Spotlight Article
That’s the way of the World: Digitizing Your Best Practices
October 19, 2011 at 2:45am

Spotlight will now include a new feature--recurring blog entries about using technology in the classroom. See below for the first entry and digitize your best practices!

Apple iPad 2

The inquisitive part of me loves finding a good gadget and putting it to use. I see every tool as an opportunity to augment my practice. My past is littered with devices -- overhead projectors, Palm Pilots, three-pound tablets PCs... At one point, all of them were heralded as game-changing technology. I think it's safe to say that each new innovation changed the game accordingly. As it is with teaching though, the game didn't wait. It kept changing. New devices emerged. The old ones now live in the bottom of my junk drawer.

Part of being a 21st century educator means recognizing that the tools change. Often. But though the tools change, our mission has remained the same -- we see children and we forge the future.

As the tools that rest beside that forge get more and more complex, consider this blog to be a guide to what works -- at least for right now.

[Entry I]

"Until lions have historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." -African Proverb

For the last two years I've been in love with my iPad. This device's introduction and meteoric rise has paralleled another dramatic shift in education. The discourse around teaching and teachers has taken a turn toward the negative. As we consider education, the conversation has shifted from what’s best for kids to what’s wrong with teachers. In this debate, teachers are alarmingly underrepresented.

The iPad is an incredible tool for promoting student learning, but it can also be used to promote the profession and the diversely brilliant people who personify it. The following is a short beginner’s list of content creation and social media apps that can not only give you access to the world beyond your classroom, but the power to shape it. You’ll be impressed at how by just investing 15 minutes a day in your own professional writing and publishing online, you can have a voice in the world, and in this political jungle, we need as many historians as we can get.

Twitter

Twitter has been around so long that it’s almost considered “old school.” The microblogging site and app allows you to follow people’s thoughts, comments, favorite links and media. Why is this important for teachers? Because everyone has twitter now. Your city council people have it. Your local parks and rec has it. Leaders in the field, consultants, school districts, unions, and advocacy groups all use it to communicate quickly, and the best part is, you can communicate back. Immediately. Busy people (Who among us is not?) are more apt to answer a tweet in 140 characters than they are to answer an email. A quick search on twitter of your favorite educational terms can yield amazing results. Go to Twitter and get started!

Flipboard or Pulse

These are two of the most popular “readers” out on iPad now. Both of these apps set up channels on your iPad where content that you specify is delivered all to one place. Why is this important for teachers? Because you need to stay informed, and you can use these applications to “subscribe” to content from leading educational blogs and publications, and you don’t have to worry about scrambling all over the web to find it. It’s all delivered right there to you. You’ll never be the only person in the room who has not read the latest New York Times education piece again. You can get the latest on professional organizations, opportunities to publish or collaborate, and you can often post comments or reactions or even repost links to your own blog or twitter.

Wordpress

A lot of educators resisted the blog movement early on, because to many, blogging meant that you had to sit attached to your computer at your desk. With the advent of mobile tools like the iPad, your blog can move as quickly as you do. Wordpress is the easiest to use on the iPad, but the device’s built-in safari browser can give you quick access to any blog site that you use – even the class blogs that your school or district may have set up through any number of providers. I’ve found that parents are the most active users of many of the blogs that I’ve kept. I use every opportunity to encourage them to visit by posting pictures video, artwork, and student writing. (Make sure you get digital permissions first.) Community members comment back to you, and as an educator, that feedback is monumentally important.

The best technology that any teacher can use is one that gives authentic voice to the revolutionary work that we do each day.