Meet Bonnie Bracey Sutton

CIRCL perspectives offer a window into the many different worlds of various stakeholders in the cyberlearning community–what drives their work, what they need to be successful, and what they think the community should be doing. Share your perspective.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Bonnie Bracey Sutton is an independent education consultant and one of the first teachers to promote the role of the Internet in the classroom. Bonnie served as lead educator on President Bill Clinton’s 21st Century Teacher Initiative. Follow Bonnie on Twitter @bbsutton.

How did you get started in cyberlearning?

Like Alice in Wonderland, I fell into Cyberlearning. I had a student who was very gifted and talented who could not write well and who tested badly. His father and I decided that we could use a computer in the classroom to allow him to write with ease. He was going to be put into Special Ed. I was to babysit him. I found him to be very talented. We taught each other the use of the computer. Then I bought a computer, and that gave me two computers, plus two more that other teachers did not want. All students used the computers we had… some even staying after school to do more.

The initial student wrote an essay for Prodigy that won us both a personal computer and some software. The child could have gone to Disneyland but he chose to gift me and the classroom with technology. We changed the world of the students, and then the school, over time, by infusing technology rich lessons and ideas for ALL students. Eventually we became a Blue Ribbon School. Later I was a member of the National Information Infrastructure Advisory Committee appointed by President Bill Clinton.

What is unique about your work?

Harriet Tubman gathered people and she brought them to freedom along pathways that she traveled because she knew the way from her own experiences. She conducted people and so do I. I do it by writing, and sharing resources. I pioneer areas of technology and show that they are user friendly with great results. I have used NASA, NSTA, EarthWatch, ESRI and National Geographic to scatter the seeds of interest in various communities. I work with LISTA (an Hispanic group) and SITE, and ISTE to push the rich content.

I am thinking content, curriculum, connections networking and opportunities.
In forums and online I share curriculum rich ideas for scaffolding to CyberLearning.

In a Native American way I scatter seed corn, in a project called Scoop.it.

I curate ideas. Like Frederick Douglass, I scatter the bread of knowledge and the links to interests that many have by curating on that site. I am a connector.

What kinds of help or support would you like from cyberlearning community?

I would like to have a diverse team to work with of teachers and a new website. In the Urban Tech Fair and with Lista, Latinos in Information Sciences & Technology Association, and with several Native American groups, I present.

I do major sharing of pathways to learning. I have done workshops, and with Ray Rose, we have done targeted information to show what learning is evolving into today. From STEM to Supercomputing we can talk the talk and walk the walk and leave no teachers behind. We can work as mentor teachers in areas of need with limited equipment and infuse interest and ideas, in school or after school. In communities and neighborhood gatherings we can bring technology and ideas that will bring people to WANT to be digitally literate in many ways.

I did this for a year for the Clinton White House in a CyberEd Van. I don’t need the van, I need an institution or foundation to link with. Carolyn Staudt of Concord has often shared her work at conferences to help share the knowledge… so there are people within community, but at the moment I have no funding at all to continue the sharing. I want to be helped to disseminate the knowledge.

What should the cyberlearning community be doing?

I get excited with the researchers sharing ideas. Can the community share with some teachers in the DC Metropolitan area? A diverse group?

What if there was a half day forum of ideational scaffolding that explained CyberLearning, the video, and shared powerful ideas in STEM and Computational Science and Gaming that ended in the teachers being able to see and discuss, and then join the exhibition of the funded workshops. A Companion Forum. A group of us who are invited could do this. How do I know this works? NSF funded projects were introduced to me at workshops at NSF, NASA and NSTA. I lived in Arlington and worked in a school where NSF personnel shared knowledge with us. CuSeeMe, Marsville, Red Rover, the Jason projects became my curriculum with permission of administrators. It was a passport to knowledge through community.

People facilitated my knowledge and drew me into their networks. Many people have a sad background of learning which did not equip them with the interest or knowledge to imagine the joy of teaching using innovative ways to engage young minds.

Larry Irving (who was at NTIA -Commerce Dept), once said, “Use Technology to Disrupt Poverty!”

Larry Irving also said: “No issue is more important than ensuring that our communities, particularly our children, obtain access to new technologies and become technologically literate. Our nation’s problems can’t and won’t be solved entirely by new technology, but these new technologies are tools that we can use to make significant changes in our communities.”

I want to take your powerful ideas in CyberLearning to continue being an agent of change.

How do we break the silos and involve more minorities?

We use your website to draw people into the community, we have mini forums where people who are just getting started learn powerful ideas and share them.

You have a wealth of resources that you share. I worry that at the educational conferences people are looking at the tools and not what needs to happen to create transformational learning that sticks, and grows and evolves into best practices.

Some face to face or targeted minority outreach that might involve teaching about CRA, specialized outreach (courses and opportunities) and of course grant writing support starting with little grants and then the NSF positioning.

With the Internet of Things… the digital divide is getting wider.

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