George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

How Can We Use These Things?: Using Web Tools for Teaching and Learning

February 1, 2007

Last night, I was getting ready for some sessions I will be doing at the eTech Ohio conference in February. One of my sessions is titled "Technology with a Purpose: Focusing Digital Technology as a Tool to Support Literacy," and it was while I was putting slides together for it that I got to thinking: I worry that the average participant is going to want to hear how technology can be a silver bullet and do what no mere mortal, teacher or otherwise, has been able to do to date -- namely, impart literacy to kids who have yet to attain it.

My reason for this fear is the increasing marketing of technology dressed up as solutions. You've seen it, I know. All the big industry girls and boys are selling them. And why not? Communities want results, and schools need to provide them. Given the complexity of the task at hand, anyone would be happy to find a solution. Trouble is, I don't think any simple, single-dimension solutions exist. No software, no technical hardware, no classroom design, no curriculum, or lesson plan can do what needs to be done. Rather, a complex and convoluted algorithm is needed -- one that balances people, pressure, perseverance, local places, real-world tasks, digital and traditional tools, and time to create learning.

And then I remembered a piece of mail that went through one of the lists I subscribe to suggesting folks take a look at, a site that describes itself as the "complete" directory of Web 2.0 tools. The directory is staggering, and with venture capital starting to flow back into the tech sector, it will probably grow quickly this year.

Now, many of these Web 2.0 tools aren't really being sold as solutions yet, so I got to thinking, and I asked myself, "How might a creative person make use of some of these tools as part of an overall strategy to support kids as learners and himself or herself as an educator?"

I see podcasting, blogging, wikis, and Moodle becoming better established as parts of many school landscapes, but this list is a collection of edgy folks' hopes and dreams, the great ideas of creative thinkers who imagine that the tool they have designed just might change the way folks work, play, communicate, and so on.

So, how about it? Take a look at the directory, and see if you might not discover something that could help. And then come on back to the good old Spiral Notebook and let the rest of us know what you're going to do. And relax -- no one expects you to find the solution, but everyone can always use another good idea!

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