Moving Out of My Comfort Zone

I am a creature of habit.  When I go to Chili’s, I order the same fajita plate every time.  When I go to Baskin Robbins, you won’t see me trying bubble gum, very berry strawberry, or chocolate chip cookie dough; I stay with what I know works for me – golden vanilla.  But when it comes to education, I am restless; I love teaching and learning, and I am always looking for new or better ways to solve our age-old problems, especially when it comes to teaching writing.  I like to think I am somewhat progressive (although after writing this post, I realize I have a long way to go to earn that label).  I am also a strong proponent of online education.  I should be.  I have been with Kaplan University now for almost seven years.  I believe in our students and our mission at Kaplan, and I have never worked with such intelligent and motivated individuals in my life.

Those intelligent and motivated individuals get to me sometimes, though, especially the group I work with.  They are all so technically saavy, and me, well, I’m not.  When I think of technology and writing, I think of my computer, word processing program, and my printer.  What else do I need?  Even managing this blog is a struggle for me.  I don’t always know what I’m doing.  Staff send me links to this and that to post, and I literally have a mini panic attack whenever I get their emails only because technology makes me nervous.  And now with social media and multimedia being mainstream in education, thus also in my job, I am even farther out of my comfort zone than ever before.  And these motivated individuals I work with won’t stop.  They are always finding new educational resources to share.   Melody Pickle, Joni Boone, and Chrissine Rios, in particular, are excellent social media finders.  Kurtis finds all sorts of cool online articles.  Lisa finds educational subscriptions and some very funny videos.  And Kella, well, that woman is in another universe entirely from me technologically.  And me, well…

Education means stretching your mind and moving out of your comfort zone.   For me, that means I have to consider educational resources and strategies that are new and even foreign to me.  So in the spirit of sharing resources with colleagues, I thought I’d share some resources from a couple of these highly technical, motivated, and intelligent people I work with.

  • Melody sent me a link to Edublog award winners.  This site is full of things that make me nervous, but I bet everyone else will enjoy browsing the sites, blogs, videos, and webinars.
  • Kella sent the group a list of cool tech tools and her initial thoughts regarding their use:
    • Synchtube (site does not work in IE; must use Chrome or Firefox) “allows you to instantly create public and private rooms where you can watch YouTube and Vimeo music and videos synchronized with up to 50 people. Everyone views the same video at the same exact time.” Kella’s thoughts: We could use this site for virtual field trips in workshops and user group meetings! We’d all be on the same page too. How nifty!
    • is, in a word, awesome!!! Up to 16 people can collaborate on one document and, here’s where this application beats the pants off of Google Docs, there is a real-time screen capture of who is contributing what so you can see the writing process in action. Kella’s thoughts: We could use this software to create a video about the Writing Process, brainstorm with students in live tutoring so we both can type on a white board with minimal fuss or instructions (very intuitive, much more so than Adobe Connect), or we could use this tool to collaborate in meetings with one another.
    • is also a really cool application that encourages people collaborate in a space way cooler and more dynamic than Wallwisher. You can upload images, text, video, photos, etc. and collaborate on joint brainstorming sessions. Kella’s thoughts: I could see this tool used as an ice breaker or idea generator in workshops, as a way for our staff to collaborate on our own individual projects (it’s a virtual bulletin board and reminder space), among other uses. The sky’s the limit (and it’s free!).
    • ScribLINK lets up to 6 people play around on a free whiteboard. The functionality is a wee bit more flexible than Adobe Connect. Students can be invited to get URL and Email and upload files by saving, printing, or sending. There’s even VoIP and phone conferencing (talking with students!) on this whiteboard too. Kella’s thoughts: This software might be especially helpful for ELL outreach and tutoring sessions (any tutoring session where there are smaller one-on-one interactions).

There are many, many other links our group shares with each other, but I’ll stop here for today.  This list has more resources than I can handle looking at in even one month.

Please let us know if you have cool tech tools or educational sites to share and your thoughts on their uses, especially for writing.  –Diane

4 Responses

  1. Hello Ladies,

    These comments are filled with great information. Thank you! I have taught for KU for the last 6 years and I have seen a great development in technology.
    Like Diane, I am a little nervous with technology :), but she is more advanced! Diane, you have inspired me to be more adventurous and will visit all those great sites your suggested. Susan, those sites look also great!

    next time I will be adding some ideas to this great blog!

    Have a beautiful week-end,


  2. Susan Carlson says:

    Wonderful post, Diane, and though you may be nervous about technology, I commend you for venturing into new territory! I think you are doing a wonderful job.

    It can be challenging to find time to seek out and explore all the tools available to us, so having the opportunity to share ideas in this blog is appreciated. I recently discovered a few very simple quiz generators ( and that might be fun to play around with. They could be useful in the Writing Center or in the classroom.

    Thanks again for sharing ideas, and keep up the good work!


  3. Susan Calhoun says:

    Thank you for your honesty and the helpful information provided! There are so many wonderful tools to use and so little time to try them all. Please keep searching for the best ideas and sharing them with all of us.
    Susan Calhoun

  4. Kella says:

    Hello there! Ahoy! I love this post, Diane. I think a lot of us are creatures of habit. I love the golden curried tofu plate at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, and I rarely order anything else when I visit Mai Lee. Same goes when I visit Sparky’s in Columbia, Missouri. I always go with lavender honey as my go-to, homemade ice cream flavor.

    The tech tools above are ones I learned from Will de Bock in December 2010 during an excellent CTL session entitled, Kitchen Sync. I highly recommend these sessions to others for branching out tech-wise by visiting the CTL sessions monthly! Great info and cutting-edge technology is always on the horizon.


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