Monday, April 06, 2009

Late night thinking - of websites and reviewing

Weird night last night.
After a month where I've just been incapable of putting anything even remotely interesting together on the screen about the comics I've been reading, I sat down last night and wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more.

In the end I came out of the trance with three near fully formed reviews. Pretty much done. A little polish and checking and they're complete. Three. I've written the grand total of 5 so far this month and then, in just one night, I near enough double it.

Of course, I know the reasons I haven't been writing. All last month I've been doing what seems like hard labour on the school website. It's coming to an end now. Or as much of an end as these things ever do, I'm sure that, if I wanted to, I could spend every hour of every day in perpetuity adding more and more stuff to the website. After all, with 7 years to cover and a host of subjects and topics, there's plenty to do. But the first stage is done now. All of the essential stuff is on there, all the school information; the school day, what the uniform is, how we deal with children who've fallen over and banged their head or cut their knee. It's all there. And then I've extended it. we've got wonderful galleries of the children's work and loads of photos of them doing all the fun stuff that they'll remember far more than learning how to write and add stuff up. We've also turned the website into a learning resource in itself, with page after page of links, information and activities on a host of subjects and topics. This is the bit that could be extended as far as I want to take it. Just looking at the syllabus makes me shudder to think how much stuff I haven't covered. Each year has at least ten subjects and each of these subjects probably has another 10 units in the year. A lot of things to cover. And in time, I'd love to have a go at getting them all on there.

But time isn't on my side. once the website is finished and goes live, I've got next half term set aside to do all the jobs I've not done this last term while I've been devoting myself to the website. There's a new email system to set up and train the staff on. That should be fun. We've used the old system for years. It's the simplest system in the world and there's still staff who can't deal with it. So the new one is going to terrify them. Then there's the blogging. We've got a school blog but I haven't had any time to do anything with it so we want to get the Year 6 class blogging to their heart's content. I really want to see them doing loads and eventually think we'll let them off the leash with it and have them not only contributing but editing and publishing themselves as well. Hell, even the head has said that she wants her own blog. (Now, all I need to do is find a good educational use for Twitter and I'll be happy).

So that's next half term done.

After that? Well, that's the not so good news. After that, I really have to get started on the Learning Platform. If the website was a big project, the Learning platform is a project that stretches out in front of me to the horizon and far beyond. I've been saying to all who will listen that it's going to take me years to get it done as i just can't dedicate the extra time to it in the way I have with the website. That was working towards a definite, short term end point. When I started the website build in January, I knew it had to be finished and launched in march, so the extra hours didn't matter that much. The joy of getting it done, of crossing something else off the list made up for it.

Not so with the Learning Platform. For a start I'm just not that enamoured with it. The mechanics behind it, the ways you go about creating it seem really overly complicated and counter-intuitive. In these days when you can set up a blog in an hour and be publishing to your heart's content from then on, the Learning platform has a development cycle of years, not days. Sure, it has to integrate a lot of data, but even the basic page building software is clunky, difficult and time consuming. Plus it's a system that's definitely been developed to be a secondary school solution. It's then rather been retro-fitted (badly) to work at a primary school level. There's too much text on it, too many instructions, too many far from obvious hoops to jump through to get to where you want to go. How are my super Year 1 class going to manage this? They're great, but they're not up to that yet.

So once the Learning Platform build starts after half term in May, that's it for me. All my time gets sucked into it. Just not ALL my time like the website swallowed up. The Learning Platform is strictly a work thing. The plan I have is that I'll do very little Learning Platform at home. Given that even the most optimistic trainer talks about at least two years to get it properly working tells me that to get really heavily involved and bring it home every night is a guaranteed route to insanity.

The funniest thing about the Learning Platform? In theory, my role, once I've done the basics of setting it up, should be limited to maintenance and upkeep. All of the content, all of the actual stuff on the Learning Platform is meant to come from the teachers. Remember? These are the teachers who haven't gotten to grips with the simplest email system in the known world after 4 years. Again, it's a secondary school solution applied naively to a primary school environment. In any secondary school each department is more than likely going to have one young thing who fancies themselves at the forefront of interactive digital learning and is willing to take on their department's section of the Learning Platform. In a primary school, in my school, I'll be lucky if I get two members of staff willing to do anything with it. Like I said at the last training session, the developers are living in a dream world when they confidently tell us administrators of the Learning Platform that most of the content, most of the work, most of the load, will be taken on by the staff. No. It will be me that ends up doing it. I know it will. I'm resigned to it. But I'll be damned if I'm bringing it home.

Now, in a rather roundabout way that brings me back to the opening salvo. Reviewing and writing. In the past couple of months of getting the website done I've seen myself get less and less creative, more and more tired, more and more time got given over each night to just finishing that page or just tweaking the way that page works. Until this past fortnight I've done nothing. Not one word of reviewing and very little blogging of note. And although that might seem like no big deal, I really miss it. the old adage of writing being a horrible task, something no writer enjoys is true. But likewise, when they tell you of the payoff of basking in the glow of knowing that something is done, written, finished. And knowing it's good. That's wonderful.

And, at 2:35am on a Monday morning, that's where I am. Three reviews done and this lengthy tract of blogging. Happy. Tired. off to bed in a moment. But happy.

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