Guest Blog by David Truss, from his blog Pair-A-Dimes for Your Thoughts There are a couple tools out now that I see bantered around in educational circles that I just hate! And there are some pretty awesome tools out there that are being used in rather old and traditional ways, and I don’t hate the tool, but I hate the use of them. Exceptions don’t contradict what I’m trying to explain here, but rather prove the point that: A tool is just a tool! I can use a hammer to build a house and I can use the same hammer on a human skull. It’s not the tool, but how you use it that matters. A complimentary point: If I have a hammer and try to use it as a screwdriver, I won’t get much value from its’ use. Hammer as a house builder: Students use Voicethread to tell a story and other students at the same and/or different schools, teachers and even parents can comment on the Voicethread giving feedback. Engagement of an entire community & an extension of the classroom beyond the confines of class blocks and beyond the classroom walls. As Tom Barrett says, “The learning activity has to be transformed into something that provides a greater depth of learning and interaction. There has to be a pedagogical shift.” Hammer on human skull: Teacher asks a critical question (a very good one by the way) on Voicethread then 60 students respond to the question. This is not a conversation, this is not transformative, this is not giving students a voice (I listened to the first 4 kids, how does the 60th kid feel?), this is not meaningful learning. Hammer as a screwdriver: You can consider the ‘Hammer on human skull’ example above as an example of this as even a traditional classroom discussion would have been more effective, but I’ll share another example: Extranormal, the text-to-movie tool… The home page says, “If you can type, you can make movies…” I’ve watched a few of these movies, produced by kids, and not one of them has ‘wowed’ me. Each time I saw them I thought things like, “This would be so much better if the students got to act it out” or “The meaning was lost without the intonation of voice”, or “The actions were minimalist and took away from what was being said.” Basically, a kid writes a script then the real creative potential for movie-making is lost. Hammer as a screwdriver. Interactive White Boards (IWB) are another example of a tool that is often abused rather than used. I was able to get my staff, 16 teachers, netbooks and 9 LCD projectors (to complement the ones we already had), and get my entire school set up on wireless for the price of about 2 and a half IWB’s. But the cost is not the only reason I am not a fan of them. I’ve seen teachers show me what the IWB can do, but few show me what students can do on them. When students actually get to do things on them there is still only one kid in the ‘front’ of the room, just like one kid at the blackboard. Are some teachers using them well? Absolutely! In fact, I invite those that are using them well to share their experiences with me… Please! So what makes a tool great? Or, a better question than that: What should we do with tools to make them great? Here are some thoughts and feedback is appreciated, this is not an exclusive list!
Written by Jayne Clare
Jayne Clare is dedicated to being in the forefront of the ever-changing digital landscape. She has been working directly with students and startups and recognizing what works and what doesn’t, along with the why behind both. Jayne co-founded Teachers With Apps in 2011.