Start with the idea and apply the tool

It’s always nice when someone else manages to clarify your own thoughts for you – saves a blood, tears etc. Today while scanning through my subscriptions in Google Reader I came across a post by Jeff Utech.

The line that rang true for me was “start with the idea and apply the tool”.

Because I am a “technology expert” in my school, and often for my students, I tend to try to find ways to teach them the tools (either online or pieces of software installed locally).  Instead, I should be coming up with authentic uses for these tools, so that the students can see a purpose in learning and using them.

I have always struggled with this idea because I’d really like my students to learn about IT for IT’s sake (it is a dedicated subject after all).  I know that I’d be a better (more capable and confident) driver if I actually knew how my car worked, so my thinking has always been that my students will be better “drivers” of IT if they understand more about “what’s under the bonnet”.

Jeff is right though, it just doesn’t work when you teach the tool just because you want your students to learn the tool. They’re not engaged, there’s no purpose, there’s no meaning.  Sure, it looks good. You can say “we’re blogging”, or “my students have a ning”.  But the content won’t be worth anything – there probably won’t be much content anyhow.

So, how do I come up with ideas to use the tools for? <– doesn’t make sense, because that’s not how it works. That’s like putting the cart before the horse.  I think I need to brainstorm the topics, subtopics, ideas, themes and other groups of stuff that I’d like my students to learn about (the content), then find the web2.0 tools to do this.

Jeff also says “allow the thoughts and ideas to control where you go”.  That’s pretty much my conclusion.  I need to redefine, re-establish, re-list, the thoughts, ideas, concepts, topics that I want to cover.  After all for Gen Y (both my generation, and my students’ generation) tools are irrelevant. It’s knowing how to access the tools, being able to choose which tool to use.

It’s all too easy to get stuck in the mindset of many of my colleagues.  Because the tools are buzzwords for them – they’re not digital natives – they don’t know how to access the tools when the need arises. So, they plan for the tool, not for the idea.

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