Do you have tools you keep somewhere in your house? If you do, are there some of those tools you have never used? Say a socket for your wrench set that you’ve just never had reason to use?
How about kitchen utensils. Do you have some that maybe you got as a gift that you’ve just never used?
OK, one more question. Can you ever remember suddenly having a use for one of the tools or utensils and being glad you had it? I had a car once that I had for 4 or 5 years and had never used the jack, and obviously the previous owner hadn’t had reason to either because it was still wrapped in the original paper – but when I got a flat out in the middle of nowhere I was sure glad I had that tool (jack). I had no experience using the jack but the directions were there and I figured it out and I made it home safely.
What’s the point? The current Web 2.0 discussions have doubted the usefulness of applications like Flickr and Twitter (but others too). I’m not sure yet how I might ever use Twitter in my classroom … but I’m glad its “in my toolbox” because if I ever see a legitimate educational use for it I have it available to use. If I didn’t have that jack in my car when the flat occurred, or I didn’t even know there was such a thing, I would have been stuck.
Skype is a great example. Wes Fryer invited people about a year ago to join a Skypecast he was moderating about edtech. I had never used Skype, didn’t even have an account (I had used iChat once before). So I got an account, joined Wes’s Skypecast and another later in the summer. So lo and behold the situation with Celest came up and it literally occurred to me that instant that Skyping her into class just might work, just because it was in my toolbox. I hadn’t used Skype with my students before … hadn’t even been on Skype at school, but it became a possibility just because I knew about it and saw a potential use. I’m sure there are similar stories you could tell about using wikis or blogs or whatever. So whether its Twitter or Second Life or the next web 2.0 app that comes out, I just hope I have the time to put them in my toolbox so they are there when I might need them. I mean do you throw out the sockets for your wrench that you have never used?
So those that doubt the usefulness of playing with and learning these applications (Twittering our lives away) I say bunk. Its only a waste of time if it becomes too much of a distraction and negatively impacts your work. As professionals we are supposed to be able to moderate ourselves and make just those kinds of decisions.
Learning is messy.