Independent School Educators network

Fred Bartel's Starting a Virtual Independent School thread morphed recently. As we discussed the topic, what resonated in me was the importance that our communities understand what it means to learn online. Once a critical mass of our communities know what the the pros and cons of this environment are, we can better assess how they will fit into our schools.

Over the past couple of weeks, arvind, Vinnie and I have been discussing the creation of an Online Teacher Academy for this purpose. Here are links to the two podcasts:

21st Century Learning #97:Designing an open, web 2.0, personal lear...
21st Century Learning #98: Designing an Open Online Teacher Academy...

In the two podcasts above, we begin the discussion about how to lead our teachers through an online experience that provides them with the tools and the inspiration to build their own personal learning network.

After our last podcast, I posted a couple of goals and a short description for this experience:

1. Teach online tools in the context of teaching and learning
2. Creating online community to model and sustain this learning

This online teacher academy starts by walking its participants through some basic online tools while building a community, and creates a structure for the participants to create and document new work thus leaving a legacy for the next generation of learners.

I would like to spend some time working to create this learning experience with a group of interested educators from June 30 - July 2nd here in New York City. We'll definitely be broadcasting this, so don't worry if you can't be in NYC. This also coincides with NECC and I'm sure we'll be bringing folks who are there into this conversation.

We already have some takers who are interested in participating in this discussion.

What do you think? Who's interested in participating?

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Tags: 2.0, 21st, academy, century, development, learning, network, online, personal, pln, More…plp, professional, teacher, web, webcast

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I am interested, Alex. I hope to be at NECC, so I'll stay in the loop. I haven't participated in the conversation here, but I've read the threads and listened to your podcasts. Your second goal, in particular, is how we are framing our PLP project. I would be interested in helping in whatever way I can.
I will be at the southern session in Washington DC (NECC). Will coordinate with teacher there.
Southern session! Never thought of it that way. I too will be at the southern session. But I am interested in learning more.
Vinnie, let me know what I can do. I'm just an hour from DC.
Love the idea of the southern session. Maybe you all can stop up here in NYC on the way home. We can have an EdTech BBQ at my house.
Hi Alex. I'm also interested and am likely to be around (in northern NJ) during that time so I could probably even meet in person in NYC if I don't have to cover anything for a colleague who will be at NECC.

The week prior to that, I will be at the edACCESS 2009 annual conference. If we have more details before then on when and what this planning session will encompass, I can publicize this at edACCESS and I suspect there may be other technology directors and integrators attending who might be interested in participating. edACCESS is comprised of small (less than 1000 students) private schools and colleges so folks there don't have the economies of scale that some public districts have to provide professional development.

At edACCESS, I could even propose a focus group on that and if we could coordinate the time and technology, you or others might be able to Skype in (or something similar) for the discussion. Which focus groups run are determined by attendee interest during the conference, but if there were enough people, I have some control over the time slot it could get. Or even better, you should think about attending edACCESS :)

I also have two colleagues who are instructors at online universities. One is a teacher here and the other is an IT professional at a vendor/partner. I don't know if they would be interested, but I could reach out to them if you are interested in getting input from others with experience as online instructors.

By the way, I do like the quote Fred pointed out from Building Online Learning Communities:

We have concluded through our work that the construction of a learning community, with the instructor participating as an equal member, is the key to a successful outcome and is the vehicle through which online education is best delivered.

Definitely something to keep in mind while proceeding.
Bill -- I would love to go to edAccess but that's our week of Department Chair meetings. We should definitely have some more work done by then and I would love input. I'm sure that higher ed could use this type of work as well.

Thanks for the quote from Building Online Learning Communities. My copy shipped today:-)

Looking forward to seeing what comes of this.
I'm in! I'm caught up on the podcasts. I won't be in NY or at NECC, but in NC. After Chris Bigenho's session at NAIS, I've been thinking about this in terms of designing a game experience for teachers, though I'm amenable to being more course oriented. But if anyone wants to talk about a game scenario. . .

I like the starfish style structure. It's very "shirkyish." But it does make me wonder why more of our school heads and division directors aren't participating. Are some of them participating elsewhere?

Should we try pulling one or two heads of school or division heads in? Not to lead the initiative, but to include that perspective. I know that people at my school think of professional networking as "Sarah's thing," clearly I'm not doing a good job evangelizing. I've shown the videos, led a workshop or two, shared resources, but something is missing. I wish I knew what it was.

Of the four finalists for a recent leadership position at our school, not one was professionally Googleable. This is still the norm. The idea of learning about an applicant via their contribution to professional communities hasn't caught on. When it does, I think we'll see a lot more participation. Not sure if that is good or bad, but I think it will happen.

Sarah, I love your description of your situation. I felt the same way until our involvement with the Powerful Learning Practice (Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach) this year. Now we have people's attention. But you are accurate about the larger picture. We're all not there yet. This might be a great start.
Just talked with a soon-to-be middle school head. She asked some good questions centered around what a PLN looks look like to someone who is tech comfortable, but not in ed tech.

"What does this look like to a seventh grade math teacher who is dynamic and eager to stay relevant?"

We talked about the fact that an early barrier to a PLN is that this is a lot of writing, at least the way I participate which is largely blogs, comments, nings, and chat rooms during other people's podcasts ;). Which led to a discussion of picture sharing, video comments, etc. The truth is, we don’t/didn't teach writing as communication for most of our (teachers) education, we were taught to write as a constructed, final piece that stood alone and unchanged. The concept of dialogue via writing for professional reasons is foreign to most adults.

A PLN is really optional for 40, 50 year olds. It’s not going to be for the 8 year olds we’re teaching right now. They are supposed to be at schools preparing them for their future. At least some of their teachers need to take on this challenge to help prepare them.

The world is going to belong to those who can think critically and publish their thoughts and reflections with confidence. To people they don’t know and will never meet. Publish or perish takes on a whole new meaning.

Sarah (who clearly needs more to do on the last Friday night of spring break!)
Sarah -- Thanks so much for your comments. There are a couple of Administrators here in NYC who responded with interest to my post over at Fred's Online Teacher Academy post. I know both and think their perspectives are critical here. What's most important about them is receiving their support and having them on board so they understand why continuous learning is critical to our faculty and staff. Personal Learning Networks are perfect for that ongoing professional growth.

As Susan said above, PLP has helped us a great deal with this, but I'm hoping that this will be the next level of PLP. It'll allow us to personalize the experience for our school, structure it a bit more, yet still bring faculty towards building a PLN.

Looking forward to working with you on this.
Alex, our admin team seems excited about our project, too. We decided to simply re-create the PLP in-house with each of our team members taking on the role of team leader on our new FA ning. Perhaps we can connect our ning with yours--or at least use some of our teachers to connect? I was hoping to do this w/ VA schools, but we haven't been able to make it work yet.
I'm not sure about getting our admin team involved yet, though (per Sarah's suggestion.) Ours seem too busy with day to day "stuff." They don't seem to have time to help oversee what we doing. But they have given their approval to get going.
This is an exciting idea you all have started. I'll try to stay in touch with Vinnie, and perhaps we can coordinate something with NECC.


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