By Mary Worrell
The Independent Schools Cohort celebrated the end of its PLP experience with a culminating face-to-face meeting and project showcase last month. A number of team members and leaders had a chance to reflect on the year-long experience and how they have changed, both personally and in their practices.
Stewart Crais is a PLP 21st Century Fellow and works in operations at Lausanne Collegiate School in Tennessee. The Lausanne team decided to develop a program of projects for each grade focused on teaching computer skills.
“We had a scope and sequence that was pretty detailed starting in kindergarten, but teachers didn’t know exactly what they were supposed to teach in terms of computer skills,” Crais said. “We landed on this idea of trying to make an easy way for teachers to understand how they’re required to get those skills across to the kids.”
Projects will be required of each grade rather than a separate computer class, which Crais said the school pulled out of the curriculum because they were often having to re-teach the same material year after year.
Kim Davis, a high school social studies teacher and PLP team member at Lausanne, said learning about virtual learning communities was the most beneficial aspect of the PLP experience for her.
“Being immersed in technology as our culture, some of the concepts were a little remedial, but it gave us more exposure to what was out there,” Davis said. “It gave us a point to look at our weaknesses. We have so much technology, but it’s not well organized. We needed to take something that was overwhelming for teachers and students and put it into a process that is clean-cut, concise and builds on skills.”
Wendy Drexler of the Shorecrest Preparatory School team said the team first had to tackle its own diversity when starting the PLP process.
“We had two team members from the lower division, two from the middle division and two people from the upper division. The personalities, requirements and styles of teaching were very different,” Drexler said. “It was a little messy, but we learned a lot.”
In deciding how they would tackle their project, the team held two focus groups of students and found that those in the upper school didn’t have a grasp on the relationship between technology and learning.
“They saw school as very traditional,” Drexler said. “But we found that the younger kids were much more excited and open-minded to using technology in the classroom.”
Based on the focus group results, Shorecrest focused their efforts on the middle division using quotes from students as response to any push back they might encounter.
“We’re asking teachers to do one thing ‘more them, less us,'” Drexler said. “Give kids a say in how a project is initiated, how they’re going to be evaluated, and put more responsibility on them.
“Instead of focusing on teachers we’re focusing on the kids,” she said. “That’s the most important thing we learned this year.”
Laura Deisley is a PLP 21st Century Fellow and Director of 21st Century Learning at The Lovett School, which has a team from its middle school and one from its upper school.
The middle school is opening a new, LEED-certified green building in the fall as well as receiving new laptops making it a 1:1 laptop school. The middle school team decided to situate it’s PLP project alongside these two events with a week-long, immersion, modeled, 21st century learning project, Deisley said.
“Ultimately we’re going to ask each student to come up with a way to express their understanding from the week. They will be given a lot of latitude,” she said. “We’ve set aside an entire week. There’s no curriculum mandate.”
The PLP experience has been an eye-opening experience for Lovett’s team members, Deisley said.
“Our teachers will tell you they’re lifelong learners, but they are so used to sit-and-get models,” she said. “To put them in this model is such a huge shift.”
Deisley said the team members became captivated by 21st century teaching and learning at different points during the year.
“The hook is different for everybody,” she said.
The Kinkaid School team in Texas decided to tackle technology professional development and take ownership of it rather than outsourcing it to a vendor.
“The PLP model was so powerful for us we decided on professional development for our project,” said Christine Papadakes, a third grade teacher at Kinkaid and its PLP team leader.
Larry Kahn is a PLP 21st Century Fellow and Director of Academic and Information Technology at Kinkaid.
“One of the things I’ve been struggling with is how to make professional development better,” he said. “It became a no-brainer. We had the skills within our own school. We didn’t need to bring in outside help.”
Lizzy Riordan is a middle school English and Spanish teacher at Kinkaid. Prior to starting the PLP program, Riordan had only used Web 2.0 tools socially, not in her practice.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience for me,” she said. “After my PLP experience, I have a blog going in my classroom, a wiki and VoiceThread. I know a lot more about Web 2.0 tools for the classroom.”
Ron Gutowsky, a third grade teacher, found that getting out of the way and letting students use the tools was important.
