Find Your Niche, App, Tool, Whatever. Make It Work Transformatively, Effectively and Safely …. Then Let’s Market It, and How To Use It To Everyone.

Many of the conversations lately have been a bit downtrodden. Brett’s Skypecast last night, Will Richardson’s recent “deflating” experience, Jeff Utecht’s NECC experience, Miguel Guhlin’s recent post and others.

We’ve been bemoaning that the access to web 2.0 apps is not going well. Some districts block just about everything, teachers aren’t embracing them quickly enough and the list goes on. But maybe there is still plenty to use and the “marketplace” will take care of the rest over time in that either users will find safe “workarounds” as they use MySpace, ODEO, FLICKR, etc. (not everybody is blocked you know) and if these work and there is a demand and it seems safe things might open up. I’m definitely not saying give up or don’t think about or try to use these apps – just that things might not be as bleak as they seem. Would it be great if you could just jump right in and use many of these tools – yes – but many have issues of safety no matter how frustrating that is. Will Richardson (and others – including me) have spoken about how kids are exposed to worse images and ideas at the local convenience store and in some cases street corner. But you’re just not going to get past peoples’ fear and loathing of their kids being exposed, even by accident, AT SCHOOL – At least not now. I’m not satisfied with that but …

The good news is that there is so much that can be done that is safe and valuable for anyone to use – the web, digital photography, web pages, email, blogging (monitoring comments) and much more – and those of us that have unfettered access will have to use these new tools in ways that make others see past their fear and want to embrace them. We can even teach the ethical use of social applications so that students that use them outside school learn about ethics from someone.

There are so many applications available now, how could anyone use them all? Yes, we need to get going – I believe that strongly – but who can keep up? There seems to be at least one new app every day – yes we need access, and the ability to innovate – and what is more exciting than seeing something you’ve never seen before and immediately getting an idea on how it fits what you are or want to be doing with students and you want to do it NOW. Some of us will be able to do that, be the trailblazers, and some will have to wait (but fighting and scratching the whole time) until these new tools and methods are acceptable.

Beyond that, I would be thrilled if we could just get educators to embrace and utilize tech as a tool AT ALL! I’ll probably get attacked by some of you for saying this, but more than 80% of educators I know can’t cut and paste, or send an email with an attachment, or know you can have more than one window opened at a time or more than one application at a time, or what a browser is (or that Internet Explorer isn’t the only browser), or how to attach a printer or camera or use them, or any peripheral, or what USB or Firewire are and the list goes on. And we want them to be blogging AND Flickring, AND Skypeing, AND digital video, AND podcasting, AND making web pages and more? I have experiences with teachers showing them cut and paste that I should video some time. They get so excited – some do it over and over with big smiles on their faces – I’ve just made their day (but I was really showing them FLICKR and how to use an image in student writing).

Yes we need to keep the training and education and innovation on web 2.0 going, but let’s not forget than most haven’t embraced web 1.0 yet. We need to get many more trained and comfortable with tech in general and the new teaching that goes with it AS we continue to use and innovate with the new tools. If we build it they will come?

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4 Responses to Find Your Niche, App, Tool, Whatever. Make It Work Transformatively, Effectively and Safely …. Then Let’s Market It, and How To Use It To Everyone.

  1. Oh, my God, do I relate. Just two weeks ago I worked with 50 teachers from schools all over this area creating new Social Studies/ELA curriculum (Westchester County, NY). Maybe 25% were technologically savvy – and scarier still, most of them were 25 – 30 years old! About 50% could get by, employing any practice that would allow them to create a Word document that looked the way they wanted it to. (Use the spacebar to center a title!!?) And the other 25% couldn’t do anything unless I was sitting practically on top of them.

    On the other hand, they were excited about the possibility of incorporating some new tools when I made the suggestions…..now let’s hope that when implementation time comes, they’ll be game.

  2. Brian says:

    Linda – Yes – the key is they do get excited and they do want to do these things – that is our saving grace! We’ve had too many years of zero training and zero reason to embrace or implement tech outside of computer lab time running Reader Rabbit and typing programs. Now we have to catch them up, but I feel teachers are ready to get going – so I am more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time!

  3. Jeff Utecht says:

    Great post.

    I hated writing that posting, but it was the way I was feeling after NECC. I know exactly what you mean and I guess what frustrates me is we are 20 years into using technology and teachers still get excited over cutting and pasting. We have had NETS for teachers for years now and even though states have adopted the NETS for students they have been slow to adopt the NETS for teachers. Why? Is it a union thing? If we are expecting students to meet the NETs, isn’t it logical to have teachers meet the NETs? As Linda points out even new teachers are not technologically savvy. How can that be? With our universities being the most wired and wireless in the world. I know I’m talking in circles here and I guess that’s what frustrates me. I agree that we need to get teachers using technology. The ‘hook’ is the important part. Once we getting them cutting and pasting then we can come in and say “If you think that’s cool, watch this!” I’m just frustrated that we are starting the 2006-2007 school year and we are STILL doing cutting and pasting PD. I guess for us technology specialist that’s called job security. :)

  4. Mark Ahlness says:

    Brian,
    Well, getting down in the dumps over lack of colleagues’ abilities on computers – or over the lack of freedom to personally push the envelope on web 2.0 in our classrooms…. Both of these are realities that we have to come to grips with. For me, staff ineptitude/refusal re: technology is something I’ve been dealing with for over a dozen years, so I guess I’m just kind of used to it, and maybe I’ve even given up the fight on that front a little. Honestly, I know I have. But there is a new, at least for me, battle to wage, and it deals directly with how I am able to teach my kids. That’s where all my energy is going right now. Because I see the promise 2.0 holds, because it is so close, and because I believe (maybe naively) that I can make a difference. Thanks for the thoughts – Mark

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