What am I doing here?


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.


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


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!



Hello teachers!

Are you a K-12 teacher? Are you contemplating teaching online (but you’re apprehensive, scared, terrified)?  Then you might want to stop here for a bit and find out if online teaching appeals to you. Wait, did you say you are already an online K-12 teacher?  WOO HOO!!




Look around.  Put your feet up and relax a while. Here, you will learn about necessary skills, time management, and appropriate attire for working online. You can call me your chum, coach, cohort, collaborator, colleague, companion, compeer, comrade, confidante, confrere, counselor, crony…


…aw, heck; just call me “friend.” 🙂


We’ll have lots to do and say here, but before we get started…you might want to know more about me and why I love online teaching. I promise we’re going to talk about that A LOT, and I’ll give you my first reason a little later in this post.  For now, we’re still in the getting to know each other phase so first things first.  Let’s talk about why a happy classroom teacher would even consider becoming an online teacher. After all, the traditional classroom teacher has security and benefits. The traditional teacher enjoys several paid time off days, plus a week off at Thanksgiving, a couple weeks off for a winter break, a week off for a spring break and three… well, okay…two months off in the summer.


So, it’s a fantastic job with good pay and lots of time off, right?


<…waiting for the guffaws to die down…>


Well, okay, that’s just what recruiters want you to think. 


Since I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel, I’m going to share with you a fun story that essentially reeks with truth. It’s not subtle, it obviously lays it all right out there on the table for you and explains things better than I ever could, no matter how long I sit here and chew on my pen. (By the way, I used to have a pen addiction, but that’s another story.)


This particular message has been circulating through teachers’ email boxes for several years. You’ve probably read it at one time or another, but I’m repeating it here, because I may want to refer to it in the future.  I have no idea who the originator is, or who wrote it. I would very much like to give that person credit and invite them here to talk to us on a regular basis, so if you wrote it, please contact me!


Okay, okay, here it is.  Let me set it up for you.  A young, eager, optimistic and newly graduated teacher applicant has just interviewed with an administrator at a public school. After being offered a position and listening to the policies and procedures, the administrator asks the applicant for comments, questions, etc.  Here’s what that young, eager, optimistic applicant replies:    


“Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning. Not only that, I’m supposed to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity, behaviorally modify disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, gang involvement and T-shirt messages.


I am to fight the war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, check their backpacks for guns or other weapons and raise their self-esteem. I’m to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, how and where to register to vote, how to balance a checkbook and how to apply for a job.


I am to check their heads occasionally for lice, maintain a safe and nurturing environment, recognize signs of potential antisocial behavior, offer advice, write letters of recommendation for student employment and scholarships, encourage respect for the cultural diversity of others, and, oh yeah, always make sure that I give the girls in my class 50 percent of my attention.


I’m required by my contract to be working on my own time summer and evenings at my own expense toward advance certification and a master’s degree; and after school, I am to attend committee and faculty meetings and participate in staff development training to maintain my employment status. If there is a club or extracurricular activity that needs my expertise, I am expected to work on my own time to sponsor, supervise and maybe even raise funds for those extracurricular activities.


I am to be a paragon of virtue larger than life, such that my very presence will awe my students into being obedient and respectful of authority. I am to pledge allegiance to supporting family values, a return to the basics, and to my current administration. I am to incorporate technology into the learning, and monitor all Web sites while building a personal relationship with each student. I am to decide who might be potentially dangerous and/or liable to commit crimes in school or who is possibly being abused, and I can be sent to jail for not mentioning these suspicions.


I am to make sure all students pass the state and federally mandated testing and all classes, whether or not they attend school on a regular basis or complete any of the work assigned. Plus, I am expected to make sure that all of the students with handicaps are guaranteed a free and equal education, regardless of their mental or physical handicap. I am to communicate frequently with each student’s parent by letter, phone and grade card. I must ensure that no child will be left behind.


I’m to do all of this with just a piece of chalk, one computer, a few books, a bulletin board, a 45 minute more-or-less planning/conference time and a big smile, all on a starting salary that qualifies my family for food stamps in many states.” 


The applicant sighs heavily and asks, “Is that all?”  

The administrator shrugs.  

The applicant looks straight into the administrator’s eyes and says, 

“And you expect me NOT TO PRAY?”

So, reason #1 why I love teaching online: I get to pray anytime I want.


If you’re a K-12 online teacher, what’s your #1 reason for teaching online?


If you’re a K-12 traditional teacher, what’s the #1 reason stopping you from teaching online?


Until next time: laugh a little; learn a lot; live long!