Had we been together face to face, you would have heard a pin drop. But we weren’t. The setting– a Blackboard Collaborate room- and yet the stunned silence, think lack of chat– of more than 50 excited year 2 PLPeeps was deafening. These passionate educators had returned to Powerful Learning Practice for a year long journey into PBL. Their local teams had collaborated on action research projects the previous year and they were pumped about working together again.  Sheryl had just pushed them totally out of their comfort zone when she announced that they would be sharing their passions, and self selecting their teams around those passions to collaborate on their PBL units. Gone the now comfortable face to face collaboration to learn and create. This collaboration, often across long distances (Texas, Saskatchewan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania), would necessitate leveraging the affordances of collaborative tools minus the cues of body language and eyes that often tell so much.

Deep breaths. Some questions. Uncertainty. More quiet. And then they jumped in.

In their new private team spaces in the PLP community hub, they chose team leaders. They introduced themselves and shared Twitter handles. They created team blogs on which they will transparently share their journey. Given a simple activity to get to know each other, to co create content together, each team approached it in a different way bringing their unique talents and gifts to the task. (The Diamonds of Inquiry task: Given a graphic, as a team select 9 words that best describe inquiry in the classroom.  Put the words on the image, prioritizing from most to least importance.) Two teams took this activity to an additional level as it became part of the foundation for their moving forward.

Each member of the Arts and Crafts team listed their choices in their private space on the PLP Community Hub; one their members manually prioritized their selections by number of times each word was mentioned. Another member used Picnik to add the words to the image. Subsequently in a webinar, Sister Geralyn, team leader, posted their completed image on the white board stimulating their first deep and meaningful conversation around their project.

The team with the Instructional or Discipline Focus began the task with a shared Google drawing created by one of its members. The image below illustrates their “diamond building” in progress.

In their team space days later, Sheamus Burns posted an idea:

“I thought we could rate the words we came up with on a scale of importance. Our project will have particular outcomes and the words we chose have to do with the nature of those outcomes. The words that we rank the highest can become categories in which we start determining what our intended outcomes for the project might be. I imagine we could have a set of shared intended outcomes and then our own personal intended outcomes.”

A link followed to a Google form he created to collect everyone’s input.

Undaunted by time zones and geographical distance, year 2 PLPeeps rise to the challenge. Their passions fuel their journey; the technology enables it; the collaboration exponentially enhances it. Their taking a simple activity and leveraging it as a foundation for their journey is telling. With their diverse talents and perspectives, they are on their way to extraordinary PBL units.

Stay tuned. They are just getting started! And I get to tag along, to marvel, to learn, to celebrate — what could be better?

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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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