What am I doing here?

teaching_online1

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what I’m doing here–teaching online, I mean. Here I am, teaching a new graduate class on 21st century literacy skills, and yet I feel like such an infant when it comes to using those skills myself. Oh, I know and understand the industry lingo; “blogging” and the “blogosphere,” words like “social networking” and “bookmarking sites,” “RSS feeds” and “tags,” “wikis” and “Web 2.0” fill my curriculum and often spill off of my fingers (out of my mouth). But I’m no digital native; I only know ABOUT those things. I’m not really very efficient at using any of them, yet. I sign up for all of the latest online tools, and skim and scan the Help tutorials, but I don’t really UTILIZE them with any degree of frequency, so I have very little success with any of them. And why is that, you ask? Because I feel so, so overwhelmed with it all. For instance, I have many email accounts scattered around the Web; I belong to several social networking sites and listservs; I have a few blogs and wikis; my husband and I own several different websites; I have accounts at many online tools and apps. Heck, I even “tweet” on “Twitter”! twitter_bird_follow_me

But I’m never the same person on any of them; why is that? I use Password Safe to keep track of all these different registrations, but here’s my problem. Let’s say I have a student who wants to share a private video on YouTube. He plugs in my school email address, thinking that will work, and it should, except I didn’t register at YouTube with my school email address. Ooops. What happens? Well, I do get his invitation in the school email, but when I go to view it, I don’t get to see it unless I sign up with my school email address. So I do, and I get to see it, but now I have one more username and password to keep track of.

Sigh.

One Stop Shop

One Stop Shop

What I need is a one-stop shop for me, online teacher, Mrs. Viki Gardner. A place that will hold all my pertinent information and actually filter it to the proper places. I should be able to go anywhere on the Internet with one name and password and every place should automatically know me. When a student types in my school email address in order to share his work, that email address should light up and say, “Hey, that’s one of Viki Gardner’s work addresses; I know her! Here’s where that invitation needs to be sent…”

That’s just one corner of the chaos. I could choose any number of skills to discuss, but let’s talk about blogs for now. They’re a huge part of Web 2.0 these days. Everybody blogs, but few people blog successfully. Why? Because most of us are still trying to figure it out. What’s the best way to Blog? What is the best blog host to use? Would this theme be better than that theme? Is this widget better than that widget? What if I want to blog about different topics? Do I start more blogs? What if I want to have more authors; will this host let me do that? What if I want to have more pages? This blog won’t let me do that! By the time we figure out the answers to our questions, we are out of time.

blogshakespearecomicOkay, so now you have a blog; what will you say? You want people to visit and “follow” you, but how do you hold their interest enough to want to come back? And when you do get some “followers,” you really start to sweat; Oh no, now you have to write well and you have to write frequently, or you’ll lose them. Well, I’ve heard that one way to keep them coming back is to wow them with graphics and multimedia. Hmmm…what do you know about that? Can you make a digital story and then embed it into the blog? Can you even turn a URL into a hyperlink on the blog?

Hands to the head again…can’t I just click something and make it all happen?frazzled

Sigh.

In my class, we’re working in Google Documents this week, so I guess I better go refresh my memory…now where are those tutorials again?

Until next time,

Laugh a little; learn a lot; live long!

Viki

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13 thoughts on “What am I doing here?

  1. Pingback: New K-12 Online Learning Blogger « Virtual High School Meanderings

  2. Pingback: Blogging About Virtual Schooling « Virtual High School Meanderings

  3. Hey Viki, I feel your pain. I am very new to blogging and all this tech stuff also. Everything you stated I can relate with. If there was an option for everything to be linked together that would make life much easier for me as well. I’m sure it will get easier the more I learn but right now there is so much information.

  4. I can relate to what you’re saying here Viki! I never imagined myself being an on-line educator. I’m not one that is technilogically advanced. I hear all the same terms you mentioned; blog, wiki, podcast, tag, etc., and I am aware that they exist but I haven’t tried to explore or familiarize myself with them, until now. I realize their relevance to 21st century education and I look forward to being fluent in their uses.
    You also mentioned your frustration with the plethora of usernames and passwords you have to keep track of. A “one stop shop” would be ideal, with only one username and password to access them all. Our students now have that luxury of going to one portal to access every link they need for school and using the same student ID and password to access them all. (I bet our time is to come with the rise of cloud computing.)

    • Look at you, Erin…”cloud computing”!!? I’ve just started seeing snippets on television commercials about cloud computing but haven’t done any research on it yet. What can you tell me about it? Inquiring minds want to know…
      Viki

  5. I think one of the reasons that people are reluctant to explore such advances in technology is because they just do not understand the terms and their funtions. This is the first blog in which I have submitted a comment and quite frankly, I am not really sure if there is a better way to submit such a post. So many websites require usernames and passwords which can become very confusing, especially if you subscribe to multiple blogsites. I think that there most definitely needs to be some sort of “one stop shopping” program that incorporates all of your usernames and passwords into one simple application. I personally have a word document on an external hard drive that I am constantly adding new usernames and passwords for websites in order to not be confused. I list the site followed by the username then password. This may seem ridiculous, but it’s the most organized method that I can think of when dealing with dozens of sites.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Rick! Using a Word document to keep track of all your login information is a good idea, and I did that for a while. However, I found Password Safe and have been using it to store my usernames and passwords for quite a while now. You can find out more information about it here: http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net/

      What I actually have in mind for a one-stop shopping place is a database of sorts, where I can upload all pertinent and relevant documents for the hiring process. In other words, a place where I can include my resume, letters of recommendation, teaching certifications, fingerprints record, I-9, background check authorization, and all other assorted documents that employers like to have. Then, when I apply to a new online school, I can send the link to human resources or the school director, and they can access all my information in one handy-dandy place.

