I realize that in the world of technology there are early and late adopters. I’m not the earliest of bleeding-edge early adopters, but I do like to try out new technology and incorporate it into my teaching. This list is a handful of tried and true technologies that are established enough to not be too buggy and problematic, user-friendly enough that just about anyone can start using them quickly, and useful enough that you’ll soon wonder how you got along without them. In short, this is a list of tech that just about everyone can (and maybe even should) be using in 2010.
1. Social Bookmarking – Don’t let the “social” part fool you. Delicious, Diigo and others offer a way to move your bookmarks to the cloud, meaning they are no longer saved only on one computer. You can also: tag bookmarks with keywords to make them more searchable, get a URL to all the bookmarks tagged with the same term (for example, all of the sites I bookmarked for my presentation at the recent DMSW conference: http://delicious.com/eslchill/dmsw10), and search other people’s bookmarks to find out what people think is worth bookmarking on a given topic (for example search for “ESL” on Delicious and you can see how many people have bookmarked each ESL site). But wait, there’s more! Diigo allows you to highlight and comment on webpages and then share them. For example, take a look at my About Me page with some highlighting and sticky notes. This can be a great tool for collaborating and compiling research.
2. Social media – Ok, here’s where the social part kicks in because Facebook and Twitter are just for fun, right? Well, I’ve found a lot of great resources via Twitter (try a search for #iwb if you want to find resources people are posting for use with Interactive Whiteboards, for example.) And more and more people are joining Facebook making it a great resource for networking with colleagues. Don’t want to expose your students to Facebook? You can build your own social network using Ning!
3. URL Shorteners – These may not be necessary, but they are very handy. Copy your long URL (the Google Map directions to your house, for example) and paste it into Tiny URL, Tr.im or a handful of others. They give you a much shorter link that is easier to Tweet. Not on Twitter? They can still be useful. Consider the website for the Unconference I’m planning for this May. Is it easier to share tr.im/eltu2 or https://carmenwiki.osu.edu/display/eltu/? Both take you to the same place, but I can memorized the first one. This technology is so handy, it’s even built in to other sites, like the link provided by Diigo to my annotated About Me page that I shared in #1: http://www.diigo.com/09je0.
4. Wikipedia – Although it has become popular (but not necessary) to question it’s accuracy, Wikipedia has become the defacto knowledge bank on the internet. Once we are clear on what it is (a secondary source: a compilation of all referenced knowledge) many of its criticisms fall down. Access to all of this information means a reorganization of learning. Memorizing becomes virtually unnecessary while the ability to find and retrieve relevant information becomes essential. More importantly, at least with factual questions, we no longer have to sit and wonder anymore. What are the lyrics to Carmen Ohio? Just get on the internet and find out!
5. Google – No, I don’t just mean search, but all the other stuff: maps, docs, calendar, etc. It’s never been so easy to collaborate with other people. I created a Google Maps / YouTube mashup (student created videos from around Ohio State mapped to where they were recorded) a couple of years ago, back when it involved coding every individual coordinate for every pin placed on the map as well as the contents of every bubble that popped up. But now, just create your account and you can drag and drop most of the information where you need it — even invite people to work on the same map. Plus, you can get a sneak peak at what the next big thing might be by checking out Google Labs. Who wouldn’t like a pair of Google Goggles?