By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

As the CEO of a professional development company whose mantra is “Professional Development for the 21st Century Educator” I find myself continually cognitively juggling what’s best for my clients, what’s best for their students, and what’s best for our contractors and staff in an effort to find some way of making it all align with what needs to change in education.

It’s evaluation time. We encourage our communities to be brutally honest when they evaluate us. And we listen. Where it makes sense we shift or innovate.  It requires us to continually reinvent ourselves, to stay on top of where research and practice meet and to balance the desire for easy and structured with messy and self-directed.

Deep Reflection and Keeping the Focus on Learning
Evaluation time means deep reflection time for me personally. Especially when evals call you by name — pointing to what is perceived to be character flaws. It takes a thick skin to see past all that and look deeper to what is really going on- to keep your focus on learning by continually growing as a leader, learning about how to learn and how to model being a transparent learner. I want, more than anything else, to leave a legacy in education. I want what I spend my time doing to add value to the profession and to support teachers in helping their students self actualize. I also want to be part of lighting a fire that results in a learning revolution. I want to be a capacity builder who gives freely and learns openly.

But I have to tell you- I am frustrated. Really frustrated.

For example, here is a  recent evaluation comment:

I’m not sure that this is a very valuable experience, and I doubt I’d ever recommend it. It seems as if it’s based upon things like online communities and collaboration, which may have been new and innovative a few years ago, but which are kind of old hat now.

Online Learning CommunitiesOld Hat? Come on. Have we really hit the tipping point with online communities and collaboration– true collaboration? Is deep collaboration (moving past talk and cooperation to appreciative and collective action ) so prevalent among education that we can call it “old hat”? And let’s say for sake of argument that learning in online communities isn’t innovative anymore– so what? Is our role to only play in sandboxes that are innovative or new and novel? Shouldn’t we be trying to  understand what is happening in those spaces that were new only a few years ago, determining how to best use them to learn and help our students learn? Is there value in knowing how to start, lead, implement, empower, and use online communities for the type of collaboration that is going to provide significant shift? The kind where we all bring our best giftings to the table and use them together to create something new and powerful. Are online communities the focus or merely the venue through which we learn? I do not remember anyone saying classrooms are dated and they have been around for hundred of years.

Which begs to ask a different question– are people confusing talking to people online with deep, connected learning? Does being part of a social networking site or a NING community mean you are going deep- growing  in your ability to co-construct or deconstruct knowledge? Does it mean you are collaborating if you post, reply to a post, Tweet, or engage in a #edchat conversation? Are we moving toward an acceptance of superficiality as a replacement for deep learning? Has our multiple choice  culture trained our brains to believe that innovation is the holy grail?

Personal Learning NetworksPersonal Learning Network
It is becoming ever apparent to me that those of us who are online learning prefer networks. Networks like we have on Twitter or other electronic spaces where we can share short snips of conversations and where our ideas are met with like minded support and agreement. The advantages of networking are many. And do not get me wrong- I am a huge fan. I believe Personal Learning Networks are one of the three prongs necessary to be a do it yourself learner in today’s world. But for all the positive connections, laughter, links, and ideas that networks bring, they only are the tip of what is needed to produce lasting change. I do not have to commit to anything when I network. I can be witty or not and still be part of the “cool kids”. Networks are very “me” centered in that I choose my mentors, feeds, resources, learning objects and those with whom I will learn. I am in control. I can be very visible and yet still quite passive in my learning. I can talk and talk and talk and never have to walk or put action to my ideas. I even get my need for belonging met (Maslow) and self esteem. And sometimes I meet others and from there we create a community where we do act collectively. For me, that is the key. If all I do is network I do not shift or grow because I am missing the opportunity to go deep and actually learn by doing. It takes both: Networks and Community. Online, global communities of practice and f2f learning communities in my local context.

Imagine the deep learning that can be produced when we come together in learning communities and do some of the following (below). These are the kinds of things that our Powerful Learning Practice communities members who dig deep engage in through out the year. And the impact is strong– don’t believe me? Look at what they say.

