What is That New Thing? Just Try It Already!

Knowing about how new tech works is NOT the same as actually living with it, exploring its limits and using it.

People at work ask me all the time about new tools, websites and apps so I am constantly reading and trying to keep up with new things I hear about so I can be a respectable technologist. I realized this week that it’s really not enough for me to read about these things, that I am in the habit of limiting myself to true exploration of an item only if it is something I am sure that will be helpful or important to me personally. I believe I need to be much more willing to try, to join, use and be awkward with new tools just for the sake of learning about them.

I’m taking a graduate class on Social Media and Digital Cultures. This week we had an assignment to explore a social media tool that we were curious about and had never used before.


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Last week my 15 year old son referred on Facebook to something he put on Snapchat that he wanted people to look at. Of course I was curious about the app, but must admit this was in part because I was being a spying mom. I heard a story on NPR probably more than a year ago about how teens were shying away from Facebook for Snapchat to post stuff they didn’t want their parents to see. It intrigued me a bit to explore this unchartered world.

First I googled it and went to their website and couldn’t even really figure out what to do. Can’t I join this thing? I finally got it all figured out and had snapchatted a photo with some inane text I added and thought, what am I missing? Is this all there is to this thing? So, I had to come clean with my kid. “Konnor, I had to try a new social networking site for school this week so I signed up for Snapchat. What is the big deal with this site? How do you find people? This seems kind of limited to me. What am I missing?” “No mom, that’s all there is to it, you have to know names to find them, your pics, videos and text stays there for 10 seconds, there’s no other content – I think you’d like Tumblr better - old people like that one better” I’m LOLing, but feeling like a very old, old, woman at this point.

I’m not completely sure he wasn’t just saying this to get me to stay off of Snapchat, but that’s okay too. I believe I understand what it is and what it isn’t and It’s great to know this. I will have to trust and hope there’s nothing terribly offensive or illegal that he’s posting, but I think I'll leave Snapchat to him for now.



I got on Tumblr and began filling in my profile, following blogs on elearning, education, leadership training, learning tech, lots of stuff I might be interested here. I posted a few things and thought it was really pretty cool. But … do I need more blogs to follow? Well, yeah sure, but what about all of the blogs I already follow? And I started to realize what I could really use – and I might as well find something I can really use here, right? I realized what I really need is a way to not only find new fresh ideas, but to organize and incorporate the new with the awesome stuff I already follow.



So I remembered Delicious, a tool which I’d heard about several years ago, but never checked out. For now, this is really something I will use. It’s simple (and maybe there is a better tool of this type out there) but I love how I can save my link to all of my different dashboards and things that I follow in one place. I can see a use for making a quick list of links to share with students in a class or people in my personal learning network. This is a real help.

This assignment made me think about how important it is to continue to constantly check out new (and different) apps and see what they are and how people are using them, even if they are not necessarily something I want to continue using regularly myself. I think this is important for many reasons. I need to understand where my learners are meeting online and to have an idea of what their personal online network might look like so I can engage them better. In this rapidly changing world of technology its so easy to lose sight of what is possible, popular, and available right now.

AND SO ...

I have added a weekly calendar item to challenge myself to explore a new app every week and write about it. I challenge you to do the same! Join me. Try something new each week (no, really do it!) just for the sake of it and share your experience.

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