It can be overwhelming to contemplate all the technology that exists in the world to assist us in our work with children. I saw this at a faculty meeting recently. Before the winter break, we had a meeting at which teachers volunteered to share some of the things they are doing in their classrooms. I’m so grateful to everyone who volunteered to talk about what they’re doing … most of what was shared involved technology (maybe I gave the impression that’s what the meeting was intended for?). Anyways, I could feel the air being sucked out of the room as the possibilities for the use of technology piled up. Because it can be overwhelming to consider the immensity of the “Edtech Universe”: “How am I ever going to learn all of that!?”
Somebody gave me a box of tools when I first bought a house. One of the tools looked like this:
It was pretty cool but I had no idea what it was for. I would wedge my index finger into the business end of it and twist it slightly around. I liked the way it felt when I did that so I’d keep it next to the couch when I watched sports and play with it like that. It may as well have been called the “Yankee finger twister”. Then my bathroom faucet started to leak around the base and I had to fix it. My friend came over to help me and he said, “Great, you have a basin wrench, this won’t take long.” A basin wrench (see above photo) is the only tool that’ll reach up under the sink to get the fastener off the bottom of the faucet when you need to remove it. Gee, I’m glad I had one of those. But until I needed it, I didn’t need it (except for that cool finger twisting thing).
But you don’t have to use every tool, in fact you don’t really have to use any of them. But there are amazing tools available to enhance the work we do with kids. Not to add glitter to what we do, but to help kids access knowledge in ways that they cannot without technology. If we are using a technology because it is a bell and whistle, why bother. Technology can allow us to communicate and connect with others in ways that we cannot without technology.
Learning and communicating, these are the values that need to guide our decisions. This must always be the litmus test for the use of technology. If it allows students to access knowledge or connect with others in a way not possible without it, then it’s worthwhile.
Here are two things that work for me:
Keep a list of the tech tools that look interesting or useful. Call the list: Will learn someday. Whenever you have a chance, go to the list and try something out. I use Evernote to make my list. Ironically, do you know what the first thing on my list is: Learn more about Evernote.
Find somebody who is an expert and have them do a one-to-one tutorial. Buy them lunch or coffee. When I wanted to learn how to use Twitter, my friend @Tony_Sinanis sat with me and showed me how. I bought him lunch. When I needed to learn how to use Livebinder to prepare for a discussion I was facilitating at EdCamp Philadelphia, somebody sat me down the night before and taught me how [I bought my wife Danielle (@dmgately) dinner for that!]. I enjoy learning things in a one-to-one setting, less distractions, less pressure. And I really like Tony and Danielle, learning with them is a great way to spend time together.
So, when faced with the immensity of the EdTech World, try to remind yourself, “I’m a LEARNER.” Be patient with yourself, ask for help, and learn what you need to learn.