Communities and Networks

I had the pleasure of experiencing our first Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) cohort session today, facilitated by the inspiring Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson. My teammates are four enthusiastic, elementary teachers who I could not be more pleased to have joining me on this journey, and our cohort includes about 18 different teams from our county and surrounding districts.

I know my work with PLP will inspire many future blog posts, but today I’m going to focus on the questions Sheryl raised early in our session: What is a community? What is a network?

General thoughts about the “community”: Tight-knit. Relationships. Comprised of people that rely on each other. A group who lives, learns, and works together toward common goals.

General thoughts about the “network”: Comprised of people who share common interests. You can choose your network and can’t often choose your community. Larger than community. Not as intimate as your community.

One of my PLP teammates and colleagues, Greg Frederick, simply depicted the community and network relationship as such:

Screen shot 2010-09-15 at 1.34.03 PM

His thoughts were that our community consists of the core of our social and intellectual interactions, and as we branch out, our network provides us with additional support and information to help us achieve our goals. Our network envelops our work within our community.

Sheryl continued to share with us the definitions of community and network that we would be using throughout our PLP work to develop common language among the group’s participants. One of the most meaningful points of our morning discussion was the point made about collaboration. Collaboration is not about sharing, it’s about FINDING SOLUTIONS together, and about mutual accountability. Networks are created through publishing and sharing ideas and connecting with others who share passions around those ideas and who learn from one another. Over time, that co-construction of knowledge will build community.

There are days when I definitely feel more strongly connected with my network than to my community. That being said, I can’t allow that to continue to be the case. If I become enriched by delving deeply into interactions with my network, I have a duty to bring that knowledge into my community, and vice-versa.

So, where do we go from here? I was totally impressed with my school team today. They jumped into a seemingly frightening world filled with Twitter tutorials, an introduction to Ning and other social networking venues, and a Skype-in from the fabulous Brian Crosby. The “a-ha” moment for us came when my teachers wanted to know, “How can we get our students to make these connections with others?” And, “How can we strengthen how we collaborate with the teachers in our community to really make a difference?”

That is our next step. We need to examine what we are doing in our classrooms and school on a daily basis and rethink how we can better engage our students in their own learning and help them develop essential, global learning networks to extend their thinking and experiences. We need to take a real look at curriculum, what we are asking students to learn, and how we’re asking them to learn it. We need to develop a system for meaningful collaboration among our peers and beyond. I have no doubt that we will begin to accomplish these goals this year.

I’m interested in learning how other schools develop the capacity of your communities and networks. Please share your successes!

I am so amazingly proud of the work we did today.  It’s only going to get better!


  1. I watched with envy as the #iu13plp tweets went by today! What a wonderful community building opportunity for those involved. It sounds truly amazing!

    September 16, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Thanks, Michelle! We are very privileged to be participating!

      September 16, 2010
  2. Lyn,

    Welcome to PLP. I have the incredible honor to be a community leader for several PLP administrator cohorts. Let me offer a few insights about PLP:

    1. You are incredibly luck to have Brian as your C.L. Absorb as much as you can from him and don’t be afraid to ask him questions, probe into his thinking, and ask him to unpack his thoughts. Brian is always willing to share, learning and grow with others – take advantage of that.

    2. PLP is more about the journey than the destination. While it is important to have a sense of where you want to be, don’t allow preconceived notions of where you will be lead your journey. Allow Sheryl, Will and Brian to take you through the process and absorb what you can. Take this year as a chance to learn for yourself as a learner first and as an educators second. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, transparent and willing to unlearn.

    By the looks of this post you are well on the way. My very best to you and your team.


    September 16, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Thank you so much for your words of wisdom and encouragement, Tony. I really appreciated the point made today that we should focus on developing on ourselves as learners. In turn, we will become stronger teachers, but it is by focusing on our own learning that we will make the greatest impact. Thanks again for your comment!

      September 16, 2010
  3. Bev said:

    Thanks for posting, it was good to reflect again about the day as I read your post. I also enjoyed Tony’s comments re: being more about the journey than the destination. I’m excited to embark on this journey with this team. I feel confident with you “backing” us. And, I really think that during happy hour many more wonderful ideas will form …. 🙂

    September 16, 2010
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      I am glad you are on this journey! Your enthusiasm was evident today! And you can’t go wrong developing team norms that include “We will have fun and laugh!” Thanks for commenting, and I’m looking forward to reading more posts from you…

      September 16, 2010
  4. Lyn Hilt said:

    Susan, I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and to share it on the PLP Facebook site. I am greatly enjoying the PLP experiences thus far and look forward to our work together this year!

    September 28, 2010

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