How Do I Decide What to Use?

   I approach technology integration with an open mind.  It’s important to realize that what works for one teacher, doesn’t necessarily work for another.  We sometimes get stuck in the standardization of what’s happening in the classroom and forget that teachers are people too.  We differentiate for our students and their learning styles.  We also need to differentiate for our teachers and their teaching styles.  I guess that was the hardest lesson that I learned in my transition from having my own computer classes to being IT.  Just because it worked and made sense to me, didn’t mean that it translated into what other teachers did.  It means that I don’t particularly like initiatives that force every teacher to use one program (aside from grades and attendance…consistency there is obviously important.  This article will stick more to class use stuff).  When I see new software out there, I have some simple questions.
    Always, the first question is inevitably, “What does it cost?”  Is it a one time purchase or a yearly subscription?  Is it a site license or per-user license?  And, “Is it worth it?”   Clearly, if it’s free, that’s a good thing.  Beyond that, I begin to have serious doubts as to whether or not I’m going to promote it.  There are just too many free options to believe that districts need to spend money on educational software.  Even Microsoft Office is starting to look like an unnecessary expense with free alternatives like Google Apps and Libre Office.  The other good thing about “free” is that it makes using the software at home an easier expectation (for both teachers and students).
    How easy is it to use?  The easier it is to use, the more likely teachers will be to use it.  Teachers don’t typically want to try incorporating new technology that they are either going to have to invest a lot of time learning or accept that they’ll never understand.  Also, teachers don’t want to give up too much class time teaching students software when the goal is really to learn about the Jurassic Period.  As much as I like Moodle, it is overkill for most teachers (and ugly, which I hate as an excuse to not use it since I care more about functionality).  I’ve found that Edmodo is much simpler and almost as functional (and it looks nicer).  Glogster is another source that I’ve found that both teachers and students are able to sit right down and get to work without much “How To” needed.
    Going back to my belief that technology is not the end result but a tool to achieve or demonstrate learning, how will a teacher use it?  Will it somehow make it easier for students to learn material (studying software)?  Will it make collaboration easier?  Will it make demonstrating learned materials more engaging?  Will it be something that will transfer into their real lives?  Google Apps is a great resource because of how it promotes collaboration by allowing multiple editors at a time (it’s also good for demonstrating knowledge).  Edmodo is also good because it allows students to ask questions to the class (while at home) and get feedback (either from other classmates or from the teacher).
    3 simple questions with no simple answers.  It’s tough to see the whole picture, especially when looking at if something will be a good fit for a school.  I may like it (Moodle) but is it worth my time and effort to promote it if I can only get 2 other teachers to use it?  If it’s free, it’s always an option, I guess.  I try to focus my promotional time and effort towards tools that will be more broadly accepted and used.  If teachers just aren’t buying in, it’s time to count my losses and find an alternative that will get the teachers to bite.  I became a teacher to help educate others, but in this one scenario, I sometimes have to be a salesman.

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