“Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked.
'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat.
'I don't know,' Alice answered.
'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.”
Last week I created new classroom signs. After wasting entirely too much time on Pinterest browsing classroom themes, I fell in love with a black and white polka dotted paper at Michael's and began crafting. I bought bulletin board border paper in polka dots. Then stocked up on specialty papers I use to make things for students: sticker paper (for group journal topic labels), card stock (for signs), clean edge business cards (for word sort and journal jar activities), printable labels (infinite uses).. My goal is to spruce up the room, spark creativity and reorganize (a bit). If the room looks good, I feel good. If I feel energized and excited, students notice. After the stress of last year's change to Florida's teacher evaluation system, I'm ready for the pleasure of a pretty classroom (well, as pretty as the trailer can be I imagine). Thirty laminating dollars later, I'm turning my attention to our virtual spaces.
Where do your classes live and work online? Mine rally at our class Ning space: Bear English. We use Google Calendars for assignments and reminders. Handouts, help movies, general resources get published and linked to my class website. Last year I flirted with Moodle, the course organization tool many are using. I didn't launch. I played in the sand around the launch pad and tinkered with the controls. I tried with one class for a short time. I uploaded and organized and spent time thinking about how it would work differently than the systems I already have in place.
My systems need maintenance. I need to clean Ning closets. It is open to all students and teachers. I pay the yearly fee so that we can have unlimited members. We have close to a thousand members now; our school population nears three thousand. That member number is deceiving because as students forget passwords they create new accounts. Just this afternoon I discovered five Denishes whose birthday is today. Denish is not my students, so I'm not sure what happened with the multiple accounts. We've used the Ning for two years now and this will be our first fall cleaning.
My students work well on the Ning. I know to teach them how to navigate to the discussion groups or to post to their blogs. They understand the idea of a profile and enjoy setting up their pages. Sending students to our "Ning group" is second nature to me in the midst of instruction. It's a teaching move I make everyday. If we are working on something together and I am moving from demonstration to coaching and believe a link or an example or a guiding question can help, I post it and send students there. After the first week or two of minilessons and work time in class, students will start asking me to post to the Ning. I hear: " Can you post that to the Ning group?" or "Can I take a picture of that and upload it?" or "Can you make a help movie for ...?" The Ning takes off, early in the year. Knowing that, why devote time to a big move?
What I use is working. It is working to take my students where I want them to go. I want students to develop creativity and thoughtfulness as readers and writers. I want them to notice and observe, then write, read and connect. Our Ning does that. Why change it? I'm an early adopter. I love to play with computers and online. I join. I sign up. I tweet. I plurked. I pin. I publish. I share. I love to create. But I have to admit that I can be distracted by it too. Technology is tempting. The latest and greatest was probably just released and will be updated by breakfast. Why change the route if it gets to us where we want to go?
I'm not migrating from Ning to Moodle. Not today anyway.