Category Archives: plpnetwork

Course Reflection: Powerful Learning Practice’s Teaching Online and Blended Learning eCourse

The past ten weeks, I’ve been participating in Powerful Learning Practice’s Teaching Online and Blended Learning eCoursesherylsclass. I had taken this same course a few years ago, but at that point in my life, I wasn’t able to really focus on it. I had just started teaching my first online course, was struggling with the transition from face-to-face 5th graders to online adults and I had a newborn at home, so I felt like I was just keeping my head above water that point. While I followed along and read the resources, I was not activity engaging with other participants or the content.

So when I had the chance to take it again I was really excited. My confidence as an online instructor has grown quite a bit since that first class and I was feeling that it was time to shake things up and make some changes to my courses, so this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.

Now that the class is coming to an end, we were asked to reflect on all that we earned and have changed so far because of this course.

My Ah-Ha’s! 

  • It’s ok to share about yourself. I was always worried about being professional, but I think I was too worried so I wasn’t sharing enough about myself to help build a community. While the participants who took multiple classes with me got to know me, if someone just took one class, I don’t think they got a clear picture of who I was. group-157841_1280
  • The importance of community. While I’ve always known this was important, I didn’t think it was possible to do with two week courses. My thinking has shifted to the idea that I’m going to build in more community building exercises, even if we don’t have the opportunity to build deep relationships, connections will be made.
  • Use a Variety of Media. While I tried to do this in my 5th grade classroom, I fell back on text heavy content with my courses. Even myself as a learner, I never read everything, so I need to keep this in mind when developing my classes.
  • Clarified my Philosophy of Learning. By focusing on how I believe people learn, I’m able to create courses and assignments that support that belief.

Changes I’ve made so far: 

  • I created a visual calendar that shows the whole course, allowing participants to get the “big” picture of assignments and timing of everything. Course Calendars
  • I developed a new syllabus that not only incorporated the assignments and important information, but my goals as a facilitator. I also tried to make it interactive by using Google Docs to include a table of contents to navigate the document and encourage the use of the commenting feature.
  • I added some community building activities to the asynchronous course space.
  • When I needed to address a question that came up after a live meeting, rather then type out a long explanation, I created a video to share my thinking and a new assignment.
  • I added a KWL chart to kick off my course, while this seems so simple, it gave me a clear picture of my participants goals and knowledge. I always asked them to share in a discussion space, but I got a lot more out of them by using the KWL chart. Since I created the chart in Google Docs participants were able to comment on each others which lead to more sharing and conversation.
  • I shared more about my background initially in meetings and was more open in general throughout live meetings and in our course spaces.

My Plans Moving Forward: 

  • Utilize all of the resources and ideas moving forward as I redesign my past courses and create new ones.
  • Focus on community, make an effort to contribute to the larger online educational community by sharing, commenting and reflecting.
  • I want to think about assessment, since I am in the situation where most of the time I do not provide a grade to participants, I want to develop a system of feedback that encourages growth and self-assessment and reflection.

I can’t recommend this class enough to all teachers. It energizes you, encourages you to think deeply about your practice and your goals as a teacher.

Thank you to Sheryl and all of the other participants that made this such a rich learning opportunity. I learned from everyone through the sharing of stories, experiences, resources and all of the questions asked that pushed my thinking a little further.  




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Reading Reflection: The Connected Educator

I recently started the Connected Educator by Sheryl Nusssbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. I’ve been fortunate enough to connectededtake ecourses from both of them through Powerful Learning Practice. They have both inspired and supported me in so many ways, so I was very excited to read their book.

After completing the first two chapters one thought that kept going through my mind is that all preservice teachers should be reading this bookIt sets it up so clearly what it means to be a connected educator and how important it is to be a part of multiple communities. I can think of many instances in my first year of teaching that I would have liked to turn to a personal learning network for support and ideas especially because I was still getting to know many of my colleagues and building relationships. (Don’t get me wrong, I had incredibly supportive coworkers, but when I was  still building trust, I didn’t always feel comfortable asking certain questions.)

