Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Few Tips for Getting Started With New Technologies

I'm enjoying Kim Cofino's blog. She's been reading Will's book and she's diving into using new, collaborative technologies with students.

Today she blogs about being overwhelmed. At the moment, she seems to be faced with insurmountable options; there are so many good things to try, what should she try next?

Her post got me thinking about a few lessons I've learned as a technology specialist. As I typed them as a comment into her blog, I decided to also post them here.

I don't know that it so much matters where you start. Just keep these things in mind...

  1. It takes three years to get most new ventures really solid. The second year is better, but the third year is golden. Multiply this by 3 if you are trying to move an entire school in a new direction instead of just yourself. (And so, be patient with yourself.)
  2. Start small so that you don't have to fix each mistake 32 times (as in, for each of your 32 classes.
  3. Keep it simple until the kids make it complex. I've seen too many tech projects on which the teachers did most of the learning (and most of the work) because the project was too big and too complex for the students. The final product looked great because the teacher did good work. On the flip side, I've seen great things happen when a few students ran with an idea. They showed up before school, after school, during recess because they were caught up in what they were doing. I don't make them keep it simple :)
  4. Start with one really enthusiastic teacher. Again and again, I've found that one excited classroom teacher who had a good success with a new technology has far more power to get other teachers on board than you will ever have as the tech specialist.
  5. If possible, keep on adding things in for your pilot class. What I find is that once they have an understanding of blogging, adding wikis or Moodle or something else doesn't take as much start up time. I found that each new thing I added (within reason) required less start up time than the one before it. It doesn't sound equitable, but remember that this is a pilot and that you'll be using what you learn to involve more classes at a later time.
  6. There isn't time to fully document what you are doing. The two most important things to try to write down are your sequence (e.g. week 1 we showed the kids the blogs, set up the accounts and got everyone logged in), and to keep a notebook that is just a list of what to change for next year. It doesn't need to be pretty or organized. It just needs to be ONE place to track all those Ahas! of how you should do it differently next time. -- And DON'T wait to do it all at the end of the unit. You will have forgotten half of it, and you'll be too busy gearing up for the next unit to write.

There. None of these are earth-shattering. All of them have been said better by someone before. Now they are here. I hope they help someone.