I remember at time when there were classes for specific products like MS Word. Apart from very specific programs that are fairly intricate, those days have long past. With new tools and apps arriving daily, and new ones getting updates by the minute, the idea of teaching a certain technology seems a little dated. Unless of course one is talking about coding, but even then, the most industrious and resourceful student will be able to figure out a lot on her own.
Students need to know when and how to use technology that is appropriate to the work they are doing. They need to learn how to find out on their own, be discerning of the information they get, and try things out several times until they get it right.
It’s not that google, bing, yahoo, or something else is better than the other, but which one you’re more comfortable with or which one has more features that you personally use. Same with web browsers, office documents, creative platforms, and others. It also depends on the group of people you’re working with and what tool set they’re using.
If a student needs to use a spreadsheet for whatever reason, they should be able to figure out whether excel, google docs, numbers, or another program would be right. They would then most likely teach themselves how to use it.
I’m really excited about the opportunity to present at the National Association of Independent Schools annual conference in a few days. I’m presenting with colleagues from Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
Being from different regions, we relied on various technologies to plan and communicate. I was beginning to think of the different ways we have interacted and the different tools we used up to tonight.
Twitter – Before meeting my colleagues in person, I found them on twitter first. It wasn’t until 3 months after that I met them in person.
Email – This is a pretty standard form of communication, but we rarely used this as we wanted to share documents and it was easier to house them somewhere (we used google drive and dropbox) rather than send version after version back and forth.
Google Hangouts – Video Conferencing has been around for a long time, but for people like teachers who don’t have boardrooms or expensive equipment, google hangouts is free and worked like a charm. It even worked on my smart phone.
Google Presentation – when we were first building our slides, we wanted one single document for our draft. This let us create the bones of our presentation without having to worry about several of us working on separate documents. This helped reduce any redundancy in our collaborative efforts.
Power Point – While most people shudder at this tool for a presentation, it’s not the tool’s fault. Most people don’t use it well. The slides are there to enhance your presentation. To help make what you say clear. Any text on the slide is for your audience to read, not your written outline. Text needs to be big enough for people to read. Graphs have to enhance the data you’re describing. Power Point is a great tool, it’s just that too many people fall into the trap of using its built in templates. Start with a blank canvas and know what you want to say.
iMovie – we just needed to trim a video by a few seconds.
image editing – we needed to make some images appear less pixilated, shape others differently, remove backgrounds, etc.
I’m sure there were other tools we used, but the point is that none of us went to a class to learn any of these tools. We picked ones that worked for our group – for most of us, google hangouts was new. We used the opportunity, not only to video conference, but to learn how to use some of its other widgets by playing.
And of course, none of this replaces face to face interactions, which is why I’m excited about seeing everyone I’ve collaborated with on Wednesday when we make our final revisions before Thursday’s presentation.
I think the same goes with kids. Face to face interactions are the most important. Technology is just a tool to help get a job done. Nonetheless these tools are crucial to extending the learning process and teachers have to be judicious in discerning when to use them for maximum benefit to students.