Cool Tools Series

I am really big on usability. I have been to too many conferences that discussed big ideas, but never really described how to implement that big idea. For several years I did an hour long general social studies and technology presentation for various groups at the local county office of education and a number of conferences. While I think the content was powerful and they were always well-received, they were far from practical. I would go through 20 or 30 slides and talk about different strategies and assignment types. I would show off some of my projects and would usually end with WebQuests – explaining why and what, but there was never any time to explain how. No doubt, many teachers walked out of those sessions thinking there are some really cool ways that this guy uses technology, but I don’t know where to start.

Web 2.0 changes that. I no longer need all day to explain WebQuests and how to get started making one (although it would be nice). We have QuestGarden. Back when I was doing those presentations anyone could create online content – as long as you knew how to use Dreamweaver (or could code html), had access to a server, knew what ftp meant, was able to successfully ftp your files, and didn’t get stuck anywhere along in the process. Now anyone with a computer can really create content. Today’s tools (mostly) take the technical difficulties out of the equation. I do think that during those early years a lot of teachers passed on technology projects because of the hassle factor – who can blame them? It was a tremendous hassle. Now that the road block is gone, we have find ways to find those teachers we lost along the way and make sure the new ones keep current.
In that spirit I am starting an irregular series of posts on how teachers can practically integrate and use technology. For each post I talk about a specific idea or activity, the technology tool it uses, and any logistical issues you need to consider. Some will no doubt be more technology-based and others more conceptual. I will also hit upon teacher productivity and curriculum.

If you have any suggestions, please comment or e-mail me at danmcdowell at gmail dot com.

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