Friday, January 28, 2011

Using a tool for the sake of learning a tool

What is a reasonable number of hours to spend trying a new tool? 

Short answer: TEN?

Long answer:
Some books ready for speed-dating
Last week a teacher asked me to talk about historical fiction with her class. She wanted an overview of the elements of the genre and an activity. The activity part was easy: speed-dating with a cart full of books I pulled ahead of time. The overview should have been easy too, but I didn't find just the right slide show for the text and books I wanted.
Hard to stop after a minute? Make a "date"with the book for later!
One thing left to do: make the presentation myself. This seemed like a great time to use Prezi which is all the rage right now. TEN hours later, I had a half-way decent Prezi to show my fourth graders. It included all of the text I wanted and covers of books in our library. The problem? It took FOREVER. I just don't have ten hours to spare. (who does?)

Was it worth ten hours? YES. Here's why:
       The "ooh and aah" factor. The kids loved the zooming in and out; it made me look cool. This is a bonus impossible to measure but I know from experience it can last a long long time.
       Now I know how to make a Prezi and should be able do it faster next time. (Next time should only take nine hours...I'm still way short of mastery)
       The teacher saw something new and may try the tool herself. She gets the idea that Power Points are becoming a thing of the past
       The students saw an adult try something new and learn for the sake of learning. It's good for them to see adults take a risk and flub up sometimes! (a couple of the paths are wonky) 

Fact of life as a 21st Century librarian: Knowing about cool new tools is not enough; we need to learn to use them so we can model them for others. Playing around is not enough. Getting something to the point of being "presentable" forced me to work through the process: troubleshooting, pulling out hair, and deciphering the help tools along the way.


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