It’s about the learning, not the tools…

Frankly I’m tired of tools.  Exhausted from experimenting. Weary of web 2.0 options popping up on a daily basis… Well not entirely 🙂

At one point, I was excited to keep trying out new tools, figure out how they work, share them with my colleagues and use them to support learning and engage my students.  I wrote a post a while ago  saying I would start a series sharing one new tool that I tried each week… but never continued the series.  I used to support Linda, our ICT coordinator in introducing a new tool at every session of our early morning tech sessions for teachers.  But, while I am still experimenting with new tools, learning and exploring new possibilities, I have decided to slow down.  It’s important for the learning to drive things, not the technology.

which tool?Most of our teachers are willing to have a go, but not yet entirely comfortable with technology.  They are still daunted by too many different tools, when and how to use them.  So, this week we started using our tech sessions in a different way.  Instead of introducing new tools, we will revisit the ones that teachers have already been shown and discuss further possible ways of using them to enhance learning.  And give teachers and students a bit more time to consolidate and become completely comfortable with each tool in their toolbox.

We started by revisiting Voicethread. If you’ve been with me since the start, you’ll know it’s one of my favourites. To start off with Michele from our junior campus showed us the fabulous connection our 5 year olds made with a school in the US  using Voicethread. (more about that next time.)

Everyone shared ideas for how Voicethread might be used.  As a way for students to respond to an image or video related to their units of inquiry. As a place to share their own inquiry findings and have other kids, teachers and parents comment.  As an opportunity for discussion, a way to collaborate with people in other places, an option for a text response, a way of practising skills of speaking, listening, reading, writing.  Claire liked the idea of setting up a Voicethread as one of her literacy rotations, where kids could respond to a text in an engaging way, without teacher supervision.  Des thought it would be great to upload a talk she had heard and have her class comment on it.  Or perhaps all the Year 4 classes could collaborate.  Rubi has a contact at a PYP school in Mumbai and hopes to connect with kids there for a unit on understanding other cultures.  Talila loves the idea of getting her students to engage in Hebrew conversation.

We talked about how to scaffold thinking so that students’ contributions to the Voicethread will be meaningful.  I remember reading a blog post last week concerning how to get kids to make more valuable blog comments. Whether they are commenting on a blog, adding to a discssion in Voicethread  or responding to their peers’ learning,  the use of a thinking routine will provide a structure for their thinking.  I have blogged extensively about Project Zero‘s thinking routines in the past and can’t stress enough the part they play in fostering higher order thinking. The ‘Connect Extend Challenge‘ routine for any kind of response in Voicethread (or anywhere else) seemed to us one of the most appropriate.  It enables students to make connections to what they already know, explain how their thinking has been extended and then pose a question about the topic/image/video/presentation which they find challenging. One of the teachers suggested simplifying it for the younger kids to ‘Get one,give one’  –  Say something you got out of it (or learned from it) and something new you can add or suggest.

We always come away from these sessions pleased to have reflected on our practice together, aware of how much we have learned and continue to learn from each other, enthused to have a go at applying new ideas… and I always think how lucky I am to be part of a true community of learners.


8 thoughts on “It’s about the learning, not the tools…

  1. You are so right about this. Every morning I go to my igoogle home page and read through my feeds in my google reader. There are always links to great tools and sites so of course I will go and check them out. Often times they are similar to other tools with maybe a slight variation (e.g.stixy, wallwisher,, etc., other times they are just great to be aware of. Unfortunately, I think that because there is so much out there and we are constantly hearing/learning new ways to do the same thing, that we don’t give ourselves or our teachers time to get to know just a few things well before we are offering up something else to try. So, I agree that rather than offer teachers new, revisit the “old”, learn to use them well and differently, and then move on.


  2. You’re right on target. Have you ever heard of TPACK? (Technological pedagogical content knowledge)
    I keep going back to their framework and thinking about how we use technology. You’re making a lot of references to the intersection of pedagogy and technology as well as content and pedagogy. The proliferation of new tools is overwhelming to be sure. Settling on one tried and true tool and exploring the content and pedagogical connections is a smart move. Hope to keep reading more about your thinking with this. 🙂


  3. Well said. I really like how your team is going backwards and spending time on a tool discussing the process and pedagogy and the options available to them rather than simply racing ahead to the next new thing.


  4. Finding new technologies and tools is fun, but not every tool is equally valuable to the learning process. I think it is valuable to gather and be aware of these technologies so that we have a toolbox to pull from for different type of learning and learners. The collection can become overwhelming if that is the focus. I think that the collaboration and work that you all did together is exactly what needs to happen when we look at how tools can be used for learning. Your pedagogy is sound and that makes the learning rich.


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