Post by Tom Whitby.

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The position of education thought leader is not a job that someone applies for. There is no “thought leader certification”, nor is there a license required for the position. It is also not a position that is acquired as a result of longevity.

The title of education thought leader is bestowed upon someone by other educators.

For many years the quickest path to become an education thought leader was to become an author on an education topic. There were also speaker bureaus that would, for a fee, supply education thought leaders as inspirational, or keynote speakers at conferences or schools.

Administrators attending large conferences would often return to their districts with the names of thought leaders that they had met or listened to for the purpose of bringing them into their own district to inspire or teach their faculty.

The process was fairly simple and understood by the people who controlled the policies and purse strings that secured the thought leaders for their speaking gigs. This was the way it was done for a long time until the computer slowly replaced the publishers’ self appointed position as the “determiner” of the thought leaders.

The leaders group was not a large group, and very slow to grow. Consequently, it was possible to see the same thought leaders several times, not because he or she was outstanding and highly sought after, but available and affordable. The way to get to know the thought leader was to read the Speaker’s Bio in the program, and the author’s book.

Although some of that process is still in place, today’s thought leaders come to us from many different paths. Technology and social media has connected educators in ways and in numbers that were never before available to us. Educators are reaching out through social media and sharing their experiences and their ideas with other educators for examination, as well as their own reflection. The ideas of individuals are the focus of the collaboration, and not the titles or credentials of the contributors.

The author process for many educator thought leaders now often comes in reverse. After sharing ideas and gaining acceptance on a large scale through social media these educators are encouraged to become authors.

It is now the masses of the social media that bestow the mantle of education thought leader. Technology can put up, for any individual brave enough to share it, an entire education philosophy in the form of a blog. It enables person-to-person contact for more in depth scrutiny. It has increased the number of education thought leaders, as well as the audience of educators they may affect.

This is now all part of 21st Century education. Educators are far more aware of self-publishing and branding. The understanding of the digital footprint has become part of digital literacy.

Gone are the days when educators could select whether or not to be involved with technology and its advance. Being an educator today requires us to be exactly what we want for our students to be; life long learners. Technology provides the tools to stay relevant and connected with our Education Thought Leaders.

Thomas D. Whitby is currently a contributing Editor for SmartBlog on Education by SmartBrief. Retired from Public Education after serving 34 years as a secondary English teacher, and an additional six years as an adjunct Professor at St Joseph’s College in New York. He is the founder of seven educational groups on Linkedin, the largest being 8,000+ members, the Technology-Using Professors Group. He is a Co-Creator of #Edchat, an award winning educational discussion group on Twitter. He hosts The weekly Edchat Radio Show on the BAM Radio Network. He created of the Educator’s PLN, a global Ning site, where approximately 15,000 educators share and collaborate daily. He is an educational Blogger, My Island View: Educational, Disconnected Utterances. He has written about Social Media in Education for several national educational journals including Learning and Leading the Journal for the International Society for Technology in Education. He has presented at statewide and National Educational Conferences,including several 140 Character Conferences on Social Media in Los Angeles, and New York City.