Tim (The Toolman) Taylor

Remember the show starring Tim Allen? It was called Home Improvement and if you have never seen it or heard of it be sure and check out this clip here first:


Tim the Toolman always has a better tool in mind for the job at hand. He either thinks the incorrect tool was chosen or he thinks the tool needs a power upgrade. His decision to add “more power” (followed by his well known manly grunt) usually ends up in disaster of some sort. It never goes as planned for poor Tim. He always wants to use the biggest, newest tool but it always fails. Are you picking up on any correlation yet in regards to this week’s 7PM EdChat?

This week’s evening edition of EdChat was about technology tools that are truly being used for learning. We shouldn’t use them just because they’re the newest, coolest Ed Tech tool out there. I think we all have been like Tim The Toolman at one point or another. I know I have. It was probably during some professional development session and the presenter showed this glitzy flashy tool and I thought, “Oooh I have to use that tomorrow!”. Maybe it didn’t go exactly like that but I think we all remember the moment of being enamored and wanting to use the tool immediately.

We all know the wide variety of tools available. Multiple tools that all do the same thing. Look at Etherpad. How many clones of Etherpad cropped up after Google bought them out? Lots. Whether it be document collaboration, multimedia publishing, or creating a blog or web page; there is no lack of tools available. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming.

So that was the focus of last night’s #EdChat. We have to move beyond it being a “tech tool” and move it to being a “learning tool”. I think in order to make this happen we need to make sure 3 things are happening:

1. Showing, not just telling – If a presenter is sharing a new and great tool, back it up with how it can be directly related to the content being taught. Concrete examples should be provided. Like I said during EdChat, “If the tool is only being seen for its glitz, then the person sharing the tool didn’t do their homework beforehand.” Teachers need to know how it’s going to enhance student learning. Students should be able to go home and easily explain this to their parents. Not just go home and say, “We used Google Docs today and it was cool.” Ok, so it was cool; we all know that, but how did it enhance your learning experience?

Kristen Winkler said during EdChat: “Tech is the spice, content is the dish. Tech accentuates learning but the content needs to be in center of the process.” I thought this was a great way of putting it. Teachers, you already have the “dish” down pat, but maybe it’s time to try a new “spice”?

Elana Leoni also reminded us that we should “Always have the students’ needs in mind. Just because it’s cool doesn’t mean it’s an effective learning tool.”

2. Careful planning – the planning component for using the tool is crucial. This also will help it become more of a learning tool rather than just a tech tool.

Mary Beth Hertz said during EdChat: “Write the lesson first, choose the tool last.”

3. The “F” word – Be ready for it. I’m talking about the word many of us fear. The word that brings feelings of dread and disappointment. Yes, I’m talking about failure. We have to come to the realization that it’s going to happen when trying to infuse a tech tool into our teaching. We either find out that the tool does not work at all how we planned it with the content, or maybe just a couple minor tweaks need to be made and we go for it again.

Deven Black said it very well: “Teachers, like students, need a safe place to fail using tech in teaching. Failure is the key to learning.” (see point #1 and my previous post).

So watch out because the “Tim The Toolman” bug can bite us very quickly and we get wrapped up in the “more power” mentality and jump right in without careful consideration of the tool’s true purpose.

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments.

Why I Do What I Do – Thoughts on EdChat

Yesterday’s EdChat focused on the topic of passion in education. Specifically, finding your passion and sustaining it. How it affects our schools, our classrooms, and our students. This week’s EdChat was a warm-up conversation for the evening Elluminate session with Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. The full video recording, mp3 file, and chat log can be found here if you missed it.

The conversation during EdChat helped me to go back and think about where my passion for education originated, and how it has evolved into what it is today. I’d like to share some of those thoughts.

Where did my passion to be an educator originate? I credit this to two very important teachers. One is my mom, who is a retired teacher, and the other is my 5th grade teacher who also was my mentor teacher during my student teaching. These two women were (and still are) incredible role models for countless teachers and students.

When I was teaching elementary school, and began to soak up all the instructional technology resources I had available, I felt compelled to share this newly gained knowledge with anyone that would listen.

After getting my Masters in Educational Technology, I was fortunate enough to become an Instructional Technology Specialist for a great school district, which is where I am today.

I have been in my element for the last 6 years. I am passionate about sharing instructional technology resources, tools, and strategies with K-12 teachers. My passion is continually refueled when I hear about and see teachers getting excited and passionate, which ultimately impacts student achievement.