Here are the kinds of things I believe need to be happening as learners come together in online communities of practice.

Action Research Groups: Active research done by communities of practice focused on improvement around a possibility or problem in a classroom, school, district, or province.

Book Study Groups: PLPeeps, often in cross cohort groups, come together to read and discuss a book collectively in an online space.

Case Study Method: Case studies emphasize detailed contextual analysis of specific situations and their relationships to current thinking and pedagogy. Writing, discussing and reflecting on the cases from 21st Century lens produces  collaborative reflection and improvement on practice.

Community of Practice (CoP): A CoP is group of professionals with shared interests and challenges who make a commitment to improve or get better at something over time by sharing ideas, finding solutions, and creating innovations. This requires new dispositions and values such as resisting the urge to quit prematurely.

Connected Coaching: individuals on teams are assigned a connected coach who  discusses and shares teaching practices as a means of promoting collegiality and support and to help educators think about how the new literacies inform current teaching practices.

Critical Friends Groups (CFG): A professional learning team consisting of approximately 5-10 educators who come together voluntarily face to face at least once a month. Members are committed to improving their practice through collaborative learning. Using a CF protocols they examine each other’s teaching or leadership activities and share both positives and areas that need improvement in respectful ways.

Curriculum Review or Mapping Groups: Teams meet on a regular basis to review what they are teaching, reflect together on impact of and assumptions that underlie the curriculum, make decisions collaboratively. They often do lesson plan studies together.

Instructional Rounds: A process through which educators develop a shared practice of observing each other and analyzing learning and teaching from a research perspective and share expertise. Included in this is typically a way to examine how students are working toward becoming connected learners.

Personal Learning Network (PLN): A carefully selected tribe of people or resources who guid learning, point to learning opportunities, give quick answers to questions, and share knowledge and experience.

Professional Learning Communities (PLC): Face to face collections of educators who continuously seek and share learning and then act on what they learn. If done right they are teacher driven and use a distributive leadership model. Individuals take what they learn in their PLN, and CoPs back to the PLC and contextualize the information toward helping students in the school or district achieve.

Scale: Scaling up is a process of transitioning an idea or project from pilot implementation to full implementation in the following stages:

  • Depth – developing innovations that produce deep, transformative, and consequential changes in instructional practice;
  • Sustainability – maintaining durable changes in practice over substantial periods of time through robust designs;
  • Spread – widespread adoption that retains effectiveness while reducing the resources and expertise burden;
  • Shift – the innovations need to be “owned” by the users who then begin to view themselves as co-designers and co-evaluators; and
  • Evolution – the feedback loops from users to designers that allow all to adapt and rethink the model.

Self-Directed Learning: Making decisions about how to advance one’s own practice including reading books, visiting colleagues in their classrooms, transparently sharing through blogs and in online communities, attending webinars, going to a conference, networking, and collectively doing action research.

Old hat — I think not.
I simply do not think most schools are doing these things in online communities with people they have never met but have made a deep commitment to in terms of growing together and developing a collective efficacy from a none of us is as good or smart as all of us mentality. There is nothing, at least from the way I see it, old hat about learning in such deep and powerful ways collectively.

Please Reply… Tell me if I am crazy.
I would be very interested in what you think. Am I missing it? Am I on this island all by myself and everyone else has moved on? Are you regularly involved in the types of learning experiences I described above as connected learners?

Photo credits:


Tags: , , , , , ,

37 Responses to “Online Learning is so last year…”

  1. Peg April 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    You are not crazy. There is so much to learn from online communities. Too many districts are very restrictive with their technology because those in decision-making positions aren’t really involved in all of the possibilities of which you speak. Those in power in my district don’t understand what is available nor how to use it for effective teaching or learning or professional development. Thank you for a provocative and insightful piece.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

      Thanks Peg,

      I am reading a book right now that has been very helpful in terms of extending my thinking around distributive leadership within schools. It is called from Silos to Systems: Reframing Schools for Success.

