Plus Cool

I just bought a new phone. Yesterday morning when I put my phone in my purse, it was in one piece. When I took it out that afternoon, it was in two. I am not sure what happened but my daughters were looking a little guilty. Since I have no home phone,  I bought a new phone against my will.

The man said this phone was an upgrade. Since my daughters use the phone to call grandma, my main concerns when purchasing one are cost and durability. But the upgrade cost the same as my old phone, so I was intrigued. When I opened it up, it looked pretty cool: sleek new cover, keypad, speakers you can actually see.

You know what my new phone does? The same things my old phone does. The keypad is nice since I text my husband a lot and the speakers are easier for the kids to use for speaker phone, but neither was a problem with my old phone. Neither makes my life any easier or more efficient now.

My phone reminds me of how schools think of technology. Some teachers are so excited to get something new, something better, that they don’t realize that they are doing the same old things. Teachers who flip on the doc cam only to use it like an overhead. Teachers who take kids to the computer lab only to limit what they see and read, treating the internet like a textbook. Yet they feel, honestly feel, they are using technology in a new way. The gizmo is, after all, new.

I teach writing. I know that there are a lot of programs that I can use to teach writing, but many of them aren’t any better than pencil and paper. Sure the kids might like to use them, but we run into the issues of how to save it so they can continue to work on it after we leave the lab, how hard is it to teach kids to use the program, what to do if a kid is absent on the day we are in the lab, etc. In order for a new program to be worth it to me, it needs to do what I can do in class better, not just differently. It has to provide an opportunity to do something that I can’t do in class. It has to show students something that I can’t demonstrate in class. It has to engage the students beyond the means that I can without it. It’s  too much hassle to take them to the lab just for something cool.

By the way, I do know of some programs that are more than cool. Those I am willing to try, use and teach to others. Those are worth the time. Those are plus cool. Edmodo. Open Office (not new, but easier). Google Wonder Wheel. Plus cool.

And my husband loves the new phone.

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