Back to Team Page

From Lisa Snyder
I was meeting with one of my team members yesterday to discuss an upcoming presentation the team will be making to our Administrative Council in two weeks. As we were talking, I realized that we really have been doing lots more than just getting comfortable with web 2.0 tools in PLP. Great things are happening and I hope you'll indulge me here as I share with you the process we've been going through.

September - October: The Early Phase

The PLP team begins to work with the tools, as per Sheryl and Will's recommendations. We find common meeting times for the upcoming year and begin developing our team. We spend our time wondering what it is we're supposed to be doing for PLP and when we're not doing that, we're having big conversations about learning. We also spend time thinking about what we're learning in PLP and how our Haverford colleagues would respond in such an environment. The distance between the two - PLP and our school community - seems almost insurmountable.

During this phase, each of us begins to build our personal learning networks. Without question, we begin to see each other as important members of our PLNs. For me, as the team leader, I felt the need to assign something to them, to give them something concrete to do. Fortunately, Sheryl and Will asked all of us (across the cohort) to join a group (Setting the Stage) and begin to dive into the 21st century skills framework. So, each member of my team took a part of the framework, studied it, and reported on it (both in one of our team meetings and in the PLP Setting the Stage group.)

It became apparent to me early on in this process that we needed to communicate our PLP experience to our colleagues. Having decided on our project - creating a professional development plan for our school about 21st century learning - I realized that, in order for my team to be sucessful in that effort, we needed to show our administrative team what we were doing. I also wanted our Board of Trustees to be able to learn some of what we were doing. I guess you could think of this as the "marketing" part of our experience. As a team leader, I feel responsible for marketing to our constituencies both what we're doing in PLP, and what we intend to do with professional development.

I decided that we could use the ADVIS PLP Wiki for some of our communication, so I asked my team members to respond to a prompt on the Wiki. I felt that asking the team to reflect on their experiences was an important part of our learning, as well as a very powerful way to tell our story. The entries from my team in our Wiki space are amazing! (We've just added more content, so check it out.)

November - Project Planning

After our second Elluminate session, we set to working on our professional development project. In our Team Haverford group on this ning, the team is developing the project through a specific decision-making model that we use all over the school. (A colleague and I have facilitated several curricular discussions with this model and it's been very useful.) In our team space on the ning, I asked team members to think about the values we hold with regard to 21st century learning and what we would want our teachers to know. I also asked for alternatives that would get us moving toward our values. (Note: Our next team meeting, Jan. 9, will include time to narrow our values and alternatives and, from that, we can begin to frame the project.)

November - December: Getting the Word Out

My own marketing efforts continue through this phase. I started having regular conversations with some of my administrative colleagues, our Dean of Faculty, and our Academic Dean. The Academic Dean, who is charged with overseeing our curriculum mapping initiative, and who also happens to be a great example of a life-long learner, attends one of our meetings. I asked him to join us because I wanted input for both our culminating PLP project and for our next steps for getting the word out. At the same time, I described to him the PLP ning and how great it is for facilitating conversations. The next day, I get an e-mail from him, asking me to look at the ning he created for Haverford folks to discuss curriculum mapping, our decision-making initiative, and some other school-wide initiatives. The word really is spreading!

At our final meeting before break, with the Academic Dean in attendance, we discuss the best ways to explain/market/communicate/excite our Haverford community. We decided on a presentation to the administration as our first step and set about brainstorming how to present all of it - our personal transformations, our understanding of 21st century learning, and our plans for a professional development plan.

With a stroke of genius, one of our members suggested that we create a curriculum map about PLP. Our Academic Dean was immediately on board and, while it was initially hard to imagine how we would map this experience, we decided that it was the best way for us to market this to our community. In our curriculum map, we could address all of the components of the PLP experience that we wanted to communicate to our colleagues (the personal learning we experienced, the tools we're using, and the project we're creating.)

As a sign of the growing strength of the team, we decided that we would get together for a "working" lunch over the winter break. On the Monday before New Year's Day, we met at a local restaurant and batted around our ideas for presenting to our administration. Again, I invited the Academic Dean to come along. I came away from the lunch energized and invigorated, realizing that I really feel good about my team.

December - January: Presentation Overload

I meet with one of my team members to test out what a curriculum map would look like for PLP. We decided to run it thematically/chronologically, which is to say that we will probably use the phases that I've just described here. In fact, much of what I'm writing will be used for our PLP mapping discussion tomorrow at our next team meeting.


January – February: Regroup, Revisit, and Move Forward!

Back from winter break and we begin preparing for our presentation to the Administrative Council. The team meets to begin creating our curriculum map for PLP and the map actually looks pretty good. The conversation that we had as a team while we were mapping was excellent. I learned a great deal about mapping and we really dug deeply into the essential questions that we felt best described what we were learning.
The PLP presentation to admin is big. We are terribly aware of the importance of this presentation: we understand that this is our one, big chance to describe PLP to the school leadership and it’s our big opportunity to gain traction for the professional development plan we will be creating for the school.
The presentation is going to be good; we’ve divided it into three parts: Learning, Tools, and Professional Development. We begin with a demonstration of a mathcast project that one of our team members created for his middle school math students and we asked our audience to reflect on the learning they saw evidenced in the mathcast. Then, we asked them to think about how they, themselves, learned. We wanted to get our audience to consider their own learning first and use that as a springboard to a wider discussion about learning. We showed a video clip, The Zax, a Dr. Seuss story that describes to creatures who meet on a road, each going the opposite direction of the other. When they meet, they refuse to budge to let the other pass and continue his journey. Eventually, their stubbornness leads them to remain fixed in their places while the rest of the world went ahead and built overpasses and roads to move around these two Zaxs. It’s a powerful fable about what happens when no one wants to change. Maybe it was too powerful?
We moved on in our presentation to a demonstration of the tools that we’ve been using in PLP. We showed our PLP Wiki team space, our Google notebook (which we cannot live without!), and our curriculum map. Our Dean of Studies had already created a Haverford ning, Decide to Learn, and we asked our Admin to join the Haverford ning, providing laptops and technical support to facilitate this. And it was here that things fell apart. In retrospect, I should have noticed that, as we began to talk of things that were not concrete (a virtual learning community? How do I get my arms around that?), we began to lose some of our audience. Perhaps we needed to demonstrate more 21st century lessons; I don’t know. I only know that we never got to part three of our presentation (the professional development part.)

And so, our presentation to the administration group did not go as well as planned. We reflected on reasons why in our team space in the ning. Perhaps our presentation was too ambitious. Perhaps we didn’t consider our audience as well as we should have. Or perhaps we just weren’t prepared for any push-back. Whatever the reason, we left the presentation with a little less enthusiasm than when we went in and that, for the team leader, was not a good thing. We needed to regain our original excitement and I was unsure exactly how to do that.
Fortunately, I discovered another PLP lesson in the process: the power of the team. Collaboration is a 21st century skill. It was through collaboration that we created our presentation for the administrative team and collaborating would bring us back to our former glory. (Did I tell you that we were really deflated after our presentation?)

The team met to discuss what happened and Sheryl and Will offered to help us debrief and plan to move ahead. In a Skype session, our team talked with Sheryl and developed possible ways for PLP to help us educate our admin team and gain traction with our PD plan. We felt that school heads should perhaps be educated – by Will and Sheryl – about PLP and 21st century learning. Sheryl also suggested that we look at our strategic plan and mission statement and draw direct correlations between what we say about ourselves and the goals of 21st century learning.