December 19

I don’t always agree with Sheryl, but…

I don’t always agree with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, but I really enjoyed this post of her blog and thought I should share it with you. I know that I don’t have many followers yet, but the ones I do have I want to address you personally. So read through Sheryl’s post and pay special attention to the post she includes from Wendy. I’ll join you again at the end.


DO IT YOURSELF (DIY) PD from Powerful Learning Practice, LLC by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach


Phone rings. It’s Saturday, why are they calling me so early? The dogs decide it is time to get up and start my day anyway. I am up, coffee, walk outside, shiver and decide I will come up to the office and learn something.

I open my email and there is a message from Seth Godin. It reads…

[You’re getting this note because you subscribed to Seth Godin’s blog.]

What are you working on?

If someone asks you that, are you excited to tell them the answer? I hope so. If not, you’re wasting away. No matter what your job is, no matter where you work, there’s a way to create a project (on your own, on weekends if necessary), where the excitement is palpable, where something that might make a difference is right around the corner. Hurry, go do that.

I make a mental note of what I am working on and ask myself if I am excited. I decide I am and wonder are those I care about online also excited at the work they are doing.

I consider tweeting the post and instead go to the next email. I find a Google Alert – Shout– a link to a new environmental studies w/Smithsonian site , I tweet that. As I tweet, I glance at a tweeted post shared by @wfryer which is in the view window of my “all friends” in TweetDeck. It says, “Vimeo Video School: 800+ free tutorials – sweet for @storychasers :-)″ I bookmark it and leave the page open so I can share it with my connected learning communities that are part of  PLP. We just sent them Flip cameras and I think it might help them think through their use.

Another Google Alert for connected learning communities, a term I coined to describe the 3-pronged approach we take to community in PLP. It takes me to Kim Cofino’s blog and I read a few posts about how she is changing learning at her school. I reflect upon how she could answer Seth’s question above with excitement. You can feel the excitement in her post.

I come back to email and there is an RSS subscribed message that takes me to the PLPblog. I skim the first two posts by Lani Ritter-Hall and Alec Couros and settle in on one written by Susan Carter-Morgan entitled This Still Has Me Thinking which takes me to a Zotero group created by Wendy Drexler. After scanning the research items I ask myself two questions. 1) Why had I never heard of her research group in here before? 2) How can I join too? So I try to join the group and scan the page left to right–right to left– searching for the “join” button. I am a big fan of Zoteroso this frustrates me and I try the register button. Ugh! Now I have two loginsand accounts with Zotero- that isn’t what I wanted to do. I keep the page open thinking I will try harder later. (Realizing failure is part of the DIY learning experience- it helps me to retain what I learn by having to struggle through it. )

Back to email. A message entitled, “Serendipity” – ok, I am intrigued. I open it and it is from Wendy Darga, a PLP participant last year. She describes a short DIY PD experience of her own…

Hi Sheryl,
Hope this finds you well and ready for the holidays.  Just this afternoon, Katie and I were discussing how we should share our work with you.  I logged into the FB page to grab your email and found your all-call for what PLPeeps are working on.  As an aside, I also saw your “Rant” post last week and could not agree more!!!
Katie, Rachel, Frank, Sandy and I have been busy implementing the project we developed last year during our PLP experience in the Ontario International Cohort.  Our project was to develop a Ning for our faculty.  We are excited by our progress, our learning and the response of our staff.
The attached document reflects our thoughts about the process and our project.   We wrote it as a short article/blog post.  Please feel free to post it!Have a wonderful, restful holiday, Wendy
Wendy Darga
Hart Middle School
Rochester Community Schools

I read the attachment and think hmmm- I ought to share that out for others to read. I then argue with myself that if I am going to take the time to post I really need to be synthesizing the learning that took place at #TEDWOMEN (a learning journey I was part of recently) and I decide, no, I will honor this team and their hard work  first. I have the whole Christmas break to write about #tedwomen.Action Research

That is how we learn in the 21st Century. We teach others by transparently sharing what we are learning ourselves. That is what I am doing here and that is what Wendy has done in her letter to me. As I read her post I considered how the action research project we do as part of the professional development experience in PLP is often the first time many of the educators we work with have truly collaborated together on a self directed change initiative. It feels good to know that if someone asked Wendy and her team Seth’s question- What are you working on? Not only will they be able to answer with excitement, but in some small way I was part of the answer. And that makes all the time and energy invested in transparent learning — worth it.

Wendy’s post:

Dragging Them Kicking and Screaming?

Katie Allen, Wendy Darga, Rachel Guinn

Hart Middle School, Rochester Community Schools

Are you in charge of planning something new for your staff? Or do you desire to make some changes in your school and you are contemplating how to get everyone on board? Of course, we all understand that you cannot make everyone happy all of the time. However, when it comes to teaching and learning, aren’t we supposed to do just that? That is, educate and engage all of our students?

