Don't try to control it

A comment left by Dan Christian yesterday on my post about the changing landscape of blogging. Has me back here thinking about my job as an educational technologist.

First I think we need to understand how I view my job and what I think the job of an educational technologist should include.

First and foremost we are educators. Our job is to educate. Our students range in age from 60+ to less than 5 years old. Our mission is to teach them how to use technology to learn, create, be more productive or make a task easier. The only way we can do that is to have a solid understanding of what is out there, that tools exist both as part of the computer’s operating system and on the web that allow us to do our job easier, to learn differently, or connect us to people, thoughts, ideas that we never had access to before.

Our job….is to explore!

Our job….is to understand!

Our job…is to motivate!

Our job…is to change habits!

Our job…is to support!

Our job…(leave your thoughts in the comments)

So when Dan asked the question yesterday:

How do we keep from continually dividing/splitting off conversations?

Answer: You can’t! You can’t control the web, you can’t keep the conversation from splitting into different parts; into niches. That’s what the web is so good ate. Yes….having one big conversation would be great…but at the same time overwhelming. The splitting of conversations on the web allows each individual to choose the conversation they want to follow (aka network). On Twitter for example, you follow the conversations you want. You create your niche (or personal) network on Twitter. You don’t want to hear about the group around dogs….or maybe you do. Only you can decide that. Twitter allows the conversations to be split. We see it in the use of Nings as well. There is a Ning site for almost any niche in education. Sure we could all benefit from one large Ning, but then again…it would be to “noise” for me and I wouldn’t be able to find my place.

I don’t have the answers…but whereas I realize we need to be using
multiple tools as technologists, that is not such an easy sell to get
faculty, teachers, instructors on board with using yet more tools…

And this is the ultimate role of the educational technologiest. Our job is to know all of…or as many as we can…tools that can be used to further learning. Our job is to understand how these tools and technologies can be used so that teachers don’t have to.

We can’t give the tools to people when they don’t need them…there first needs to be a need for the tool.

The first question I ask any teacher is: “What do you want students to learn?” The second question is “What’s your idea to get there?”

As the teacher is talking, I (and maybe this is just me) can start to visualize what tool they are talking about. They might not be talking about a technology at all, but I can usually visualize a digital tool that can reach the outcome they are after through their idea.

Start with the idea and apply the tool.

If you start with the tool first…you have a lesser chance of effecting learning. This happens to me quite often. A teacher will come to me and say “I want to blog.”

OK, that’s great, but why? What are you thinking? Why do you want to blog? What do you know about a blog?

From there I try and understand what the teacher wants to do, what is the outcome they are looking for. Maybe it is a blog that is best, maybe what they really want is a wiki, or just to use Inspiration.

My point….don’t try to control the conversation on the web. Don’t try to control the learning in the classroom. Allow the thoughts and ideas to control where you go. You can’t force conversations to happen in a certain spot or in a certain way. You have to be able to build a place for conversations to happen. As an educational technologiest you have to be able to understand the tools and be able to teach those tools, apply those tools, and support those tools within your school. The more you know, the more powerful you become as a resource for teachers and students.

Don’t just learn blogs, wikis, and twitter…learn all of it! Your a technology person…go out there and learn it all! And by that I mean get yourself a network of like minded folks that know it for you. You can’t know it all…but you can build yourself a network that will know more collectively than you will ever be able to learn as an individual.