I am in full summertime mode, which is a blend of time standing still and my reaching for more. Time is still in the sense that I am a homebody, and I know the world is going on around me, but my world is waking to the birds, listening to the cats race around the house, from window to window, watching the birds and the bunnies. I don’t lay there worrying about getting back to sleep. I get to just lie there and listen. And smile. I love the simple sounds of real life. The life that is bigger than mine. The natural world is so big that it brings me comfort, knowing that the world is alive, and I am lucky enough to be in it for this moment.
Where I reach for more time is when I realize that I’m not accomplishing as much as I could. I’m spending so much time wandering the halls, looking into rooms. One room is that natural world I view from the pre-dawn light and sounds till the night of dusk and stars; another room is insights into myself, where I have been, where I am, where I am going. Another room is plotting my current (and future) novel, another room is watching my husband work tirelessly around our property.
I realize, watching him, that I am not watching him through the lens of worry. I’m watching him with the appreciation of the full essence of him, his work ethic, his undaunted desire to live in the moment and in nature. I see him back to doing what he loves to do. He has to do things differently, and there is no end to his creativity in doing things one-handed, but the result is the same.
And for me, I guess it shows that the window into myself is that I am in the present and a bit in the future and am moving away from the fears of the past.
So, looking into all of these rooms, I realize I need to step into one and join it. I’ve always been dilettantish, and I profess, to a fault. So when summer begins, I flurry about a lot before settling into a routine.
One of the rooms I look into a lot and have stepped in to observe, is the plethora of blogs and articles on using technology in the classroom. I don’t ever worry about the how(which invariably comes, and I’ve lots of support on the how), I’m only interested in the why. So much of my reading is skimming and scanning attitudes and ahas of the educator authors. I’ve talked about this before and will again, but one of the first buzz-words I heard bandied about a few years ago was “ubiquity.” No other word could have slam-dunked the why for me. Learning is fun. Or at least it should be. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been interested in something and searched out more information, examples, etc. Learning has always been ubiquitous when we’re impassioned about something, but let’s face it, helping kids find their passion, or at least an interest, is the rub.
Ubiquity is a buzz-word, so I avoid it, but it’s just so apt. With technology, any subject of even the minutest can have ubiquity. We gave our students summer homework, and all of their English work is online: logging their reading on Scholastic, grammar practice and quizzes using Noredink and a final project using the modality of their choice to present their favorite reading genre. I’ve had a lot of emails from students asking clarifying questions. I love it. I can answer them immediately, and I can also use that data to improve our website and online descriptors.
If I’d had that many phone calls from students in this time, I’d pull my hair out. I’d groan whenever the phone rang. Instead, I read emails that are carefully and politely written, and I realize that using technology as part of the expectations of all aspects of our classroom, truly extends the classroom. It’s not that they’re emailing that is so profound; it is how they are emailing, what they are asking, what they’ve done to figure it out before asking me. They’re checking our website, re-reading links, looking back over all of their former googledocs of work. They didn’t recycle their work at the end of the year and dance a jig. They have everything they’ve ever done all year in class right at their fingertips.
That, is the why.
I’ve always been hot and cold about summer homework because it was so difficult to make it truly meaningful. With students able to log their reading, they’re part of a bigger culture of readers, and they’re part of an actual competition that is as big as the U.S. With students able to practice grammar with immediate feedback, they’re engaged and can work completely at their own level. With a final project that enables them to present their ideas in any way, they are engaged and without limit. So, this homework does what homework is meant to do: it reinforces concepts, and it engages them in very complex and meaningful ways that extends their learning.
One of my novels I’m working on is a young adult historical fiction. I’m on a one-woman mission to change the trend of dystopian literature to historical fiction. Yea. Well, I’m having fun anyway. I told students I’d post some of it for them to give me feedback. Ubiquity at its finest.