      It helps those in power to learn from their networks in meaningful ways. You might want to check it out.

  2. Dean Shareski April 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Wonderful thoughts here and I will likely take time to reflect more deeply on my own later but I do have a couple of initial reactions.

    1. The appeal of online learning for many is that it often is celebrated because it’s so easy. Sitting at home, logging on and having the opportunity to interact with someone on the other side of the world has become easy. But as we know simply removing the barriers to something doesn’t by itself make it meaningful, it just makes it more possible.

    2. I wonder if because many of us began our venture into online learning with blogging, where it seems to be more inherently reflective, has us see these other, newer methods in a different light? I hesitate introducing people to things like twitter because while it’s easy, it can also be pure fluff and for many not very valuable in terms of deep learning. I still maintain that twitter is only a good starting place for deep learning and not an end in itself.

    3. Communities of Practice is the most challenging of the three pronged approach. It requires commitment and reflection. I’m also not sure that those who enter these spaces, be it PLP or other self selected online communities are truly interested in this type of learning. What stops the commenter you cite in not experiencing deep learning? It seems he/she thinks someone should make that happen for them. Deep reflection and learning are a choice. PLP offers a variety of opportunities to do so but ultimately no one will make them. It’s a choice.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm #


      I love #1. “But as we know simply removing the barriers to something doesn’t by itself make it meaningful, it just makes it more possible.”

      I think that is probably the most profound thing I have heard in quite some time.

      As to #3 I think it is more than a choice. I think it is about honoring the commitment we make to others. At every kickoff the participants make a commitment to learn, share and grow over time in community. It is a year long commitment to grow together, to have hard conversations, and leaders (like us) commit too. We promise to pour into those who are on this self directed journey– throwing bread crumbs to highlight the path without getting in the way or doing too much directing.

  3. cyndy woods-wilson, PhD April 16, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    As usual Sheryl, you’ve deeply reflected on issues. Going way back, (CU) CoP was the original model. I still believe, like Dean said before me, that CoPs provide meaningful opportunities, but I can’t force the horse to drink. [Metaphor aside, my own 4 horses have taught me much wisdom about collaboration, leadership, and even "herd mentality".]

    Is it possible that the “herd mentality” of new Chancellors, Business Models for Schools, etc, have not only demoralized many teachers, but have made many scared to stick their heads out and stand up? Deep reflection removes our protective coatings, and requires trust. With the current “atmosphere” in the USA, I’m left wondering if teachers are simply too frustrated, or even scared, to share that type of thinking.

    Which is why your PLP is so powerful. Not only does it validate teachers and their opinions, it does provide options for them to take risks, hear their voice, share their voice, and keep learning.

    And that’s what you did with the comment that thoroughly engaged you, and pushed you to think in a different direction. I’m reminded of our earlier online experiences, where we found many teachers were simply “present”, and not actively engaged. It forced us all to think about the fact that we actually DID have teachers who simply “did enough” to get by. Fortunately, that’s the minority group.

    Keep up your reflecting, your PLPs and sharing your own personal growth path. While many of us remain silent for long periods of time, it’s not that we don’t care. It’s that we’re thinking about how this affects our students, and how we can make changes occur.

    Job well done Sheryl.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm #


      I am so glad we have the CU connection. I agree, trust is tough in schools but in walled garden spaces where people come together with a purpose and make a commitment to build trust and get messy and be transparent and listen to divergent thought– trust can be developed. I think we just have to be more intentional about what we are doing and why.

      On another note– you should come play with us at PLP sometime.

  4. Joanne Kaminski April 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    Sometimes as educators we have to take comments that others make to us with a grain of salt. My personal opinion is that the person who made the comment has never interacted in an online community in the ways that you have mentioned and that he/she has probably not even engaged in this way with the people that he/she interacts with in a daily basis. It sounds like a case of resistance. Sometimes people will come up with any excuse not to do something just to rile something in somebody else. Online learning is just beginning. People are starting to see the amazing impact that it has and are starting to utilize it. You are doing a great job helping keep people informed of what best practices are. Keep it up!

