Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Google Reader and Hello to Feedly

Over the past couple of years, I've frequently suggested that teachers try out Google Reader as a tool for professional development.  Sadly Google is ending support for Reader as they try and focus their efforts on a smaller number of products.

There have been many suggestions around the web as to what the best replacement for Google Reader might be, but I've chosen Feedly as my replacement for the simple reason that, like Google Reader, it can sync my read/unread articles across any device I choose to access them from.  The iPad and iPhone apps work well and are aesthetically pleasing (much like Flipboard).  Feedly is making the transition for Google Reader users to Feedly smooth and you can log in with your Google credentials and sync your feeds up automatically.

Feedly has apps for both iOS and Android devices.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

140 Characters Just Won't Cut It For Real Conversations

Recently I came across a post in my Google+ stream that intrigued me. It discussed the value of "the 140 character discussion" that occurs on Twitter.  +Doug Johnson made the point that Twitter doesn't really permit a true conversation or debate on any topic because of the nature of the tool.  His accompanying screenshot of a Twitter stream showed a variety of tweets and a couple of them  really stood out to me as a solid examples of why Twitter doesn't work for in depth learning.  That being said, I don't mind it for sharing links, but prefer to use a tool like Flipboard to read my Twitter stream so that those links are pulled to the forefront.

A couple of Tweets in the screenshot really stood out for me and connected deeply to why I feel that discussion on Twitter lack the nuance required for an in depth discussion.  I have to qualify my response here to say that I was not part of this discussion, and I don't know the people involved, but I'm guessing that they have more nuanced views than those expressed within the 140 character limit of Twitter.
"You have a bad PD program if you are teaching tools."
"The fact that teachers have to get 'trained' on Google Apps is pretty bad, though" 
At one level, I agree with these sentiments.  However, I don't think that they take the whole scope of teachers lives into consideration.  If I was to modify the first tweet, I would modify it to say "Your PD program may be lacking some effectiveness if you are teaching tools in isolation".  With respect to the second tweet, I would say that, in my experience, teachers are quite capable of using Google Apps in exactly the same way they have used Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  That is not the point of training teachers in using Google Apps.  When I work with teachers "training" them to use Google Apps in their classroom, what I'm hoping to get them to do is "think differently" about how they work together with their colleagues and with their students.  The ability to collaborate with anyone in real time and to give feedback while the student is actually engaged in the task is an incredible change in the way we work.  Teachers, like students, need time to engage with these tools, and re-imagine the way that some things happen in their classroom.  Describing it as "pretty bad" implies that either the individuals leading the training are narrow in their focus in terms of the desired outcome of the their training, or that teachers who don't immediately grasp the potential of some of the new tools to engage their students and give them choice in how learn and demonstrate their knowledge are "bad teachers".  The incredible responsibility of teachers to stay on top of planning, giving feedback, marking, communicating with parents, running extra-curricular activities, character development, and the other responsibilities that come in a modern classroom, means that many teachers may not have time to follow the latest developments in educational technology.

I know they Tweets above have bee taken out of context, so I apologize to the authors if I've offended, and I hope I've made it clear that I expect that with more than the 140 character limit imposed by Twitter that they would have more nuanced thoughts on the topic.  What are the best ways to have these deeper discussions?  I love the blog, and I'm learning more and more about Google+.  What are other ways to ensure we get depth and breadth?