Just Do It

In a stack of papers called Technology.

  • Apr
  • 07
  • 2006

Let’s face it: Nike is right.

There are so many times I am a teaching Hamlet: I procrastinate by thinking too much, mulling over an issue in my head for so long that the moment for action passes me by. Entire units begin weeks late because I stumble on setting up just the right introduction. And by the time that perfect introduction is ready, a new existential crisis over why I shouldn’t teach the novel quite yet has set in.

I’ve tried to change that in my recent history and over the past 24 hours, I’ve done so very succesfully. I finally put Protopage and Next Vista For Learning to use in a span of one day. Outrageously happy barely begins to describe the teacher inside of me right now.


I have a junior who is going out on maternity leave. Today was her last day; she’ll be homeschooled by another teacher at my school and I suspect I’ll be working closely with how the English assignments break down for the rest of the school year. We’re in the midst of a group project on A Yellow Raft In Blue Water and the student needs to get information to her group just about every day. She also needs to show me some things every few days. How can she get material back and forth so frequently when she’ll only see her homeschool teacher twice a week?

Protopage is a place where people can essentially create their own Web pages by simply typing things into boxes. If you don’t want to register, your page will go away after 47 hours, but if you register you’ll have your page forever (or at least until the revolution comes). I don’t use it with my classes yet (because, really, none of my students would bother to visit it), but I have an idea for a digital whiteboard for daily writing and for announcements. By updating the page even when students aren’t directed to it, I’m setting up habits to use for next year. What I have online now is almost like a beta test.

I’ve set that junior up with a Protopage and she’ll use that to communicate with her group (by posting information on page 1) and with me (by posting information on page 2). Sending her the address to my digital whiteboard is something I didn’t think of until right now, but that’ll be a good way to make sure she stays informed about what’s happening in class each day. Daily writing topics, due dates, announcements, class notes, all of those things become available to her when she visits the digital whiteboard.

I was afraid the site would be overwhelming and too complicated, but she seemed fine and even thought it to be a better solution than sending paper for her homeschool teacher to deliver to me. There are things called “widgets” on the site, a term that’s becoming a common flag for allowing users to do some cool things on a page without having to know how to write code. The widget my student will need to use most is for adding a photo to the page. I walked her through the process and she seemed pretty satisfied with her ability to do it on her own.

I’ve been wanting to test the Protopage waters for a while now and this is a perfect reason to. Expect updates on how well the page works for that student to continue her involvement in this class. It could easily serve her for just about any group work that we’ll have in here and will allow her to still contribute to the class.

Next Vista For Learning

For this unit on A Yellow Raft In Blue Water, students are writing a bit on themes they see pop up in nightly reading. I often assume that terms like that are commonly known, even as I realize that’s a bad assumption. One group was stumped and asked me about theme today. The Cheshire grin spread across my face like wildfire as I opened up a browser and sat my kids down.

Next Vista For Learning is a nonprofit organization that a good friend of mine has started. I work on the technology side of the company and help try to make things run smoothly and look pretty. The idea is to create a resource for students who are struggling with a concept in class. By watching a short video clip (no longer than 5 minutes, preferably closer to 3 minutes), students get up-to-speed on what’s happening in class and they get information from media that many students are growing increasingly comfortable and familiar with. Oh! And they can watch the videos whenever they want, as much as they want. It can also serve as an idea-gathering place for teachers who want different perspectives on how to present material.

Like Protopage, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to share Next Vista with my classes and today was perfect. Only one group watched the video on theme, but they responded pretty positively to it, saying that they have a better idea of what I’m looking for and what theme means. I plan to show the entire class on Monday as a way to support the ongoing work I’m having them all do on themes seen in the novel.

What about you? What are your ideas that you keep meaning to implement and never get around to? What things have you put into action that you are particularly proud of?

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