It’s a brand new year at Powerful Learning Practice, and our Communities aren’t the only ones who have exciting things happening. Powerful Learning Practice has expanded its staff (and we’re still hiring!) and brought some fascinating new minds (and fresh ideas) to our team. We’d like to introduce our team to you, one by one, and so we’ve come up with seven questions for each of them so you can have a little peek into what they’re thinking and who they are.

Meet John Norton, Coordinator for Content and Capacity Building for Powerful Learning Practice

John Norton

John Norton

Tell us a little bit about yourself – who are you, where are you from, what are your passions?

I’m an education writer and communications consultant. I work from various comfy chairs in the cabin I share with my wife Janice, dog Bailey, and cat Eloise, up in NC’s piece of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My passions come in spells, but near the top is walking through the woods with my huskie/beagle/pitbull mix, looking for wild things. And listening to audiobooks while I do. I also like playing poker, cooking on the grill, fooling around on the Web, and hanging out with teachers. I grew up at a little coastal resort in South Carolina called Ocean Drive Beach and went to a tiny public high school with 30 or so in my senior class. Then to a pretty big university. The size was a culture shock. Not to mention the mandatory ROTC. Boy, those were the days.

What do you do here at Powerful Learning Practice?

I’m called the Coordinator for Content and Capacity Building, an elastic title that has me working with PLP bloggers at Voices from the Learning Revolution, helping with some virtual community support, launching the Powerful Learning Press, and serving as editor at large.

What else are you up to professionally?

I’ve been a consultant for the Alabama Best Practices Center for a dozen years and written many stories about schools across that state that are working to become excellent. My pet project is MiddleWeb, a blog and newsletter that hunts up resources for middle grades educators.

Desert island situation – you get to take five books. What are they?

I’ve recently been introduced to an exciting pile of delightfully strange biz-with-ed-overtones books by my PLP friends. But let’s face it. If you’re stuck on an island eating hearts of palm, the entrepreneurial excitement of Seth Godin and Dan Pink may be hard to sustain. I’d go for books you can read again and again. And I’d cheat. Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon; the one-volume Oxford English Dictionary; the entire Aubrey-Maturin canon; the complete Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon; and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire cycle. That figures to be at least 20,000 pages. Digital files and a solar iPod charger could be parachuted in?

What’s your favorite example of how online communities are powerful and transformative?

I co-founded several online educator communities during the 2000s, including the Teacher Leaders Network, which has served as something of a catalyst for the teacher leadership movement in the US over the past 10 years, especially in areas of national and state policy advocacy. TLN provided a base camp for teachers to try out and cultivate their leadership voices together. Upwards of a dozen top teacher bloggers in the US are TLN members. PLP’s Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach was a charter TLN member – that’s how we first became friends and professional colleagues.

I think online communities are transformative when they have something important to do and also when they create a sense among the members that “what we’re about here really matters.” Nobody is better than PLP at doing that. The work PLP is doing to create new online communities grows in part out of some community-building ideas that emerged from a multi-year Microsoft Partners in Learning project Sheryl and I did together. She was very definitely the brains of that enterprise. Here’s an artifact:

Where can people find you online?

I mostly hang around Twitter right now @johncroftnorton. I keep trying to sustain a personal blog, but I seem to enjoy building group blogs more. At my semi-defunct eponymous blog you can find a bit of my digital footprint:

Any final words?

Did I mention my daughter Laurah? She’s a writing and English teacher at Georgia State U who’s been recognized for her teaching excellence and won several writing awards. That’s satisfying.

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.

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