Teacher Tools, So What?

Posted: November 14, 2008 in Uncategorized
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I will later be posting a slightly edited version of a presentation I gave at the 2008 ECOO conference.  The topic was on Journalism and New Media for students.  Throughout I referred to podcasts, blogs, wikis, etc.  And while these tools can be great, we must remember one of the newer catch phrases uttered in the halls of workshops, conferences, and professional development sessions – “They are only tools.”

I do not think that adequately captures my sentiments about these technologies in the hands of eager teachers; born into the the world of web 2.0 and like the foal, struggles to walk too quickly.  I get excited speaking to teachers that are learning about ways they can improve their practice and getting excited about it.  There are too many teachers (isn’t one too many) rigid in their practice, unwilling to change or grow.  But what I like to tell them is that yes technology is a tool.  But the dilemma is, what should you be asking yourself, “What a great tool!  Now I have to figure out how to build something.  But what to build?”

I visualize someone waking up in the 18th century divinely inspired, and creates a toaster.  Radiant in its stainless steel glory, its shine only dulled by the radiance of his beaming smile, he shows his friend.  They are equally amazed, after all it is new and has that cosmopolitan name “toaster.”  Of course, no one knows what to do with it.  Perhaps we should be asking “What do I want to build?”  Let’s ask this question before we go rooting through the toolbox looking for a new gadget.

I am not saying not to stock up on tools.  By all means.  Save links people send you, keep informed about new technologies, listen to colleagues.  But then think about current problems you have, and then look at the tools at your disposal.  Or let the knowledge of the tools you have percolate in your brain for just a little bit.  If you first don’t ask yourself “What do I want to build today?” you are walking around the house with a new hammer – looking for something to fix.  And while you may indeed fix something broken, you may end up with a house full of holes in the walls.

Be problem centered.  This means looking at a pathway of Problem -> Tool -> Implementation -> Solution.  Do you think your students need to learn how to collaborate?  Or you know students may have a hard time physically getting together to work on a group project? Then consider introducing them to a wiki.  This, after all is what we often try and teach our students: How to look at a problem and then find a solution.  Because if you develop a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist – is it still a solution?

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Comments
  1. Steve says:

    I totally agree. I get questions from plenty of teachers about how to podcast with their students and they haven’t thought about what kind of podcast of what they want to achieve by having their students podcast.

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