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Shooting Stars December 4, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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Lincoln   There are times when it is very easy to keep on top of technology and there are times when there is just too much to absorb if you want to do it right.

During the last several months, I have downloaded scores of online tools and mastered a few of them. I have visited hundreds of web sites and bookmarked for later perusal many more. I have made movies, podcasts, digital stories, and wikis. But I fear that every tool I learn pushes something essential off my radar screen and, in my rush to hold onto every experience and project, the result is superficiality. I have recently been able to read shallowly and risked understanding incompletely.

These new tools and challenges are like shooting stars in the heavens. They are each trying to get my attention. As an amateur astronomer, I take great interest in such things as shooting stars and, in anticipation of the Geminid meteor showers next week, I came across a story Abraham Lincoln once related that helped to put things into perspective for me. As quoted by Walt Whitman:

One night I was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door and I heard the deacon’s voice exclaiming, ‘Arise Abraham, the day of judgment has come.’ I sprang from my bed and rushed to the window and saw the stars falling in great showers! But looking back of them in the heavens I saw all the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and true in their places. Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then, nor will the Union now.’

The message for me is that one must look beyond bright flashes in the night and look beyond to see the principles and goals that are stable in the firmament. Thus, every new educational tool and device will shoot wildly across the still and almost imperceptibly moving nature of education, like constellations in our sky.

I ask questions to separate the flashes from the stars. Is it really going to help? Is this a disruptive technology or a true tool to assist teachers? Will the amount of time it takes a teacher to become accustomed to the tool and fit it into his life be worth the beneficial impact on his teaching?

Eventually, a steady gaze on the background star field reveals the truth. Understanding the reason we teach and knowing well our core values will help us to discern the flash and fury from the essential and elemental.

Next, Second Life and a conceptual divide . . .

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