So to match my reboot on this site, I have taken a step back in my online history, and started managing my class using a blog again today. You can find my newly redesigned class website at www.keenansclass.wordpress.com. It’s nothing fancy, but it gives me a place to enter in the days events, post the assigned tasks in each subject, and gives my students a common place to look for online materials. If you read the first post, you’ll understand.
So why step backward?
Because as I so often find with technology, the simplest solutions are the best ones. I have plenty of tools and methods of completing many different tasks in education, and many of them are great! However, what I find is the more ‘stuff’ I add in, the harder it is for me to maintain. Wordpress (particularly the free .com site) is simple and easy to manage, and I have really great controls on what is being put out. Most of the alternate tools I may want to use are embeddable as HTML or links into the site, so it makes a great ‘home base’ to work from.
I also realize that website building is a scary thing for teachers, which is another great advantage that wordpress has. It has been around for so long, that there are literally thousands of support websites, videos, tips and tricks to support a teacher setting this up. However, it is simple enough that it will likely only take you an hour anyway, and if you get stuck, it walks you through the process.
There is a reason that educational thinkers like Grant Wiggins use WordPress, it gets out of the way to let you share what you need to, simply. I wanted that for my students, and I bet many other teachers out there do to.
When I started my first blog (mrkeenan.com) about five years ago now, I started it with the intention of documenting the changes I was making to my classroom and practice. It was a fun site, supported by my burgeoning interest in Twitter as a professional learning tool. I posted app reviews and developed friendships with some wonderful developers who were looking to support teachers like me in the classroom by providing great software for the then new ‘iOS’ platform on iPods and then iPads.
Then things got busy.
I transitioned into completing a Masters program, started ghost writing, had another addition to the family, and while the blog continued to roll, it wasn’t the same thing to me anymore. I wasn’t enjoying writing and posting on it as much. My blog received some great praise about how professional it was, and I now had some university professors using my content in their courses, but every post was a challenge and huge time commitment to get posted. It’s great to put out fantastic resources and useful information, but I missed the connection I had with my readership and those who are trying to do great things for their students. So, I started posting less and focusing on redesigning my personal life and fostering what had gotten me so passionate about education to start with. That’s where I am now. In a new school with new challenges, implementing and supporting technology from a humanist perspective.
So, here’s the reboot.
I’ve decided to move the blog, simplify it, and post on what I am passionate about, not always on professional learning, not always on apps, not always even on education. I hope you enjoy the change; and if you’ve been with me from the beginning, I hope you read this post with a smile on your face as we get started having fun again!
Look, I know we many of us want that perfect room where anyone could walk in at any time and see peace, hard work and learning evident on the focused faces of our diligent students. When I started teaching that’s what I thought I wanted, but the reality is so much more than orderly information dissemination. In my classroom these days, the only time my students are quiet is when they are reading, and only because they can’t do that any other way.
Learning is messy stuff, and the best kind of learning requires some noise and movement to occur. Think about the times when you really felt involved; either in learning, planning or at a meeting. Were you sitting passively learning, or were you passionately debating, yearning for your ideas to be incorporated, arguing fiercely for your perspective? I am inclined to think the latter is where most of us fall. So how can we argue that students will learn better with a litany of rules and a passive learning structure? I would argue that the best learning is done on one’s own terms, and with as little direct guidance as is required. Enough background to understand, or know where to look, read, watch or develop the ideas, but also enough freedom that a student can go ask another student for support, can change the assignment to fit their interest, and a path to learning that can light a fire, not cause narcolepsy.
Take the time to ask what you can do with the curriculum, not how to cover it. I would rather have my students take a step back from 200 lines of ‘must do’ items and tackle one ‘could we’ item that keeps them up at night thinking of the possibilities.
Like lighting a fire though, you must have suitable materials for learning, including a solid relationship with and knowledge of each student, otherwise you will have no idea what will strike a cord with them. Also, you must know your curriculum, the expectations on you and your students, so you know how big the ‘dream project’ must be to encompass it. Finally, you must let go of your fear; you won’t do it all right every time, but I can guarantee that quiet kid at the back who never gets in trouble because he is too busy with something creative in his desk didn’t get everything his teachers put out there either!
I presented this in November at the Early Childhood Education Council Conference in beautiful Kananaskis Alberta. This was the first specifically early-years conference I have had the pleasure of presenting to, and I quite enjoyed the perspectives, expertise and conversations that I had while in attendance. However, my purpose with this post is to share the resources of the talks I gave at the conference, and hopefully some insights as to the value of these talks in my perspective. Please feel free to distribute these presentations as you see fit, and comment below if you would like to continue the conversation!