Walking The Tools

I confess I am a web tool junkie.

Surely everybody who’s had to deal with me on a project was heard something like, “why don’t we use a wiki for that?” or “why not tag the resource links on del.iciou.us?” or “ewwww, a listserv, that is so 1980s”. It’s a reflex, likely annoying.

If I am doing a presentation about some technology, 99% of the time I am trying to figure out a way to use that technology as the presentation platform– like October;s one for the K12 Online Conference — can it really make sense to talk about a virtual world application by bullet slides in PowerPoint? Ugh.

So, I remain firm that as educational technology leaders, we need to show the way by actions, experiment, draw others in to the tool corral at Ed Tech Home Depot. Yet, I am taken back how often people I would envision as fellow change agents are still in the old ways lane, clutching their well worn screw drivers

How many times are you working in a group on a project, and draft documents are still sent as Word attachments? Who has the latest versions? Do I send my edits as edits in the document, or do I write emails with instructions like “On page 4, third heading, re-write the rationale as “Xxxx xxxxx xxxxxx…”

When building collections of references for proposals, do we scrounge the web, cut and paste links and text to formatted Word documents, and pummel them back and forth? Where’s the 2.0 in that? What more else cries our for social bookmarking?

How often do you get phone calls best answered via email (don’t you love reading off URLs over the phone)? Or for that matter, how many emails could be better answered by IM (“where is the new graphic for the logo?”)?

What about scheduling meetings? Here is the riddle. how many emails does it take for 10 people to schedule a 1 hour teleconference given 4 possible options? The back and forth flow of inbox clogging messages may easily exceed 100 messages. Nothing is a more clear counter to this then the elegantly written CommonCraft post on Wiki and the Perfect Camping Trip that writing is about two and a half years old and I have yet to have a technology planning group suggest using a wiki for planning the best time to hold synchronous meetings. it’s always email, email, email email….. reply infinitum.

Look, I know that tools don’t solve everything, but I call on fellow ed technology evangelists to walk the proverbial walk. For if we are slow to change, what does it mean to the people we are leading?

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. Alan,

    You (once again) do a good job of highlighting and advocating tools for what they can do without sounding like all you want is to be using shiny new tools.

    I’m not typically an early adopter. One thing I want to do for myself in 2007 is listen more carefully to suggestions that are outside my experience — otherwise, I could just stay home, right?

    The CommonCraft post led me to 37 Signals and in particular to their Campfire product. I’m hoping my next collaboration gives me a chance to road-test it — which in a way will be your fault.

    In your search for ed tech evangelism, I hope you keep tossing in examples of what non-ed-tech people accomplish. What’s faith without good works?

    — Dave

  2. Very cool, Dave. There’s a lot of nifty stuff from the 37 folks- Basecamp especially has neat tools for project management.

  3. Just wanted to mention that you’re one of my few “don’t miss him” blogs precisely because I can count on you to point out the great tools that I have not seen. Thanks!

  4. In terms of meeting scheduling, you might be interested in this article about RSVP tools

    Those emails like “where’s the graphic for the logo?” I reply with … this is like SLOOW IM — what IM client do you use.

    Now, I’m contending with people pinging me a lot – I like it but find myself getting distracted. I’m starting to log on as invisible — even when I change my profile to something “working on presentation” – people IM. Is there a guide to IM etiquette .? do you say something like “got a min” first – or do you just blast your question ..


  5. I was looking through you articles and found the weblog on Flickr. What a great little tool. I have used it personally and have a couple assignments in which my students will use flickr.

    I find it is a great way to get the students to think a little more deeply about something than they normally would. Starting with only a graphic and having to construe text to explain that civilization really challenged the students.

    The great thing is that I can take the exemplary examples and publish them for the world to see. Challenge and meaning in one assignment, I love it.

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