Professional Learning

What’s the Greatest Edtech Tool?

May 12, 2016 Updated May 9, 2016

For a little over 14 months, I've spent more time than I'd like to admit scouring the internet (with a heavy focus on twitter) looking for great edtech ideas and tools. I've been reading articles from well-known and followed 'gurus' and many lesser-known yet often equally insightful educators. I've learned a lot; through my TLLP I've been given the chance to lead a team of educators who are willing to take risks and who are comfortable trying approaches where success isn't guaranteed. Though there is one more feedback survey to be done, so far the responses from the team and the observations I've had the chance to make would suggest that we've all grown as professionals and as leaders thanks to this project.

As we've moved along from October to May, I've supported team member with various resources and through asynchronous collaboration on TeachOntario and through our team OneNote. I've thrown far too many emails with resources and ideas at the team hoping that someone might find what I'd sent useful for their classroom; most of the time I was at least partially correct. Team members gladly accepted the challenges and opportunities that their participation in the TLLP (and my personal vision for it) presented.

Perhaps the best part of the project was that team members provided their own half-day professional development sessions for two of their colleagues and since them have made themselves available as technology mentors/coaches to those colleagues. All told, the project has helped to directly improve professional capacity with technology for 30 teachers and two administrators and, even more importantly, helped change the school's overall culture around collaboration and technology for the better.

Through my scouring and the team's implementation, I've had the pleasure of learning and, more importantly, USING edtech tools that allow students to collaborate and express themselves in ways that might not be possible without the given digital tool. Ultimately, the implementation of any digital tool that I have now learned relies on the simple fact that I HAVE learned it. That is, I can reap the benefits of, Nearpod, for example, because I've been able to create with it and, in that way, can empathize with my learner while supporting their use of the tool. Even if I'm of the mindset that a high level of free exploration will benefit my students, I need to be proficient enough to troubleshoot and support those reluctant learners who simply won't 'jump in' and every classroom has at the very least a few of them. I wrote about this topic in a previous post where I did my best to promote the authentic, creative use of digital tools by educators as a prerequisite for effective classroom implementation.

By now you've figured out that I am not going to point out the 'greatest edtech tool" per se; I think several of them are great and, yes, I do have some favourites including Explain Everything, Padlet, OneNote, and Nearpod, but any tool or group of tools that I point out would be limited and based on my personal preferences and biases. What I can say with confidence and total objectivity is that YOU, my reader, as part of your organization's culture have the potential to be the 'greatest edtech tool' possible. What has made Effective Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age - @HCTLLP such an enjoyable and, hopefully, effective endeavour has been the culture of learning that we have successfully created, at first for the team of 12 educators we started with and then, progressively, as influencers for our colleagues in the school. We've even been successful in encouraging, promoting and modelling the effective use of digital tools to our school board peers through our consistent sharing on twitter.

So, ironically, the greatest edtech tool isn't available on your tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop. The greatest edtech tool is informed, inspired teacher leadership complemented by a culture of collaboration and risk taking. It's not about the technology, it's about the people and their commitment to meaningful learning.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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