Monday, June 20, 2011

Spending a year offline - part 1

This past school year has been very interesting for me.  I spent most of it offline.  I don't mean just absent from Facebook and Twitter, the latter having been my preferred place of residence.  I mean almost completely offline.  I blogged maybe twice during that time.  I only participated in two or three #edchats.  I rarely even checked my personal email.  I think the bulk of my online activity was Googling for map directions or Christmas gift ideas.

What happened?  The short version is this:
  1. I had to take a part time job to make ends meet.  I made the decision to spend my little free time with my family instead of on a computer because I knew I would never get off otherwise.
  2. My access to technology at school dramatically changed.  
    • I went from having five desktops in my classroom to one, and that one worked REALLY slowly.  
    • The laptop carts were in constant use.  This was in theory a good thing for all the students.
    • My own personal technology died on me - my LCD projector, my netbook, and my homemade IWB.  All purchased with my own money.  If you want to know why I didn't repair it, see #1.
So the past ten months provided an opportunity to gain a new perspective on things.  First, the immediate consequences.  I felt really disconnected.  I am amazed at how strongly I felt about the relationships with my online acquaintances.  Besides all the nuggets of wisdom I used to glean everyday, I enjoyed the social interaction.  I missed the convos that would happen during #edchat or when other hot topics would pop up.  I missed trying to keep up with all the feeds in my Google reader and then sharing all that I had learned.  I missed our own local edcamp and the opportunity for F2F interactions as well.

Second, it totally changed the way I taught.  When my personal equipment failed, gone was the opportunity to stop whatever we were doing as a class and search for an answer or connect with another class for input.  I had to come up with new ways to make sure that I was creating learning opportunities that challenged all my students on all levels of Blooms and did so in meaningful ways, not just for the sake of work completion.  I found myself slipping more and more into not only out of vogue techniques, but less effective ones as well.  It was hard and I felt bad for my students many days.

I don't know if anyone cares about Part 1, much less any future installments I might write about. But I am an extremely introspective individual (some have called me a "frowny faced introvert"), so more will come.  I did learn a lot as a result of this year and some of it is worth sharing.  Thanks for helping me weed through it.

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