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

      Thanks Joanne. I am trying to learn and examine this case and others from the perspective of –what could I have done different to make this experience more valuable? I wonder what needs to change in my leadership and the structures? I also wonder how can I plan for things like resistance and other circumstance that will conspire against those who are participating?

      Thanks for getting me thinking.

  5. Doug Peterson April 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    That’s a very nice summary of things, Sheryl. I would suspect that there isn’t a single person that can truthfully indicate that they’ve mastered all of them or could even list them in a conversation.

    Unfortunately, you’re focused on what I am assuming is a single outlier of all of the people that have crossed the PLP paths. You’ve laid out good reasons and a path for continuing growth that goes far past the initial experience in PLP.

    The evaluation comes from a single moment at the end of the experience. Ironically, it’s the antithesis of everything that happens during PLP. Perhaps the evaluation model should be changed to one that is more reflective and continuous throughout the learning.

    Professional growth is more than a gas tank that needs to be filled up and then you’re done. In particular, Communities of Practice can be the perfect opportunity to syphon out the old to make room for the new or renewed best of breed practices.

    The frustration that you’re feeling is good. Use it to become more reflective about yourself and your efforts and as the impetus to move on.

    For that one outlier, there are many people that have grown because of the experience and you can’t beat that.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

      I read your reply and snapped my fingers and said why of course! Doug is so right! I haven’t been using formative assessment to teach and measure — even though I do workshops on it, I haven’t been doing what I suggest others do.

      I need to connect with you as a critical friend more often. You are so wise. Thank you.

  6. Roland Gesthuizen April 17, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    You have nailed some really important questions about where many of the web2.0 technologies that we are using in our classrooms could be taking us. For many years I have been struggling and juggling different online (and real world) tools to enable students to become active learners that ask big questions and build upon ideas. I am particularly delighted to read your list of suggestions towards building different online communities of practice. I shall enjoy sharing your post with others in my PLN and reflect upon your words.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      Roland I hope you will come back and share what you learned. Or at least blog and then ping me so I can read it. WE all need to work together to figure these kinds of things out. I appreciate your comment.

  7. casrenski April 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    I think it might be old hat to those for which online collaboration is a chore and a novelty, and yes, probably superficial also.

    I also feel that this perspective may be from a generation that still demands a conversation, now, to feel engaged, but online communities live in the ‘nearly-now’ space, and for a lot of people whom are not au fait with technology will never engage with such a change.

    For me, I prefer deliberated responses that writing demands in communication, even off-the-cuff reactions require some form of editing. I prefer not to interrupt whatever my PLN is doing by calling them all individually. I prefer not to go through the headache of trying to find a spot in everyone’s schedules where we can all meet physically, and be responsible for them collectively wasting 6 hours in traffic to meet. Online collaboration and communities, working in the nearly now, works for me

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      I remember Stephen talking about the “nearly now” in the “learning to Change” video and never quite got it. Thanks to your well timed comment I just had my aha moment. I will be doing things with that idea. I need you in my network to help me grow.

  8. dean groom April 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    I’m thinking that thinking about where people are learning to be smart-er and when has less do do with declarative knowledge or extent of connections but how curiousity and courageous is initiated. In Kurick’s Planet of the Apes, one reaches out and touches the monolith, among lots of “oohh, ooghing”. The troop expect the ape to be zapped, and probably get them all killed and lot’s of ground thumping occurs as the curious one is clearly a danger to themselves and others.

    The type of learning professional learning episodes we create, tend to flow from what systems will buy into, rather than those which will create a sense that curiosity and resilience makes most problems temporary.

    No one in their right mind would enter into a professional learning course or activity in which the outcome would guarantee people fail – which doesn’t explain Tetris.

    Put teachers into scenarios where trust and curiosity have immediate positive and negative effects that they need to make personal sense of now, rather than decisions about later. Most people will defer back to pack-belief when the influence is removed – so to my mind, we need to put them in environments where that influence is constant, user-driven and unstable – no matter when they choose to enter it.

