As a public school teacher, I know there is a permanent storm cloud that hangs over many schools throughout the country. Discussion of “budget constraints” has this way of working its way into every conversation that may remotely smack of progressive educational practices. Not only does this add unnecessary doom and gloom to potentially inspirational conversations, but the lack of an adequate budget can stop educational/instructional progress dead in its tracks.
However, as educators, we cannot allow this little hiccough to be seen as anything more than a small hurdle to be jumped. And as technology moves into a unique age where there are a plethora of open source and free software packages, Web 2.0 applications, and online tools to utilize, it seems that the “budget constraints” storm could be headed south sooner, rather than later, for creative teachers.
What is Open Source? What is Web 2.0? Don’t free software packages have viruses? These questions (and many others) litter the educational world due to an overall lack of understanding of the revolution taking place in the programming world.
Open Source projects are collaborative efforts of individual programmers (often) who donate their time and talent to creating a software program that is free to users, and that can be tweaked by future programmers for the purpose of improving the code/program.
And Web 2.0 is a “new” way of interacting with the Internet. No longer are users expected to just “read” or “take in” content, but in a Web 2.o world, users are encouraged to create content online. This interactivity has spawned a multitude of Web 2.0 online application are fantastic teaching and learning tools.
However, none of these free goodies can be tapped into without knowledge and ambition to seek them out. They are not hard to find on the Internet, but the process of learning more about the tools, learning how to properly utilize them, and learning what it takes to instruct students to use the tools is a time costly venture. Educators have to donate of their time and talents just to learn more about these emerging technologies.
The beauty of it all is, when teachers/administrators/support staff become more well informed about what is available to them for free (nothing, nada, zilch), that little black rain cloud may begin to fade from the picture. If educators begin to see budget constraints as a challenge rather than a road block, they will begin find solutions that they did not even realized existed.
So, teachers…get inspired…get creative…get informed…and get in the game by utilizing the technology that is so readily available to us to improve our overall instruction.