It’s a brand new year at Powerful Learning Practice, and our Communities aren’t the only ones who have exciting things happening. Powerful Learning Practice has expanded its staff (and we’re still hiring!) and brought some fascinating new minds (and fresh ideas) to our team. We’d like to introduce our team to you, one by one, and so we’ve come up with seven questions for each of them so you can have a little peek into what they’re thinking and who they are.

Meet Lani Ritter Hall, Team Leader for Powerful Learning Practice

Lani Ritter Hall

Tell us a little bit about yourself – who are you, where are you from, what are your passions?

I’m Lani—  I’m a learner,  I’m a teacher and I’m blessed to be a soul mate.

I retired from the classroom after 35 exceptional years with middle and high school students in a variety of settings (mostly urban) and subjects. I truly treasure those years with young people in Canada and Ohio. A 2003 NBCT (national board certified teacher), I ended my classroom journey designing and teaching an innovative program for high schoolers who planned to become teachers.

After 20 years of living on the 19th floor of a high rise in the city center (Cleveland, OH) Gus and I moved 40 miles east into rural Geauga County (NE Ohio). Little did we know when we moved what it really meant to live in the heart of the snowbelt– We know now! Six feet of snow in three days in 1997 while Cleveland got 12 inches; last winter 148 inches of snow meant piles of snow for most of the winter that were almost unequaled. During summer, it’s a totally different story.  We’re blessed to have a wildlife preserve right around the corner where we walk, and I’m a wanna-be gardener. For a number of summers I planted new and enlarged existing perennial beds which now in many ways have become very self sufficient. And since we’ve had the 7-foot fence built around our small veggie patch (picture deer just leaning over anything shorter for dinner) we’ve enjoyed the harvests of mostly beans, tomatoes, and peppers. We love spending time in the kitchen together as we adapt and cook non-fat, low-fat vegetarian dishes.

What do you do here at Powerful Learning Practice?

I’ve been privileged to act in the role of first  “experienced voice” and then “community leader” in PLP communities for a number of years. In addition, this year, I’ve become the “newbie maven”; I’ll be reaching out and coaching, helping along, and nurturing newbies to the PLP experience. I also teamed with Dean Shareski to develop and help facilitate the Connected Coaching pilot and am teaching the PLP Connected Coaching e course.

What else are you up to professionally?

I have been delighted and honored to have the opportunity to write with Sheryl. The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age is up on Amazon now.  Separated by more than 500 miles geographically, the entire book emerged from Skype calls and grew in Google Docs—written entirely in the cloud, it will find the printed page in late October.

Desert island situation – you get to take five books. What are they?

Of course, I’ll be taking The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age. I’ll want to reread and perhaps reread again Kozol’s  The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. I’d also take John Seely Brown’s (and Douglas) A New Culture of Learning and Hagel, Seely Brown and Davison’s The Power of Pull. Lastly, I wouldn’t leave without our copy of Dog Heaven (that is a long story) by Rylant.

What’s your favorite example of how online communities are powerful and transformative?

Two very favorite examples of the power of transformation resulting from participation in an online community –

Leveraging the power of networks, immersing in an online community of practice to help them realize the possibilities, a team of educators at Nagel Middle School in Forest Hills, OH designed and implemented a BYOL (bring your own laptop) program for their 7th grade students entitled Partnership for Powerful Learning (

Shifting thinking and perspectives and aspiring to lift barriers to student creativity and to transform learning for students through improved access to technology, Natasha Adams (principal), Jeremy Varner, Ellie Preston, Trisha Underwood and Cary Harrod (district technology specialist) designed an action research project to determine the shift in learning when technology was in the hands of the students. They hope to prepare students for a technology-rich world. Their BYOL project grew from the challenge of funding a 1:1 initiative for learning.

The team surveyed parents, students, and faculty and moved forward based on the recommendations and concerns from each stakeholder group. They set a timeline for roll out beginning with meetings with parents to provide an overview of the project; in another meeting with parents, they shared potential types of devices; in yet an additional meeting, they demonstrated and described various tools the students would be using.
They planned and implemented professional development for faculty to understand the shifts that would occur in the classroom. And they held Bootcamps for students, parents and teachers in which a variety of sessions helped each group understand the possibilities and potential for learning, how to leverage the power of these tools to provide personalized learning opportunities, and how to protect the equipment while on campus, store the computers properly, maximize battery life and take other measures to ensure a successful experience. The team created a video sharing their vision with a wide audience on YouTube ( and Cary and their work have been featured in THE Journal ( )

Then Cary and David Truss ( connected via networks; they collaborated and created together a new online space ( for educators to share and learn around bringing laptops to school.

One team with passion and energy, one community of practice, many network and an action research project resulted not only in personalized learning opportunities for their students, but also a model for others to adapt/remix to fit their own needs. What a shift.  Putting technology into the hands of their students, they are now discovering together with them how that changes everything.


Faced with the common problem of “senior-itis,” a personal learning team at The Chinquapin School in Highlands, Texas, decided to view it as “a symptom of a larger problem of student and faculty burn-out caused by a traditional teaching and learning environment where creativity and innovation are stifled.” Their question then became how to break the cycle. Involvement in a community of practice led them to develop the model for a culminating senior project intended to engage students in authentic learning, return joy to learning and immerse students in developing skills important to life in the 21st century. A shift in learning and teaching that would, in essence, change the very culture of their school.

“The Culminating Senior Project will include an online portfolio documenting the development of the project and including the project proposal, a TED-style video, a reflective blog documenting the project’s development, and an archive-able version of the project culmination. The project will also include a “demonstration of mastery” — a performance, presentation, or other exhibition for a live audience. In preparation for this, the students will conduct research, create a professional review panel, and undertake the necessary steps to reach the goals stated in their proposals”. —

Ray Griffin (director), Susan Davis (dean of faculty), Dale Dilworth, Jeremy Duncan, and
Dorothy Scrutchin envisioned students producing and presenting “a substantial work or body of work in an authentic setting.” Throughout the process of the project, they have set expectations that encourage students to learn “how to learn beyond traditional school boundaries” and that develop a greater sense of self efficacy.

The summer prior to and during the pilot experience, incoming seniors and faculty read Daniel Pink’s book, Drive. The seniors and Susan shared their thoughts with each other on a group blog, The Learning Edge ( Professional learning for faculty has been ongoing throughout the year. Other faculty members have served as mentors and panel experts. Two courses laid the foundation for student learning. First final projects were presented at the close of the 2010-11 school year (the location of the digital archives was not available at the time of this publication).

As the project is scaled over time, “an eighth-grade project will be a primary entrance criterion for admission to the high school. During high school, students will refine their final project topics and undertake research, employ resources outside the school …, use web 2.0 tools to share their work in a transparent way, and build towards a final project that will set them apart — our students will become leaders on the learning edge.”  —

On the learning edge and connected—faculty, curriculum, students, learning.

Where can people find you online?

When I’m not in a PLP community, I can be found at my blog Possibilities Abound, @lanihall on Twitter, lanihall on Delicious, and ljhall on Skype.

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