How many uses can you find for this Paperclip?

This blog post was Inspired by the @plan3t_t3ch post: What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Most of the time when we have a need or a problem, we try to find the best tool for the job. However, there are times when we have a tool and we try to find the best way to use it. This idea supports the argument that teachers should look at their technology tools and find creative ways to implement them into their instruction.

For example, if you are building a house and all you have to work with is a hammer, then you would try to find as many uses as you could for that hammer.  Similarly, if you are teaching students and all you have is a chalkboard, you will try to find as many uses for that chalkboard as possible.  Teachers who have access to limited technology must undergo this type of innovation in order remain an effective teacher.  I am suggesting that we as educators do more of this type of "out of the box" thinking with all of our technology tools.

When I evaluate technology tools I try to ask myself two questions:

  • Is this the best tool for the job? 
  • How many different uses can I find for this tool?

When I download an app, or buy a technology device, I always ask myself these questions to maximize the efficiency of my money and the tool.  I find that the majority of apps that I download are free and have multiple uses for learning.  Some of my favorite apps are Google Apps for Education, Evernote, Socrative, and Tweetdeck just to name a few.  These apps allow me to consume information, create content, collaborate with others,  and share my ideas and resources with the world. I always try to invest in tools and apps that are multipurpose in nature and are essential "go to's" for most jobs.  I continue to surprise myself by the many new ways I discover to use the tools and I often share these new discoveries using the exact same tools.

I would like to demonstrate an example of how a technology tool can progress into being used in many different ways.  Below is a picture from Wordle .

  1. Cool visual: When I first used Wordle I thought that it was a cool way to visualize words.  I used it for creating images and posters for different topics. 
  2. Infographic: As I started to use Wordle more and more, I began using it as an infographic.  I would ask my students, "What information can we gather from this Wordle? What words stand out? Why?
  3. Assessment tool: One day I thought to flip the way I was using Wordle.  I used to plug words into a Wordle to collect data on a particular topic.  Then I discovered that I could create a purposeful, Wordle and ask my students, "Based on the types and sizes of words, what question might have been asked to produce this Wordle?  This idea took Wordle to a whole new level of Blooms Taxonomy and I could begin using it as an assessment tool for critical thinking about content learned in class. 

Another example occured last year when I was conducting a formative assessment on internet research. I assigned my 5th grade students to visit A Google A Day to answer the following question, “Is there moss on all sides of the rocks where Aurelius Ambrosius is said to be buried?”  About a minute later, one boy raised his hand and said that he found the answer.  To my surprise, he showed me a 360 degree view of a Stonehenge rock that had moss on all sides.  I felt like my head exploded. I was so flabbergasted that a 5th grader was able to think so far outside of the box to use Google Street View to answer the question. I immediately shared his discovery with the rest of the class and they were all amazed! I learned to never underestimate the curiosity of a child, and we all learned a new application for Google Street View.

Do we as educators seek the best tool for the job.  Absolutely!  But it shouldn't stop us from trying to find the best instruction for the tool!  Because it's not about the technology, it's how you use it!

You might also like

It's Not About the Technology
My Brain: The Most Underrated App Off the Market


What comes first, the chicken or the egg?