I've really enjoyed this holiday break, spending as much time as possible with my wife and sons. We've been to the beach, seen some movies, bought icecream, played board games, shopped for DS game bargains and the time has just been a fantastic time out after the intensity of the 2008 school year. But six weeks zips by pretty fast and although I've tried to keep tabs on my personal learning, there have been evenings where I've veged out and watched a DVD series with my wife or gone and had a hour or so on the Playstation. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm involved in a couple of PLP cohorts as an "Expert Voice" (OK, you can stop laughing now) I may have been happy to put the PLN on hold. After all, it is always there, a living stream of information and people that is constantly interconnecting and growing.
At the moment, I have one minor project on the go and that is preparing a presentation I've been asked to do on Web 2.0 Tools In The Classroom for a group of schools next Thursday afternoon. The interesting thing about this particular group of educators is that their schools will combine in the near future to become one of the new "superschools" planned by our State Government. This day is part of their moving forward, becoming one cohesive group with a shared concept of what their new school will be like. Most of the sites are based in low income, high unemployment suburbs and the new school is supposed to be an improved opportunity for education not possible with the current situation of smaller schools. The invited speakers are all presenting about the envisioned future of South Australian education, including a link up to Dan Buckley, UK personalised learning expert. I've been given an afternoon slot of 45 minutes, with a small audience of primary and middle school teachers who presumably are new to the idea of using social media tools in the classroom. That's been fun but hard work to do because it feels like going over old ground all the time - blogs, wikis, social networking, 21st century learning, digital footprint, blah blah bah - but I have to remember that the vast majority of this audience will only have a beginner's perspective and won't have all of the reference points (Friedman's The World Is Flat, anyone?) that have helped me to become very comfortable in this space as a learner and (in my opinion) a reasonably astute judge of possibilities in the classroom. I'll post the presentation here with audio if I remember and any other links of relevance. Like I said, for many of you who I connect with on a regular (or even irregular basis) this will be old ground. And I just might refer anyone from that presentation audience over to Jennifer Jones' Onramp series which looks fantastic for beginners and experienced educators online and will deliver key concepts and resources in a more digestible fashion than my 45 minute sprint.
I hope to finish that task by the end of this week and then I'll start thinking about the 2009 school year. I have really given my brain a big holiday in this area and I would say outright that I do not really know how or what I will teach this year. I start another three year appointment as Coordinator with an impressive title of Teaching & Learning Technologies Coordinator. Our DECS ICT grant has helped to provide for an additional day out of the classroom and I'm excited about that time being spent working directly with teachers, their students and our technology. But that means I am only in the classroom for three days out of the five and sharing a classroom with a tandem partner is always an exercise in compromise. So there is no point getting too carried away with plans for say a mathematics or reading program when I still need to meet with Kim (who doesn't really know what she is in for) and carve up our collective responsibilities management and curriculum wise. Add in the fact that with inquiry learning units need to be co-planned with Maria next door, it is easy to see that this is where experience can be beneficial in working quickly and efficiently to get a new classroom off to a successful, focussed start. I have a composite class of Year 6/7 this year with ten students from 2008 carrying on from Year 6 to Year 7 in 2009. That is always a plus in my book as these kids tend to make the core of student leadership within the classroom community, setting a positive atmosphere where kids can take risks and flourish.
I think that I have operated this way for most of my classroom career, always in a state of constant re-invention. Resources, printed or digital, tend to be rewritten or edited as units of work are never the same. I always maintain that the day I can't be bothered doing something fresh and new with my class (very occasional and exceptional times of pressure and constraints excepted), it will be time to give up teaching. We work in a system that grants a lot of creative freedom to teachers in curriculum interpretation - if the profession does not embrace that as a strength, it will be seen by our critics as a weakness to be "cured." Over the next few weeks I'll post a few more times about this preparation process and identify a few goals for my year ahead. I'll also try to share more the resources I create along the way for others to remix and adapt. But for now, this post will help get the ball rolling in the right direction.