As we come close to the Christmas season, I thought it might be a good time to update the ol' blog, since neither of my Fall classes has required blog entries. I have taken two very good classes, one of them exceptionally good, and I'm about to finish that second one in a couple of weeks.
A debate has resurfaced during this latest class, which I don't know the name of right now, but trust me, it's been good (actually, not being too specific gives me some leeway here). The debate is over how to best train teachers to adapt to using modern technology in the classroom right now. A couple of people in my class have insisted that we need to train teachers to use Google Docs, or Glogster, or other current popular web tools.
My opinion is that we need to help teachers learn how to accept technology, love technology, and find web tools on their own. After all, the web tools of today could be gone tomorrow; or swallowed up by some mega-company.
That may seem a little paranoid, but about a year ago I fell in love with Fridge (www.frid.ge), a site that provided easy setups of private social networks. It made sense to me, with parents rightly concerned about allowing kids to log on to Facebook or Twitter during school hours, to set up a private network with all of the bells and whistles that was isolated from the noise and disruption that is Facebook. Students could collaborate, teachers could keep track, students could connect and chat without the teacher being able to pry, friends could be made, assignments could be completed -- everything a social networking tool should be to a classroom.
But soon after I had signed up, got familiar and started telling others about Fridge, the company got bought out by Google. Now Fridge is being "folded into" Google+. Well, I like Google+, but I hesitate to use that in the classroom for the same reasons I would hesitate to use Facebook or Twitter: There's just too many jerks out there.
Hunting and trying out web tools is a time-consuming and difficult job; and that's why tech gurus that do this for us and share the good ones are so valuable. But a good one for me might not be a good one for you. A good one for Student A might not work for Student B. Realizing halfway through a lesson that one of your students needs a certain learning experience requires teachers that know what they need and know how to find it.
I guess I'm splitting hairs to some extent. We need teachers that want to learn; and want to find new tools and new ways to use the old tools. As long as teachers are eager, and curious, and engaged, we'll be OK. I just want us to avoid spending a lot of time learning about Tool A when it could disappear tomorrow, and Tool B might be better anyway.