Friday, February 17, 2012

Try One New Thing

I can't remember the last time I wrote a check. What used to be an everyday occurrence at the grocery store or doctor's office is practically a thing of the past. Now I whip out a debit card for nearly all my financial transactions. I pay bills online. I order walking shoes and reserve hotel rooms and book airplane flights online. And I welcome the change: the transactions are faster, less paper is wasted, I can see right away that something is taken care of and cross it off my list.

Technology surrounds us, helps us, and sometimes overwhelms us. In planning this post on the impact of the digital age on us as writers, readers, teachers, and/or parents, I struggled to find a place to begin. I visited the site for Digital Learning Day, February 1, "a nationwide celebration of innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology that engages students and provides them with a rich, personalized educational experience." I followed link after link to sites bursting with ideas and plans for enriching students' learning experiences by using new technology in classrooms. (I also read comments from teachers about the availability of that technology in these days of severe budget restrictions, but that's a whole 'nother topic.)

Somewhere I found a link to The National Writing Project's February 2 post, "Digital Learning Day: Celebrating Innovative Teaching Strategies." There I found the advice I needed: try one new thing.

Try one new thing. The age of writing checks to pay for purchases is over; so is the time for using transparency film and overhead projectors for author visits and conference presentations. I made that transition nervously and gladly accepted the convenience, portability, and vividness of PowerPoint presentations. At first, I hauled the transparencies along as backup; eventually, I relaxed and considered the new system reliable enough to let them go.

Now, in addition, I visit with students across the country using Skype, which cuts out travel time and transportation costs. I can even share those PowerPoint presentations without leaving home.

I used to rely more on paper for teaching, too. Now classrooms are equipped with projectors that enable me to share examples from books, handouts, or the World Wide Web. Students can post their assignments online, and we can discuss their work in class without having to print copies for everyone.

Facebook and Twitter were nerve-wracking at first, too, but I came to embrace them both as rich resources for contacts and information I never would have accumulated otherwise. I learned how to send text messages because that's what our kids do, and I wanted to be able to communicate with them. I take pictures with my cell phone camera and send photos to my e-mail account, to friends, and to Facebook. On one particularly brave day, I posted a video of chimney swifts (the subject of a picture book manuscript) on YouTube.

So, yes. We learn. We keep trying one new thing. And then another. Each step forward brings us to a new challenge. What's next? I'm comparing the options for self-publishing a manuscript based on the poetry writing workshops I present in schools, Write A Poem Step by Step. I'm as excited about this new possibility as I am curious about the best way to approach it. But I'm determined to learn. Wish me luck!

Don't forget to enter our contest to win an autographed copy of Barb Rosenstock's new book, The Camping Trip that Changed America. The interview and entry details are here, and the deadline is tomorrow (Saturday, February 18). Good luck!

JoAnn Early Macken


Linda B said...

I've loved the tech stuff since I got my first computer, the terrific (then) Apple 2E, & haven't stopped, but some of the newer online tools take a lot of time & I've found that your advice is right on, one thing at a time. I've lately been trying to use Evernote & find that the only way I'll learn in is to use it. Do you find that too? Thanks for the nice post about all the tech challenges now. I need the boost to help the teachers with whom I work to help them learn one new thing too! Best wishes with your new publishing venture.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thank you, Linda at teacherdance! Yes, I agree that the best way to learn a new technique is to plunge in & do it. Best of luck to you and your colleagues!