Whew…not only did I take a big leap today, I had to recreate the entire site. Yikes! Hopefully I won’t have to do that again. Tweaking the look is really not that hard; just have to know where to look. And the macros are pretty interesting…a lot of potential power. No doubt I want to set my kids up with departments and portfolio type links. My new quest is going to be to build the standard template. Just have to figure out what I want to have in it.
From Brian’s e-mail today, it seems much of it could be done in terms of the macros:
First, regarding your concern about getting a theme with the features that you want. I have really appreciated the customization that Manila offers. I think that you will see with the links featured below that Manila can be used for many different kinds of sites. Discussion is something that we have not wanted to spend time teaching our teachers how to use. We really want to be focused, first of all, on encouraging them to simply get content posted online. Even if I can get some to move to more of a “weblogging” method, Discussion may or may not be a part of that. Manila’s flexibility allows me to easily add or subtract that feature from any one site easily. I have removed the [Macro error: Can't evaluate the expression because the name "discussLink" hasn't been defined.]
macro from all of the themes that I have created. If a teacher gets interested in that feature, I will put it back in for that individual teacher. If I started getting a bunch of teachers wanting that and it became the norm, rather than the exception, I would create a theme that had that built into it and build sites using that theme instead. I’m very happy with the way that it works.
Here are a couple of pretty well done Manila sites by teachers out in Lincoln. Susan Ptacek and Joel Cornwell. I’ll have to remember to add them to the link list if I can ever get it working properly.
I’ve been teaching for 17 years now, and sometimes, in lucid moments, I look out at the students in my class and realize exactly what it is I am doing. I realize that I am standing in front of 20 or so students, that sometimes they are actually listening to what I have to say, and that in some small way I may actually be affecting their lives. It’s still a rush, a “like, what the heck am I doing here?” type of a feeling that lasts maybe a couple of seconds until I’m drawn back into the somewhat organized chaos that is usually my room. Those moments may not last too awfully long (and they are awful when they occur), but they remind me that like it or not, this is where I am. This is what I do. I teach.
Why? Good question, one that it seems I constantly struggle with. I wish I could sound real altruistic and list a whole bunch of reasons that deal with every student’s right to learn and a respect for different learning styles and collaboration between students and teachers and that kind of stuff. But to be honest, that’s never been too high on my list. I don’t do a great job of consciously meeting individual learner’s needs and thinking about ways to present material to different learning styles. I don’t do great lesson plans (if I do them at all). I am not, nor will I ever be, a teacher’s teacher.
I teach for more selfish reasons. Most of the time, I like kids. I like learning from and with them. I like getting them to think about stuff they may never have thought of before. And, they laugh at my jokes. I like being creative in coming up with new projects or ideas to teach. In fact, my strength is in design, not implementation. I like the people who I teach with. I like the dialogue about teaching. I like the hours. As much as it may seem terrible to admit it, I do it more for me than for them.
Yet, despite that pretty selfish stance, people tell me I am a good teacher. My evaluations from students are always pretty good if not excellent. My students say they learned something from me, that I challenged them in some way. My boss says I’m an excellent teacher as well (though I could be better with the paperwork.) And I think my colleagues think I’m pretty good, not a world beater, but someone who they wouldn’t mind their own children having at some point. Personally, I know I could be better, but I am as good as I can be right now. Frankly, school is not my life. I’ve done that, and I am not convinced that approach to teaching is the best for my students either.
So what does this mean in terms of “educational philosophy?” I’m not sure how to put that into words. I think the classroom is not only a place for a student to learn the curriculum but to learn about himself as well. Sometimes you need to throw out the curriculum to make that happen. I also believe that students should learn to learn for learning’s sake and not for grades. I drive my kids crazy with my unwillingness to play the “grade game” with them. I think grades stink. I also think that many times they learn more from me as a person than they do me as a teacher. So, a part of my philosophy is to be as good a role model as I can be, and that includes sharing my personal thoughts, ideas and experiences when appropriate, admitting my weaknesses to them, and treating them with fairness, respect, care, and humor. Lots of humor. I try to teach tolerance, and I try to point out ignorance whenever I can.
And somehow, that seems to be enough for now. When I think about the fact that I am only halfway through my career, I realize I still have a lot of time to develop more of a standard philosophy, but I seriously doubt I will. I am comfortable, for now, with what I accomplish as a teacher, both for myself and for my students. I may not be crystal clear on the whys or hows, but it’s working, and I can live with that.
Journalism 2 (current)
School Sites and Feeds
Secret Life of Bees 1
SDM Ed. Tech.
Parents’ Book Club
Journalism 1 Class Weblog
Journalism 2 Class Weblog
Student Web logs
Working my way through this and I have to say I’m impressed with what I’m seeing. Some really good stuff, and some really quirky stuff, but overall, the potential here is huge. Now that I finally figured out the macros piece of it, it’s starting to come clear.
Now I need to know:
Can I save templates for easy use with teachers and students? Meaning can I configure all of the setup stuff and then just turn them loose? Can I set up “standard” departments for all to use and then add to as they wish?
If I want to move this page, now after I’ve spent so much time working on it, how do I do that?
How do I get the links to stay on the right hand side of the page all the way down?
More to come I’m sure.
“During the past year I have learned more from Will Richardson about expanding the boundaries of learning than anyone.”
–Alan November, April 2005
JUST RELEASED: Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms from Corwin Press.
Weblogg-ed, maintained by me, Will Richardson, Supervisor of Instructional Technology and Communications at
Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, NJ and “Learner in Chief” at Connective Learning. I’m also the author of the recently released Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms published by Corwin Press. This site is
dedicated to discussions and reflections on the use of Weblogs, wikis,
RSS, audiocasts and other Read/Write Web related technologies in the K-12 realm, technologies that are transforming classrooms around the world.
I welcome opportunities to do presentations on
these technologies and to teach and train educators how to use them effectively in the classroom. Please see the list of keynote, conference and workshop descriptions that I can deliver to your group or school, and let me know how I might cater to your unique needs. Please contact me via e-mail at will at
weblogg-ed dot com if you are interested.
stopping by, and I sincerely hope you find your time here worthwhile.
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