I had the privilege of attending the culminating event on May 11th. It was a wonderful day, seeing and speaking with all teams, hearing the stories of their journeys this year, seeing their projects which were reflective of the hard work they had done and all they had accomplished throughout the year. Leading up to the event I had asked for feedback in terms of how this year long program differed from attending a conference, or other professional development the participants had been involved in previously. I am happy to share some of their thoughts on the shifts they have experienced this year.

Becky Bair, Elizabethtown Area School District, Elementary Teacher

Having learned and discussed so much has allowed me to begin applying a new view of teaching and learning in my classroom. I’ll admit it; in the past few years I was scared, and I lost a lot of the creativity from my teaching. All of my new learning this year gave me the courage to move away from what amounted to “teaching to the test” and get back to teaching that gives kids more ownership and showed them how they’ll use these skills in their real life. Blogging, commenting, posting to our wiki, completing reflections, self-selecting projects – they’ve all been really exciting and REALLY challenging at the same time. Am I where I want to be with these things? Absolutely not. But am I excited about the possibilities I’ve given to my students this year and how I might expand them next year? Absolutely.
In the end, I am a very different teacher now than I was in September. I’m not quite there yet; I still have a lot to figure out in terms of using these Web 2.0 tools in the most effective ways to benefit my students, and I have a lot to learn from the wonderful people I’ve met in real life and in my virtual world. But I’m very willing to give new things a try, and more importantly, I’m willing to fail, rethink, and try again. I am looking forward to the opportunities I’ll have to expand upon the connections I’ve made with the people on my local PLP team, share my knowledge with other teachers in our new building, and develop and expand the connections I’ve made with teachers throughout this country and all over the world.

Lori Blantz, Special Education Supervisor IU 13

The most meaningful aspect of being involved in PLP this year, for me, is the online, quick responses I have received when I have needed support and help in trying out something new. With PLP I try something out on my own or with my team and then if I get stumped I simply ask in a discussion or post something and someone comes to my rescue. This can occur at all hours of the night.
I have worked with my team throughout the year on a project that I am very excited to share with more staff in the Fall. From there I am hoping it branches off to more staff at the IU13 and many can learn, benefit and use these resources I have been shared.
I think I am learning this is a work in progress and to share share share what I create and also to learn it is ok to take from others. Funny, I had read several people’s responses throughout this new learning process for me of PLP and most often a response from you or Sheryl or Brian is “can you share what you have done… can you post where you found those things… let us know how it goes… ” are common themes. I think from reading your response to me I am finally understanding why those are common themes amongst all of you. Thanks. I light bulb turned on.

Val Garton, Technology Coordinator Lancaster Mennonite School Kraybill Campus

Even as tech coordinator, PLP has helped me to make some important “shifts” in the way I use technology, approach staff development, and view my role within the school. These shifts are already starting to impact our district in a positive way regarding technology. I am realizing the value of sharing what I know with others and being vulnerable enough to give up my “ownership” of technology in order to encourage others to be technology leaders within their communities of practice in our school. Through the PLP discussions, links on the Ning, and webinars, I have been introduced to a vast number of technology leaders and mentors, as well as those in the same situations as myself, which inspires me, sometimes reassures me, and at times challenges me in my thinking. I have increased my personal learning network, which has given me a resource of new perspectives, knowledge, and tools to help me make the best decisions for our school regarding technology. I have felt a burden lift from me, knowing that I am not alone in all of this and can quickly find the support and answers I need. Being involved in PLP with my team members has given us an important connection and shared vision. I have seen them in a new light and have come to value even more, their contribution to our school, and their part in helping all of us move forward. I could never have done what we are doing without them.

Kelly Dupas, Elementary Teacher Eastern Lancaster County School District

For me, PLP has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities you have when you are “connected”.  Developing my PLN has been an inspiring process and has reinvigorated my love of learning!  At the start of the process I felt overwhelmed with the vast amount of resources and tools out there but now I feel energized, supported, and for lack of a better, word excited for what the future of teaching has to hold.

Lyn Hilt, Principal Eastern Lancaster County School District

The most meaningful aspect of being involved in PLP this year, for me, is witnessing the transformations in my colleague’s thinking and actions taken in the classroom as a result of our work together … and even more impressive, how they have emerged as leaders in our school and are encouraging and supporting other teachers to try new instructional strategies, use new tools, etc. Their willingness to model and support their peers is truly inspiring. So proud of them!

It has been an honor to work with so many talented and committed individuals this year who have been open to hard conversations and personal reflections around their educational beliefs and practices. I am looking forward to continuing with a second cohort through IU 13 in the fall of 2011.

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Robin Ellis

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