When our students are of the adult variety it becomes a significantly daunting task. Unless there is pressure from administration, or firmly stated requirements for an initiative, it can be down-right difficult to move the masses.

We call ourselves the Nerdy Netbookers.  We are a group of committed middle school educators who have diverse roles and experiences who have decided, through an experience with PLP, to build an online collaborative communication tool using a Ning.

The need to devise something non-threatening was a given, but we also were in need of an initiative that had that pervasive pull to encourage staff to realize the benefits of engaging in the site.  A critical aspect of the process was certainly to spend time educating and building a rationale for why this tech tool would be a sound investment of time and energy. We realized so often these “hot” trends are just that; trends.  No one in education has the time or energy to bother learning something that will become obsolete in weeks. At the end of the day, people still want to know what is in it for them, or how might this make their lives easier?  And that was certainly not our goal- we were in it for the long haul.

Our destination was professional learning; Ning was our vehicle.  We consciously prepared and planned to roll out the Ning with our “cant’s and wont’s” in mind.  We reallystruggled with and debated about how to handle those staff members who we knew would throw roadblocks in the process, that is either roadblocks that would evolve from lack of comprehension and confidence or a reaction of defiance or lack of interest.  Either way, we were bound to make certain all staff would benefit from the site because our ultimate goal was to move the entire group forward not simply using, but engaging in Web 2.0 tools.  It was a noble and desirable outcome.  We expected we would transform into building heroes for creating this experience for everyone to learn and grow collectively! Ultimately, the staff would hoist us up on their shoulders and beg us for more!

While we have not been carried around the building, we have achieved success.  Our usage stats are admirable, and we have devised a myriad of virtual experiences. People are positively engaged and implementing the Ning.  We conducted our first virtual staff meeting, plans are underway for bringing in experts for further professional development, and we have even started a social book club for interested staff.  We Nerdy Netbookers have benefited from the experience as well.

One of our biggest epiphanies was to form a 180-degree change in our thinking regarding our kickers and screamers.  We started this project committed to move 100% of our staff forward in using and understanding the power of collaborating virtually because our underlying goal was to persuade our staff to embrace the power of technology as a tool for formulating their own learning.

After three months of working with our staff and the site, we have come to the conclusion that those kickers and screamers can kick and scream all they like.  We haven’t abandoned them and we will not ignore them or leave them out of the loop, but we have decided that moving the critical masses is the most important step. Those lagging behind will have the ability to catch up, if that is what they desire, but we will not be forcibly prodding them on from behind.  To invest our limited time and energy in the small minority is a major distraction from our goal. Our capital is better spent developing the experiences that cultivate the conversation among those who wish to participate.  As this tool becomes embedded in our culture, it will become increasingly more complicated to resist. When they realize what they’re missing, we’ll welcome them with open arms.

So– What are you working on? I’d love for you to respond in the comments with the answer. Include links so I can learn with/from you.


Whoa. What am I working on now? How about not going insane with all of my everyday stuff? I’m working on that!

Seriously though, I have to say that the post by Wendy sounds very familiar. In our school my PLPers are thinking of working on a project that may turn out to be similar. We had a similar discussion at a meeting last week. It seems that we all have teachers that we feel need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, or even the 20th if you listen to some of my colleagues. We always seem to focus our attention on those people, rather than the people woare willing to move forward and learn new things. I agree that we need to be looking at moving the willing and creating a critical mass of people who are learning. It is like the kid walking up the teeter toter. We are still on the downhill side. As we walk up the teeter toter it will start to balance on the middle. We continue moving forward and all of a sudden boom! we are running downhill. Now we just have to do it with a whole bunch of teachers. As more and more of us climb up past the middle of the teeter toter it will eventually tip over to the other side. Then even those people who are hanging on to the opposite handle will be able to see the way down to were the rest of us are.

To my PLP colleagues, can we please focus on the people who are willing rather than those who are not? I am so tired of talking about the roadblocks and the negative energy that they create. Let’s focus on the positive. Invite those that are willing to join us and have some fun! The more fun, the more people will join us. Don’t join the dark side, shine in the light!

Those are my thoughts way to early on a Sunday morning six days before Christmas.

Mr. Dale

Posted December 19, 2010 by mrdale in category Uncategorized

About the Author

I am a teacher and Team leader in cetral Alberta. I am interested in educational technology and how social networking can, and is going to change education.

1 thoughts on “I don’t always agree with Sheryl, but…

  1. Allan

    Great thoughts Dave. It may just be the fact that I’m crawling into the Christmas break, feeling a shell of my former self, but I think you have an excellent idea for our project. Right now I don’t want to deal with any form of negativity. How far do we take it though? Do we make anything we do an exclusive club? Do we set it up in a way that only the positive individuals will dare get involved?

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