      For instance, one place where I do contract work requires me to get a new I-9 every time I start a project for them, and I think that’s just plain wrong, not to mention inconvenient. How many times do I have to prove I’m a citizen and able to work in the United States? One time should be enough, especially since I was born here and have never been anywhere else. How many times do I need to have my fingerprints recorded? Fingerprints don’t change, so why can’t I just have the record of them located in one place and send any prospective employer to that place? Doesn’t that make good sense? Why should I have to run out to be finger-printed every time I start a new job? Think of the time, money, paper, and ink being wasted!!

      Several of the bigger online institutions do have their own database systems, and they keep “new hire” records of their employees online, and employees can revise and upload new ones at will. However, that means I still have to upload all my stuff into their system, and doesn’t prevent me from needing to still send it to other places. To me, it just makes more sense to have my stuff in one place, and allow the hiring gurus to access it all there.

      Anyway, thanks for letting me rant and ramble on…Come back anytime!

      Viki

      Laugh a little, learn a lot, live long!

  6. You make me smile Vicki,
    Your Blog named “What am I doing here” gave me a few laughs. I can definitely relate to what you are saying. Although I am not an online teacher, I do work with students who take online courses. I am employed by a Pennsylvania Cyber School as an Instructional Supervisor. Essentially, I monitor student’s work and give them academic advise. It is very rewarding and I love it, but sometimes I feel exactly like the picture of the teacher pulling her hair out. I am also currently taking an online course called Computers in Education. We are learning about blogs, wiki’s, podcasts, vodcasts,and digital storytelling. There is so much to learn but I am having a good time learning new ways to use my computer. Sometimes I have a hard time keeping everything straight so your idea of a “one stop shop” sounds like a great idea. Eventially, I feel everything will come together. My philosophy is to keep an open mind and remember change can be a good thing.

    • Robin, thank you for stopping by, and I wish you much success in your Computers in Education class! I teach a similar class called Developing 21st Century Literacy Skills, and it sounds very similar to your class.

      Your philosophy of keeping an open mind sounds like a good one and yes, change can definitely be a good thing!

      Come back anytime!

      Viki
      Laugh a little, learn a lot, live long!

  7. I have to agree with you Viki. As I can tell from a few others on this post, I am not alone to the blogging world (if that is how they describe it). Online education was not my first professional choice; actually, education itself was not my first professional choice. It seems that we sometimes fall into certain things in life, funny how that works out. I also believe that having everything in one place would be wonderful. I have so many usernames and passwords; it has become a chore just to keep them in order. The question you asked about, “okay so now you have a blog; what will you say”, was almost exactly what I was asking myself. If I can start a blog, what would I say and who would I direct it to? These are just the start of the questions. However, I hope with a little experience, we both will find the answers.

  8. Dear Viki,
    First of all, thank you so much for bringing this to everyone’s attention. I am new to Web 2.0 and after teaching at a school that only used email for the past two years, I am swamped with all the information I have learned. It is funny how we can learn so much in this information age and everything is coming to us so quickly, but do we ever have time in all this hustle and bustle to simmer and process the factoids we’ve gathered? I’ve also noticed there are other sources online to simplify your tech life. Here is just one link:

    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9133521/How_to_simplify_your_tech_life

    It may seem backwards to some, but I liked working at the school without technology. I think it gives students and teachers both a chance to reflect and process what they have learned. Perhaps we should limit technology to one class per day maximum thus alleviating this sort of stress from students and teachers. Face it, teachers spend time searching for all their technology resources. Instructional time is being lost. How often do you give a student only half of your attention because you are too busy working on the computer in a classroom? If you are teaching online, how many times can you really offer any student the individual attention that they deserve. It is wise to set limits and periodically examine habits that lead to an environment that does not promote thinking, but rather stressful task oriented fact gathering.

  9. Viki, you are graciously venting my frustration well. I am a beginner to this “blogging” and quite frankly my mind is “blogged” out. And I thought I was computer literate because I had a facebook! I always felt that I was computer savvy but I feel completely overwhelmed with this. I need the step by step walk through for creating a blog. I have many fears of “getting started” and “getting addicted”….and oh what to say. Is blogging beneficial or like facebook is there too much unnecessary information put out there? I want to learn more technology because incorporating it into instruction surely is valuable and would keep the interest of our computer savvy students. Confused, frustrated, yet challenging and curious I guess I’m off to my first attempt at this….Wish me luck!

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