ISTE #3 Question:
How can I use technologies to find new ways of carrying out the elements of my teaching practice that occur outside of the classroom, and how can I do so in such a way as to be able to demonstrate this to others?
The elements of ISTE standard three can be broadly divided into two categories: points b and c are concerned with communication and collaboration between teachers and other stakeholders in the education process, and points a and d are concerned with the transfer of skills to new uses and the modeling of such skill transfer for students so they internalize the possibility that they can and should do the same with their digital skills. The first grouping seems a natural, even necessary application of IT. IT is at its essence about the processing and communication of information, so the idea of using it as a medium for communication and a forum for collaboration is a natural application. But for the full potential of these tools as catalysts of human interaction to be fulfilled, participants must have a level of mastery of the tools that enable the tools to make the interaction easier rather than harder. It is in this connection that I thought of Clay Shirky’s contention that “communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they become technologically boring” (further reflection reminded me that this is really just an extension of Martin Heidegger’s contention that any tool effectively disappears to us if and when we are able to use it for our purposes, but this is even further beyond the scope of this course. However, it does relate directly to the proffered distinction between digital literacy and digital fluency). This consideration introduces a series of trade-offs in the selection and utilization of tech tools. On the most basic, a choice needs to be made about how passive or active the teacher expects his or her interlocutors to be. Most people will at least scan an email, text, or newsletter, but on the other hand this approach does not solicit two way communication (Leah Hongbo Li even pointed out a situation where such input was actually discouraged!) On the other hand, communications that need to be “pulled” on by the receiver rather than “pushed” out by the sender invite a greater degree of interaction, but only with the self-selected sub set of people who choose to take advantage of this medium of communication. The main trade off is suggested by this disinclination on the part of some, which is that some time and effort is going to need to be invested by all parties in learning how to use any tool, and so there is an implicit tradeoff between how general or specific the functions of the tool are. The more general it is the more likely it is that people will consider it worthwhile to invest the time and effort into learning to use the technology, but the less well suited it will be for any given purpose. On the other hand, more specific tools will by their nature be better adapted to specific purposes, but people will be more resistant to spending the time and effort needed to learn how to use them.
These considerations solidify my conviction that Edmodo remains the best choice for my purposes. Some of the newsletter, safe texting, or email options mentioned by my classmates might reach a wider audience, but for my purposes it is important to set an interactive tone. On the question of ease of use, some people mentioned using Facebook, and this would in some ways be ideal since most people already know how to use this, but others mentioned policy and privacy considerations that argue against using Facebook (much the same might be said of Twitter). On the other end of the spectrum, the class web page, blog, and/or bulletin board ideas are all promising, but because the use of each tool is restricted to that purpose I know that at my school it would be difficult to get any but the most involved parents to use those resources, and ironically those are the parents who least need to use them. Edmodo strikes a comfortable balance between these considerations. Once signed up parents can enable text notification of relevant information, so those who want to be passive can still get the information, while those willing to be more active can easily do so to the extent they wish. There is more of a learning curve for parents than with Facebook, but it is explicitly modeled on the social networking site, so there is less to learn than with some other tools. And since it is a platform that integrates many different education functions, once parents learn how to use it they can do so in a wider variety of ways than is possible for more dedicated services. All that said, I still have not had any success in getting parents to create parent accounts on Edmodo yet (to the extent that parents use it they use their child’s account), but I think that if it were possible I’d have even less success with other tools.
The second cluster of aims in ISTE standard #3 deal with the transfer of technological skills and the concomitant concern that teachers model for students the act of applying existing tech skills in new areas. Kumar and Vigil find that while “digital natives” possess a level of awareness of and skill in the use of tech resources, they tend not to apply these skills in new contexts. Kumar and Vigil therefore recommend that instructors of pre-service teachers explicitly model the application of these skills to teaching situations. Perhaps it is generational, but I find myself in the opposite situation. Rather than pushing myself to apply skills I already have in new contexts, I find myself scrambling to acquire new skills in order to be able to use them with tech tools about which I have learned and am eager to try, but do not yet have the requisite skill to utilize. Thus I am not really in a position to apply existing skills to new situations. My classmates have found a number of great resources to use in class in a way that will model using digital skills for students, but in order to make sure I develop fluency rather than mere literacy in the tools I am already using I will hold off on trying to learn any of these until after the school year is over. This was I can ensure that I maintain the positive attitude towards the possibilities of technology in education that Wen and Shih identify as such an important factor. The one exception to this is Diigo. This is an example of a social bookmarking tool of the sort that Kumar and Vigil identified as being widely unknown even to digital natives, and it offers compelling prospects for both information gathering and collaboration, so much so that it passes the high bar I have set for new technologies that I consider it justifiable to take the time to learn during the school year. In so doing, I can show the students that if even this old dog can learn new tricks, surely they can as well.
Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. New York: Harper
Jia Rong Wen and Wen Ling Shih. 2008. Exploring the information literacy competence standards for elementary and high school teachers. Comput. Educ. 50, 3 (April 2008), 787-806. DOI=10.1016/j.compedu.2006.08.011 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2006.08.011
Kumar, S., & Vigil, K. (September 06, 2011). The Net Generation as Preservice Teachers: Transferring Familiarity with New Technologies to Educational Environments. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27, 4, 144-153.
Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press