-to-one iPad program and is excited to be able to merge her love of technology, learning, and education with this position. She lives in Huron Township, Michigan, with husband Brian and two children, Audrey and Jacob. Theresa believes her biggest professional accomplishment is yet to come.

  • People We Follow and Why

    • @CurtRees (Curt): We follow Curt for Response to Intervention (RtI) questions, because his school is a model school for RtI and has presented at a couple of conferences. He is also a tech guru, currently getting his doctorate with an emphasis in technology leadership and was one of the Techlandia Podcast crew. As a principal, he also does a great job of keeping his parents/community well informed through his school Facebook and YouTube channel.
    • @PosickJ (Jay): His school was one of few that went one-to-one with chromebooks for their fourth to eighth graders, and there are some great tech gurus in his district. He recently ran for the 10,000th day in a row, so he is an inspiration for administrators who claim they don’t have time for exercise.
    • @ReadbyExample (Matt) is an awesome elementary principal focused on literacy and is a grant-writing guru. His blog is filled with incredible information, and he often writes posts for the Stenhouse blog.
    • @Joesanfelippofc (Joe) is a superintendent doing some incredible work in his district and leading his staff to be connected learners. He cowrote the book The Power of Branding and uses the hashtag #gocrickets to share the great things happening in his district.
    • @twhitford (Tom) is a fellow elementary principal with great ideas, and he is constantly learning with others on twitter.
    • @Leah_Whit (Leah): Another fellow elementary principal who also happens to be Tom’s wife. She is constantly reading, learning, and sharing on Twitter.
    • @ChadHarnisch (Chad) is a connected high school principal with a great deal of experience and lot of wisdom to share. He recently presented at a conference about how all of his teachers were teaching literacy in the high school—not just the English teachers.
    • @chadkafka (Chad) is a go-to guy for anything Google, because he is the Google guru! He is also an Apple Distinguished Educator. He used to lead the MobileReach podcast to share all kinds of great apps and advice for integrating mobile devices in education but now has the Teacher Tech Talk Podcast.
    • @Taml17 (Tammy) joins Chad on the Teacher Tech Talk podcast and shares awesome tech tools/tips. I love following her website to see what she’s presenting on.
    • @pernilleripp (Pernille) started the Global Read Aloud project and is so reflective on teaching in her blog. She is sincerely honest about her practice and gives the classroom back to the students.
    • @mmiller7571 (Melinda) is a principal from Missouri who used to cohost the Practical Principals podcast that was the inspiration for our PrincipalPLN podcast.
    • @shiraleibowitz (Shira) and @KathyPerret (Kathy) both comoderate the #Educoach chat with Jessica every Wednesday night. Shira is a rabbi/head of school in New York with a wealth of knowledge on coaching teachers versus just evaluating them. Kathy is a very well-trained instructional coach in Iowa, also with a wealth of knowledge.
    • @E_Sheninger (Eric) is very well known across the country for having his New Jersey high school utilize social media. He was recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) as a Digital Principal Award Winner. You may have seen video clips, news articles, and blog posts about him and his awesome school. He is the author of the book Digital Leadership.
    • @patrickmlarkin (Patrick) was the principal of a Massachusetts high school that has been in national headlines for going one-to-one with huge success (now he’s an assistant superintendent). He’s also known for being the 2012 NASSP Digital Principal Award Winner.
    • @8Amber8 (Amber) is an elementary assistant principal in Texas who is constantly sharing great ideas for integrating technology.
    • @L_Hilt (Lyn) was an elementary school principal in Pennsylvania and is now an Instructional Tech Coach. She is an incredible leader on integrating technology.
    • @Eduleadership (Justin): A former principal, now director of the Principal Center. He has taught me so many organizational/time management tips to keep up with the crazy amount of workload a principal has.
    • @Cantiague_Lead (Tony): Principal of an elementary school that has been awarded the National Blue Ribbon Award, was New York State Elementary Principal of the year He cowrote Power of Branding with Joe.
    • @LeaderandReader (Mindy) is an elementary school principal, a true lead learner, constantly sharing her ideas on leadership, leading a literacy school, and Daily 5.
    • @casas_jimmy (Jimmy): A high school principal full of energy, great ideas and known for being a high school Principal of the Year in Iowa. He started the #IAEdchat to connect the Iowa educators on Sunday nights at 8. pm.
    • @plugusin (Bill): Bill is a middle school teacher who has written several books and is a phenomenal speaker on PLCs for Solution Tree.
    • @benjamingilpin (Ben) is an elementary principal who is extremely helpful, motivational, and inspiring. He is an advocate of #michED and creating learning spaces and environments that help students want to learn.
    • @Joe_Mazza (Joe) is Leadership Innovation Manager at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. He has served as an elementary principal, and district EdTech supervisor, and also currently serves as a national family-community engagement advisor to the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, DC. He is also the host of #ptchat, a weekly parent-teacher chat on Twitter.
    • @ideaguy42 (Bob) is Director of Technology and Innovation at a school district in St. Louis, MO, and has also been a middle school principal. He truly is the “IdeaGuy”: He shares a ton of wonderful material, is very interactive on Twitter, and is a really fun guy to know and communicate with. His blog is consistently an Edublogs Finalist for “Best Administrator Blog.”


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