One aspect of the first chapter that has really hit home for me is the DIY mentality that Sheryl and Lani talk about. I took some time off from education to be with my son, while I had the best intentions to stay on top of things, being a new parent became my main focus for a while. Now that life has calmed down a bit and I’ve rediscovered my passion for education, all of my learning has been DIY. I try to get on twitter at least once a day, I’ve been reading blog posts again and I’ve signed up for several newsletters, all of these things have helped me catch up and stay current with all that is going on.

Throughout reading Chapter 4, I found myself highlighting and agreeing with a lot of it. The main focus of this chapter is building relationships and how important they are if we want to begin to change our schools. This one quote really struck me, in a section talking about making changes, how it affects us to let go of a practice and the importance supporting one another:

“Working in teams ensures that individual issues are addressed rather than ignored  often without putting at risk the speed of adoption, morale, or achievement.  Make time for members in your learning community to talk through and adjust to change initiatives and the transformation taking place in order to build a community that will last and be effective.”

This is so important and I think it is a vital part of the process that gets forgotten when changes are being globalconnimplemented. Many times teachers are told how they have to change their teaching practice and how they feel about this change is not considered or addressed.

Another aspect of this chapter that I thought was really important was the idea that if we want our students to be connected global citizens, we have to model this for them. I think this was an area I fell short of when I was working through my teaching transformation and I’m sure if I was still in the classroom I would be working towards this. Our connections as teachers give our students ready made connections in a safe network. By showing them how we built trust with our PLN, we are modeling safe relationships and the power of reaching out and making connections.

As I read chapter 5 I was introduced to a tool that I haven’t used before and other ways I could expand the uses of tools I use already. I found Sheryl and Lani’s advice very practical and Sheryl makes a great point when she says:

“However, I feel it is a disservice to children when educators become so enthralled with the tools that they lose sight of what is most important-the learning. Our focus should always be on what we can do with the tool. Tools should be used to serve the learning. Blink, and online tools change, so be careful where you invest your time.”

While this points out the importance of mindfully using tools, for me it also brings up the importance of teaching students how to be adaptive, tools are constantly changing. We don’t know what tools our students are going to be using years from now. This is the primary reason I introduced new tools to my student by letting them explore and learn on their own. I would do a short quick lesson on the main points and then give them time to play.

The last few chapters focus on creating a learning network and community for yourself and your school. They realistically bring up all aspects of developing a Connected Learning Community, and how you can push past obstacles and encourage the development of this community.  The advice and resources come from Lani and Sheryl’s direct experience with building and supporting Connected Learning Communities, so you know it has been successfully applied in real situations.

In the beginning of this post I said all preservice teachers should read this book, after completing the book, I think anyone involved in education would benefit from reading this book. For teachers there is practical advice on growing their network and how they can use that network to support their teaching. The activities at the end of each chapter ease the reader into becoming a Connected Educator and help educators that are new to the tools feel comfortable with exploring. For administrators and leaders, the final chapters are key in supporting the development of a Connected Learning Community. If you’re looking to change the culture of your classroom or school, this book will be a valuable tool! 

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Connected Coaching: Self Assessment

Now that the Connected Coaching Course is coming to an end we were asked to reflect and self-assess ourselves. In the beginning of the course, I created a simple learning contract. I had almost forgotten about these questions that I had assigned myself in the beginning….

Have I been an active participant in the online discussions and webinars?

  • I think I was, it took me a while to speak out in the actual webinars, but as I started feeling more comfortable with the content and my colleagues I started to speak up more. I tried to participate in all discussions on the discussion boards and responded whenever someone commented on my post. I think I could have engaged with other participants though and responded to their individual posts more often.

What new knowledge/skills have I gained? And do I feel confident in my understanding of it?

