5 education technology resolutions to make for 2011

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This is our last post for 2010. Since we’re officially in resolution-making time, I’d like to share a few ideas for those who’d like to do more with technology in teaching or, more importantly, professional learning. I hope you’ll all try at least one or two of these things in 2011:

1. Be more social

It looks like social media isn’t going away, folks. If you haven’t tried it out for yourself yet, now’s as good a time as any to get started. If you want to connect immediately with a bunch of people you already know, give Facebook a try–chances are you’ve got a good base of friends, family, and colleagues already there. Personally, I prefer Twitter–it’s a good way to expand circles and knowledge, and is low-investment. If you’re interested in making more professional connections to move up the career ladder, give LinkedIn a try.

I think the biggest thing to remember when getting rolling with any social networking or media tool is to be realistic about time commitments. You don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) devote your life to keeping up-to-date with your Facebook friends; on the other hand, if you only check in on your profile once every few months you’re not going to get much out of it–and neither will your friends. My suggestion, regardless of the social networking tool you pick, is to set aside a little bit of time at least every week to catch up and maybe try a new add-on. Just remember that social media isn’t like e-mail–you don’t have to read each and every message that comes through your stream. The important things have a way of percolating to the top.

2. Write more

I firmly believe that blogging is an important part of professional learning–it’s not just a great way to summarize and reflect on new knowledge for yourself, but also allows you to share that knowledge, interact with others in your field, and perhaps even make valuable connections for future collaboration or employment. From a technical standpoint, starting your blog is a piece of cake–I recommend Posterous for the absolute easiest way to get rolling, but you can also check out Blogger, WordPress, Edublogs, or any number of other services for free.

The tricky part is doing the writing. I suggest starting with a topic–for professional learning purposes, let’s go with your field of study or interest–and an easy schedule–say, commit yourself to writing one new blog post a week. Try to write at least a couple of paragraphs a week. It can be about an article or book you’ve read, an interesting YouTube video you watched (tie it to your professional interest! Everybody’s already seen that one of a cat playing the piano), or even a reflection on a personal experience. Let your colleagues and professional learning networks know about each new blog post via your social networks. Respond to comments you receive, and comment on others’ blogs about your areas of interest. Doing these things will help the blogging habit stick.

3. Learn a new language

You can pick up German or Spanish in 2011 if you’d like, but I’m talking about a programming language here. There are a lot of excellent resources to get you started–if you’ve never programmed before, refer to our post about introductions to programming for some fun ways to get familiar with the basics.

Once you’ve got a grasp of the basics, maybe you’d like to get to know a language with more practical applications–like my favorite, Ruby. Check out the new Hackety Hack tutorials or Try Ruby. If you already know what you’re doing in a few languages, check out the recently-published Seven Languages in Seven Weeks: A Pragmatic Guide to Learning Programming Languages by Bruce A. Tate for a crash course in–you guessed it–seven programming languages.

Many community colleges and universities offer opportunities to learn more about programming–check your local school to find out more.

4. Get more productive

Get organized is a popular New Year’s resolution; I’ll leave that one up to you (though I will suggest looking at Getting Things Done by David Allen and/or The Action Method by Scott Belsky). I’m talking more about taking back those here-and-there minutes you spend doing little things on your computer that could be done much more quickly with better habits. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about productivity applications I use on my computer to make it easier to access my stuff, keep notes, and share things with others–take another look at it for some ways to take back those wasted minutes and get more done in a day (or get done earlier, your choice).

If you’d like to ramp up your productivity even further, check out blogs like Lifehacker and Zen Habits to clear the clutter and build skills to help you accomplish what matters to you.

5. Be safe

Last but definitely not least–2010 had more than its share of hacks, leaks, and cyber-break-ins. This is a great time to make sure all of your online accounts–e-mail, social network, banking, shopping, you name it–are as secure as possible. If you haven’t done so already, take a few minutes to read or review our post on better passwords. Better yet, use a password manager like OnePassword or KeePass to generate long, random passwords that you don’t even have to remember yourself. Like some of the productivity tips mentioned earlier these may take a little time to get set up, but once they’re in place they’ll save much time in the long run–and, possibly, keep the proverbial bad guys out of your accounts.

In addition, always be wary of scams and the general dark corners of the Internet when working or playing online. The adage if it seems too good to be true, it probably is applies as much online as it does in real life, if not more so. Keep an eye on our Daily Links posts to stay up-to-date on the latest scams and computer viruses going around, or at least check out our security links every now and then.

That’s it for 2010! See you next year!

Image: Mooi Hsieh on Flickr

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Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.