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”!
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.
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.
Okay, 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?
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!