Should educators check out the latest and shiniest of web sites? Or should they do the hard work of developing skills?
I work with a lot of teachers. Recently, I had the opportunity to work with new teachers and their mentors. When I work with teachers, I try to do a ton of listening. It is in listening that I usually really find out where the individual is on their journey. By far, most of them are doing really excellent work.
I noticed something recently. It’s nothing new really. But it stuck out. I had several teachers tell about multiple web sites that “you’ve just got to check out”. I knew most of them. But, I ask them a couple of questions:
- Why do you like this site?
- What do students do with it?
- How does this fit into the curriculum?
- What are the potential problems with the site?
- Do we have something that does that already?
I usually get pretty similar answers. Teachers tend to like a site because it is “easy to use” and attractive. Those are two good and important features in educational tools. However, the rest frequently falls down. All too often, teachers don’t consider all the options. There are many teachers who are leaders on the Internet listing the “10 Portfolio Tools for students” and the such. The thing is, you don’t need ten, you need one that works.
I’m not blaming teachers in the classroom. It is human nature to want the fun, new thing. There are lots of competing interests trying really hard to capture the attention of teachers. However, it’s really not in the best interest of education and students that we constantly change what we are doing just to change what we are doing.
So here’s my call to spend some time and do some work. It may not be quite as much fun as constantly checking out new tools, but it will lead to better implementation and thus, better student learning. Free up yourself to really pick a few tools and focus on them. Learn how to really, truly use them effectively.