By Lani Ritter-Hall

A common journey toward 21st Century learning–  135 Ohio Consortium PLPers —

Each beginning that journey with a single step from whence they were standing—  diverse backgrounds and understandings that strengthen and deepen the growth of the community–

And as with all journeys, not without bumps in the road and/or detours—

One journey, an example, from the many–

Tim Breuer from the Milford Exempted Village School District began his PLP trek as an active participant in many and varied discussions during the first month of learning within the virtual learning community.  Following the first Elluminate session, where PLPers considered trends shaping the current shifts in learning, he was absent from the community for a number of days.  On his return, he related being disturbed, confused and unsettled by what he believed he heard during the session only to spend countless hours sorting his emotions and thoughts to find:

As I thought through this more I realized that Debra had pushed me out of my comfort zone. That is when we truly learn, when we are uncomfortable.

My encouragement to those who are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated is to look past the emotion and see why you feel this way. Use that understanding to drive you to work outside your comfort zone and begin the true learning.

Tim was eager to continue—with assistance from his Fellow, Lynn Ochs from Milford, creating a Moodle site to engage parents of his students in discussions about 21st century learning at his initiative

And then Tim began blogging using the blog feature of Ning, at the suggestion of Lynn – chronicling his journey into 21st Century learning.

One post described an afternoon in his classroom–

I did a science exploration with my fourth graders using our laptop cart. It was amazing! They were looking for answers to any of their questions and looking to generate any new understandings/ questions as well. They were mesmerized. I spent the 3 hours sharing in the excitement of discovery “Hey, Mr. Breuer, come here . . .did you know that . . .” “Mr. Breuer, look at what I found about plants . . .” “Mr. Breuer I bet you didn’t know . . .” It was awesome, exhausting, and absolutely fantastic. One of my most struggling students said to me, “I love being able to watch the video because now I know things too. I have so much trouble reading the books.” One of my autistic students was in and she watched a couple of the plant videos on the laptop with her headphones on and floored with me with the information she was able to share. With the video on their laptop they could pause, rewind, or move on at will. Many times a student came up and said to me “Mr. Breuer, so and so isn’t going in order of the websites. They’re starting with the video.” I told them, “Great, they don’t have to go in order. Explore and tell me what you find.” The amount of information they “owned” was amazing, but more incredibly they were connecting the information in ways I had never imagined.

The lessons this week was not about the technology. It was about creating a learning situation that built community and allowed for exploration. Technology just allowed me to do it in an easier way. I’m in it for good now!

In other posts, his thinking and learning become transparent–

In order to blog something I had to synthesize all of the events and critically look at them as individual pieces and how they fit together as a whole. A new awareness of what I was doing and why began to grow.

I am really learning a lot about myself as a learner while exploring 21st century learning through the Ning experience. With blogging, even if no one responds, I am still putting my thoughts into coherent (as much as I can muster) meaningful ways and I have them down somewhere that I can reread them. I’m interested to see how they change by the end of the PLP experience.

Engaging, pushing back, moving forward, reading, writing, reflecting —  other PLPers responding in the blog comments–  Everyone learning–

I sit nodding, learning, waiting for his next insight shared with the entire community —   And at the same time, I’m encouraging and nudging other PLPers to open a window on the landscapes of their journeys into learning too–

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Lani Ritter Hall

Lani is Community Leader for Powerful Learning Practice. She also serves as the “Newbie Maven”, helping along and nurturing newbies to the PLP experience, as well as facilitator for the Connected Coaches. Lani brings more than 35 years of teaching experiences in urban, sub urban, and independent schools at the middle/secondary level in the U.S and Canada to this work. A national board certified teacher, she and her students began collaborating globally in the late 1980’s. Lani has created and facilitated professional development around technology infusion into learning for over twenty years and served in a leadership role for the K12Online Conference for 2 years. She is co-author of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age.
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