Living In the Real World

Stephen Downes is one of my heroes – a pioneer in online learning.  However, I think he missed the mark with his post yesterday entitled “My Take on the Top 25“. Stephen took Jane Hart’s Slideshow of the Day list of the top 25 technologies – and commented on where they fit (or did not fit) in his own world.

A quick disclaimer, I may have took notice because I was one of 192 professionals that submitted our top ten tools to Jane, who compiled them into her Top 100 Tools for Learning. Given the number of submissions and the depth of expertise of the submitters, this list strikes me as pretty balanced and interesting.  But I may be biased.

However, in reading Stephen’s post, I was struck by a feeling that I have not had since my Pentagon days – one of “NIH” – or “not invented here.”  NIH was a condition that sometimes struck officers of one branch of the military if an officer from another branch suggested a solution.  Stephen seemed to be unimpressed with many of the tools because he had already written a script or code that did similar functions and saw little utility in the tools listed.  He basically downplayed or outright stated that he had no use for 15 of the 25 tools.

I would suggest a different take.  Most faculty (and I include myself) are not as inherently gifted at coding or programming as Stephen is, and instead are simply looking for tools that solve problems in their very real world.  Many of the tools in Jane’s list meet these needs.  They have for me.

What I find interesting in Jane’s list are the possibilities it has suggested.  Rather than saying “I do not use this tool”, I looked at the list for suggestions on tools I might use to solve problems I have with my online teaching (and my students’ online learning).  I now routinely use 21 of the top 25 tools (though that was not true two years ago).  The four tools that make up my PLE (delicious, Google Reader, blogging with WordPress, and Twitter) are all in the top fifteen.  I am using Camtasia and Wikispaces in my online Blackboard class.  Firefox is my default browser.  Pictures in my blog come from Flickr or SnagIt, and I routinely network with others through Ning and Slideshare.  In fact, I continue to be blown away by the fact that one of my powerpoints I uploaded on a whim to SlideShare, Teaching In A Flat World, now has over 7,000 views in just the last 5 months – not to mention nearly 600 downloads and 16 embeds in others’ websites.  Long winded way of saying that I find tremedous value in these tools.

What is your take?  Do you find Jane’s list unhelpful (does it not fit your world)…or is it helpful – does it open up new possibilities for teaching and learning?  Be interested in your thoughts!

{Photo Credit: LexnGer}