Monday, June 20, 2011

Digital Tools for Teaching

I’ve often compared writing and publishing a book to pregnancy, labor, and birth. Within the context of that simile, if I help a friend or student write or publish a book I either feel like a midwife or grandmother.

When I received my copy of Steven Johnson’s book, Digital Tools for Teaching, I definitely felt like a proud grandma. I hadn't contributed one iota to the content. Instead, I introduced him to Julia Graddy, my publisher at Maupin House.

I met Steve three years ago when he participated in the “Is There a Children’s Book Inside of You?” NCCAT  seminar  which Joyce Hostetter and I co-led. At first he successfully hid his expertise as a technology facilitator and focused on writing a funny picture book. But when he leafed through Teaching the Story and we began brainstorming the digital tools which could enhance the process of writing short stories, the second edition of my book was born. 

Steve and & I brainstorming at NCCAT

After Steve wrote twelve technology mini-lessons for my book, he began work on his own project with Maupin House. He wanted to create a book that would make technology accessible to every teacher--even those who were techno-phobic.  His dream was to provide an overview of e-tools which can be used in the classroom,  show how they could be used in a variety of subject areas, and meet the needs of a variety of techno-savvy elementary and middle school students.

No small task. But with the able help of my editor, Emily Raaj, Steve accomplished exactly that.

The first thing that will reassure teachers overwhelmed with digital technology is Steve’s division of thirty e-tools into three groups:  those for newbies, developing users, and advanced users. From there he encourages teachers to rethink their role as educators:

Going forward, our jobs must be about giving our students personalized, relevant instruction that develops their ability to make meaningful sense of the information-rich world they live in. Sure, they can find anything and everything under the sun on the Internet-but do they know what to do with it?  Can they evaluate the accuracy of what they read? Can they analyze and organize the glut of information? How does it improve their lives? They might have the world at their fingertips, but we have the power to guide them towards molding it into something worth creating. p. 4.

Steve next presents the eight characteristics of the “Net Generation.” Reading this will help you understand the different ways in which your students approach the Internet. And, it will help you feel OK about asking your students for help troubleshooting when something goes wrong. In fact, figuring out what went wrong is part of the learning process for everyone.

The meat of this encyclopedia of digital classroom technology, is the 30 alphabetized tools. Each double-page spread explains  what you need to do prior to utilizing the tool in your classroom, tells you how to get started, lists other issues to consider, and provides examples of how to use it in language arts, science, math, and social studies. It would be easy to feel overwhelmed except that the book is very readable and Steve walks you through the process of classroom implementation. If that wasn't enough, Steve offers his website as an on-line "living, breathing resource for all teachers."

Steve's enthusiasum for the power of using digital tools in your classroom is contagious.

Steve in the computer lab at Washington St. School
Rockingham, NC

And I'm not saying that just because I'm the proud grandma.

It's the honest truth. 

Joyce and I are giving away a copy of Steve's book in our next issue of Talking Story. If you haven't subscribed yet, click on the link which will bring you to our last issue. On the top, click on "Subscribe" and then send us an email when you receive your copy in a few weeks.  


Linda A. said...

Congratulations to Steve and to you! You have made a positive influence on him and indirectly on many future educators who will read his book.

Linda A.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comment, Linda I hadn't thought about it like that. That is pretty cool, now that I think about it!

Jean said...

Wow! Some people are so cotton-pickin' smart!

Congratulations, Granny!


elysabeth said...

Congrats to both of you. I like the look of your blog now - keep up the good work, Carol. See you in the postings - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the JGDS, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

Where will the adventure take you next?

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Elysabeth and Jean. Elysabeth--I have to thank my 22 year old daughter for nudging me to change the way my blog looks. GOtta listen to these young folks who know more than we do. WHich is one of the points that Steve makes- we can all learn from this Net Generation (and still teach them a thing or two.)

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

YOu and Steve both have much to be proud of! Great job!

Carol Baldwin said...

Actually, Joyce, I thought you were the great-aunt in the family!

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