Beginning February 6, Lani Ritter-Hall will once again lead PLP’s popular Connected Coaching e-course, created for educators who are ready to become skillful facilitators of learning in collaborative online communities.

Lani brings more than 35 years of teaching experiences in urban, suburban, and independent schools at the middle/secondary level in the U.S and Canada. 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 for over 20 years and most recently is co-author, with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach,  of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age (Solution Tree, 2012). She is currently PLP’s Community Leader in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Virtual Institute and the Year 2 Passion-Based Learning Community. She also serves as the “Newbie Maven,” nurturing newbies to the PLP experience.

In a recent interview, Lani talked about Connected Coaching and the powerful changes in practice that are often in store for participants who fully engage in this unique 9-week experience in interactive learning.


1. What is Connected Coaching?

Connected coaches are skilled networkers and social artists, working in online spaces, who have a passion for appreciative inquiry and a strength based approach to improvement. As connected educators, they leverage the unique advantages of online spaces to build meaningful relationships among others — irrespective of geographical distance or time zones.

Connected coaching is as much an art as it is a science. Coaches model virtual wayfinding, guide others to think more deeply about problems, and help individuals and groups discover previously unrecognized strengths.

Learners will leave this ecourse with a collaboratively created connected coaching toolkit – filled with resources and strategies to support them on their continued journey into connected coaching.

2. Who should take this course?

Any educator – teacher, administrator, curriculum or professional developer, face to face instructional coach—who is interested in facilitating change and improving communication through an inquiry, strength-based approach would find it of value. While many connected coaches work primarily with adult communities, we’ve had teachers who found they were able to apply much of what they learned in their classrooms with students.

3. What will the learning experience be like for participants?

Educators in this course will be immersed in an appreciative strength based inquiry into coaching, with an emphasis on the art and science of coaching in virtual environments. It is really less a “course” than a guided and ultimately self-directed experience. The process we will use is closely aligned with one they will be creating when they are coaching in online spaces. PLP’s Connected Coaching is a welcome respite from our deficit-based, fix-it, prescriptive world. Participants find the content and learning approach refreshing and renewing, even as they journey far outside personal comfort zones.

And where am I in all of this? I’m a co learner, a coach, a devil’s advocate, and a cheerleader!

4. Tell us about some of the learning activities.

Building trust through activities that use images, audio and video is essential for coaching in online spaces. We’ll be immersed in getting to know each other through the use of these tools as we build our own community of learners. As well, there are opportunities for following personal interests and developing deeper expertise around empirically based instructional models, including but not limited to TPACK, PBL, action research, adult learning and leadership. And as learners inquire into the wayfinding of the Connected Coaching model (building trust, questioning, facilitating design thinking), we’ll engage in applying what we’ve learned together both in the course space and other online communities.

5. How is connected coaching different from the instructional collaboration coaches offer face to face in schools? What’s the add-on?

Often coaching offered in schools is about “fixing,” identifying weaknesses and providing strategies — a coach may present as a “consultant” with all the answers. Connected coaching is about helping others realize their strengths to improve practice. It is about appreciating all that another brings to the table. Connected coaching is about following the aspirations of those coached and encouraging self-direction.

It’s true, of course, that the best FtF coaching models have some or all of these attributes. Connected coaching is also different in that it leverages the uniqueness of online spaces—leaving behind the boundaries of time and space.

Connected coaching takes advantage of new forms of collaboration; enables the building of deep and meaningful relationships through video, audio and images; encourages innovation through the possibilities that arise in diverse collaborations, and allows participants to enjoy sessions from the comforts of home (even in “jammies” if that’s your desire!). Gone is the need for binders filled with notes, folders with activities and journals, traveling to meetings. It’s all right there online.

6. Do I need to have experience as a FtF instructional coach to benefit from this course? Can this help me if I’m not so much a coach as a facilitator for a NING community or a #hashtag group etc.?

No prior experience with coaching is expected for the learners in this course. Connected coaching is about becoming a better facilitator of communication; it is about becoming better at enabling meaningful collaboration. So anyone who facilitates communication will find value in Connected Coaching.

7. Can you tell us a little more about the various technologies in the course?

As a learner, participants in this course will make extensive use of technology as they collaborate with others.  I’ve created a brief survey that will help participants gauge their readiness for the course expectations.

8. You’ve offered this course in the past and gotten some great feedback. What would you say are the biggest “Aha’s” from participants? What surprises them most?

Participants have been more than surprised with the depth of relationships and the strong sense of community that connected coaching evokes. They have remarked upon the incredible potential for effecting change through the appreciate inquiry approach of Connected Coaching. Many have articulated their deeper understanding of the profound impact that active listening, paraphrasing, and questioning have upon meaningful communication. Brenda Sherry summed it up this way:

“I can’t believe I’ve been teaching for 24 years, a job that is so much about communicating, and this time with you is the first time I’ve had a chance to learn deeply about communication.”

Come join us!

Still curious? Read this article by Lani and Sheryl: Connected Coaching in Connected Spaces: The Other New Leadership Skill.

Sign up here for Lani’s next course section!

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.

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