My friend and collaborator Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach is eminently interviewable. Whether she’s talking about passion-based teaching and learning, the secrets of successful online communities of practice, or her ideas about integrating new technologies and social media into everyday teacher and student life, her transformative vision comes through and what she has to say always has valuable take-aways for listeners.

Wearing my hat as the Coordinator of Content & Capacity Building at Powerful Learning Practice, I thought it would be both fun and worthwhile to curate a list of Sheryl’s many interviews over the past several years.

So here they are (at least I think I’ve found them all; not even Sheryl is absolutely sure!). I’ve compiled the text and video Q&As in chronological order – most recent first – and included annotations to help readers select chats that best suit their interests.


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

It’s no exaggeration to say that Howard Rheingold, who is credited with coining the term “virtual communities,” helped invent Web 2.0. His history as an innovator traces back to Xerox PARC, time spent as editor of the Whole Earth Review, early involvement in listserv and online communities, and writing prescient books like Virtual Reality (1991), Smart Mobs (2002) and the brand-new Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. His interest in interviewing Sheryl grew with the publication of her 2012 co-authored book (with Lani Ritter Hall) The Connected Educator. The Rheingold-Beach chat is hosted by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at UC-Irvine, supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

The interview: After a brief introduction by Howard, you can watch their live video conversation, which Rheingold describes this way: 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? Watch the interview.


Powerful Learning Practice Actualizes Educators, Improves Schools, One Project at a Time

Sheryl was interviewed by Bob Lasiewicz for the online journal JUST: Media and Social Change and his own website, Crossroads of Learning. Sheryl says this is one of her best efforts to get ideas across that are always evolving.

The Interview: Lasiewicz, an educator and web entrepreneur, asked Sheryl some important questions about the “self-actualization” philosophy behind PLP’s approach to professional learning and probed for the difference Sheryl sees in connectivism’s self-discovery (“the knowledge is in the network”) and PLP’s three-pronged community approach to adult learning, which includes the use of “connected coaches.” This interview is an excellent companion piece to the 2012 book, The Connected Educator. Read the interview.


Connected Educators: An Interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

The Connected Educators website is part of an ambitious project to document notable online communities where educators engage in professional learning. Funded by a major US Department of Education grant, the Connected Online Communities of Practice project aims to increase “the quality, accessibility, and connectedness of existing and emerging online communities of practice.” Connected Educators has thus far identified a half-dozen “Notable” communities, including Powerful Learning Practice, “the most popular community in our directory.”

The Interview: The project leaders who devised Sheryl’s interview questions were particularly interested in garnering her insights about what it takes to launch, nurture, grow and sustain communities of practice that are highly active and can show evidence of deep engagement and learning. Sheryl decided to “go deep” herself and share much of what she’s learned after more than a decade as a participant, creator, leader, and manager of multiple CoPs. It’s a remarkable tour de force that should come with graduate credit! Read the interview.


Passion-Based Learning: An Interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Edutopia hosts some of the most popular education blogs in the blogosphere, including the writings of California middle school teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron, who’s also a book author, a contributor to Huffington Post, and the keeper of her own widely followed blog TweenTeacher. Heather interviewed Sheryl late last spring and you can tell they¬† had a good time. As one of 20+ comments noted, “It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!”

The Interview: Heather summed it up well in her opening paragraph: When we talk about teaching, we are never just talking about a profession, but a passion. Unfortunately, while dodging the bullets of criticism and shielding ourselves behind the mediocrity of the standardization movement, we have found our eagerness to teach being chipped away. Educator Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach challenges us to rediscover our own passion for teaching by helping our students become passionate seekers of knowledge and understanding. Read the interview.


Washington Post/Education Week: What 21st Century Teaching, Learning Really Means

This particular interview with Sheryl was drawn from nearly eight hours of phone conversation she and I had during December of 2010, over the course of three interview sessions. It was these conversations that convinced me I wanted to be a part of the work Sheryl and her staff and consultants were doing. About 2000 words of our epic 30,000-word transcript appeared on the website of Education Week Teacher, and most of that was also published at the Washington Post blog The Answer Sheet.

The Interview: Sheryl covered some familiar ground, explained the big ideas behind PLP’s model of 21st century “connected” professional development, and told why she prefers the word “passion” to the word “interest” when talking about a student-centered approach to teaching. She also offers examples of what passion-based learning might look like in the classroom. You can follow the links to each of the publications, above, to see their version of the interview. Or you can read the longer version I originally offered to Ed Week. (It’s about 3000 words – not 30,000! – and offers more details about passion-based and inquiry learning.)


Larry Ferlazzo’s Interview of the Month: Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

If you’re among the 16,000 followers of California teacher and resources guru Larry Ferlazzo (if not, go here), you may know that he likes to feature monthly interviews with interesting educators at his blog. Sheryl visited in November 2011, just as her first book was about to be published. (Larry is about to publish his fourth book himself. We interviewed him at our PLP Voices blog last year.)

The Interview: Among the interesting questions Sheryl answered was this one: Where do you imagine your work going over the next 3-5 years? What excites you most about the future of professional learning? Read the interview.


TeachersCount Interview: The Connected Educator

TeachersCount is a NYC-based organization that reminds the public that teaching is both a rewarding and a challenging profession — and that great teachers make a huge difference in the lives of millions of children every generation. The TeachersCount website regularly interviews prominent educators from across the USA.

The interview: TeachersCount asked Sheryl to talk about what it means to be a “connected teacher” in the 21st century. She also talked about her own unusual path to a career in education and why she’s an advocate of passionate learning. A favorite question of mine has her explaining what she means when she says to teachers (as she so often does): “You don’t have to change the way you teach. You have to change the way you learn.” Read the interview.

That’s the round-up! As new interviews appear, I’ll amend this post to include them.

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John Norton

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