Creative constraints provide necessary restrictions for all of us who wish to create productively. It may seem counter-intuitive, but creative constraints produce better focus and creativity, not less.
Ah, on my to-do list: an updated syllabus for the Computer Technology Essentials course. I put one together this summer with the foresight that it would need to be modified. As with all things new, what we expect doesn’t always materialize, and what we get is sometimes far greater than we hoped.
The current unit of study is “Documents.” I had hoped to get all the students into Google apps, but alas, because of the age restrictions I’m taking a step back and asking parents to sign their children up with accounts since many of them aren’t 13 yet. I know the method of adding them in edublogs with the +name method, but that’s not enough, and time-consuming for a single semester course.
This week we focused on mind mapping/story mapping. Of all the software and apps I looked at, everything requires potential money, were too dry, boring, and tediously requiring logins. I have login fatigue: only imagine what this generation will feel. They’ll welcome the biometrics with open arms and eyeballs, surrendering more data to the Borg.
My district, thankfully, is in the process of obtaining new software, but we can’t wait for POs and checks. I did what any smart teacher would: went low-tech. Paper, pencils, colored pencils, highlighters. And modeling.
The map had to be for a class: math, science, language arts, social studies, pe/health
claim, evidence and reasoning charts
claim, evidence, and reasoning questions
math processes and equations
It would have a central idea/topic/question and a minimum of nine other connections
Choose something that’s currently challenging or difficult to help make sense of it OR
Choose something that’s currently interesting/easy to show what you know
I asked the teachers in the building what they were working on this week, and received so much support. The students loved that I helped them make connections to CTE and their other classes. (Not to mention the mad teacher ninja skills we possess.)
After they spent a class sketching on rough paper, they drew a more finished copy on blank paper (it was tough to give up my own paper supply, but worth it). The next day I walked them through Word features: shapes, inserting Youtube videos, pictures, online pictures, etc. to recreate their sketches digitally. With writing, the process is key on the path to publication.
There may be hundreds of apps and software companies trying to get a piece of the ed-tech dollars. I would ask that perhaps you talk to teachers in the classroom about the hurdles we help our students jump over to use your products. Ask yourselves the same questions my students ask: What is the point of this product? Is it helping me or getting in my way?
I’m not sure how to phrase that on a syllabus, those nuances and subtleties of creating.
My first period: my friend’s first period. Her second period. My other friend’s third period. My fourth, fifth, and sixth periods. Almost 170 students signing up and starting blogging on the Digital Dogs’ blog.
I KNEW they could do it!
And, I even recognized some writers in the crowd. Those who lingered a little longer, or confessed to having Tumblrs and Wattpads. I have writer-adar.
Yes, I realize their posts are not works of grand literary import. Pfft. Putting in your first HTML embed is addicting. Sharing content, and seeing your words published is this generation’s ‘Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame on television,’ but this screen is more relevant and powerful.
My head hurt all weekend since an odd idea came to me late last week. Did you ever get an off-hand comment that seemed vaguely critical and out of context the only explanation could be it was growing in the background for a long time? Writing is processing, and thinking about how to frame bizarre moments on this rainy Sunday afternoon solved the pain.
The best thing about my PLN is that we all understand that sharing, curating, and responding are part of the culture of being a creative collaborator. There are no egos, no “stay in your lane’s” or titles and job descriptions that prevent us from sharing our ideas and resources freely and kindly. From Notice and Note Facebook page and other groups that share ideas and insights I have made new friends. And–never doubt it that it’s a small educational world after all. A good friend and former colleague who moved back to Florida last year is friends with a teacher who’s become a good professional friend via these channels. You just never know.
But what I do know is good work is good work: the younger teachers I work with, even though I’m not officially in the ELA group/department anymore (insert long trombone sound here) they continue to work with me, and we seek out ideas and resources. Which is why I was perplexed last week. What is expected from a staff in terms of sharing? What if a teacher decides she is not going to share her resources? What if, like I am simply because I’ve been in my building so long, should not be the Keeper of Continuity and Nooks and Crannies Resources? For one thing, that title doesn’t fit on a business card. Quite impractical.
One of the…trends?…I’m hearing and seeing is this idea that more seasoned teachers aren’t supposed to share their expertise. It’s curious and confusing. We, teachers, are constantly asked to wash and rinse a laundry basket full of mixed messages:
Share your resources and time!
Take on a student teacher!
Mentor younger teachers!
It’s not your job anymore, so don’t share!
Keep your advice to yourself!
You’re (fill in the blank: overwhelming, emotional, fractured, walking wounded)
Too many emails
Not enough emails
If you send it, no one will read it
Walk on eggshells
Stand up to bullies
Let her do it
Open your classroom door!
Keep your door shut!
Open your heart!
You’re bleeding on the carpet!
You do it.
Stop doing that.
How do we shut out the static and tune in to what’s essential? How do we enjoy our days at our jobs? Our professional, heavily invested-in, challenging, humanly flawed jobs?
Yes. Shut the door. Temporarily at least. And just listen to students. Whatever the grown-ups are saying or thinking doesn’t matter too much on the periphery. When we work together instead of working outside-in to inside-out, perhaps some authentic professional relationships will grow.