33 minutes | Aug 27, 2020

Episode 136 – Annejeanette Washington Collins

Introducing Annejeanette Washington Collins Annejeanette is a teacher at both the elementary and collegiate level. She teaches children at a school in western Florida, and college students in Fort Lauderdale. Annejeanette is a WordPress advocate, blogger, and WordCamp presenter. Show Notes Twitter | @ProfessaDiva954 Instagram | @ProfessaDiva954 Website | Magnificent Mom Moments Preferred Pronouns | She/Her Episode Transcript Tara: This is Hallway Chats, where we meet people who use WordPress. Liam: We ask questions and our guests share their stories, ideas, and perspectives. Tara: And now the conversation begins. This is Episode 136. Tara: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Tara Claeys. Liam: And I’m Liam Dempsey. Today we’re joined by Annejeanette Washington Collins. Annejeanette is a teacher at both the elementary and collegiate level. She teaches children at a school in western Florida, and college students in Fort Lauderdale. Annejeanette is a WordPress advocate, blogger, and WordCamp presenter. Welcome, Annejeanette. Thanks for being here today. Annejeanette: Hello, everybody. Tara, Liam, thank you so much for the invite. Tara: Thanks for joining us today. We’re really happy that you’re here as well. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, a little more introduction? Annejeanette: Yeah. This is my 28th year of teaching in Broward County, which is sandwiched between Miami and West Palm Beach. This is my 18th year as a college professor. I love what I do. I definitely am an advocate for WordPress. I’m really blessed to be in this career for the long haul. And I’m happily married to a Major, and I have a miracle daughter named Jada. And love family, love the beach, love serving in the community. Tara: That’s wonderful. What do you teach? Annejeanette: So presently, I am a fifth grade teacher in western Florida. I teach ELA, language arts, social studies, and technology. At the collegiate level, I teach computer science. Tara: Tell us a little bit about your background in computer science. Did you learn that in order to teach it or how did that become part of your teaching repertoire? Annejeanette: About 20 years ago, at that time, I was a middle school teacher, my principal had noticed that I had a knack for breaking down computers, literally breaking them apart and putting them back together. So she encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree in educational technology and curriculum. When I turned 30, one of the goals that I had for myself was to go back and get my master’s degree. So that’s how I began this journey. And it’s been a fun ride for the past 20 years working with students, working with college students, working with nonprofit and profit organizations, and really learning and mastering the craft of educational technology. Liam: That’s such an evolving field, right? I mean, 28 years ago—I’m trying to think when that was—I mean, there were computers in the classroom, but not a ton. And there was internet in the classroom, but not a lot of classrooms and not trickled in and not reliable stuff in. Now we’re seeing in the last three to five months that that technology, because of COVID, is forcibly changing again. You have probably seen more than most people have seen. Talk about that, that evolution of technology, and what that looks like over the years in teaching. Annejeanette: When I went to college at the University of Miami, my senior year we had a computer lab that was using a little Apple Books. I mean, not Apple books. It’s like those hard Apple…I think they were Apple At Ease. They were just boxy and little. And then Hurricane Andrew hit. So we went from having computers to having nothing. When I graduated, I just remember, “Okay, where do we start?” So I landed my first teaching job in a middle school in Fort Lauderdale. They had a computer lab, but not as heavy as it began to happen in 2000. 2000 we had a whole overhaul where classrooms were actually getting computers. We had Apple with the colors in the back. You could pick your color to match your classroom. So I did that for a while. Then my district moved from Apple to Windows. So during this whole, as you call it, process, I’ve been learning how to do dual language in technology. You had to know Apple, and you had to know Windows. Liam: Those are really different in the early days. That was literally apples and oranges (no pun intended). Annejeanette: So I had to learn that so that I can empower and teach my college students, my middle school students. Even taught high school. So just had to really master learning two languages in technology. Then in about 2005, I was offered the position of the computer science teacher at the elementary level. And that’s how I ended up at the school where I’ve been now for 15 years. Even at the school that I’m at, it has evolved, where it was elective and now it is pretty much in everyday instruction I have to use my computer. And not just one computer. Sometimes I’m literally maneuvering three. Which leads me into the WordPress. Because when I first started WordPress it was just to play around with it, see what it’s about. Then now I find myself teaching my fifth graders how to blog their essays or respond to a classmate’s post or publish their STEM work—A STEM project that they’ve created where they put their research, and their PowerPoint, or their sway into the WordPress platform. So it has truly been a roller coaster ride, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Tara: That’s so wonderful. I love hearing that you’re using WordPress with kids in school. It seems like something that is evolving. But I don’t hear that much about WordPress being used by kids in schools. So that’s really great. How did you discover WordPress? Annejeanette: Graduate school. I used it in graduate school. Then I introduced it to my college students because I was teaching them what…at that time, the word blog and vlog were new. So I had to teach them, “Okay, this is a blog and this is the software you can use.” Then I took a break from it for a while. Then 2016, 2017 is when I got very much involved, because of my daughter, with WordCamp. She was invited to speak and that’s what rekindled the fire again for me to use WordPress in my classroom and at home. Liam: Wow. I feel like we could do weeks of conversation on what you’ve shared in the opening minutes here, whether it’s technology or teaching or WordPress, and you teaching children to use it. There’s just a ton there. Annejeanette: It is. Liam: I’m always interested when I come to technology, and I use it a certain way, and I have my flow. And then I show it to somebody or teach somebody, and I come back a period of time later, and they’re doing something totally different that my brain just would never have landed on. I’m wondering since you’re seeing so many young people, whether it’s grade-schoolers or college-age folks using WordPress, I wonder…and this is kind of going to put you on the spot to think of something. So sorry about that. But what’s been some of the more interesting examples of somebody taking WordPress and you say, “Well, yeah, I guess I can do that. That’s amazing. I never would have thought about using it that way. That’s really cool.” Annejeanette: I would have to say going to WordCamp and seeing the high schoolers take the basics of it and create…I saw a young lady. She literally created her own business online e-business, e-commerce. She competed in… this was a virtual technology conference for high schoolers, won a scholarship right here in South Florida. The young people, it’s like a sponge with them. They just take it, they absorb it, and they make it their own. I just sit back and I’m kind of like the cheerleader. Do you. Or as I was saying, “Go on girl. Do your thing.” Because what we teach them is just to light the fire, then they just let it burn. Or basically like a thing of clay. We show them how to mold it wet it, sculpt it, and then make it into something that is theirs. Whether it’s a bowl, a vase, a cup. That’s pretty much the analogy I think I can use with WordPress that the generation born from 2000, I would say, moving forward, that’s exactly what they’ve done to any and everything they touch. This generation, my daughter would be in this category, my niece, Victoria would be in there this category, the students that I’ve had over the last 20 years, they just take it, they make it, and they own it. And I love it because what worked for me in 2000, or even in 2015 isn’t going to work into 2021. So my job is to just teach them fundamentals and then let them see what they can create and innovate on their own. Let them have some critical thinking with it. Let them think about what they’re going to do with it. And then let them use their imagination, their creativity, and just own it and make it theirs. This is an exciting time. If we continue to use that, I think it’s an exciting time for WordPress. It’s an exciting time for those of us in the field of educational technology, and it’s definitely an exciting time for those who have a passion with technology to really watch and see it evolve. Tara: Do you find that your students have an easy time or stumble at any point when they’re learning WordPress? Annejeanette: Oh they stumble. And that’s part of the process. I’m okay with them stumbling. But I realize there’s a tenacity with this generation. They stumble, they’ll get frustrated, and then they’ll get right back up again and try it again until it works for them. That’s what I’ve seen. T
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