I frequent a Sunday night Twitter chat, #edchatri, where amazing educators from all over the US help me approach the coming school week with the right attitude. During these chats, I discover amazing resources shared by fellow educators, who I now consider to be my colleagues, despite the geography that separates us. There are some Sunday nights that the quantity of resources shared can be daunting, especially if you battle web-amnesia or web-déjà vus like me. I find myself wondering “What was that page? Was it a .org or .com…” or thinking, “wait, I’ve seen this before!” much too often.
It was during one of those more resource-heavy chats that my relationship with Learnist began, and my world of organization changed forever. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were chatting about Response to Intervention (RTI in teacher-speak), one of the many current educational initiatives with which teachers all over the country are wrestling. I knew that I would certainly lose track of some of the resources being shared. I had no fewer than 8 windows open between the two browsers running on my computer, each window holding tight to the web address of one more resource I was sure I couldn’t live without. As I clicked and Tweeted, I kept a legal pad on my desk for extra insurance. I scribbled the URLs that seemed most important and a brief description I hoped would help me remember why I wanted to visit again later.
As I scrolled back through the Tweets I had missed while scribbling, I saw my first ever Learnist link. Dawn Casey-Rowe had Tweeted, “#edchatri I’m making a learnistboard to summarize RTI links from chat. Helps me use later. Will finish. Here’s link http://bit.ly/SUPSWp.” Clicking on Dawn’s link helped me find the courage to close those windows, stop writing on my legal pad… and actually think about the discussion we were having.
In the coming weeks and months I would use Learnist to support the beginning teachers I was coaching, teachers I supported through Professional Development workshops, and later in my own sixth grade classroom.
I spent two amazing years out of my classroom, coaching teachers around my state. During coaching sessions with teachers, I always did my best to document our work together, recording resources that were helpful and ideas the teacher wanted to pursue. I would leave that documentation with the teacher as a reference, so they would be able to find that amazing math website we discussed, online bank of printable literacy centers or their teacher evaluation rubric without relying on Google or wondering, “where did I see that?” Nevertheless, I found myself writing down or emailing the same resources to the same teachers so often that I knew my system was not working as efficiently possible. More importantly, everyone was losing a valuable resource- time! Enter Learnist… After my Sunday night epiphany during #edchatri, I created a board of math resources, another for literacy resources, another for Teacher Evaluation and many others. I shared one URL with teachers- my Learnist homepage. One of the best parts is, I controlled which sites made the cut. The teachers I was supporting were incredibly short on time and resources and would not benefit from every math site that a search engine had to offer. I wished I could be in their rooms for every planning session to help them vet resources. Learnist helped me to do just that. In fact, on more than one occasion after beginning to use Learnist while coaching teachers, I opened up a browser window in one of their classrooms only to find they had made my Learnist homepage their homepage.
Now that I am back in the classroom, I have begun creating Learnboards for students to access during our units of study. During a recent archaeology unit, students spent a week creating products like webquests, news broadcasts and help wanted ads based on a choiceboard I designed. They could create three products of their choice to demonstrate their knowledge of the given archaeology concepts, and relied on our Archaeology Learnist board for the content. Students demonstrated high levels of engagement during the research process. Whether using our classroom computers, or sharing a classmate’s smartphone or e-reader, students navigated Learnist like the digital natives that they are… effortlessly.
Whether I am organizing web content for myself, my colleagues or my students I rely on Learnist to make it accessible.
Originally Published on Medium.com in Teachers and the Future of Learning