Keeping up with technology advances when I first started teaching was easy. My school went from the Apple IIe to the LC – huge change, but cool and easy to learn. Software options changed. Floppy disks changed. Printers changed. Still, relatively easy to keep up. And then the Internet happened. And laptops became an option for classrooms. And wireless became the norm. Then projection, IWBs, tablets… The rate of change became more rapid and shows no sign of stopping.
And you know, I’m cool with that. I had to admit a long time ago that I don’t know everything and never will. What I can do is spend a few minutes every day keeping current and connected. Often times, I’m doing this at home on the sofa late in the evening or weekend mornings during cartoon time. But I’m ok with that, too. Some people knit; I Tweet
Seriously, instructional technology is my full-time job. I teach 6th grade technology classes for kids as they begin our 1:1 program, and the rest of my time is spent supporting instructional technology, whether working with kids troubleshooting, with parents concerned about child tech use, with administrators discussing school needs, or with teachers planning or in the classroom. This is what I do, and I love it.
Staying current for me means that:
- I have at least a passing familiarity with all major educational trends (whether or not they involve technology directly).
- I have some familiarity with all major technology trends (whether or not they’ve hit education yet).
- I investigate any trends in education likely to have impact on technology at my school.
- If I hear of a new interest on the part of a teacher, department, or administrator, I check it out.
- I make it my business to learn what is happening at other schools locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
What does this look like? Social media – If you’re an instructional technologist (tech director, tech coordinator, tech mentor, instructional tech specialist, etc.), you can’t “not do” social media. In 2014, this simply isn’t an option if you’re going to do more than a mediocre job. For me:
- Twitter – I follow over 4,000 individuals (will explain later how I “keep up” with that). The vast majority are other educators, but I also follow tech companies/organizations/publishers relevant to what I do. The Twitter chats (See http://cybraryman.com/chats.html for a great list!) are also REALLY helpful. As of today, I have about 7,200 followers. Note: Everything I Tweet also feeds to Facebook.
- Facebook – I’m friends with dozens of educators, most of whom I have made face to face (F2F) contact.
- LinkedIn – It’s important to stay connected with former colleagues before they’re former and after. You never know when these connections will be helpful.
- Diigo – I love collaborative bookmarking. I follow lots of other educators via Diigo and am part of several bookmarking groups. These come to me daily via email, and I skim/save as I have time.
- Blogs – Obviously, I have one (or you wouldn’t be reading this). While I don’t blog regularly, I do share resources via this blog. I have a couple dozen education blogs I follow. I don’t read everything they post, but I skim the feeds regularly via apps (see below) on my iPad.
- Listservs – I’ve been part of EDTECH since the old days (1990s) and have been active on ISED since I began teaching at an independent school about eight years ago.
- Google Groups/Google+ – Many of the listservs I’ve used in the past have migrated to Google tools. Given the ease of Google Groups and Google+, a number of new groups have sprouted. I’m currently involved with regional edtech groups, multiple groups for teachers working with different types of technology, and several non-education groups for specific tool support.
- Google alerts – If there’s something specific I need to monitor, I use this for alerts when new content is posted. At the bare minimum, you should do this for your name (to see if anything with your name is posted openly you don’t know about) and hardware/services you’re using. I just made an alert for Lenovo 11e, a new student device I’m interest in.
A couple of iPad apps have been especially helpful for me in terms of social media management:
- Pinterest – one of our Lower School teachers got me hooked a while back; not a number of us follow each other there.
- Twitter – yes, I still use the basic app
- Zite – an app that customizes your boards based on your interests, likes, and dislikes
- Feedly – once Google Reader shut down, I began using this to manage RSS feeds.
- Flipboard – to better navigate Facebook and skim massive Twitter feed.
I can’t imagine being effective in my position without being connected using social media. I honestly believe that anyone in instructional technology not using social media as a professional tool should either change quickly or reconsider their profession.
Would love to hear what works for you!