    If we don’t they will always see change as the monster under the bed and try to find stability in something that by it’s nature isn’t – life.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      I need a long, developed, conversation with you about this. One where I can ask you questions, pace, drink, and ask more questions.

      You going to ISTE?

      “…the curious one is clearly a danger to themselves and others.” Reculturation cures this no?

      “…has less do do with declarative knowledge or extent of connections but how curiosity and courageous is initiated.” Again… a matter of values and dispositions. This is brilliant btw

  9. T.S. April 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Sheryl, I thoroughly enjoyed that post and totally understand and identify with your frustration. I do believe that a great deal of this is chalked up to people’s personality and the way they view the world as a lifelong learner. That word “efficacy” keeps popping up for me as I study that in my dissertation research. There are some people that will see benefits (big or small) in all of the online world and find a way to use it for what they need to make learning happen in the best way possible for themselves and their students. These people usually attack their problems and the rest of life in this way as well—they use a hurdle (like time management for research or on line collaboration) as something to propel themselves into deeper thinking not fall down and never get up. In short . . . if it aids learning they use it! Thank you for encouraging all of us to think deeply.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

      I, like you it seems, have given myself over to a relentless determination to overcome life’s challenges and to always leave things better than I found them– including but not limited to education.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Elisa Waingort April 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    I agree with you that there are a myriad of possibilities for online learning that have yet to be explored by most teachers in schools. Although I can only speak with authority about my own school I don’t think we are the exception but the norm. Many of our teachers are relatively young and internet places are not foreign to them. I also teach in a district that supports and encourages multiple uses of technology so there’s no excuse there. So, on paper it looks good. However, in practice many teachers don’t or won’t put in the time it takes to engage, truly engage, in online learning. It still needs to be promoted and teachers need to start realizing its potential on the ground. I believe this is necessary because often the support that teachers need/want cannot be found at a school site; it has to be searched out in cyberspace.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

      You said, “However, in practice many teachers don’t or won’t put in the time it takes to engage, truly engage, in online learning. ”

      Why? We would expect nothing less from our students. And How? How can we change this from your perspective? I would love your thoughts or the thoughts of others.

  11. David Truss April 18, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Great reflection… one I’ll come back to again and again!

    Touching on what Dean said,
    “Communities of Practice is the most challenging of the three pronged approach. It requires commitment and reflection.”
    And also what Elisa said,
    “…on paper it looks good. However, in practice many teachers don’t or won’t put in the time it takes to engage, truly engage, in online learning.”
    I think that the work you do with your PLPeeps, (who are so valuable in my PLN as I read their reflections and learn from, and with, them), is phenomenal! BUT… these are teachers who ‘step up to the plate’ and fully participate on the team.
    How many of the teachers in these different cohorts don’t do this? How many of them go through the motions as part of the team and rely on these true participants to ‘hit a home run’ for the group?
    Commitment, Reflection… and Time! That’s what is needed. We expect commitment and reflection, but are we truly giving teachers enough time to fairly expect their full participation?
    I recently wrote recently that:
    “I think there needs to be a recognition that we aren’t in the ‘teaching business’, rather we are in the ‘learning business’, and if we aren’t constructing a teaching model that supports teachers in their learning then we need to redesign what a teacher’s day looks like!”
    I’ve been connected to you for years now… and to many edubloggers who don’t turn their ‘edubrain’ off when they go home. But I’m wondering more and more if we haven’t created a structure where that is expected of everyone? Should we expect these powerful cohorts to engage in these communities as extracurricular activities as an expectation? Or should we be embedding this time structurally into schedules generously enough to support our expectations AND then raise the bar on professional accountability?
    I re-read that and it sounds like I’m asking rhetorical questions… but I’m not. Have we created expectations of participation and commitment to learning in online communities without fairly providing the time to meet the expectations we have created?
    Is an essential part of our redesigning of schools about redesigning teacher schedules to provide ‘learning’ as an essential part of their day?
    Or am I just creating unrealistic expectations about structural changes that will actually never happen?

