The Blended PLC

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by courosa

I have been thinking a lot about “Professional Learning Communities” (PLC)  and how they can continue to develop in our schools to ensure we are continually growing to meet the needs of our students.  I have always enjoyed Bill Ferriter’s work on this topic (definitely click on that link to see some great posts) who has some great ideas on how these need to continually progress and improve to serve our school communities.

To build upon this, we are about to embark on a “Learning Leader Project” which focuses on networking and connecting educators so that they are able to shape their own learning based on personal interests.  These teachers will also share this learning with their own school communities and it is basically built upon the premise of “teach a person to fish”.  We are looking forward to seeing the progress of this group and how it spreads throughout the school community, modelling the idea of a “learning organization”.

Although groups will be meeting once a month to discuss and share their learning, we wanted to implement more of a “blended” model so that the learning is open, shared, and continuous during the project.  Using blogs, wikis, Twitter, and other social media tools, our learning will be open and transparent to all.

Below are some reasons why we are working towards this “blended” model of learning within our school division:

  1. The blended model creates an archive of all the great work that is being done.  Too often, educators do absolutely great work within PLC’s yet often the work is closed or kept in word documents or notes.  By using blogs, wikis, twitter, and other open tools, you are able to easily share your information and learning as the work progresses.  When a new teacher, student, or parent enters the community, they can easily access all of the work that has been done previously and help build their own learning in that area.  In a model where this is not archived, many walk into a building and have to start from scratch.  There is no replacement for the rich conversations that often happens in these groups, but at least there is a starting point for people new to a school.
  2. Building an understanding of a blended learning environment.  We are working more towards bringing in blended learning environments into our schools, but have often not been a part of one ourselves.  If we are truly wanting to implement this work in our classrooms (which we should), we need to be able to take part in them ourselves.  If we want to teach something, we will need to learn it first.
  3. Learning is not dependent upon only face-to-face meetings.  Taking part in PLC’s in the past, I know that I often had many questions or thoughts that I wanted to share with the group, but would have to often wait until the next meeting before I had the opportunity to discuss it with anyone (other than some informal conversations).  Using the blended model, it is easy to have conversations that are ongoing and continuous, which can also be built upon within the face-to-face meetings.  Learning is not a series of meetings; it is continuous.
  4. You are not limited to the knowledge of your own school.  As we want to continuously have innovative and improving schools, we need to tap into the knowledge that is all around us.  By having a “closed” network, we become limited in what we can do, but by creating an open environment where anyone can share their knowledge, you are inviting experts into your conversations, which we can all learn from.  It is continuously said that, “The smartest person in the room, is the room.”; if that is true, let’s make bigger rooms.
  5. Learning is transparent to your entire community.   It has been shown that parent involvement in the learning objectives of their child has one of the biggest impacts on learning.  Too often we close the door to learning on our parents, where as if you had an open environment, they could not only see what you are learning about, but they also can contribute to the conversation.  We need to be comfortable as educators to show the process of learning, and not only the end result. The more we can get our community involved in the initiatives that are happening in our organizations, the better.
I am looking forward to implementing this model within Parkland School Division and hoping that it helps to improve the way we do PLC’s within our organization.




  1. If anyone is looking to implement a BLE in a classroom, I put together some steps of guide teachers with a potential process. While I ran classes for an entire semester, I tried to write this one for the teacher who wanted to complete a project with a class (in an attempt to make the move a little more gradual). Any feedback on the sticking points would be apprecitated. My usablility tests (this was part of my grad work) showed that teachers would like samples so it people were open to sharing I would also update the site to include your examples.

    I would look forward to learning with and from interested teachers.

  2. Fantastic project and exactly what I was thinking about a few weeks ago with my own staff. If we want teachers to embrace blended instruction (which in my opinion is absolutely the way of the future) they have to experience it! Your point about the benefit of creating an archive of the work that is accesssible to others is excellent! As for PLCs, I've often felt they are limited by the narrow scope of knowledge within the group. The blended approach blows the back wall out of the staffroom and brings in so many other perspectives! Very interesting!

  3. Awesome project and as a newbie to blogging and the like it is great to see how the concepts and ideas around an open network are actually applied. You are doing a great job George of having new and innovative ideas, but the most important part is the application and you are a great model for that.

  4. George,

    You may remember that @jgough and @boadams1 co-direct the PLC efforts at Westminster in Atlanta. For the past 5 years, we have taken an aggressive approach to re-structuring the middle school for job-embedded professional learning – 4 days a week and an hour a day for team time…58 of our 74 faculty currently working this way. Additionally, Jill and I co-facilitate a PLC of the PLC facilitators. We meet weekly on Thursday mornings. We publish our agendas here: We would love to see what others are doing.

    Thanks. [Miss you.]

  5. Hey Pal,

    First, thanks for the kind words on my PLC work. Anytime that something I do "looks right" to you, I'm jazzed.

    Second, what you've laid out here is nothing short of brilliant.

    I've argued for a long while that PLCs and PLNs shouldn't exist independently of one another and that if PLCs could be systematic about the work that they are doing in social spaces, their work would be simultaneously easier and more efficient.

    That's a tough sell in some schools simply because many teachers (and school leaders) are intimidated by BOTH collaborative learning AND social media spaces.

    It's an essential sell, though, isn't it?

    If we can polish our own learning practices—if we can embrace new tools and spaces for learning—-we are far more likely to introduce our students to those exact same practices.

    We talk a lot about the importance of transforming learning spaces for students, but we do very little to systematically transform learning spaces for adults.

    Maybe THAT'S the reason our world is changing while our schools remain the same.

    Enjoyed this. And continue to appreciate the opportunity to learn from you.

    Looking forward to reconnecting at Educon.

  6. Hi George,
    We are pioneering this with a cohort of teachers at District 102! Follow our journey on our blog where we are documenting our learning stories. We are tagging items in Delicious with d102ttl and using #d102ttl as our twitter hashtag. Transparency is key! Our work is also inspired by Ryan Bretag (see, especially goals #4: "Amplify students and teachers by telling their stories" and #5: "Share the stage with the expertise within our school and beyond our school."

  7. George,
    I have been asked to explain what it is that I do in my school that creates a climate of trust and high functioning collaborative culture. I am now trying to grasp how to take all the information I have within my walls at Hardisty and get it out to those leaders who wish to be change agents, leading their schools instead of managing. We need both but we need leaders most of all. I would look forward to meeting you personally in the next few weeks if this is possible.

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