It goes like this: an application is presented during professional development, and since it's new and shiny, and all the teachers ooh and ahh at it, all the teachers feel the pressure to try and use it in their teaching somehow.
But later that week or month, the teacher can't figure out where to use the app, get's frustrated, and it's all very square-peg, round-hole, isn't it?
I also feel this pressure when talking with fellow teachers about technology in the classroom and how we use it, either for ourselves or with our students. One time, the pressure was on when I was involved in a discussion about keeping notes, saving websites, keeping lists, etc.
The app of choice for a few people was Evernote -- that green app with the elephant on it, because, you know, an elephant never forgets...and neither will your Evernote account.
It syncs across devices. Moleskine notebooks use the Evernote ecosystem. With it, it keeps notes, photos, links, and allows for users to curate all that information with a single log-in.
It all sounded magical, and just as I reached for my phone to download the app, I stopped myself.
I didn't want another login for another application. And like most apps, there's a free version and a paid version, and of course, the paid version has more bells and whistles. Per month.
I already subscribe to so much, like Netflix and Hulu.
So, I paused at becoming an Evernote user.
Something else I hear from teachers about technology is how "it's always changing! When you get used to one thing, something new shows up!"
And they may not be talking about using a laptop, Chromebook or mobile device in the classroom, but they are talking about all the different applications that are out there.
Like, if you go to the App Store or Google Play, there are lists and lists of apps you can use in the classroom, but which ones are best?
Maybe that's the wrong question.
Choosing the right app shouldn't be about what's best, but what's best...for you.
I approach technology the way I approach television shows. Just because everyone else is watching it, Rotten Tomatoes gave it 100% and Entertainment Weekly can't shut up about it, doesn't mean I'm going to sit down and watch it.
I didn't watch "The Office" because everyone else did, nor am I going to get an iPhone because everyone swears by it.
Just because it's the best doesn't mean that I want it.
Instead of asking what's best, I figure out what's best for me. Is the app a part of an ecosystem I'm already using? Can I do something similar in another app that I'm already a fan of? Do I think that way, and would I really use the app? Will it allow me to login using Google or Facebook?
Applications are made to make life easier, and sometimes the multitude of options are more suffocating than freeing.
I am already a part of the Google Ecosystem with Google Apps for Education, I realized that Google Keep can be my Evernote. I can tag my notes, create reminders, lists, create voice notes and photo notes. I can also send those notes to people and color-code the notes.
Since I'm already using so many tools within the GAFE realm, I check there first before I look elsewhere.
Do the same.
All these tools should allow us to work smarter, not harder.
Who is The Vade Mecum
Evan Williams is a middle school journalism teacher in Indiana. He advises the student publications: yearbook, magazine, video announcements, broadcast and online news. To find success in the classroom, he uses blended learning with the help of Canvas and Google Apps for Education.