From Lurker to Apprentice
It’s Digital Learning Day, a mile marker to reflect on myself as a digital learner. And I have traveled a lot of miles as a digital learner—from my first days on AOL, when there was a partitioned section for NEA members with special weblinks and bulletin boards where I was able to connect with others pioneering the first National Board Certification; to my foray into computer gaming with Wizardry (a stick-figure game compared to today’s massive online gaming); to the first Bank Street Writer word-processing program, where I had to press Escape each time I wanted to make an edit, and again to leave the editing option, and where my writing resided on one computer unless I saved it to a floppy disk; to NCTETalk, a vibrant listserv where the appearance, and sometimes even the identity, of fellow Talkees was unknown. . . .
Now I’m venturing into Minecraft with my students (offline, thankfully, since my gaming skills haven’t advanced since Myst), I’m finishing this writing on Google Docs so I don’t have to remember to email myself the draft to put on the finishing touches at school in the morning, and I'm checking my Twitter feed several times a day for contact with my new Talkies (who are still mostly NCTE friends).
This fall I also made a significant leap in iMovie, editing the Ignite presentations from the Convention for the NCTE YouTube channel, learning how to synch an audio recording to the video so the lips match and how to put the presentation slides into the movie by using Picture-in-a-Picture.
I’m also thinking about my progress in social media since my "Lessons from a Lurker" column was published in The Council Chronicle last year (it's been reprinted here on the Exchange). I congratulate myself that I have grown from a lurker to an apprentice, learning four things about myself in this growth:
1. I am not a blogger. I did check off my goal of starting a blog, Barely Managed Chaos, and knowing my tortured slowness as a writer, I made it easy on myself by deciding that each entry would be a six-word story. I liked the brevity and the mental exercise of this for a while, until I felt the need to write about a tragic suicide of a Minnesota seventh grader last spring. I am glad I wrote about it, but the time investment of a blog is unsustainable for me.
2. Although I can’t sustain a blog, I appreciate the value of blogging. So my students are blogging. Fortunately, I have a tolerance for the unexpected, and a nimbleness in work-arounds, as we are running into unexpected limitations of the platform my tech director recommended. The problems also make me appreciate my students’ tolerance for the unexpected and their helpfulness in troubleshooting.
3. Information overload is real. Between November’s NCTE Convention and mid-January, I had to take a break from Twitter and Facebook. I’m still sporadic in my attention to Facebook, but Twitter is a regular habit. Every day some nugget connects in surprising and gratifying ways to my work and my passions.
4. Digital Learning Day is also a thanksgiving day for me. I’m thankful for all my digital mentors who have apprenticed me in digital craft; who inspire me with their passion, creativity, insight, and playfulness; who make me constantly strive to be a better teacher.
In sharing this list publicly, I know I run the risk of Oscar night—making the list too long, or running out of time and leaving someone out. So I’m making my list deliberately short, with only one representative mentor named, instead of the many I could include, for each of my significant advances:
- Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax), an elementary teacher in Massachusetts, for inspiring a playful and eclectic approach to new resources.
- Will Richardson (@willrich45), for always asking the important questions and finding possibilities in the answers.
- Meenoo Rami (@meenoorami), for graciously giving me the experience of organizing an #engchat during Connected Educator Month
- Franki Sibberson (@frankisibberson); with her 69 pages of Google hits, she is an inspiration in children’s literature, wise use of technology, and passion for teaching.
So that’s the update from a former lurker and eternal apprentice.
Enjoy your Digital Learning Day!