Hard to believe I started blogging seven years ago this week. I have not been a prolific writer but that has not stopped my writing from meandering all over the place (just like this post will likely do). I have written about school events, personal technology discoveries, thoughts about the direction of education in general, my dogs and my addiction to golf. In the early days I tried to blog at least once a week, sometimes it was more, many times it was less. I started mainly to motivate my staff to use the proliferating collection of Web 2.0 tools that were revolutionizing the use of the Internet for educational purposes. I was convinced that the participatory web was going to change the student experience in schools everywhere. It did change the learning environment at Paris High School, but not in the way I had first envisioned it would. I believed, and still do believe, that public education must become a place where students explore their interests with caring adults available to guide their journey. The model of the teacher being the expert and the ultimate authority on a subject is now obsolete. If the teacher as the center of learning is a legitimate learning model, then the Internet can replace the teacher in that model because it can dispense information much more efficiently and at a pace that each student can follow independently. Today, a teacher needs to be the caring motivator that coaches learning with a meaningful presence. That cannot be replaced by a networked computer. One of the biggest obstacles to real meaningful change brought about by the connectivity of modern technology is the national movement to measure student learning and attach that measure to some empirical value that each teacher adds to a student’s learning experience. The value added model (VAM) is forcing teachers to teach to strict curriculum guidelines that takes away the value that the participatory web could add to the learning experience.
I have stopped writing here as often as I used to for several reasons. Chief among them is that I have two children, a senior and a junior, that attend the school where I serve as lead administrator and their activities keep me busy! Another reason writing has slowed down here is that I have been involved in a building project for the past three years. We have campaigned for a referendum, designed (then redesigned) a building, and for the past year have been involved in overseeing the construction of said building (it will be done early next year!). By the way, we are going to have an amazing building that is designed for student centered learning! I have also slowed my writing here because my use of social media has, for lack of a better word, matured. For a period of time I was writing and using Twitter for personal recognition. Not that I was seeking fame, but I was very aware when I had a post here that was being read by a lot of people. I got caught up in promoting my blog on Twitter and pursuing a following. I wrote regularly (kind of) for the Connected Principal’s Blog and promoted my web presence. My blog was cited in a college text and my tweets were being followed by thousands of people, and even though my professional use of social media has really slowed, my reputation some how made me one of ten secondary principals that were nominated for the 2014 Bammy Awards (which I refused to campaign for). Somewhere along the line I realized that my reasons for participating in the virtual world of educational learning networks had become very selfish. I changed my Twitter handle and quit promoting myself on social media (for the most part). The personality that I had become pretty much disappeared for the cited reasons. I still blog, tweet and communicate with my colleagues online because I believe that it is important for a school leader to be plugged into the latest in educational thoughts and practice. The participatory web makes that available all the time. I find that it is better for me to spend my away from administrative tasks in classrooms and in the hallways with the students. AND you know what? I have had a lot more job satisfaction in the past year because of my renewed focus!
Anyway, for those of you still reading (hi Mom!) I still value what I have gained from blogging and find that it is still a very important way to reflect and share what I have learned. Here is to another seven years. Happy Blogaversary PHS Director’s BLOG!