When So Much Is Too Much; Narrowing the Tools We Use

This was originally posted on my own blog on June 23, 2010 in preparation for the 2010-2011 school year. As we begin the school year, this plan is becoming a reality.

This year at my school, we have done a lot of work with technology integration in our own professional development. We have started to look at a lot of different websites and how they can impact our school. I personally have signed up, it seems like, for EVERY website possible, just so I can get a feel for it. I sometimes never make it past 5 minutes with a service after signing up, and I never use it again. I have used everything from Foursquare (addicting but I have no idea how it could be used in education) to WordPress.com (where I started this blog in the first place). It seems to never end.

Working with my educational technology team, we discussed about limiting the resources that we worked with in our school. I would never as an administrator ask people to not try different sites in the classroom (the importance of risk taking), but we are looking at what we can support as a team. The more we look at these different sites in the classroom, the less time we are seeming to actually gain educational value from them and the more we are just “playing”. This will also help to build capacity within the school while not overwhelming staff with SO many different tools. By using the same sites, staff and students will develop a deeper learning on how to use these sites effectively for learning while building a support network within the school. Instead of focusing so much on the “How“, we will be focusing more on the “Why“.

As an administrator and one of the technology leads in our school, here are the Web 2.0 tools that I am trying to focus on using within our school for next year so that we all have a solid understanding on how they can be implemented in the upcoming year.

  1. Twitter – This is a great tool for connecting with other educators in the world and hopefully connecting with people in our community. I know that this is an amazing resource and I can always count on my PLN to help me out with almost anything (including hotels in Rome for my summer vacation!).
  2. WordPress and Buddypress – We have tried everything from Kidblog to Edublogs in our school year (which are great services), but have decided to go with hosting our own blogs using WordPress. Part of the reason for this was that there are no advertisements on the free version and that we can host it on our own server. Through WordPress MU, we have the ability of the school to open and close any blogs that are connected to our site, while also providing an easy way for students and staff to create blogs through Buddypress. Buddypress creates an online community for our school where we can not only share ideas, blog posts, and have discussion, but also have a way that we can connect with our entire school community including parents. We are excited about what these two sites can do for our school and how we will be able to connect and communicate.
  3. Diigo – Many at our school have been using Diigo as a way to share their favourite bookmarks with students and staff. It is a great social bookmarking site where you are able to highlight, comment, and share links. Instead of continuously sharing links, one after another on the same topic, it is easy to just send ONE link that will continuously update and house links (for example, here is a list of SmartBoard links I have created throughout the year). It is a great and easy way to bookmark sites for students and staff.
  4. Drop.io – We looked at adding USB sticks for kids on their supply lists, but it is hard to justify when they are so easily lost and there are services like this that can easily store student files. Some students in our school may not have Internet access so the school can provide USB sticks for them, but drop.io is easy enough to store files that can be downloaded and uploaded from any place that has access to the Internet. If we can alleviate financial costs for students, why wouldn’t we?
  5. Google Apps – Looking at how students could have email, we ended up going with Google Apps. This does not only give students email but also opens up the use of Google Docs, Google Calendar, and other services that Google Apps offers. The main reason we started with Google Apps for next year was that it provided free email, but it definitely can provide so much more in the future.

There are SO many things that we can be using and you may not agree with the services that we are using but it is important that we start moving forward. By narrowing the services down, we will help our staff and students to share their knowledge in using these sites while helping to focus on improving the learning environment of the school. This is not about new technology, but being effective with it.

I am not sure if these are the essential tools but they are just ones that we can narrow our focus on. Are there any essential sites that are missed from this list? I would love to hear your thoughts.

4 Comments

  1. Dave Bircher said:

    I like your list. Drop.io I need to explore. I looked at Google Apps before and would like, but I believe is quite expensive. Not sure if my budget could handle that. Also, our div. is pretty Mircosoft based so not sure of div. funds. for Google Apps.

    I would like to investigate Voicethread as one of our tools. It is very inexpensive and can be used across grade levels and with community. I like the idea of using it to develop CCT skills as much as possible. I think it is a good tool that provides “bang for the buck.”

    Here’s to a great start to the year.

    August 27, 2010
    Reply

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