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Technology: Walk, Don’t Run And Slide, Don’t Jump

Technology: Walk, Don’t Run And Slide, Don’t Jump
It’s important to test the waters before plunging into a major social media experiment. Photo by Brian Uhreen.

Have you heard about Pinterest? It is the latest, greatest new thing. Already people are using it in education. Already social media maven types are talking about how to make money out of it. Don’t you think you better jump in it?

To be honest, I hope you don’t. Not because it is a bad thing, not because it is bad for teaching. The reason why I say this is because if you are like me, then you don’t know that much about it.

New technology tools are arriving thicker and faster than ever before. Most of them are geared towards the social aspect of people’s lives: hobbies; making connections; strengthening relationships. It is no surprise that educators see possibilities in this. One of the ways we learn is through connections and sharing our interests.

Where the risk lies is in the uncritical adoption of whatever new technology tool appears on the scene. Some of the problems include

  • Not having a real need for it. You could be choosing a technology that doesn’t solve the problem you are experiencing, or doesn’t match what you are trying to achieve.
  • Not reading the manual. If you jump in too fast, you may find that the tool doesn’t work in the way you expect or even do what you want. This can be embarrassing to find out midway through teaching course.
  • The manual not being right. Sometimes, the developers of the technology tool will gloss over limitations or differences in the functionality of the tool. You might have read that it will integrate with something else you already use in your teaching, only to discover that what the developer meant by ‘integration’ is downloading and uploading a csv file.

These are all problems of moving too fast and not doing your homework. Adopting technology is a little bit like going for a swim in an unfamiliar lake. You need to be cautious.

I recommend following these steps:

    1. Survey the landscape – Read about the tool. Read what the developers say it does and what other people say.
    2. Dip your toe in the water – Sign up for an account. Sign up for a trial version if there is a cost involved.
    3. Enter the water gradually – Don’t commit to teaching with the tool until you are sure about it.

Finally, keep in mind the problem you are trying to solve and what you are trying to achieve. Pinterest may be great for design students developing the habit of collecting inspirations, but a disaster for physics students learning to solve equations.