A thousand questions would whir through my mind whenever I introduced something new into Room 216. A couple of years ago, I made a decision after much reading, thought, and nervous consideration that I wanted to drop the traditionally expected homework from my class. I had countless reasons why I didn’t want to assign worksheets or require the usual answer-these-questions-after-yourreading assignments. Instead I told students that I wanted them to spend 20 minutes a night (on average) reading whatever they chose to read that wasn’t assigned for another class. I suggested newspapers and magazines online, titles they could borrow from the library for their e-readers, and books they could take from my classroom library. I knew we had been talking about more accountability for students at school and I knew what I was deciding to do would not be popular. Thus, I worried: What if it won’t work? What do I say to back up my reasons? How do I explain it to the various stakeholders of my classroom?
When I found myself starting to question—or others starting to question—what I was doing in the classroom, I realized that I had found something in my personal learning network (PLN) that was every bit as valuable as the collaborative learning I was engaged in with the members of my PLN; I realized that I had created an incredible support system.
My peers online were talking about, trying, or actually making the same changes in their classrooms—everything from eliminating traditional homework to using independent free-choice reading in the high school classroom to bringing the outside world into the classroom with technology—that I was setting out to make in my classroom. Chances are that one of them had run up against similar concerns and could help me think them through.