In debriefing with some of the kids about the Website Workshop last week, they said some interesting things. When asking one of the kids if he got his website up and running, he replied, "No, Mrs. Burkett showed us how to use our blog more and it does what we need. We don't need a website." I was a little shocked. I thought the kids would want to create a website if only to try a "new" tool. What I realized is that these kids are more savvy than I thought. They are able to evaluate a tool based on its potential to accomplish a task and, if it is necessary, they will use it. If not, they won't. They are not necessarily going to use a tool just because it is new or glitzy. They are going to use it if it's necessary.
This interaction is a good reminder about what we call "Tool to Task". We often ask both our students and ourselves "Is this something that we need to use?" "Do we have something in our toolbox already that would accomplish what we need?" "Are we considering using a tool just because it is new?" We try to make sure that we are using the appropriate tool for the task and if we can use fewer tools to do everything we need, then all the better.
We find that in our classrooms, and in our professional development as teachers, we sometimes try to create a task just so that we can use a new, cool tool. That cheapens our learning because it becomes a contrived "lesson". The need for the tool did not arise from the learning. Instead, we tried to fit the learning around the tool. My interaction with the student after the Website Workshop told me a lot about the students we are teaching. They understand that knowing a few digital tools, and knowing them very well, is much better than barely knowing how to use many tools. If they learn more about the tools they have, they will discover more capabilities and features of those tools. What a great lesson for the kids to learn.
We teachers often face the same issues. We are bombarded with countless digital tools and often we look at them and think "Cool!" Without a purpose, that's all they are, cool tools. The learning must drive the technology need. What occurs inside the classroom should dictate what technology is used and those tools will be different for each teacher. The best technologies for the teacher are those that make him/her a better teacher. The same goes for the students. We try to show our students a variety of tools and then tell them to pick a few and learn them well. We as teachers have chosen a few tools that we are using with our kids and, while we could triple the number of tools we use, we stick to the ones that we know well and find new features all the time that make them even more valuable in class.
Technology in education is a tricky business. Empowering everyone to make the technology decisions that are best for them while making sure that the learning is driving the need is a fine line to walk. The feedback we got from our kiddos after the web session shows us that we are on the right track. - Don