Monday, December 31, 2007

Tools Are Important (but they're still just tools)

In April the VSS 2008 Annual Spring Conference - Learning: Anyone, Anytime, AnywhereVSS conference is happening in Vancouver and I was pumped about a session that I wanted to do with my colleague, Jodie. I went to the conference last year for the first time and I found it to be wonderful Pro-D and a great networking opportunity.

What Jodie and I wanted to present on were a bunch of cool Google applications that we stumbled upon this summer during our self-directed Pro-D. One of them, Google Docs, is a great little fairly basic on-line word processing tool. What makes it impressive is that multiple users can work on the same document at the same time and go back and view edits that have been made. It could be a very useful tool if you have students collaborating together on a project, or if you are collaborating with a peer (as Jodie and I have done).Google

We also discovered Google Calendar, which we have used with great success. You can do a whole lot of cool things with Google Calendar such as allowing others to subscribe to your calendar or you can post your calendar(s) to web pages. For example, check out the calendar on our grade 10 web page. We have been using the calendars to post deadlines and other important dates. Students and their parents have been finding the calendars quite useful. After these two great finds, I decided to check out More Google Products. From here I discovered Google Notebook, Blogger, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Reader, and much more.

So, basking in our Google Glow, Jodie and I thought we should definitely present on this at the VSS conference. But now I'm having second thoughts. Don't get me wrong, I love these Google apps. I use Notebook everyday, I have almost committed to switching all of my personal e-mail over to Gmail, I rely on Google Calendar (for school and home), the first thing I look at when I log onto iGoogle is Google Reader, and I entered the blogosphere using Blogger. (Wow, I hadn't realized how thoroughly entrenched I have become in using all things Google until just now!) So here's the thing; they're just tools. And there are other tools out there that do similar things. I don't know if I should be giving a presentation on tools. Especially since that's what it will be, a presentation. Not a hands on workshop. Just me and Jodie telling and showing. I have no doubt that people would come to a presentation on these particular tools, but how much of an impact will we make?

I'd still like to present at the VSS conference. And it is a Google tool that will be the inspiration (not quite the right term) for my presentation. What I'd like to present on is blogging. Not on how to get your students to blog--I haven't done that yet. No, on blogging as being central to an educator's professional development. I only really started blogging at the end of November, 2007. In the period of just over one month I've been exposed to so many fabulous ideas that have really impacted me as an educator. I'd like to expose the blogless to the thrills of conversing in the blogosphere.

What do you think; Blogging as a key part of an educator's pro-d, or should I just stick with the tool talk?


  1. Why don't you do two presentations?

  2. Sarah, thanks for checking me out at my new location! And your advice is so practical. Of course it doesn't have to be either or. Cheers!

  3. Hi Claire - would be good to know more about the background of people that will be attending your presentation because that will impact on what is the best option. Also how long is the presentation?

  4. [...] Tools Are Important (but they’re still just tools) January 1, 2008 | Tagged Blogger, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Notebook, Google Reader, Google Talk, Tools, VSS | [...]

  5. Hi Sue, the presentations are 45 minutes in length. The attendees are mainly teachers and administrators involved in K - 12 distributed learning, though some delegates teach in regular bricks-and-mortar schools or post secondary institutions. Some of the attendees will be brand new to distributed learning and unaware of much of the technology that is available, while others will be quite skilled with using a variety of technology in their practice. Presentations are listed as beginner, intermediate or advanced. Both of the presentations that I am considering ('tools' or 'blogs as important pro-D') I would describe as for beginners. Thanks for your input!

  6. Thanks Claire for more information. As a blogger I totally appreciate the value of blogging for professional development however it did take me a long time from being introduced to blogging to then actually being a blogger. I started as a podcaster. Many of the people I work with engage quicker with the concept of wikis than blogs. You may want to consider using the paper method for introducing blogging for beginners - check out the method Michele Martin and Christine Martell used (


  7. Thanks for the tips, Sue. I will definitely check out the link!


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