Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Skype and Linear Thinking in Technology

A colleague in my office and I discussed the fact that we both had skype accounts last week. I need to do some investigating with what the computers on our teachers desks have for audio and video setup. While newer computers have built-in webcams and such, I'm not sure that our classroom computers are quite there yet.

I did have an interesting experience with Skype last winter at the NSDC (National Staff Development Council) winter conference. I was in a session on technology and the presenter contacted a teacher in Kansas who was doing some work in her classroom that was related to the topic of conversation in our workshop session. The contact was clearly not arranged in advance, but the teacher was able to share some insights about her work in the classroom and we could see the class working behind her. A couple of students quickly shared what they were doing and we thus had instant examples and feedback around the staff development topic we were discussing. It was a very powerful moment.

Like many of the tools that we are experiencing in this class, the hardest piece is going to be getting teachers to understand the possibilities and to become comfortable with the technology. Last week I participated in a webinar being presented by some graduate students here at the U. Their topic was related to how to utilize technology in a single computer classroom, and they had some examples including Aaron Deuring's work with science. What was really interesting; however, was the fact that the presentors were experiencing some technical difficulties. We used that moment to have a short discussion about how technical problems can push teachers away from using technology and they are very reluctant to return. At the same time, technical difficulties are inevitable. Particularly when our own knowledge of the technology is pretty limited.

Anyway, skype is still at the edges of my own usage as my network of tech savvy folks is limited. My own life is more like the single computer classroom model, where technology is becoming collaborative but where many applications have to do with creating and delivering content in models that still resemble linear traditional settings.

The real question is how do we move forward to truly capitalize on the collaborative possibilities? Yes.

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