No buts; get techy
Two recent tweets on Twitter prompted me to write this post.
The first tweet was from Tom Whitby (@TomWhitby), an ever-campaigning and always-sensible advocate of educational reform who wisely tells us we ignore technology at our peril:
A powerful question and one that should rightly make a lot of educators a tad uncomfortable. We all need to understand that embracing technology is an important part of being a teacher. It’s easy.
Two questions sprang to mind upon reading Tom’s words:
- How literate / illiterate am I?
- How literate do we need to be?
How literate / illiterate am I?
I think I do OK. I blog, I have websites and I do techy stuff in the classroom. I make mp3 files and get my students to use Web 2.0 tools. For some reason, my colleagues think I’m techy. For a very understandable reason, I worry I’m nowhere near techy enough. I would imagine this is a feeling common to most educators, regardless of how techy they are or appear to be. I like looking at new online tools but I always feel daunted by how much stuff is out there. And it keeps on coming.
I still have that procrastinatory-because-this-will-be-time-consuming-and-frustrating feeling each time I try a new techy online tool. Not sure why because all of the techy stuff I like is incredibly intuitive to use. Software developers seem to be spoiling us in producing instruction-less tools that we can be pretty much competent with after the first time of using.
How literate do we need to be?
Before attempting to answer this question, a reminder. Most of us are already quite technologically literate. We are all dab hands at word processing tools, spreadsheets, e-mail applications, uploading and downloading stuff on YouTube, Flickr, Pirate Bay (for the naughty ones)… We have all embraced social networks. We can all make something and put it online.
Now to answer the question – As a minimum for ESL/EFL teachers, I think we need to be tech-literate enough to be able to use a few tools for each of the four skills. That’s not much to start with. Perhaps…
- Audacity for making mp3 files and editing audio for listening and speaking
- VoiceThead for speaking
- Digital storytelling tools for writing (my favourite is Carnegie Library’s MyStoryteller.)
- Quizlet and Wallwisher for simple reading.
Ten “buts” that need to disappear
These have all entered my head over the past 16 years, since the time I didn’t know where the on button was on my school’s first Mac. They get in the way of my technological literacy, but shouldn’t. I’ve added just one piece of advice to each.
1. But I don’t know where to start!
Here are two excellent lists of cool tools posted on Twitter this week. “Tools for the 21st Century Teacher” from Michael Zimmer (@MZimmer557 on Twitter) and “A New Educational Paradigm” from David Deubelbeiss (@ddeubel on Twitter).
2. But my students won’t be able to understand.
The second tweet I liked from Twitter this week, from DB (@Nunavut_Teacher on Twitter) answers this:
3. But I can’t possibly keep up
Join Twitter. The greatest source of helpful and up-to-date professional development ever. You get cutting edge tools and developments and wonderfully helpful people who will help you with them.
4. But I’m not techy enough
If you can use e-mail, save a Word document and open a Facebook account, you can handle most Web 2.0 tools.
5. But I don’t have time
Start with one tool – give yourself a month to be comfortable with it. That’s 12 tools in a year. Probably more than I know now.
6. But I can’t use this in class
Check out the blogs – there are dozens of posts for each Web 2.0 tool giving excellent classroom ideas.
7. But I teach English
And luckily, most of these tools cope with this language. And what’s more, require students to use it.
8. But I can’t handle change
You handled e-mail, Word and Facebook.
9. But I’m too busy
These tools will save you time. Make time to learn a few.
10. But I’m too old
Get techy. No buts.