Classes switch, ideas exchanged - online?
This post was prompted in part by Ten Sites, Huh? I wrote a response and wanted to reprint it here and expound on what I wrote. What connected with me was that Todd Seal has had a difficult time finding useful lesson plans online, even with all that is out there. I felt the same and began thinking about how that could be possible given all that is available.
As a recent entrant into the web 2.0 foray (December 2008 through a masters class) I have been somewhat overwhelmed by what is out there. It has been like getting a drink of water from a fire hose. (Using a quick search I found this visual.) I have over twenty bookmark folders and the one titled "Teacher Resources" has well over 100 sites bookmarked. When am I going to get to all of these? How can I use them to help me become a better teacher? While many are tools that I have started to implement and some I hope to use in the future, only a couple are actual lesson plans for the stories and novels I teach. My best source of resource information has always been my colleagues at school. In a five minute conversation between classes they have often given me ideas that have taken root and grown with me as I have introduced them into the classroom. But those are relationships that have developed over time as I have found whose ideas seem to work best with my personality and style of teaching or that particular group of students.
Ironically, the more developed an online resource, the less likely I seem to be able to incorporate it. My teaching is so connected with my personality and students that I need to find others who give me the ideas that I can, in a sense, make my own. This is where the PLNs of the web can really be helpful through RSS feeds from blogs and Twitter. Twitter has gone from something that I had no use for to a great resource. I follow and take a look at what floats by and find an idea that can be a seed for growth. The next step for me is to refine the list of who I follow. If I become part of a network of people who teach the same novels and stories, we can pass ideas as general as approaches to a novel to as specific as what worked in discussing a particular chapter or quote. A dialogue can begin when I find an idea that may work for me and/or my students and that may lead to something even better for all of those involved.
It is too early for me to have developed the same type of relationship and connection to teachers all over the globe that I have with those in my building. It will take time and experimentation, just as it did with those in my own school. As a matter of fact, I have already found people whose ideas and suggestions resonate with me and what I do in the classroom. After 18 years in the classroom I feel like a first year teacher all over again and it's rather exhilarating.