You know the saying from Of Mice & Men, “The best laid plans…”, well that’s sort of what my summer was like. I originally thought it would be my typical: lay by the pool, read a ton of books on my Kindle, watch the 200 TED’s that are sitting in my iTunes, and generally relax. Unfortunately not one of those things occurred, but what did occur was an amazing amount of learning. So when I received the principal’s welcome back letter today I realized it’s time for some reflection and conclusions about this year’s “vacation”.
(I’m all about the process, but if you just want the bottom line, keep scrolling to my conclusions.)
1. I set-up two websites, one for my students and this blog.
2. After working hours upon hours to set everything-up on our home server we realized it might be better to pay the few dollars per month and get professional hosting. That required more hours of set-up and learning a whole new system.
3. I’m ultra picky and just had to tweek every little aspect of the websites style sheets. Just one tiny detail: before 2 months ago I knew absolutely, positively nothing about html or CSS code or even what a style sheet was!
4. Staring at code, learning it one your own, is hard. Ultimately I was victorious and can now open up a style sheet and start playing around with relatively good results. I “broke” my site often in the beginning, not so much recently.
5. I spent hours and hours and more hours finding just the right and perfect theme for each site, only to change them over and over again (I just made another major change yesterday in fact). So was all of that a waste of time? As I reflect I say no. What better way to learn something than to dig into it over and over?
6. Although I’m continually behind, I’ve read about 100 posts from my RSS feeds per day.
7. I will literally return to work with skin paler then when my vacation started as a result of sitting at my computer approximately 16 hours per day (some days more!).
8. While I was good to my mind, I wasn’t good to my body and didn’t ride my bike once. Oh those first few days of commuting to school will be tough.
9. I set-up a website for a colleague who plans on directing the entire school there for leadership announcements, etc. (see more about this in my conclusions).
10. Each of my 1st period students has been set-up with their own blog, all ready for them to start posting as soon as their permission slips are returned.
11. Got a SmartBoard and began learning the software. Also began looking into tips and tricks from the online community.
12. Researched and tried a plethora of new online tools!
13. Spent many, many nights chatting with former (and a few current) students on Facebook.
14. My goal of a post per day on Paige’s Prose didn’t quite happen.
So all of that leads me to…
If you look at my list above what stands out is a monumental amount of learning on many fronts. One of the most prolific changes (or possibly just a shift) that occurred in me this summer came from all the fantastic posts and articles I’ve been reading. I’ve been lucky enough to find some amazing colleagues and feel privileged to glean knowledge and ideas from them (see my Blogs I Follow). What I’ve learned from them has helped me, but also frustrated me.
Here’s what I’ve always believed, but now more than ever before:
No one person should control the technology of a school.
I spent yesterday with a co-worker setting up a site similar to mine for her students. As we talked through her goals she came to one that made me pause. You see she is the leadership teacher at our school, so all leadership based events are scheduled through her. What she eventually wants for the site we set-up is that it to be the go-to place for the entire student body. She’s setting up a calendar and different pages for each grade level. Very cool.
But what’s wrong with this picture? Why are we doing this? Why did I spend (literally) my entire vacation doing this? Isn’t this stuff supposed to be on the school website? That would be a logical thought, but unfortunately reality hasn’t played out that way. Our school website is pretty sad. (why do you think I am paying to have my own?) This is a result of one person controlling every aspect of technology for a “community” of about 2000 (not including parents)! This is seriously wrong.
So here’s what I’ve come to believe:
1. School site technology should be monitored by consortium of individuals. Certainly at every school there are a few people who are completely capable, and almost as important, willing, to “assist” with the technology responsibilities. If it takes a year to get a piece of software loaded onto a computer, or the antivirus updates happen every three years, isn’t that a bad sign?
2. More trust needs to be put into the hands of teachers. It is a bit insulting that as a highly-educated, professional, adult, we are not “allowed” to monitor certain things ourselves (i.e. using YouTube or GMail).
3. The technology leaders of the school must be given time to train the teachers who are not tech savvy. That’s the only way we will ever progress. If there is a problem with teachers “abusing” certain things I believe it stems from not being properly trained.
So now what? What’s the answer? I truly wish I had one (and hoping some of you do!). In 12 days I return to school, and while I’ve taken little time to re-charge, I have learned an awful lot. Maybe just enough to make my job more frustrating than it already is.
I would love to hear how things work at your school.