Although I talk about the use of technology in education all of the time, in truth I am far from being a “Techie”. If I have a need to use technology for a specific purpose in teaching or in learning, then I will learn what I need to in order to make that happen. As technology continues to advance at its present rate however, the learning of new technology is less of a choice and more of an attempt to stay relevant. I do not believe any specific application or device is THE essential tool, because my experience with technology is that everything changes, evolves, or disappears. If you believe in the big technology in education picture, you will always find a better tool. It usually takes six months or so.
My latest challenge is learning how to use the IPad. I have found it to be very intuitive as many of the Apple devices. That is a big plus for someone like me with a limited amount of technology intuition to begin with. I think what I like best about the IPad is that many of its applications make me forget I am viewing a computer. One application in particular, Flipboard, lets me view content as if it was in the form of a magazine. An electronic magazine which allows me to read glitzy text and view a related video with the touch of a finger.
The whole idea of using a computer and not seeing it as technology is a big deal. I hesitate to use a butcher analogy, but it serves this idea well. A butcher has a job that many of us would not be able to do for many reasons. A butcher however, makes food for the meat-eaters among us look appetizing. It is actually presented in a form that enables us to separate what we are seeing, from where we know it really came from. The same can be said of bakers. That which delights our senses in a bakery would not be so delightful in its raw form.
The magic of Flipboard is that it will take a feed like the Twitterstream of Twitter and convert the tweets to appear as magazine articles. Instead of viewing links in a 140 character text block, Flipboard shows the actual post, article, or video to which that tweet refers. You can touch the post to take you to the Blog site.. You can touch the video to view and enlarge it. When you are ready just use your finger to turn the page. It’s a magazine. It does this even more dramatically with an RSS feed. If you develop an RSS feed devoted to a subject of interest, the latest posts will appear on your magazine as they are published.
If there is one thing that holds teachers back from engaging technology more it is a lack of comfort with that technology. This Flipboard is a dream come true if you have colleagues who do not know what they are looking at when you show them a Twitterstream or your list of Blogposts from Google Reader. Those colleagues do understand magazines. Your Twitterstream and Google Reader posts now will have meaning to those colleagues. The content has been turned into a non-techie format, so they might accept it more readily. Ironically, we use technology to hide the technology. Maybe that explains the unfulfilled promise of flying cars. People are comfortable with cars, but they are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with airplane stuff. Hence, no Flying cars!
I see the way technology is manipulating the content to be more familiar to people as a good thing. One of the big stumbling blocks with involving all teachers with technology is a lack of comfort with the unfamiliar on the part of many teachers. Converting RSS feeds to a magazine format creates a familiar platform as well as up to the minute content for consideration and reflection. Maybe one day it will come to the screen on the dashboard of our Flying Cars.