In October 2008 I came across a new resource that quickly became another great way to continually renew my passion for educational technology. It’s a little thing called Twitter. You probably haven’t heard of it. 🙂 Twitter quickly became my Professional Learning Network, or PLN. I am now connected with other like-minded educators all over the world. These people have an incredible passion to share how technology is having a positive impact on education. Not only within the walls of our schools, but also bringing the world to our classrooms through tools like Skype and Twitter. These people are change agents, lifelong learners, advocates, leaders, classroom teachers, administrators, college professors, and educational/instructional technology specialists. It is 24/7 professional development. That’s free. Yes, FREE! We teachers hear the word free and we are like a moth to the flame are we not?

I am passionate about instructional technology and the impact it can have on students. Whether it be a tool or strategy used inside the classroom, or making global connections to bring other parts of the world to us. No, the technology is not designed to make us better teachers. Does it help us? Sure it does. The ultimate goal should be its impact on students.

Steven Anderson talked about this today at TeachMeet Nashville during a panel discussion. He also talked about the impact that the real-time web and social media is having on our teaching practices. Steven said, “How many of you have your lesson plans go perfectly the first time? Think about what having a Professional Learning Network via Twitter has done for education. Let’s say I teach my lesson plan the first time during 2nd hour. Then during passing period I could send out a tweet to my PLN asking for suggestions or resources that would help me improve the lesson being taught. I am changing my teaching practices in real-time. This was unheard of previously.”

I then immediately tweeted the following after hearing Steven talk about bringing Tom Whitby into the panel discussion on the fly via Skype and being able to change your teaching in real-time:

I’m passionate about the Power of the PLN. I’m passionate on the impact it can have to enhance our instruction and positively impact students. I’m passionate about sharing instructional technology tools and resources with teachers. My name is Kyle Pace, and I’m in my element.

Thanks for reading.

Where do you EdChat?

If you are in my PLN then you know what EdChat is all about. It happens at two different times every Tuesday. 12PM

EdChat column in TweetDeck for iPhone

EST for our PLN friends in Europe, Asia, and other points west. Then it happens again at 7pm EST for North and South American members of our PLN. No matter which time you participate (and if you aren’t why not?!?) it’s always a highly engaging, lively discussion about education. Don’t forget to follow @web20classroom (a.k.a. Steven Anderson) so you know to vote on the topic for the week between Sunday and Tuesday!

So, where do you EdChat at? What’s your device of choice to use while participating? I was fortunate enough to participate in both editions of EdChat yesterday and during the evening edition I really began to wonder, “Where does everyone like to participate from and what device/tool is your favorite?”  I am amazed in particular how mobile technology has allowed us to participate in a great discussion with hundreds of educators from all around the globe. Where some of you tweeting while holiday shopping? Where some of you tweeting during dinner? Your favorite armchair? Inquiring minds want to know! Maybe in an upcoming edition of EdChat we can have some of us upload to TwitPic in real-time to share with our PLN where we Tweet from and with what device?

Almost every Tuesday night when I participate it is using the TweetDeck app on my iPhone. As if I weren’t addicted to my iPhone enough already right? TweetDeck in general is my preferred Twitter tool of choice but the fact I can from my phone still amazes me. I had to laugh last night towards the end of EdChat when I tweeted, “Should multi-tasking be a skill required for 21st c. teachers? I just participated in edchat and gave two kids a bath! Ha!” Humor was the intent of that tweet but the more I thought about it the more cool I thought it was. I received a couple of jokingly replies wondering if my kids were being attended to I promise they were! Some of you were as equally worried about my iPhone as well to make sure it did not accidentally go for a swim in the bathtub!

Think about all the ways educators participate in EdChat every Tuesday. We have mobile phones, laptops, netbooks. etc. at our disposal to contribute the discussion. We are in our homes, schools, offices, airports,  and cars (hopefully not while in motion) while we’re communicating and collaborating with our peers. What would student engagement look like if more of these devices were in students’ hands during class? Before you comment to disagree with me let me just clarify that this post is not intended to be a debate as to whether or not cell phone should be allowed at school. The point I’m trying to make is look at how educators can become engaged in a lively, professional discuss using a wide variety of tools. Isn’t it important for students to get to experience the same type of growth and learning that we do?

If you are an avid observer of EdChat, I strongly encourage you to participate in the discussion. Vote for the topic, and jump in on Tuesday no matter your location or device. We’d love to see you there. Don’t sell yourself short, you have knowledge and expertise to share with all of us.