Have You Used Every Tool In Your Toolbox? Did You Throw Away Those You Haven’t Used Yet?

kitchen utensils.jpg

Originally uploaded by CieraH

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.

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5 thoughts on “Have You Used Every Tool In Your Toolbox? Did You Throw Away Those You Haven’t Used Yet?

  1. Brian: I think a key point I’m distilling from your post is that it’s critical teachers have varied experiences actually using different technologies for purposes they find individually significant and relevant. After having those types of experiences, teachers are much more likely to have the “a-ha” moment like what you describe for Celeste’s context and the use of Skype. What you are describing is an invention level use of technology, applying tools to new contexts in ways others may not have thought of before. I agree with you that using tools like Twitter opens our minds to new and creative possibilities. It also connects us more tightly with each other, and to our minds/ideas. Those are powerful dynamics. Glad to be twittering with you– this blog post got on my personal attention radar screen because you shared it via twitter yesterday! 🙂

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your argument here – how would anyone be able to ‘grab’ a tool and use it if they didn’t know it existed. I can see with my own teaching that the more tools I have tried or at least know exist, the more ideas and options I can see for ICT integration in the classroom.