Saturday, August 26, 2006

New Technologies: Beyond the Coolness Factor

This summer has been filled with the exploration of new technologies - more specifically, I've been working on looking at blogs and wikis with a little bit of podcasting and a few other ideas on the side. So I've decided that the next few posts on my blog will be used to summarize what I've explored over the last 10 weeks.

Early in the summer, it occurred to me that there was something unique going on where blogs were concerned - people were thinking out loud, getting responses from others who had been working through the same thoughts and then those thoughts came up in someone else's blog to be reworked, redefined, rethought.  The whole network at work is fascinating.  So I joined in and created my own blog as a way of continuing my own personal professional development. In working on my own blog, I've rediscovered my writing skills and learned about other tools like RSS, creating a blog roll and using ClustrMaps on my blog. I've learned more this summer alone than I've learned in a very long time and I've found applications for all of it to the work I do in my school district as an instructional specialist.

Here's one example of the networking that happened within blogs: Will Richardson posted a simple question one day: "Where are the best practices in using blogs in the classroom?"  He didn't write much else about it - he just was wondering aloud.  This topic was picked up by several other edubloggers, and eventually it resulted in one of them, Miguel Guhlin, creating a wiki about blogging best practices. Then, he gathered some educators who have been doing blogging in their instruction and they all participated in an audiocast via Skype.  This interested me so much that, when Miguel advertised this audiocast, several questions popped into my mind and I commented on his blog listing those questions.  He posted those questions to his wiki and one of my questions was the first to be asked in the audiocast. 

The best part about this whole thing is that I didn't have to buy one new piece of hardware in order to have this experience and the learning curve was minimal.  My experiences began by reading David Warlick's blog which eventually led me to all of the other resources that I've explored. I created a free account using Blogger, I created a blogroll on my blog using a free service called BlogRolling, I added a clustr map to my blog which tracks the number of people who access my blog (interesting to collect those statistics and follow the growth), I created a free account in Bloglines to gather RSS feeds to my favorite blogs (and other news sources) so that I didn't have to go to each one individually to see if it had been updated.

In the process, I've also started working on a wiki that I'm planning to use in my work this year. (acutally, I think that's going to be part of my own personal professional development project and my goal for the next school year)  In it, I've started to work on creating some content related to various aspects of the professional development going on in my district right now. Included there,  I'll be listing all of the new technologies that I'm working with and this list will be updated as needed.  But even more importantly, the applications of those technologies to instruction will be developed.  In education, we can't jump on every new technology just because of it's "coolness factor."  We have to consider its application to learning and student achievement.  When we do this we begin to shift our pedagogy in ways that make those technologies more accessible and more useful in student learning and achievement. Stay tuned...more to come.

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