What happens when a community leader for Powerful Learning Practice from NE Ohio and educators from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia come together in virtual sessions with presenters from Kansas, Quebec, Iowa, Illinois, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Manitoba, California, Ontario, New Jersey, Michigan, and Maine? Learning. More learning. And more learning.

For 3 years now, here in NE Ohio on many Tuesday or Thursday afternoons and evenings, I’ve been facilitating sessions and monitoring chats with passionate educators from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a myriad of different webinars. My calendar reminders simply say VA–  reminding me of the Virtual Academy sessions. And on those same days, as soon as buses leave the Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools in the afternoon, a number of teachers have hurried back to their classrooms. It’s likely time to log into the Virtual Academy webinar sessions sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with Powerful Learning Practice. Many times, these dedicated educators have extended their school day by a number of hours and joined the later webinar that evening. Why? In the service of their children, they have aspired to learn more about technology infused learning and become more accomplished connected educators. Following each session, I’ve had the privilege to engage in discussions with these educators around the topic of the week in our private online community of practice.  I’ve had the opportunity to come to know caring, passionate educators who want the very best for their children and who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone to do just that. My role of community leader in the PLP Virtual Academy is one I’ve come to cherish.

Together we’ve explored TPACK in English, Social Studies, Math and Science classrooms as well as digital creativity in each of these disciplines. We’ve examined digital images and videos in learning. We’ve gone deep into implementing Common Core Standards and Understanding by Design into personal practice and classroom instruction. You can view some of the sessions here and see descriptions of others here.

And the Virtual Academy impact? Kay and Tina share:

Virtual Academies gave me the opportunity to network with, share new ideas for engaging students, and learn how others are using technology in their classroom. The Virtual Academy gave me an outlet for assisting my peers and discussions about providing effective student collaboration. The sessions gave me a way of talking and sharing with other Archdiocese teachers and educators from different parts of the country in a relaxed atmosphere.

The Virtual Academies are by far a great and powerful way of providing teachers who may be unable to attend a workshop with online professional development.   When school was closed because of snow or ice the Virtual Academy still provided professional development for us. If I had missed a session all I needed to do was go online for an archived session to help improve my teaching skills.   –Kathleen Burgess, Library/Media Curriculum Chairperson, Conshohocken Catholic School, Kay on Twitter

I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with the Virtual Academy classes over the last 3 years. There were many times that I learned an exciting new tool and was able to incorporate it the very next day in my classroom. Even if I didn’t know all of the ins and outs of the tool, my students and I gave it a try and had fun learning from each other. Not only did the teachers learn some fantastic new Web 2.0 tools, but we also had a place to converse and try out these new skills in the discussion group with Lani there to answer our questions and lend us a hand. Another important aspect was the chat discussions which lead to the exchanging of more great ideas and support from our colleagues. I was thrilled when I was asked to present at a Virtual Academy class this year! I enjoyed sharing my ideas and I hope I was able to encourage others to try something new.  Special thanks to the Archdiocese for making this available to us!  — Tina Schmidt, 3rd grade teacher, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Tina on Twitter

Tina’s classroom blog and her participation in a Flat Stanley Project with Romania evidence the sharing and collaboration in her classroom. In so many other classrooms, educators proudly share in chat and in discussions on how technology is changing learning for their students– that students are blogging, collaborating on wikis, creating and commenting on Voicethreads, making posters using Glogster, and creating stories on Storybird.

We’ve explored new learning landscapes. And as a result, the design of students’ learning experiences are more authentic, more collaborative and full of sharing. And we, our lives are the richer for the time we have spent sharing, collaborating, laughing, and learning together. Now connected educators, I know these Virtual Academy members will continue to guide both their colleagues and their students deeper into connected, collegial learning.

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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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