What to do when a BBC producer calls you crazy…

I’m writing this from Terminal 5 in Heathrow Airport. I’m not an actress, screenwriter, director or executive assistant but this morning a BBC producer called me crazy. It is not to say people with this job description deserve to be scolded by their boss — but maybe it would just be more likely if the words coming out of this man’s mouth were directed to someone with that title. I’m an educator and EdTech blogger and received this tweet a few hours ago.

So what do you do when a producer for Sir David Attenborough calls you crazy?

I happen to be in London after a speaking engagement at EdTechXEurope but I don’t know this man. So after issuing a concise reply I felt I needed to reflect on the bigger picture.

This person, this BBC producer, responded to a tweet about the app Virry. Virry is an iPad app that lets users view animals on a webcam and play interactive games to learn about animals. In 140 characters I may not have been able to communicate the power of this app for teaching and learning. But I think my post lays out a couple reasons teachers would find this app useful.

Now I’ve sat in front of a television and watched Planet Earth, I’ve also been to the Bronx Zoo.

I’ve shown my students short clips from Attenborough’s Planet Earth, I’ve also taken class trips to the Central Park zoo. Not all students have access to see animals up close. Geographical, financial, and logistical challenges are more significant in certain learning environments. Take the classroom in a rural area away from easy transportation, the group of students who can’t leave their school for more than a few hours without medical staff on hand — organizing a field trip to a faraway place is not feasible for every teacher. One of the reasons I work hard to share my EdTech favorites is to make sure educators know where to find and how to access content to energize lessons and take students beyond the walls of their classroom.

When it comes to technology integration finding a balance is key. A phrase I use all the time when talking to teachers about using technology wtih students is tasks before apps. You shouldn’t be using technology just because, but with a clear purpose.

As much as I’d like to take a group or students on safari, field trips like these aren’t feasible for every teacher. An app like Virry helps students who can’t get to the zoo or step into the wild a chance to build background knowledge and learn to ask questions.

So maybe the right response to the question, Are you crazy? Is yes.

Yes, I’m crazy about giving students, teachers and families lots of opportunities to explore the world around them. Yes, I believe technology can help even the playing field. Yes, I love the idea that with a tap on the screen you can watch a lion or a meerkat. Yes, I think it’s fantastic that technology can help students make connections to a favorite book, embark on a mini-adventure, and simply spark interest that can lead them down a pathway of learning.