Holy Technology! week continues…

One of the most technological people I know is someone who is actually doing a lot with education. Jim Burke is the Western Maine MLTI Mentor/Coach, a position he's held for the past 4 years. He blogs about technology and education at Learning In Maine. Previous to that he was a district-wide technology integrator for 2 years. And prior to that, he was in the trenches a classroom teacher for 32 years in the Oxford Hills School District.

Jim lives in the village of West Paris, within walking distance to the general store. He two grown daughters; Jessica, a physician in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Melissa, a stable manager at Iron Spring Farms in Pennsylvania. When not immersed in technology, he enjoy gardening, community theater, carpentry, fishing, and being a jack-of-all-trades at my local church.

I continue to be interested in education and to think about how technology is changing it.

Your blog Learning In Maine really tackles technology in education in such a community way that I don't often run into online. How much time do you spend keeping it going? 
I think community is important, Nicole, and physical community has certainly taken a hit during my lifetime. I'm not sure online communities replace that, but they seem to be what is available and  certainly do open up the world in ways that I couldn't have imagined 20 years ago.  The concept of the LIM blog was to have a place where many writers would share their thoughts and suggestions on learning, with a focus on Maine.  While passionate writers like yourself and several others have made wonderful contributions, I've been hoping many more would jump in.  Be that as it may, I've certainly enjoyed testing my own ideas and finding connections with so many others. 

I think you would agree that to grow a site, you have to  post often. I average about a post a day.  Sometimes that translates into several a day.  Sometimes when very busy with other work, I might miss several days.  Nevertheless, it is important to try to keep it current.  Again, the idea is to connect people with what is happening statewide and beyond.

What's one technology that teachers you work with seem to be really embracing? 
I firmly believe that a tool used by busy teachers needs to be simple and user-friendly.  There are many of them out there!  When the tool gets in the way of learning, then it should be reconsidered.  Many teachers are now using wikis to open an online presence.  Many are using  online web 2.0 apps such as Voicethread.  I encourage the use of Google apps even though many schools still block those sites.Teachers are pragmatic . . . they'll use tools that they can depend on.

If you could make every teacher and student try something out, technologywise, something that you think would change their lives, what would it be?
Gosh, Nicole, there are so many possibilities.  There are some extremely powerful tools on the MLTI laptops, such as GarageBand, Sketch-Up Pro, and iMovie.  As far as online tools, my personal favorite at this moment is the Ning make-your-own social network.  I think it could be a "killer-app" for the classroom!  I certainly would be making use of it if I were still a classroom teacher.

Some older teachers must be reluctant to use technology in their classrooms. What are some ways you help them come around?
There has to be a good reason to use a new technology.  It has to serve a purpose, be dependable and engage the teacher and students.  Like just about anything else in education, it is important to connect at a personal level.  In my work with teachers, that is what I try to do.

What do you see as the next big thing in technology and education?
I'm not much of a prognosticator, Nicole.  Lots of magic out there.  I see incredible developments almost every day.  I see the multi-touch tablet notebook/netbook to have great possibilities.  Imagine being able to sculpt the screen.  Seems to me that adds a whole new level of participation.  The semantic web, what some call web 3.0, will certainly take us to a new level as well.

Will we become enslaved by technology or empowered by it?
This question occupies my thoughts perhaps more than it should.  Perhaps it is because of my age, but I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Where is it taking us?  I think we all need to keep asking questions and not just accept blindly what comes down the road. Neil Postman explained better than I can in "Informing Ourselves to Death" http://www.frostbytes.com/~jimf/informing.html and Jason Ohler gives us some sub-questions to ask http://www.jasonohler.com/resources/handouts.cfm.