Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ripple Effects...

The downturn in the economy is beginning to rear its ugly head in other places. Specifically--our new digital frontier is being disrupted and in some cases, cut down completely.

In December, a popular tool called MixWit was shut down, unceremoniously with a brief email to participants that gave a week's notice before it was a done deal. This past weekend,'s site redirected to a page that said it was finished as well.

As a staff developer, I'm using a lot of these "Web 2.0" tools with teachers to help them enhance their practice and to help motivate and engage their students. But what happens when those tools disappear?

Nothing should happen.

Without sounding callous or flippant, the disappearance of these tools and the subsequent ripple effects underscores the fact that learning is never about any particular tool--it's been, and always has been, about the content and skills that teachers are teaching. While its a sad thing that these cool tools are slipping away, good teaching can still continue to happen without them. Something else will come along to take the place of these tools.

I was having a conversation a month or so ago with a colleague about the trust we place in some of these web tools, like social bookmarking sites and wikis, where we store TONS of information. Watching what is happening to some of these other sites should make us a little wary about saving things in multiple places and have a healthy amount of skepticism about our reliance on these services.

In addition, it also bears mentioning that a lot of these "free" sites are ad supported and sometimes receive income just for out-bound clicks, whether anything is bought or not. There are some services that I would pay for if there was a danger of them closing down, but its certainly within my power right now to click on a couple of ads, especially if it directs me to something I may have an interest in, if it helps to keep these sites free and continuing to operate.

I just thought it bears mentioning that while all of these web tools are cool and engaging and getting more and more awesome with each passing day, good teaching can't be sacrificed for just some tool. Tools are still resources and resources are nice to teach with, but we don't teach the resource and expect kids to learn the content. Whether the resource is there or not, good teaching shouldn't be largely affected.

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