65/365 Talking about Tools Needs More Space Than Gateway Posts

This post from edtechteacher came through twitter the other day, and I clicked on it for a number of reasons. I’m teaching a class on social media right now, so that was a draw. I’m working with student teachers and on the lookout for new tools that will help them with tech in their practice, so that was a draw. I own an iPad and want to feel like I’m getting the most out of my investment, so that was a draw.

The biggest draw? It was what I call a gateway post. I knew from the post title it was going to be bulleted (or some version thereof), it was going to have shiny tools, and it wasn’t going to bog me down in things like theory and considerations of the tools’ deeper implications for learning. (Such a drag, right?)

As I was reading, I noted David Bill was online, so I sent him the link. He scanned it, and a deeper conversation of this type of gateway posts entailed. Here are some problems and possible answers/next questions that came out of the conversation:

Issue 1: David made a good point that this post dredges up worries about the foisting of iPads on classrooms without teacher input or training.

If we know anything about the “new” and the “shiny” in education (tech or not), we know that it’s done with little input beyond a committee’s decision and compulsory trainings for the teachers who are going to have to pick up the New Shiny in the next teaching cycle. Sadly, these trainings are rarely based on teacher questions or welcoming of those questions.

Issue 2: The iPads/tablets are coming. They just are. Whether through mechanisms described above or more democratic means, more teachers are going to see these machines in their classrooms.

If I’m a teacher who knows iPads are headed to my classroom and I’m not comfortable with that thought, this post can be a strong gateway to helping me figure out what I can do in the first few weeks/months to make the machines do things that are helpful for students. That can make the difference between games, word processing, and wikipedia being the only tools used on the tablets and kids starting to see the machines a über-mobile creation tools.

Issue 3: We can’t stop there. Gateway posts can have a terminal effect. Teachers with little time or space in their schedules to play with new ideas will thereby not play with new ideas. They will bookmark the tool page or put the tools mentioned into the same lesson plans they’ve been using for years and that will be that, because tech will seem like “Another thing I’ll never get to.

Gateway posts need follow-up posts. Individual tools need their own space like this piece on Evernote from LifeHacker. Tools need to be situated in the ways they have helped practitioners expand their practices. Context, goals, affordances, constraints, reflections, next steps can inspire conversations and thoughtfulness that is missing in gateway posts.

So, I’ve challenged David to take each of the tools mentioned in the edtechteacher post and give each its own post on his blog, to help teachers see more deeply into their possible implementation and to start the better forms of the conversations.

Gateway posts have their place. They act as resplendent repositories of resources to which we can turn in professional development sessions, lesson planning, conference presentations, etc. They should not be the norm of our expectations for conversations around how we can think about the New Shiny in classrooms, schools and other learning spaces.

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