This term I introduced my students to Nings, Diigo and–for some–moodle. Most already know how to work a wiki and all are fluent with Google Apps. That’s a lot of stuff and I expected the kids to feel at least a little confused and frustrated.
And they do.
But their behaviour suggests that their confusion and frustration isn’t caused only by the number of tools they have to use. Indeed, they are quite adept at learning how to work any number of new games. I wonder if another part of problem is that they see a computer as a tool that delivers entertainment and not a tool for doing work. I need to clarify that: I think they do see that you can use a computer to produce things–word documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoints and so on. But they don’t see that we can use a computer to discuss and publish work. (That wouldn’t be surprising because I don’t think anyone has yet shown them how to that.)
So now when we talk to our students about new technologies, we divide the tools we’re using at IPS into four categories based in function with the idea that this structure might help kids see things more clearly:
Google Apps, Jing, video editors, Garageband etc.
Nings, Diigo, IM, email
wikis (there are other platforms, but these are best compromise of ease of use and sophistication for our grade 6 – 9s)
Google calendar and moodle edmodo
I realize there is some overlap in the capacities of theses tools. Wikis also make excellent discussion platforms, for example. But my hope is that this structure actually gets us away from talk about the tools and moves us to talk about the function, which I think is more important.
What do you see in your classrooms? How are your students taking up new technologies? How do you deal with gathering up all the output from all the tools?
Since writing this post I’ve added a fifth category of tools: research tools such as Google and Bing, but also custom search engines, RSS and Twitter.