Posted in Introduction

Starting Again

When I began this blog, almost two years ago, my goal was to post at least once a week. That didn’t last long. I was also starting a new job at the time and I overestimated my stamina. The job and the other commitments I have to various education organizations and to my family kept posting to this blog at the bottom of my to-do list. When I started this blog, I thought I would use it to reflect on my work, ponder new ideas, and occasionally share a resource or two. It’s time to get back to that.

Although I haven’t kept this blog up, I have been blogging. This year I began co-teaching a semester-long Digital Literacy class for high school freshmen. In this class we use blogs and blogging as a foundation for teaching reading, writing, and other forms of digital communication. I started a blog as a model for my students the first semester, and I’ve carried it over to the second semester‘s class. I’ve been writing, but for a different audience.

I’ve often said that the most effective teachers are also the most reflective teachers. I have not been modeling that well. I believe I have been reflecting on my work, and I’ve shared those reflections verbally with trusted colleagues, but I haven’t been committing it to writing. For me, writing actually aids my thinking, and I know I should do it more often.

I want to get back to writing for the audience this blog was intended for – teachers and other technology integrators. While my idea of posting once a week may have been overly ambitious, I think I can manage some regular posting.

I’m not ready to give up yet. It’s time to start again.

Posted in Introduction

How I Got Into This

I’ll admit it – I’m a baby boomer. I’ve been in education for a long time and I’m nearing the end of my teaching career. I’m a member of the generation of teachers who are assumed to be resistant to using technology and fearful of changing their practice this late in the game. So how did I get where I am today? How did I learn all this technology stuff well enough to teach other teachers about it?

I’ll also admit that, until recently, I never took any technology classes. I finally decided to get a degree in Technology in Education just to prove that I know what I know.  I have a secret and here it is: I learned more from my classmates in my formal university classes than from the instructors or the completion of required course work.

When I began teaching there were no computers in classrooms, no photocopiers in the teachers’ room, no VCRs anywhere. We had a spirit duplicator and wrote our originals on ditto masters that were awkward and difficult to edit and produced those purple-on-white worksheets with the distinctive odor. I was never very good with machines and I usually tried to get someone else to make my copies for me. In the mid ’80s a few personal computers were creeping into schools, but I was happy to get the school secretary’s cast-off typewriter for my classroom. I first touched a computer in 1988 when I was given an Apple IIe and kids taught me how to use it.

Since then I’ve taught with computers in GT and 8th grade ELA classes, worked with computers in an elementary school library, managed computer labs in a junior high school, and become a technology integrator for a middle school and eventually for the whole state – all of that with no formal training. I learned it all by reading, watching, listening, trying, failing, and asking. I bought and read books and manuals, searched the internet for answers to my questions, and kept certain tech-savvy friends on speed dial.

Teacher and 1:1 computing class
Another cartoon from my extremely talented son. I have often felt this way when teaching with technology.

I didn’t know it then, but I was forming what now has a trendy buzzword to name it. I was creating a PLN- a personal (or professional, if you prefer) learning network. While in the beginning my PLN consisted mostly of print resources and my rolodex, over the years, as I’ve become more connected through the internet, I’ve expanded my network to include experts from all over the world. If I have a question now, I’m likely to ask  my colleagues here in Maine, but I’m also likely to Google it, search Delicious, post it in a forum, tweet it, and post it on Facebook.

Without this extended network, I could not possibly learn what I need to learn in this rapidly changing world. While workshops and training sessions can make me aware of possibilities and get me started with new technologies, to stay current and relevant, I rely on my PLN. And although my retirement may be only a few years away, I don’t think I’ll stop learning any time soon.

I’m often asked about my credentials and my technical training and when I admit I’m just an old teacher, people inevitably ask, “How do you learn all this stuff?”

The only answer I can come up with is, “I just ask.”

Posted in Introduction

Moving On to New Adventures

This is a time of transition for me…

For the past nine years I’ve been an integration mentor for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI). I traveled across the state meeting with middle school and high school teachers and leading workshops for them. I also created resources and provided some online learning opportunities to help teachers refine their practice using technology to meet the ever changing needs of their students.

blogging cartoon
My son drew this cartoon when he was in high school. He’s not a fan of blogging.

In those nine years I learned a great deal about leadership, facilitation, communication, collaboration, workshop design, resource creation, and all other aspects of professional development. In short, I learned how to teach teachers. I use the word “teach” in its broadest sense because I believe teaching goes far beyond mere instruction. I could use words like “coach” or “facilitate” because that is often what I do, but I also model, assess, advise, commiserate, build relationships and, yes, sometimes I instruct.

While I draw on all my teaching experience when I’m working with them, I’ve come to realize that there’s a different dynamic to teaching teachers. It’s not exactly like teaching young children or adolescents and it’s different from traditional adult education. When I’m working with teachers, they are my students, but they are still my peers.

I recently left my position with MLTI but I will continue to provide some professional development in my new job as a K-12 technology integrator. I’ve started this blog as a place for me to reflect on my work, to ponder new ideas, and occasionally to suggest tools and resources for teachers. I hope you will join the conversation and share your thoughts and ideas with me and my readers.