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm #


      Here is my first blush to your ?s I would love to hear what others think as well.

      How many of the teachers in these different cohorts don’t do this? How many of them go through the motions as part of the team and rely on these true participants to ‘hit a home run’ for the group?

      A good percentage seem to get it at first- but since it is a year long commitment their excitement wanes. Also, some will attend a session here or read something there and never buy-in to the full experience. Then there is Bruckman’s research about the stages teams go through and often when they hit storming they quit prematurely.

      Commitment, Reflection… and Time! That’s what is needed. We expect commitment and reflection, but are we truly giving teachers enough time to fairly expect their full participation?

      No. We are not. It takes about 100 hours (3-5 a week) to do PLP (connected learning) well. This means the PLP, CoP, PLN involvement and the personal reflection. But doesn’t touch the time it takes to grieve (loss of all we have vested ourselves in) and the time it takes to master the art of release.

      Have we created expectations of participation and commitment to learning in online communities without fairly providing the time to meet the expectations we have created?

      I am wondering –even with all the talk and text have I –have we– communicated expectations and assumptions clearly. Have we allowed for co-created expectations and assumptions to become part of our values and dispositions. Shift takes time.

      Is an essential part of our redesigning of schools about redesigning teacher schedules to provide ‘learning’ as an essential part of their day?

      Absolutely- and I would say we need to think in those terms for kids too.

      • David Truss April 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

        I love when an educator says something like ‘We need to think in those terms for the kids too.’ It makes my day (or in this case my night). I think too often they are left out of the discussions, and they should never be.

        Reading your last line above, I was reminded of some Grade 12 IB students I knew at a school I worked in… Bone tired and skipping classes to do homework for another class… Contemplating writing their ‘extended essays’ that they should be given a ‘coffee shop’ class to discuss and wax poetic about, but instead, piling that essay onto the hours of work they still had to do.

        Yes, Commitment, Reflection… and Time! That’s what is needed for students too.

  12. Margaret Simkin April 19, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    I appreciate your comments. I recall sitting in a small group session with you in Melbourne where one of the younger teachers present listened to what you said, tried what you introduced then said, but I don’t want my students to share their work, there is no point. I remain flabergasted by that comment and still wonder why she was there.
    I also find that many people in education have not experienced any of the things you refer to and tweet about. In my professional life I often feel that i inhabit another world and the opportunity to seriously collaborate continues to be elusive. Trainee teachers do not seem to be introduced to any of the concepts that you raise in your evaluation of the deep learning that is available, but many seem to be able to find “really good lessons” on the Internet which they then present superficially. In my professional circle most of the high level uptake and development seems to be by people whose age might indicate that retirement would be on their minds rather than improving educational outcomes for students and teachers. I struggle with the concept that there are digital natives and they are all young. I also see much shallow learning by thoseof all ages who experiment with web 2.0, not deep improvement of educational outcomes. I think you should continue to present the issues and raise the questions as you have been because most of those who are involved with your work in any way benefit from it. I do think that David Truss has raised a couple of pertinent questions when he says:
    “Have we created expectations of participation and commitment to learning in online communities without fairly providing the time to meet the expectations we have created?
    Is an essential part of our redesigning of schools about redesigning teacher schedules to provide ‘learning’ as an essential part of their day?”
    I think that is what PLP is trying to do and I really wish I could get my school involved with a team. (I may take up an individual option if I continue to hear: “not at the moment”. I am delighted to see that this is now an option)

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach April 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

      You said, “I also see much shallow learning by those of all ages who experiment with web 2.0, not deep improvement of educational outcomes.”

      I am actually writing a book on this topic and would LOVE to explore it with you more deeply. Could we chat sometime?

