Ed Tech Tools

Justifiable Choices

Why Twitter and Facebook Are Not Good Instructional Tools

Take a minute and read that article or let me nutshell its message to me: “New” and “engaging” practices do not mean better. Sometimes they may mean “the same” or “worse.”

I’ve used slideshow presentations for years, teach my 2nd graders how to use it, and occasionally I will slip slideshow creation into the later classes. It’s one tool for presenting information. Before I knew how to make a website, let alone teach it, slideshows came in very handy. My misuse was to let the students use them for writing in paragraphs, but I had no other tool a decade ago for presentation of a large amount of content. Now we blog, wiki, journal, portfolio, and build sites. We still use slideshows, but we use them appropriately, to guide through oral presentations.

So, when I finally had time to look over Prezi, I was instantly engaged. Until I began learning it. All the while I was thinking, “This is just slideshow; I thought it was something more.” Sure, it’s gorgeous, and sure, you must plan–exactly like you plan for a slideshow. After a while, I ditched the idea that I would implement it. The learning curve is too long and I know, I know, that the students will become too engrossed in the look of the project instead of the content. Engaging, but not more beneficial than Google Presentation, which we do know how to use.

This article made me think about the process a teacher should cycle through before implementing any new ed tech tool.  Every one of these should be considered:

  1. Will this tool replace one I have that functions perfectly well? If so, does this one require higher order cognitive activity? If not, why use it?
  2. What is the learning curve of this tool? Any tool requiring more than 15 minutes to activate must be an open-ended, constructive tool (think site building or Google Sketchup) to be worthwhile.
  3. Will the student become more engaged in how the tool’s product looks rather than my real (educational) purpose? Are there distracting bells and whistles? Lots of options, especially visual ones, can distract. If your purpose is to explore visual impact, then the tool is useful. Consider context.
  4. Will the student be distracted by other things the tool offers? In the article above, the author realized that the use of cell phones provided an equal opportunity to not learn.
  5. Is this tool free? Are there any “catches”?
  6. Does this tool require an email? This is no longer really an issue with me because we have GAFE, but prior to that, it was an issue. And it still is an issue with my youngest students in 1st-3rd grade.
  7. Are there any privacy concerns with this tool? Can you turn a student loose with this tool and have zero concerns with how it will be used?

Switch places with the student and pretend you are going to use it. What will distract you? What will attract you? How large is the content platform, and how much flexibility does it offer?

Ideally, a school would require a teacher to validate particular choices made for technology tools. Also ideally, an administrator would have a tech checklist used at observation. Teachers should be able to justify any tech tool for its cognitive value and this is the true priority, justification on a cognitive level.

Did I miss any points above and/or can you offer more insight?


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