“Just letting it happen – showing them something and being sure I give the kids who can handle it some time to use it,” he said. “There are some children who need more time. We do a lot of peer teaching – the kids are very helpful.”
For Vanessa Riesgo, an upper school Spanish teacher at Kinkaid, the PLP experience and using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom forced a major shift in her perspective and the students’ points of view.
“We’re part of a bigger community – a global community,” she said. “We always ask students to be out of the box, but we don’t take that step. Let them know we’re learning with them.
“Teaching is not teaching, it’s really learning,” Riesgo said. “It’s not a one-way communication. Everybody is collaborating.”
Each team from the Independent Schools Cohort created a wiki page for their team and detailed their culminating projects. Read on for descriptions and links to each team’s project.
Lovett Middle School
The Lovett Middle School team is developing a week-long learning experience for all 6th grade students, faculty and parents to officially launch the school’s 1:1 laptop program and 21st century learning environment. The week coincides with teh opening of a new, LEED-certified green building for the school. Classrooms and disciplines will be “hidden” during the week and students and faculty will explore their new surroundings, issues of sustainability and reflect on their changing community. You can read more about their project here.
Lovett Upper School
The upper school team from Lovett is developing a home page for upper school classrooms with online presence, which will enable faculty to “see” into their colleagues’ classrooms for the first time and make student access to those classrooms (and corresponding online tools and communities) easier. Team members are also pursuing individual projects. You can read more about the upper school team from Lovett and their projects here.
Woodward Lower School
Two lower school teams from Woodward have joined forces to create a lower school Ning to serve as the main communication portal for daily office memos and general sharing in hopes of creating a platform for faculty connections. You can read more about their project here.
The Woodward North team designed a project aimed at “thinning the walls” between classrooms and growing together as a faculty. The basics of the project involve each member of the PLP team to partner with an interested colleague for a full calendar year beginning this month. You can read more about their project here.
The Westminster team created a resource wiki as a virtual learning community for teachers of level four Spanish. According to the team, “published resources for fourth year Spanish courses are either inconsistent or substandard…As a result, most teachers of level four Spanish fend for themselves.” Teachers of these courses will be able to share resources on the wiki. You can read more about this project here.
The Walker School
The Walker team’s project involves helping students achieve a global view of water conservation through a class wiki. You can read more about the team’s project here.
The Trinity team focused on converting a traditional fourth grade unit on forests to a 21st Century unit with collaborative Web 2.0 tools. Read more about their project here.
Greater Atlanta Christian
You can view a slideshow about the Greater Atlanta Christian team’s project “From Here to Relevance” here.
Brookstone School (Columbus, GA)
The Brookstone team decided to develop a project around a tool they wanted to learn more about and decided on Skype. Teachers are developing lesson plans utilizing the tool, among other activities. You can read more about their project here.
Second Baptist School
The Second Baptist Team decided to focus their project efforts on integrating Web 2.0 language and tools into their professional practice during the 2009-2010 school year. One of the big steps they’re taking is replacing the normal in-service days at the beginning of the school year with a School for Leaders Web 2.0 Conference. You can read more about their project here.
The Kinkaid School
The Kinkaid team decided to take control of the technology professional development required by all faculty at least once every three years at the school. The team decided to have training provided by Kinkaid teachers rather than bringing in an outside vendor. You can read more about their project here.
Shorecrest Preparatory School
You can read more about the Shorecrest Preparatory School’s team project here.
Berkeley Preparatory School
The Berkeley team decided to develop a “One-Unit Challenge” for its project, which challenges faculty members to develop interdisciplinary units that meet a number of criteria, including using Web 2.0 tools to connect and collaborate with colleagues. You can read more about their project here.
David Lipscomb Campus School
The David Lipscomb team developed a project with two-pronged initiatives: to encourage faculty to consider social networking and to use Web 2.0 tools in teaching as well as create a Web site for the school to share “What Inspires You?” stories. You can read more about the team’s project and visit its Web sites here.
Lausanne Collegiate School
The Lausanne team’s project goal is to provide clear, easy-to-follow, and measurable information literacy integration goals school-wide. You can read more about the Lausanne project here.
You can read more about the Chadwick team project here.
You can read more about the Hawken team project here.