Monday, April 21, 2014

Returning from Spring Break and Easter

Tomorrow we return to school after a week's Spring Break. Prior to the Spring Recess I had posted a blog spot holder to remind me of the ideas circulating in my head. Now that I have rested (a little - lots of family commitments during a break) I am ready to blog.

The idea floating loosely in my brain as we approached Spring Break was how we need to be willing to try new things. In Edtech we need some individualized, personalized review process of tools that spring up. One size does not fit all. One size SHOULD not fit all in education as well. The tool that is perfect for one student may be overly stimulating for another. One that is engaging for one child may be too banal for another. Finding the right fit for EACH student is essential. [Now please don't get me started on the one size fits all assessments. Are they really an adequate determinate if learning and growth have taken place? Oh let's solder that synapse closed for this afternoon.]

As educators in 2014 we are blessed if not overwhelmed. There is a multitude of tools available to help us accentuate our classrooms. Some are wonderful. Some are not so wonderful. As educators we need to view these tools with a discerning eye. Will this help my students? Will this assist Susy with this one skill? Would this better suit Tommy's need to _____?

Tools come and go. Should we be teaching students how to use tools? Or how to think and use a variety of tools to accomplish a task? Things that are free today may become "freemium" tomorrow. Or even high end "premium" and beyond our wallets. I am reminded of the phrase my mother use to remind me of in growing up: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket!" Sage advice. Count on nothing. Explore new tools. Compare. Enjoy while you can today with an eye on tomorrow's future.

But how lucky we are to sort through all these wonderful options. Evaluate. Examine. Trial. Dabble. Explore. Evaluate again (Let's not overlook the review and re-evaluation phase). Seeing what school district filters will permit and block. Seeing what is too fancy and not fancy enough. What sites and programs have annoying characters or background music? Seek out tools that are just right. There are just too many tools available in today's modern world. One educator cannot possibly open every egg that is hatched. But a great educator will open a few and see if they are twins (lead to another comparable tool), fertilized (ready to take on life in your classroom), broken or veiny (not ready for use in your particular class). But you won't know until you crack a few open. So pick a few from the basket and play.

And some will hopefully be a perfect fit. I know several teachers that are thrilled when I show them how their SMARTBoard can be interactive tools for learning. They are so much more than presentation screens. I read recently (sorry I don't remember where I wish I could quote them) that if only the teacher is touching the SMARTBoard you are using it wrong! Powerful but true. Let the kids create, drag, collaborate, unveil, cover, guess, estimate, predict, draw, explain, draft a diagram, chart, etc. All those wonderful real world skills that they will need in the field (whatever field they choose).

Remember to project things of value. Look for programs and websites that enhance not just fill time. Seek tools that accentuate what you are doing not create new curriculum. Technology should be a tool to enhance student learning and performance. Not just one more subject area to cover. What tools will you personally select to sit in your egg carton of digital tools? Would you prefer the Microsoft Word egg in your carton or the Google Documents egg in your carton? And how nice that it is really easy to swap eggs in and out of your carton as time goes on. If you just leave eggs untouched in a carton they will eventually go bad. We don't want classrooms that stink. We want classrooms full of color by the use of many rich resources that are available and appropriate for the children in our rooms.

Thank you for your patience while this professional development idea boiled over in my brain during Spring Break. Hope you find the analogy useful. What will you make with all the tools available? Will you create an omelette with spice and color? Or will you create scrambled eggs with no appeal? Start slow. Crack an egg open and scramble them... Maybe add some thyme (time)... and see where that leads you. Experiment further. Add some roasted peppers (marinated thoughts of others found on Twitter). Experiment again. Taste and see if it has made a difference.


  1. Neene, I loved reading this post. Your analogy is spot on! Every teacher needs to outfit their tech toolkit with lots of choice and constantly revisit their toolkits. Developing a strong PLN will enable most educators to learn about new tools they might like to consider adding to their toolkit and keep them up-to-date on changes that are occurring in the edtech field.

  2. Thanks for your reply Paula. Can't wait to catch up with you "live" soon.