By Lani Ritter-Hall

“Part of the mission of PLP is to help participants build their cyber confidence while at the same time starting to build their personal and professional learning networks. One way we do that is by bringing in Experienced Voices. The idea behind “Experienced Voices” is twofold. First, it’s to bring into the PLP communities folks knowledgeable about both the tools and the pedagogy, and have them help PLP members explore various topics related to teaching and learning in the 21st century. Second, it’s a way to help PLPers slowly expand their learning networks by giving them some thoughtful folks to learn from and to follow.” – PLP network

To that end, four experienced voices, practitioners all,  joined the Ohio Consortium to share experiences, answer questions, and engage in deep, inspiring, and thoughtful conversations around 21st Century learning. Embraced by community members, Brian Crosby, Kim Cofino, Anne Smith, and Barbara Barreda have encouraged, prodded, celebrated, questioned and most importantly of all, shared the reality and power of their day to day experiences with learning.

In one of Anne Smith’s ‘Learning in a 21st Century Secondary Classroom‘ discussions, she has asked her group to consider blogging, why they blog, if they don’t why not, and what did they want to know about blogging.  Jeremy Duncan, a Chinquapin PLPer and math teacher, thoughtfully responded –questioning his role in blogging and the value of blogging in his classroom:

“I will probably never meet most of the people whose blogs I read, but I have certainly learned from their thoughts. I have become a better math teacher because Dan Meyer blogs. … If I am going to learn from all of these people, shouldn’t I contribute something also? I have also seen how useful blogs can be. Susan Davis has done some really good things here at Chinquapin with blogging, glogging, vokis, voicethreads, etc… I can see that they are valuable tools for teaching, but I still haven’t found a good way to implement them in the math classroom (I have used videos, wikis, online quizzes, etc., but never blogs).”

and later received useful feedback from Anne and his colleagues.

Elementary PLPers have joined Brian Crosby in his group, ‘21st Century Learning in an Elementary Classroom’, finding his examples for learning exciting and his suggestions for starting doable, setting them up to take the next step. Carrie Lynn Murray, a Lakota PLPer, responded to a suggestion:

“So now I have a feasible goal – next step – sit in my thinking chair (to quote Blue’s Clues) and decide which lesson to begin with…  Brian – you are an inspiration!!!”

And Tim Breuer, a Milford PLPer, reflects:

“Brian was able to give me solid answers about the trials of attempting 21 C lessons. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was to let technology fit the lesson instead of making a lesson fit the technology. Only someone who has been through many repeated attempts would know the downfalls of forcing a lesson to be something it is not. I’m sure that single piece of advice will save me hours of work and headache.”

Barbara Barreda’s ’21st Century Leadership: a Shared Work’ group has grappled with Barbara’s probing questions on identifying qualities of an effective leader in wide ranging discussion. In that conversation, Cathleen White, a 21st Century Fellow and Gilmour PLPer, asked a critical question:

“How do we get administrators to model change? Especially ones who don’t use technology?”

To which Lynn Ochs, a Milford PLPer and 21st Century Fellow, replied:

“This topic is near and dear to my heart Cat. I spent a good four years of my career working on the Ohio Leadership for Integrating Technology project.  I think the big question is – what fundamentally changed as a result of this experience? Awareness increased, administrators were empowered to get more involved in local decision-making around technology and their comfort level with technology improved. As will all experiences, those that fully engaged gained the most – both from their facilitators and peers. We were pre- Web 2.0 so there really was no way to keep the community of learners together. I wonder if moving administrators in the direction of Personal Learning Networks of their own is the route to go… This supports the notion that job-embedded, sustained professional learning has much more impact than one shot experiences.”

And the discussion continues–

Kim Cofino has engaged her group, ‘Globally Collaborative Projects’, with specific tips on connecting, places to find projects and a guide to collaborative projects, opening new and exciting horizons for her members.  Mary Pat Harris, a Milford PLPer and elementary teacher, reflects upon her participation in these discussions:

“I have been inspired by the exchanges with our experienced voice leaders.” The experiences they “have described in great detail are the kinds of things I’d like to facilitate with my students.  … I’ve joined the Global Education Collaboration and some others that I learned about through my groups.  …I’m just a hair away from some of this with our kids.  And I’m confident that with the tools and connections I’m making through our Ning and the support of our experienced voices I’ll get there…. and most importantly… my students will get there! They have provided me with the sites and organizations to take what I have done with students to an entirely new level.”

Fist pumps, big smiles, enormous sighs and goosebumps accompany my reading as the conversations evolve. PLPers on a grand journey into 21st Century authentic learning, a journey in which our experienced voices have opened doors onto such vast landscapes that are new territory for so many.  And with each response, with each question, with each thoughtful entry, I am incredibly thankful for the immense privilege of traveling with PLPers as they take that next step, then another, to an entirely new level.

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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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