Monday, April 27, 2015

Go Ahead! Explore Something New!


 CC María 'tatica' Leandro from Flickr

Have you ever heard about or decided to try something new online only to find yourself still learning it two hours (or longer) later? Do you end up getting a bit frustrated after a bit of time?

I moved to the district level last year and have been coaching teachers on how to use and integrate technology into their learning spaces. All too often, I find teachers who are too afraid to click buttons or just get overwhelmed at the amount of information there is “out there.” Admittedly, there are some programs that are just, well- confusing. However, most of the programs online share many common elements that will help you feel comfortable- you just need to know what they are.

Getting to know one platform really well will help prepare you for many others. For instance, I am typing this draft in Google Docs. I know that in Google Docs I can: share documents with others, comment on work, add images and diagrams, etc. When I am learning other programs I assume they have the same features- I just need to know where to find them. For example, if I need to collaborate on what I am doing in something like LucidPress, I’ll click around to find something that looks like it will let me share the LucidPress document with someone else. Not all programs have these features but it is truly surprising how many do.

When I am first looking at a new technology I ALWAYS look for a video that provides me with an overview of their best features and where to find them. Most companies will have this video on their homepage or somewhere easy to find. If I cannot find a video on the company’s website, I’ll search YouTube for a quick tutorial that someone else has made. These videos almost always let you know the coolest features of a program and what it can do for you rather than spending a ton of time searching around for them.

Another step I take is to look at the pricing tab on the website. Most companies will have a tiered pricing that show what you can get at each price level. Many companies offer education discounts or complementary accounts for educators for their full versions although sometimes you do have to email and ask for it.

Once I decide to create an account with something new, I always go into the account settings (usually found in the upper right-hand corner of the site) and explore what I can do to customize my account. Will they let me add my photo? Do they allow me to connect to Twitter or integrate my Google Drive with it? Many times account settings will let you do things you never knew existed!

Finally, once you decide to create, don’t spend HOURS on your first creation, especially if you are screencasting for the first time. The more times you use it and the more comfortable you are with your new-found treasure, the better you will get at your creations. Tip: The first time you screencast something, you will HATE it. Inevitably you will probably redo your screencasts 2-4 times. Even then you will want to spend hours making it perfect. Don’t spend hours making it perfect. It will never be perfect. Done is better than perfect.

Overall, don’t fret. Use the video to help you know what a site will let you do and then explore for a bit. Pretty soon you will be a pro at vetting software and have much more time on your hands!
 Kate Petty is an EdTech TOSA at Saddleback Valley Unified School District in Mission Viejo, CA. Kate is a Google Certified Teacher and Google Education Trainer. Her passion is Project-Based Learning and she is having a lot of fun traveling around teaching others about it. Kate likes spending time with her family, chocolate, and wine- although not necessarily in that order.



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