Why overwhelming, Spin Magazine-style lists aren’t very helpful.
I see a lot of blog posts for educators that aren’t very helpful to educators. You know the ones: 20 Best Productivity Tools for Teachers and Top 10 Photo Editing Apps for Education and 100 Apps Every Educator Must Know About.
— TED Talks (@TEDTalks) April 14, 2015
These articles can inspire. They can provide some direction for the tech savvy educator who already knows what she wants. But in general, they lack the depth needed to make a difference because when it comes down to it, photo editing apps are like spouses: most people only need 1 (or 2 or 3…but 10 is excessive for just about everyone in modern society).
Consider how we respond when asked for a restaurant recommendation. (Spoiler: We certainly don’t direct people to a list of 20 Steak Houses in the Metro Area Where You Should Order Fried Chicken.) When we recommend a restaurant, we provide details about the type of food, quality of service, convenience of location, ambiance, cleanliness, pricing and value. Most importantly, we share our personal experiences, suggesting specific menu items and even ideal occasions.
This level of detail is crucial if the goal of recommending edtech tools is to help teachers. I don’t know any teachers who have time to check out a random list of Top 50 Chrome Apps From the First Half of 2015, especially if it is not differentiated by content area or grade level. What teachers DO value and WILL make time for is one really great and practical suggestion that is accompanied by specific ideas and examples from real classrooms. We’re talking about suggesting ideal lessons in which to incorporate the tech tools, offering links to download PDFs of rubrics and embedding videos exemplars of how implementation can look. At the very least, annotating the list with tidbits like: “I can see Middle School Science teachers using this in order to…” can be helpful. (Richard Byrne and Matt Gomez are great models at doing this.)
Connecting the dots for teachers will not hamper their creativity in taking the ideas and reappropriating them to meet the needs of their own students. Teachers are hungry for valuable EdTech resources and will appreciate the time-saving effort and authentic resources that actually help with implementing the right resources in meaningful ways.