My last post was excited about the fact that my district is now interested in pursuing the idea of Personal Learning Networks (although they want to call them Personal Work and Learning Environments), and not a particular tool for technology integration in the district. I wrote (again) about how the tools don’t much matter, it is getting across the ideas that counts.
However @mwacker made me think with his comment that went something like this:
True, true… but when the tool triggers ideas that’s a winner too though. i.e voicethread triggering spec ed. reading responses, conference tools extending walls outside a classroom (palbee, dimdim, twiddla), RSS feeds, blogs, motivating and inspiring teachers, TED talks, Youtube, Schooltube, etc inspiring kids to publish. Wikis, envoking global collaboration, PLN’s lifting spirits and sharing ideas.
There are so many tools, we can’t forget that sometimes this is the carrot that sparks motivation..especially in a K-6 environment.
It made me think of all of the tools that have opened my eyes to possiblities that didn’t exist before I knew about the tool. I remember when I first figued out what Blogger was in the fall of 2004. It allowed me to create blogs for all of my students in less than one day of classes. When I found Voicethread, I immediately realized just how engaging a digital convesation could be.
But, I don’t think of Blogger anymore as the important part of my learning. I think of blogging as an idea for how to communicate, collaborate, and create commuity. Even Voicethread or DimDim, which are very specific tools, I don’t think of them as the only tools for those jobs. I think of voicethread as a collaborative presentation and DimDim as a web conference. Putting these pieces together into a workflow is what is important. It doesn’t matter which tools are actually used, just that you know the benefits and learning potential behind each one.
So, I guess I am revising my previous statement. There can’t be any great ideas for the future of education without great tools to support them. But, if they remain only a function of those tools, then we are not teaching teachers and students to think about their learning. We are only teaching them to use the tools. If we aren’t constantly questioning what works best, we can’t truly call ourselves reflective practicioners.
We can’t really know what can be done in our classrooms until we know what is possible. The tools show us what is possible, but the ideas that extend them and the conversations that crop up around them are essential.
You can hang your hat on a tool, but you will never go out into the world and apply the tool without the ideas that support the tool and the metacognition to apply those ideas to other tools.