PLP–Too Important to Miss

Some schools debate whether middle school students are ready to blog. But when second-graders tackle blogging handily, it blows that argument away.

That’s what happened at The Philadelphia School when teachers began putting into practice all they’d learned in their year with Powerful Learning Practice in the ADVIS cohort. Any naysayers saw the good work happening, so it meant getting on board or moving out of the way.

Plus, the shift to using more technology was done slowly and thoughtfully in this school where “innovation is at the heart of the mission.”

“Our use of technology added value to the curriculum that already existed,” said Director of Technology Jeffrey Mordan, who has helped develop the school-wide wiki that came about as the end-of -year PLP project.

“In the end, it wasn’t about technology. It became about collaborating in a new way school-wide. We wanted to net what we were already doing,” he said.

And net they did. Within a few months, all teachers were doing their curriculum planning and organizing on the school wiki. Essential questions, scope and sequence, and enduring understandings are now all available for the entire faculty to browse and use.

“For the first time, complete transparency became the norm,” Jeffrey said.

He explained it this way: “It grew organically, not forced. It grew to disciplines, other wikis and other committees.” The idea that began as a “perfect integrated lesson” has become the way the entire school collaborates and shares.

Not only did the school shift during the PLP experience, but Jeffrey felt himself shift as well. Surprisingly, he is spending less time online, especially using Twitter.

“Prior to PLP, I was more connected. But I have refocused, and I know what’s possible. Now I am focusing my energy inward,” he said.

Though he understands the “collective power of the web,” he also knows he can jump in and out when he needs to.

“My ‘inner Sheryl’ is saying ‘no,’ but this is what works for me now,” he said. “There are so many resources. I want to make those a reality in the classroom. The connective piece is within my school.”

This is one of the reasons they are keeping their wiki closed right now. However, Jeffrey envisions a time when the wiki will be open to share online.

In the meantime, there’s much work to be done in-house, and it’s happening. One committee has dissolved to become virtual; and he is also looking forward to discussing some “hard questions” on line, perhaps in a Ning.

“There was definite transformation beyond my hopes,” he said, about his year in PLP. “We’re not just talking once a month now. We’re talking all the time.”

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Susan Carter Morgan

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