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Tech Goes Away: Bet on It!

Obs If you are of a certain age in education, you’ve seen things come and go, watched the pendulum swing crazily in one direction, just to be reversed—often times pushed—to go in the opposite. So, while I’m a proponent of new technology, hardware, software, and now in some ways social media, I realize that not much stays the same—ever—and in technology, just like NASA space shuttles and typewriters—things go away—bet on it.

The other day I listened to a young educator talk about how her fifth-grade class was using Skype to connect with science experts, as well other classrooms around the world, including Australia. Well, none of that’s new, and was done in various ways, from classrooms, since the 90s. Today, teachers who know little more than how to use an Internet-connected computer with an onboard camera can bring the world to their classrooms.

An It’s true that good tech is recycled and made better. I remember watching my own students, ages ago, playing with Apple Newtons—their first real handhelds. I also remember my attempts at supplying my staff with Palm Pilots—not too long ago. Oh well, it was a good idea—then.

It’s just so easy to get trapped into the here and now with technology, and in education technology it’s far too easy to lock in curriculum and lesson ideas with technology geared to a specific product, software, or online offering. Writing curriculum and planning to an interactive technology goal is far better. That way, when the tech changes—and it will—the idea is still educationally solid. Let me apologies to all my educator friends who are writing curriculum specifically to Kindles and iPads, instead of a generic version. Go through your curriculum mapping, and I’m sure you’ll find references to things that haven’t been used, or done, in years.

Right now, Skype seems to be best for video conferencing. That’s a fact, it’s free, easy, and has the best video and audio, but that could change tomorrow. Anyone who had video-conferencing tech plans using the old Microsoft NetMeeting knows that’s true. While NetMeeting could be made to work in classrooms, it was a bit tricky, and today it’s not an option.

Schools working toward using social media with teachers and kids need to be aware that what’s hot now, can change tomorrow, too. I’d prefer, for now, that educators tweet using Twitter rather than friend using Facebook for school use. I may seem conservative—maybe a better word is protective—but I see it for educator use and not for kids—right now. It just scares me when I hear about curriculum being written to Facebook or Twitter.

Funny, I remember defending Google use for my students—forever ago. I had some real battles with district tech, as well as really conservative media specialists over that. Images and inappropriate search results didn’t help. Well, we figured it out—sort of—with a safer Google search for kids, and a bit of filtering software. The latter caused some grief, because it blocked some good results, as well as the bad. We learned that technology was a constant work in progress, and not something you click-fix permanently.

I absolutely love the Personal Learning Network (PLN) concept. It’s not new either, but most educators use the idea. I belong to The Educator's PLN, which has over 6,500 members. Instead of meeting around coffee for 15 minutes, educators can share 24/7/365. While some districts have required these, most teachers are forming and joining PLNs on their own—taking pride in them.

Now, there’s a constant for you—educators figuring “many and varied” ways—(I was Madeline Hunterized)—to share—“my problem is your problem”—(and Stephen Coveyized)—what they know with others.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Royal Treatment are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.