John Norton, education writer and PLP consultant, talked recently with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach about the upcoming PLP Live 2012 conference. In Part One of the interview, Sheryl shared some of the reasons she chose to emphasize female keynoters at the one-day event. In Part Two, Sheryl talks about the exciting hands-on PD experience planned for the afternoon’s interactive workshops.

John: In the first part of our chat, I asked you about the thinking behind your idea to feature a group of notable women in keynote roles at PLP Live, in addition to ed tech stars John Seely Brown and Will Richardson, and connected-ed thought leader Darren Cambridge. Now I’d like to hear more about the conference structure itself.

What’s the return on the professional learning investment for folks in the Northeast and others who might fly in for the one-day event?

Sheryl: I think this conference is going to be incredible. We’ve had to put a price on it because we have to pay for the meeting space and provide support for our speakers and facilitators. That’s the real world. But this is not marketing talk — this is my passionate belief: If you are a teacher or school leader who is feeling more and more restless about shifting your professional practice to serve the urgent, unmet needs of iGeneration students, this could be the day your transformation begins.

If you can drive, ride or fly to Philadelphia and be there on Friday, September 28, you need to be making plans to collaborate with us. The location is easy — it’s the Philly Convention Center in the heart of a beautiful, historic and hip city.

John: What specifically is going to happen at PLP Live 2012?

Sheryl: Most everyone has seen some TED Talk conference videos – that’s the style we’ll emulate during the morning. Some of our keynote speakers will go for 50 minutes, some will go for 10. One thing they will ALL do is bring exciting, provocative messages about the need to shift our approach to educating today’s kids.

There will be food and fellowship. You get to have lunch with your favorite keynoter or facilitator. And the afternoon sessions are NOT cold, breakout presentations but warm, intimate interactions and opportunities to co-construct knowledge, facilitated by folks who know how.

John: You’ve never staged a conference quite like this before.

Sheryl: Each fall we’ve had regional face to face gatherings of teams who are participating in our Connected Educator Experience. They’ve served as our launch pads for our eight-month-long PD collaboration. This year we’re combining some of that and staging this larger event, with a truly amped-up agenda.

Most important, we’re opening it to ALL educators who find themselves teetering on the edge of transforming their practice. During the afternoon we’ll have one strand of sessions for our year-long PLP Peeps and three strands for everyone, around our conference theme trifecta: Inspire. Collaborate. Shift.

John: I know you have things structured so people can come for a half-day or a whole day. Tell us a little more about the afternoon experience and why folks will want to stay.

Sheryl: Some people go to conferences because they are looking for inspiration. We’ll be providing plenty of that.

There will be the Inspire breakout for everyone who wants to listen to people who have had success launching new instructional strategies in their schools and classrooms. They’ll talk about things like project-based learning, using web tools to engage students and deepen learning, how to go about setting up global collaboration opportunities for your students, or how to use inquiry and technology together. People in that particular strand are actually going to co-create… they’ll be using some of the tools, do some crowd-sourcing to build on their own ideas, and apply the collective intelligence to action plans they can take home with them.

The Collaborate session will be absolutely amazing. We’ll have PLP facilitators to support you, of course — this is where you’re really going to think deeply about the intersection of practice and policy — what is it that we need to get our arms around when we’re thinking about a strategic plan — really being able to tackle a particular issue or problem together, as teacher leaders and school leaders.

The Shift session will take its structure from an innovative program called Minds on Media, which my PLP colleagues Peter Skillen and Brenda Sherry created and have used a great deal in Canada. In this model, there will be learning stations set up and people will actually go to stations that most interest them and figure out various Web 2.0 tools, devices and social media. It’s like a hands-on workshop with lots of tinkering and playing around, and there will be two top PLP-trained teachers leading that session and ready to pitch in and be guides on the side.

John: Final thoughts?

Sheryl: As you know, our brand of job-embedded learning is built around social media and Web 2.0 tools. In the year-long Connected Educator Experience, our participants are part of intensive, organic, learner-directed, collaborative communities of practice that focus on leveraging emerging technologies as tools for deep learning and principled change. We’re channeling the same surge of energy and spirit that runs through that work into this conference. Everyone who participates in all we have to offer will leave the Convention Center on an invigorating “learner’s high” – I can promise you that.

I wish it could be free. And I’m totally willing to negotiate with folks who want to organize a group and come together. Here’s the thing: We want everyone to come and learn with us. EVERYONE. It’s a win-win. We need your creativity and insight and commitment. You need this kind of learning opportunity.

Join us and let’s build the kind of collective intelligence that will leave education better than we found it.


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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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