What Digital Teaching Tool Should I Get?

Like a time capsule, only whimsically illustrated and wittily narrated, this week we are treated to the publication of a lost Dr. Seuss book called What Pet Should I Get?"

Written, many believe, about 65 years ago, the book tells the story of a young brother and sister who are blessed (and cursed) with the opportunity to buy one new pet at the local pet store. They don't have all day, and there are more options to choose from than just cats and dogs.

"Oh, boy! It is something to make a mind up!"

In her outstanding review and backstory of What Pet Should I Get? in The New York Times Book Review, Maria Russo explains that the story was written "in the early Baby Boom years of healthy parental bank accounts that gave children access to the expanding options of American Life." So a pet store, according to Russo, "would have offered a fertile setting for the mild existential angst that underlies any Dr. Seuss book: What pet should they get?"

Fast forward to today. Instead of choosing between the dogs, rabbits, birds, cats and fish available in a pet store, we now have exponentially more options. Even within the realm of educational media, we have tens of thousands of tablet and smartphone applications, an ongoing supply of educational videos on YouTube and other platforms, and countless websites and emerging technologies for teaching and instruction.

With so many digital learning tools designed to teach subjects ranging from Addition Strategies, to Coding for Scholars, to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the question is not as much what app should I get as it is where do I begin? As well, it's not just about bringing home one pet that will be part of the family for several years. With educational media, any teacher can now choose from an array of apps, videos, websites and other media to incorporate within virtually every topic or lesson plan.

The good news is that teachers are vocationally wired to share what they know with others, and this includes what digital resources are the best fit for specific lessons. Whether it's weekly Twitter conversations like #Edchat, in-person professional development sessions, or educational media discovery and curation platforms like what we are building at appoLearning, there are armies of educators who are passionate about finding the right tool, for the right time for the right student, and are equally passionate about sharing their discoveries with colleagues and the public at large.

Like the plot of most Dr. Seuss books, we are living in a time of extreme excitement and uncertainty. The uncertainty is from not knowing what will eventually replace the static, one-size-fits-all textbooks that have gotten us through so many school years. The excitement is from being able to choose, experiment with and modify the different sets of resources that will inform our instruction in the months, years and decades ahead.

What are you waiting for? The brother character in What Pet Should I Get? says it best:

"If we do not choose / we will end up with NONE."