Chapter 1 Learning to Learn Any Technology
You’ve heard the old adage . . .
If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
The aim of part one of this chapter is to help you gain knowledge and skill that will transfer to learning any new technology.
Steps in Learning to Learn
Let’s talk about learning to learn any technology. There are six steps that we’ll discuss:
- Consider your Purpose
- Explore the Possibilities
- Find Patterns
- Learn from the Pros
- Take Pride
Consider your Purpose
Sometimes you are assigned a technology (could be a piece of software or a hardware tool) to learn, as you will be doing in the next two weeks with SMART Notebook, OneNote, Office 365, and Diigo. When that happens, the first thing you want to learn is the purpose of that tool. What problem was this technology designed to solve? Other times, you’ll go about this the opposite way — first considering the problem you need to solve and then searching for technology designed for the purpose of solving that problem.
You can think of any technology as a system – a combination of parts. The parts of a system may be physical (a computer is made up of physical components connected to a central processor) or processes (whatever email system you use connects the processes of sending, receiving, and organizing email messages). Systems and purpose go hand-in-hand, and it’s important to recognize these at the beginning of learning a technology. You are already familiar with technologies designed to enhance your educational experience like information systems (ex: SIS), communication systems (Cowboy Mail or Orange Mail), collaboration systems (Google Docs), and systems that combine all three of these purposes (Online Classroom).
Explore the Possibilities
Once you have figured out your purpose for learning a particular technology, your next step is to explore the possibilities. You want to know what you will be able to do with this tool. The developer’s website for this tool is where you will want to start. Most sites will have a gallery of users’ work, which gives you a great idea of the possibilities. Another common tactic is to do a general web search for “what can I do with ________?”
Check out these great sites that have organized possible tools for you:
There are always multiple tools to fulfill your purpose. You’ll want to select the best one that fits within the systems you already use.
Have you ever noticed how you learn to use one technology and then easily transition to another tool based on that previous knowledge and experience? Whether you realized it or not, many of you used knowledge gained from your very cool MySpace page when you started using Facebook. Then, when you transitioned to Twitter and Instagram, you subconsciously were seeing similarities and differences in them compared to Facebook. While learning technologies, make a conscious effort to find similarities and make comparisons to what you already know. For example, you’re almost certain to find a top menu bar with the items “File,” “Edit,” “View,” “Help” and others in practically any app you open.
Learn from the Pros
Finding patterns can increase your comfort level when learning a new tool, but going to the pros who already know what they are doing will take you even further. Developers typically offer tutorials on their website or under the “Help” menu. The other pros are those you may know socially or professionally — don’t hesitate to send out a call to your personal or professional network to see who else might be using that technology and what advice they have for you. If you are conducting a general web search for tutorials, be as specific as possible to get the most meaningful results.
Another helpful resource can be found in sites that build tutorials as a commercial enterprise. They often have some free resources while others are only available with a subscription. See:
This step is actually harder than it sounds like! Probably from about the time you entered school, you started getting the unfortunately misguided message that learning is work and play is not a valuable way to spend your time. Too many adults avoid tinkering around with a technology out of fear of not doing something right, but we always learn more from our efforts and mistakes than we do from doing something right the first time. Play is an extremely valuable part of learning technologies, and you may be one of those people who has to actually schedule time to play on your daily calendar!
The final step in the process of learning a new technology is taking pride in what you’ve accomplished. Even if you didn’t finish with some amazing product worthy of selling on the home shopping network, consider how very much you gained through the process of learning and will be able to apply to your next learning endeavor. Besides, sharing your learning journey with someone else may be just what they need!
Now let’s put this into practice. Below are two activities designed to help you learn some tools we will be using extensively throughout this class. Note that the activities are set up to meet the needs of different learners — some of you will gravitate toward video-based tutorials, while others may want to jump in and play first then refer back to a set of text-based frequently asked questions. You may want to go ahead and sign up for a login on TES Blendspace. We will be using it quite a bit, and with a login you can ask questions and leave comments. To be successful in this course, you will need to have mastered the content in these two activities, so please dedicate time and effort accordingly! At the end of each activity, there is a checklist that will help you take pride in all that you have learned and ensure that you are ready to move forward with these tools throughout the class.
We recommend using SMART Notebook in any of the College of Education labs (http://education.okstate.edu/tech/labs) or in the T.E.C.H. Playground (326 Willard).
Learning Office 365
Learning SMART Notebook Note: The assignment at the end of this TES Blendspace will be due by 5pm on Friday of the second week of class.
Interested in TES Blendspace? Here are a few examples of Blendspaces that were created by an EDTC 3123 student for her digital portfolio. http://sanderlinclassroom.weebly.com/blendspaces-of-lesson-plans.html