Actually, I have never even seen a Webkin, so I've never played with one. I think I need to though! I know some cute 7 year olds who are big fans, so I know where to get help. Has anyone out there played Webkins or Club Penguin? Will I have fun? As a point of reference, I can have fun playing Candyland with two four-year-olds, which is essentially a 3 way game with myself. I think playing with these might be fun and powerful experiences.
There have been a couple of comments on my blog that have gotten me to change the way I think about and design professional development. Kim Cofino's comment about her "wired Wednesdays" made me realize that teachers need to engage in meaningful conversations, not just show teachers "a plethora of tools they may not know [how to use]" I can think of a few conversation starters. I was at a graduation yesterday in which the speaker listed many of the snippets from the Did You Know video. I think of that video as so ubiquitous that "everyone" has seen it, but it turned out that I was the only one in my group who had. (Side question--if the speaker doesn't mention the video, does that constitute plagiarism?) Do other ed tech types have similar experiences? Which leads to the old quote about assumptions. . . I need to work on not making assumptions about what "everyone" has seen/read/heard/done. That leads to Intrepid Flame's comment on the same page asking "How can we slowly encourage people to understand that the future is hear with a sense of urgency, but at the same time not allow them to become defensive?" His words capture the essence of edtech, don't they? The first step is to not act like a "Know it All" as Michele Martin points out on her blog. Not making assumptions is the first step in not acting like a know it all.
I think I can come across as a know it all, even though I regularly feel totally overwhelmed by all I don't know (Google Earth, GPS's, GIS, Scratch, and ArtSnacks come to mind immediately, and I'd love pointers on any/all of those). Is this defensiveness endemic to educational technology?
Technology can make confident, experienced professionals feel uncertain and "dumb." Maybe people forced to take a workshop walk in making assumptions about the people who are leading it (and vice versa). Is it because the solution to a tech tangle can sometimes involve just one or two clicks? This makes the tangled one feel dumb and the "untangler" look like that dreaded know it all. I sometimes remind folks that there are a million things I can't do that they can. I need to get better about emphasizing that when I am providing support.
So, back to the webkins (and Facebook, MySpace, Club Penguin, etc). Aren't these types of activity here to stay? Can teachers hide from understanding them and stay effective and relevant? "Social networking" is a bit of a misnomer to me, since it implies that nothing of intellectual importance is going on within the network. Hey, we're just hanging out, right? For educators, social networking can be a powerful tool for professional growth. There are videos, blogs and wikis on just about any topic one can imagine. How do I find the ones that will help me (as a teacher) learn about ___________? What is the role of technology in encouraging connections among practitioners? When new research emerges, it hits the web long before it reaches the teacher journals that can have more than a year's lag time. Does this matter? Does it matter enough to ask teachers to move out of their comfort zones? It does, but again, fear of the future leads to defensiveness. Maybe play is the answer to breaking down the defensive barrier. So, I'm thinking about going shopping for a few Webkins. Anyone want to play?