Thursday, July 15, 2010

PLP, Edu Tech, Teacher Innovation: Is it Worth it?

Have you heard about PLP cohorts? (PLP stands for Powerful Learning Practice.) Maybe PLP has come to a school near you; teachers all over the U.S. are participating in this edtech leaders' group, and it's run by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. 

They are rather well known for their work educating teachers to help improve their practices by using 21st-century teaching methods. See

PLP can enhance education; it might also end up enriching teachers' and students'  lives. Or maybe, it will just shake things up..and not in a good way.

I was all psyched (two years ago) to join with these trendsetters, to take my teaching to the next level by incorporating technological tools into my classroom. I attended two PLP conferences and joined in numerous online workshops. I hit another one tonight--#edopenmic.  It was an Elluminate session for educators, advertised on Twitter.

Earlier today, I had been chatting (via Twitter direct messages) with another teacher who knew about me, who knew what had happened to me because of blogging.  She blogs, too. She is a great example of a teacher using blogging to share effective teaching methods with fellow teachers.

This teacher was, I believe, also a member of PLP. She reminded me that I should ask the PLP leaders, Will and Sheryl, how they might address the fact that 1) they recommended that I blog and 2) I got fired, ostensibly for blogging. She told me that her school admin had led a workshop when the year ended, and my name was mentioned--e.g., "Don't let what happened to Elizabeth Collins happen to you."

I was incredulous. But, on the one hand, I am a public figure in some circles. So be it. 

On the other hand, I have heard hardly a peep from either Will or Sheryl, and I thought for sure that they might be able to procure positive change for others from the nightmare I experienced. (Maybe I just have to do that all by myself.)

I actually neither want nor need Will or Sheryl to feel sorry for me or to apologize to me for suggesting I do something that led to me losing my job. I want to see PLP leaders working now to secure protections for teachers using technology. I want to be assured that this won't be as likely to happen again.

How might the PLP founders do this? Perhaps by getting school administrators (at schools where teachers are participating in PLP workshops) to sign pledges saying they won't fire teachers for daring to use technology (especially after they've been instructed to do so in PLP conferences!).

I think that would be a good first step. Still, school administrators often seem warily okay with teachers using technology. They seem to realize, for the most part, that education needs to evolve, that teachers need to grow and expand their skillsets in order to keep up with tech-savvy students.

Yet, school administrators might still end up firing a teacher for blogging or Tweeting. Not because blogging and Tweeting are inherently bad, but rather, because some parents on a witch-hunt might complain about teachers daring to have online presences.

So many parents just don't seem to get it. (Can PLP also try to educate parents about the ways in which schools and teachers need to change? Somebody has to deal with this.)

I was on a radio show last month where people called in and one mom sort of yelled at me, saying, "Blogging? You want students to blog? You blog? I don't want my kids blogging! They spend enough time on the computer!"

I have also heard, "How do you have time to blog? You should just be teaching or grading papers."  But like anything else, if you want to blog or write or exercise, or even cook breakfast, you make the time. The time exists; just spend less time wasting time, and boom: you've found it.

And where (I feel like cursing here but won't) did people ever get the idea that teachers cannot ever deign to speak about teaching, whether it's on a blog or anywhere else? That seems to be the biggest bugaboo--blogging about teaching, Tweeting about teaching. 

But why? Publicists tweet about publicizing. Publishers Tweet about what they are going to publish or will never publish. Actors Tweet about fellow actors all the time.

Everyone on Planet Earth, it seems, Tweets about what matters to them--whether it's religion or the World Cup or how freaky Glenn Beck is.

Why are teachers supposed to stay silent about teaching? That makes no sense to me. No sense at all. Teachers need to spread to the word about what works and what doesn't, what lessons they've created, what tools they've found to help improve their teaching.

That's why I liked PLP. People shared important information there. I grew as a teacher as a result. Now, however, I'm sort of wondering: what's the point? Are we too far ahead of ourselves? Are we telling teachers to do things that the rest of the world isn't ready to see happening in schools?

What good is it to inspire teachers to better inspire students if they are just going to be destroyed or vilified as a result?

In a perfect world, I would want more teachers to have the experiences I did, to grow and expand their minds--and, consequently, better guide their own students by keeping them more invested, more engaged in the learning process. In order for this to happen, administrators and parents need to trust that teachers always, by their very nature, have students' best interest at heart. 

Learning is not always easy. Not for anyone. I know this. We all make mistakes and need to work on ourselves in many areas.  Opening our minds, however, should be simple enough.

END NOTE: I have criticized "administrators" here, but it can happen that admin may be the ones pushing teachers to innovate and try new things, instead of teachers trying to do it all on their own. Yes, that is  very possible. My point is, however, that administrators have the power to hire and fire, and teachers who are trying to stay current need support and protection from those who might attack them for trying something new and different.


  1. Another PLP trained teacherJuly 16, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    Awesome post. All your points are excellent.

  2. Thanks much. I would just like to see some protections for teachers, but there are so many angry voices calling for precisely the opposite. It's rather disgusting. All of us need to work to change it.



  3. Elizabeth; I have not been reading blogs for a while and I guess somewhere along the line I did not know you lost your teaching job for blogging, so I did some research and found more information. I also read some of the nasty blogs out there. I won't be crude and write in the way others have written, but it only solidified my opinions about certain groups of people. As a blogger/artist/with a definite online presence, I am amazed that in this age of technology it happened. But it does, like the 28 year veteran art teacher who got fired in Texas for taking her students to the Dallas Museum where a 5th grade student saw a nude statue. I too have lively discussions in my room about political subjects, especially when students voice an opinion (mostly parroted from their parents views) and I offer the other side. Education goes beyond our teaching just our subject is life education. Perhaps some of the things I talk about could also get me into trouble, but I won't stop. As a friend of mine once said when I asked him about using certain materials in his art work..."let them ask me to burn it-I will do so gladly - in public, but not before I call the media ". I suspect that in the end you will come out of this stronger. In life, everything happens for a reason. Best wishes, and thank YOU for reading my online musings. patti

  4. Thanks, Patti.

    The whole situation has been crazy...and craziest, probably, has been the third and fourth-hand reporting on me by other newspaper and bloggers. My mind is sort of blown that anyone who doesn't know jack about the actual situation would attempt to write about it, and other idiots (sorry--sad but true) feel they need to chime in, also.

    My job loss did not really stem from blogging. That's just a convenient excuse some people like to use. No, I was specifically baited and targeted by some (I will e-mail you separately so I can use the choice words I prefer here) people who have a cruel mission to take anyone who votes for Democrats out of their kids' schools.

    My story is so completely horrific I won't get into it here (but again, I will e-mail you if you ever care to read it). Everyone was on my side for quite a while, until the legal/monetary threats became too daunting. I think the blowback from firing me is worse for the school, though, honestly. That was not an intelligent move, in my PR consultant's opinion (I mean my own opinion, as someone with a strong PR background).

    Anyway--my mission now is to try to help other teachers in any way I can, keeping them (via publicizing things like this) safer from unjust attacks such as the one I experienced.

    Thanks for reading and for your kind words. I can't believe that horrible story about the art teacher in