Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Virtual Toolbox

Growing up, my family affectionately called me the mechanically declined one. It’s not that I don’t know how to fix things and build things... Ah! Who am I kidding? If you need a handyman, don’t call me. I’ll gladly help you with a project, but don’t count on me to be the brains or to do anything technical.

I know what a saw does, but there are so many different kinds of saws! Depending on what you’re cutting and what you want your cut to look like, there are all sorts of saws you can use.  One day this past spring I was using a standard hand saw to cut branches off a tree.  I’m sure I looked hilarious to my neighbor who brought me a...I don’t know what it’s called...a tree saw.

I have many tools in my garage, and I know how what to do with half of them. Some tools can be used for multiple jobs.  Some tools can be made to work for other jobs they weren’t intended for.  Some tools can be broken by using them for the wrong purpose.  

Sometimes I’ll be hanging out with other men who can talk tools and projects and use a language that I can only pretend to understand.  I’ll confess, there are times when I feel a bit inferior and not “one of the guys.”  


I wonder how many of my colleagues feel like that when us techies start talking shop around them? Do they feel inadequate?  Do they feel lost? Do they look at the iPads in their rooms and feel like I would feel if someone told me to change a carburetor? (Wait! That would be a fuel injector now, wouldn’t it?)  

There are things I would love to be able to do as a school. Collaborating with another school in another state, country, or continent. Going paperless. Create exciting iPad apps. But, I know that these are only dreams till teachers are able to lead students to do them.  That is still a long ways away for our school.

Educational technology is not going away. You may find a school that emphasizes technology less than another, but it’s a driving force behind education today.  

Will putting more tools in their toolboxes help them do a better job using those tools?  If the amount of unused tools in my garage can testify to this question, the answer would be a resounding NO! I have tools out there that I remember being excited to get, only to use them twice, or once, or never, and now collect cobwebs in some forgotten corner.

Here’s a thought that hit me only a short time ago.  Maybe less is more.  Ponder this briefly.  

Let’s be highly selective of the software and apps we ask our colleagues to use and train them well in how to use them.

Right now, my school is embarking upon a huge common core alignment.  I can feel the blood, sweat, and tears coming out of this non-planner. It’s going to be a tough road for a couple years till we have it all figured out. Do we also want to stress our colleagues out with every cool app that comes down the pike?

What if we picked a few important objectives for our apps and software and only put our precious resources (time and money) into learning and training those?  If we can do that well, then maybe our colleagues will enjoy some technological success and want to explore some more.

Then again, maybe one day I’ll enjoy a side business in furniture building. (Hey! Don’t laugh! It’s a worthy dream!)

Help me out, please.  I’m going to share these thoughts with my principal soon.  What are your reflections on what I’m saying? What are your thoughts? How do you arrange your virtual toolbox?

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