Confident Voices: Digital Tools for Language Acquisition


John Spencer

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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 R. 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 Bartlett, Acquisitions Editor @arielkbartlett

    About the Author

    John Spencer is an assistant professor of instructional technology at George Fox University, where he is focusing on the integration of creative and connective technology with quality pedagogy. He has more than a decade’s experience teaching middle school, including a year where he co-led the Twenty-First Century Classrooms, an innovative, STEM-centered, one-to-one initiative with twelve ELL classrooms. He is a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter. This last year he delivered a speech at the White House Future Ready Conference. He blogs regularly at and his work has been featured in Kappan Magazine, Education Week, The Answer Sheet, Edutopia, and Think Inclusive.

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