Last week I wrote a post that posed the question:
Are we using the RIGHT tools at the RIGHT time with the RIGHT people?
Let's focus this post on the RIGHT TOOLS. We all know there are plenty of tools we can use in teaching and learning. There are web-based tools, software, hardware, print resources, writing utensils, manipulatives and so much more. The question is how do we know what is the RIGHT tool?
Our district, like many I am sure, have studied Robert Marzano and his Classroom Instruction That Works book. We even have the 9 High Yield Instructional Strategies incorporated into our Classroom Walkthrough data. The biggest ah-ha! moment for me as I learned about the strategies came when I heard him speak about the erroneous understandings most people have about his research.
Marzano tells educators to stop viewing the strategies as a checklist that has to be done every lesson/day/week. Even the best strategy when used can produce negative results. Teachers need to know which tool to pull out of their toolbox for the right situation (which I will address in the next posts). To apply this reasoning to the use of technology or instructional materials as a whole is very appropriate. There are times when the best tool to use for teaching and learning may be to use a pencil and paper (I realize as a technologist I am committing blasphemy here). The key to planning is to start with the curriculum FIRST and then find the right tool. The lesson should never be about the tool. We do not start planning a math lesson saying, "What am I going to do with this pencil?" We need to match the tool to the content not the reverse.
The job of a teacher is to make sure he/she has the knowledge of what tools are available and how to best apply that tool. This can be done through workshops, reading professional journals and magazines, talking with other teachers, sharing on Facebook and Twitter, and so many other ways. For me, Twitter became the learning network I tapped into early. There I get short (140 characters or less) bits of information on resources that others are using and how the may have implemented it. The most satisfying part is being able to pass that same information on to others easily. One of my closest friends is a media coordinator/guidance counselor in Virginia. She follows my Facebook and Twitter feeds and then shares it with her staff at school.
Having a personal learning network (PLN) can be the key to understanding what are the RIGHT tools. I use my PLN to find tools that others are successful with integrating into the curriculum. Below are some of my favorite posts (found through Twitter over time and saved in Diigo):
The Technology Toolbox: Choosing the Right Tool for the Task By Kim Cofino
State of New Jersey Department of Education Technology Toolbox
70 Tools in 70 Minutes Presentation by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
50 Web 2.0 Tools Your Students Want You To Use
Once a teacher understands the tools available and fills his/her toolbox, the next stage is to understand the RIGHT TIME to use those tools.