  • I learned a great deal from this course!
    • active listening
    • paraphrasing
    • questioning
    • utilizing protocols to bring groups together and help them move forward
    • Connected Coaching Wayfinding
    • Webinar ideas that I can incorporate into the classes that I will be teaching

In what ways have I incorporated my knowledge of educational technology?

  • For me, I think it has been incorporated throughout because that is how I have approached everything. I started this course because I wanted to develop more skills to support teachers as they transform their teaching. I think that definitely includes the concept of educational technolog and TPACK. 

Have I had an opportunity to apply my new skills yet? If so, how did it go?

  • I have posted a few messages in the PLP lite community, I found it challenging to jump in. I wonder if it would have been easier if we had been with them from the beginning, because I almost felt like I was walking in on a conversation and didn’t want to step on any toes or ask a question that had already been addressed. 
  • I enjoyed practicing my new skills when we had a chance to verbally practice with colleagues during our webinars. It was definitely a safe environment to practice our new skills.

The rest of my reflection….


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Connected Coaching Reflection

My 6 Word Story from the
 first week of class

These past few weeks I have been taking the Connected Coaching course through PLP network and it has really been an eye opening experience for me. At first it was a little rough, I was trying to do too many things at once. When I took a step back from other commitments and really focused on this course, it began to click for me. I’ve learned that I need to be patient with myself and not try to do it all at once.  By doing that it allowed me to really jump into the content and think deeply about the connected coaching process.

To help me reflect, I decided to take all of my responses(or at least most of them, I think I got them all) and put them into a wordle…here is what I came up with…I’ve obviously been doing a lot of thinking, lol. I’m happy with some of the “big” words (although I’m not sure about really…or like, but I think like has to do with me saying “I like this…or I like that, so apparently I’m liking the content and how I’m learning), but the rest of the words…coaching, think, brainstorming, questions, people, teachers…are to me all important words in the connected coaching process.

 We were asked to talk about some of the coaching standards below…

Persevere in exploring ideas and concepts, rethinking, revising, and continual repacking and unpacking as they build upon and assist in uncovering strengths of those they coach.

I have really seen this first hand in our experiences through the course. Many of our discussions have required us to go through these steps, which has given me a greater appreciation and understanding of how it would affect someone I’m coaching.

Engage in discussions on difficult or messy topics from an appreciative inquiry perspective to increase confidence and self efficacy.
After learning about and practicing appreciative inquiry, I can see how this would be an ideal way to approach difficult or messy topics. It requires you to see the topic in the most positive way as possible and utilize that to find a solution.  I do wish I was aware of this concept and practiced it when I was in the classroom. While I always strived to focus on the positive things my students were doing, I feel like AI takes it one step further in using that positive energy to move forward and be successful in other areas.

Use activities to create a connection to the content and context, to oneself, and to those who are part of the learning community at school and online.
Once again, I see how valuable this is because this is what we have been doing throughout the course. I think the tool kit that we are creating as a class is going to be very helpful in planning my own activities as I begin to teach and coach. 

Collectively review and analyze with an open mind and without judgment all and many perspectives on coaching.
While I’ve only been exposed to the perspectives that we’ve talked about in class, I feel that I have gone into this course as a whole with an open mind and that if I was approached with other perspectives I would continue to have this mindset.  
What surprised you? What, if anything, has significantly influenced your thinking around coaching?

Photo by Sand_and_Sky

What has surprised me is that coaching is much more intricate then I thought it was, I have great appreciation for the process and how supportive it is. I wish all schools had someone in their building with these skills…or even if all teachers went through training like this, I feel like it would counter act a lot of the negativity that surrounds education right now. 

I chose to add a picture of an intricate lace project(not one of mine) because of the complexity of the pattern and the patience it takes to knit a lace item….the complexity represents the purposeful steps of the coaching process and the patience is a reminder to not rush change, change takes time especially if it is going to be a lasting change. 


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