By Mary Worrell

Earlier this month teams from the Illinois-Ohio Cohort gathered at the Marie Murphy School is Wilmette, Ill. to celebrate the end of their year-long PLP experience with a project showcase.

Gail Soriano from the Avoca School District 37 said the PLP experience gave her team a chance to get to know others in the district. The Avoca district hosted two PLP teams.

“It was amazing. The thing I enjoyed the most was working with people in my district from both schools,” Soriano said. “A lot of times we don’t have the opportunity to work with teachers in the other building and from different grade levels. It brought our district together in a way I’ve never seen before – we were working toward a common goal.”

Kim Zimmer, from the other Avoca District team, acknowledged the importance of the collaborative aspect of the PLP experience.

“The transformation came in the conversations we’ve had since – it brought together teachers that might otherwise have never crossed paths,” Zimmer said.

The technology integration aspect of PLP shook a lot of team members up, Zimmer said.

“Which as a tech facilitator was great to see,” she said. “We came out knowing a lot of more about technology and tech integration. I really came away with the concept of a personal learning network – it’s changed the way I do things and the way I help teachers.”

Mark Emmons and his team from Leyden High School had to celebrate failure before they could find the right strategy for implementing their project.

“Like many, we went in thinking we would develop professional development sites, connections between our colleagues, and everyone was going to jump on the bandwagon. We thought 300 teachers would embrace technology,” Emmons said. “The good news is we quickly changed our focus. Instead of throwing a blanket over all of the teachers, we started communicating one-on-one and grew it that way. We started to create evangelists not talking about tech, but talking about engaging students.”

Alison Cox from the Bedford City School District said her team struggled at first before finding their footing.

“It was a long process for us and sporadic initially. A year ago we were disjointed, not working toward any particular goal, but we are now,” Cox said. “The six of us in this district are on the same page and working toward a reachable goal. We’re really excited about the future.”

The Bedford team is developing a wiki to serve as a database of information to share with teachers without having to meet in-person.

Emmons from the Leyden team said the PLP experience was hard, but necessary work.

“You either figure out how this is going to be in your teaching toolkit, or you’ll relegate yourself to the back of the bus,” he said. “When the objective is to use technology, we’re in the wrong place. When technology becomes ubiquitous, that’s when it gets really cool.”

Visit each team’s wiki page below for a peek into how they planned their culminating projects.

Illinois Teams

Avoca School District 37 – Teams One & Two
Avoca Team One developed a menu of tutorials for its teachers called TechBytes. Avoca Team Two focused its project on student blogging. You can read about both teams’ projects here.

Leyden High School District 212
Read about the Leyden High School team’s project here.

Northbrook School District 28
Greenbriar School: Team Sprockets
The Greenbriar team’s project, “No Teacher Left Behind,” was developed with the goals of increasing the use of technology across the building and creating a venue for efficient professional collaboration. Read more about the project here.

Meadowbrook School: Team Polaris
The Meadowbrook team focused its project on enhancing communication and collaboration among staff members. Read more about their project here.

Northbrook Junior High: Team Apex
The Northbrook team aimed to foster online collaboration and professional development for its staff through its project. Read more about their project here.

Westmoor School: Team West ‘Site’ Story
The Westmoor School developed its project with the objective of changing the behavior, temperament and culture of the school to use 21st century learning practices. Read more about their project here.

Sunset Ridge School District 29
The Sunset Ridge team is in the process of developing a wiki for its Sunset Ridge Learning Network, which will focus on disseminating information about a 21st century learning seminar series. You can read more about the project here.

East Maine School District 63
The four East Maine teams focused their project efforts on staff development. You can read more about their project here.

Ohio Teams

Forest Hills School District-Secondary
The secondary Forest Hills team is building a wiki that will share the team’s 21st centurized lessons and foster collaboration among teachers. You can read more about the team’s project and find a link to its wiki here.

Forest Hills School District-Elementary
The elementary Forest Hills team developed a professional learning community for its culminating project. You can read more about the planning involved in the project here.

Bedford City School District
Team Bedford is developing a virtual learning community to build awareness of 21st century skills like collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. You can read more about their project here.

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Mary Worrell

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