      • Lori Elliott April 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

        Great discussion. I am especially drawn to the last reply about shallow learning, not deep improvement of educational outcomes. Unfortunately, I see this with not just technology integration but overall instruction. With all the emphasis on accountability and assessment I see a very superficial level of teaching and learning. What makes me the most sad is the lack of emphasis on positive relationships in the classroom, higher level thinking, problem solving for real world purposes, etc. When all the standards and testing became the focus, I remember telling my colleagues that it would ruin teaching. Teaching is an art, a craft, a passion. It is built on communication and human connections. I somewhat understand why many of our teachers are grasping for ideas just to survive, rather than digging deep to thrive. There is a learning curve also with teaching. We all start with those “cutesy ideas or good ideas” and then we hopefully grow into really understanding the why and how of using great strategies and tools. As I mentioned before, it is not just web tools that are being used in a very basic way, but instructional strategies all around. My hope is that we can work closely with our colleagues in many of the ways discussed in this posting and help all of us to continue to grow and really stay focused on the things that matter.

  13. Meredith May 7, 2011 at 12:08 am #

    Wow, I’ve been putting together a piece on PLNs, and this is an amazing and refreshing perspective on how broad in scope and definition “PLN” can be. I think to a large extent, an online network echoes people’s proclivities to engage and learn in any other context. Some will find the crossroads of the “Networks and Communities” and become active learners, whereas others might find solace in passivity. I’m still chewing on some of the ideas, but thanks for the insights!

  14. Ciro May 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    My take is that the person commenting probably has no clue what they are talking about but may be referring to “old hat” as being something that is being continually presented. What I have seen of teachers is that an extremely small minority (<5%) are actually in their infancy in terms of exploring online anything let alone learning communities or collaboration. Time for brutal honesty, with only a handful of exceptions most teachers I know of think a kid emailing a powerpoint to another kid is online collaboration. They don't want kids working together online in any real form because of "cheating". But who in the real world is charged with knowing the right answer to everything? No you aren't crazy. Those who have fallen behind and have no intention of catching up are simply thinking that its time to hear about the newest "fad" not realizing this is the real world imposing its reality on the fantasyland of education.

  15. Carla July 31, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    I found this article so refreshing and uplifting. It’s a bit ironic to me that your quest for knowing you are not alone has also lead me to feel much less lonely when I read this blog and comments. Sometimes I really reflect on my sanity as well. : ) I really appreciate this connection as I am working with other educators and parents in my community to create a Learning Community that will focus on these topics. This is a great overview for me to share with others and to personally use as a jumping off point for our learning community! Thanks so much for posting!

  16. Christina February 20, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Hi Sheryl.

    The online community is becoming the best way for sharing knowledge and learning new ideas. But today many online learners use the networking sites for sharing videos and images. Thanks to your post as it has motivated me to take part in online communication system for personal development. Thanks explaining in deep.


  1. links for 2011-04-17 : DrAlb - April 18, 2011

    [...] Online Learning is so last year… | 21st Century Collaborative Of course, the point is that it is not so last year but the arguments are worth reading and the variety of approaches discussed opens more possibilities for things we might do. (tags: elearning usqict ttf socialnetworking) [...]

  2. Daily link digest | Doug Woods - April 18, 2011

    [...] – Live Online Learning a facilitator's guide by @onlignment, Online Learning is so last year… | 21st Century Collaborative Online Learning is so last year… is collaboration 'old hat' [...]

  3. ML4D #mobimooc « connectiv - April 18, 2011

    [...] (image:  [...]

  4. The Truth About Online Communities – ijohnpederson - April 19, 2011

    [...] Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach’s recent post Online Learning Is So Last Year, something I’ve read and reread about 5 times in the past [...]

  5. Instructional Design Weekly Links (weekly) - April 24, 2011

    [...] Online Learning is so last year… | 21st Century Collaborative [...]

  6. Connected Learning « Cat's eyes - May 13, 2011

    [...] online learning and PLNs. Via my own PLN (@nick_peachey) on twitter I came across this excellent blogpost (where the graphic above comes from) which digs deeper into the nature of online collaborations [...]

  7. Online Learning is so last year… | Davidlopez85's Blog - May 16, 2011

    [...] [...]