Open letter to the “Connected” Authors

Dear Dr. Fowler and Dr. Christakis,

This morning I had the good fortune to listen to your interview with Kerri Miller on Minnesota Public Radio on your new book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks. By lunch I had both downloaded it through and purchased a hard copy. Here’s why: My colleagues (Dr. Fred Newmann and Dr. Bruce King) and I are involved in educational reform. We are currently having remarkable success in the state of Iowa. Three years ago when we began, there were less than 100 teachers in nine schools; now there are more than 1,000 in 32 schools. Next year, we could double. The research model we are using has great foundation in the field, but we’ve never had the kind of traction in the field that we’re experiencing in Iowa.

Your interview, and I hope the book, has now given me an important insight into Iowa’s rollout. Rather than a “train the trainer model, ” which is typically used in education reform, our approach has created much tighter social networks to foster the change needed to implement the initiative with fidelity. Needless to say it’s working. What makes it especially exciting is that teachers can be a difficult bunch, yet our reform has an energy among its participants that is fostering reflective practice and moving into the classroom with remarkable speed. Ultimately the work is about increasing the quality of authentic intellectual work among the students.

For example, this past year one of our pilot schools experienced a remarkable transformation in their class of 2011 (an especially obdurate group). Proficiency scores in reading went from 64% to 97%. No one, not even us, could explain the change. My suspicion now is that when the principal worked with the staff and worked with the students, a transformation in rigor occurred…the buffalo herd mentality towards rigor. Anyways…There’s lots to think about. Just wanted to let you both know that you are going to be having an impact on another field. If you are interested in this, I would be happy to connect. Our website is below if you are curious about what we do.

All the best,


Dana L. Carmichael, Ph.D.

Center for Authentic Intellectual Work

4 responses to “Open letter to the “Connected” Authors

  1. Response from Nicholas Christakis:
    dear dr. carmichael:

    thanks for your kind words, for reaching out, and for telling us about this experience of yours. it is most impressive. and, yes, i do suspect that network phenomena can (partially) explain the effects you are observing.



  2. Response from James Fowler:

    Hi Dana,

    Thanks for your interest and for sharing your work with us. We are overjoyed when we hear that people like you are figuring out how to use insights about networks to make the world a better place.


    James H. Fowler

    The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

  3. Hi James and Nicholas,

    Thanks for getting back to me. I shared the email with Bruce and posted it on our blog, ( I’ve encouraged folks from our project to read the Connected so we can think together if there is a stronger correlation than mere suspicion that the AIW Learning Teams are in fact creating a shift in the behavioral norms of staff and student culture.

    We look forward to sharing our thoughts as we delve more closely into your research.

    All the best,

  4. Pingback: “Connected” Continued « Dana's Theme Reading

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