Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Tom Reinartz

Tom has been using Tapped In for about five years. He has been teaching English/Language Arts at Rosemount High School in Minnesota for 10 years. For the past six years, he has taught technology courses for teachers at the University of Minnesota. In about six months he will complete his dissertation in Learning Technologies at the University of Minnesota.

Tom's Perspective

I remember using version one of Tapped In and thinking it really was close to the most powerful learning tool that I had used in my teaching. Tapped In has been essential for my teaching and learning not only for its easy access, but because of the opportunities to meet and collaborate with others from around the world on just about anything related to education.

When I first began integrating technologies into my teaching, I remember learning new technologies that were exclusive to our high school. Very few teachers from neighboring districts could access the same technology that, through a recent bond referendum, was available to teachers in our district. Since then, I know that technology simply mediates what is to be learned, and really, it's how the technology is used rather than the number of gadgets built into it. One of my advisors, Simon Hooper has written a very clear and helpful article that speaks to this. You can find it at http://www.nowhereroad.com/twt/.

I find Tapped In to be one of the most powerful tools that I have used, and it really has little to do with the technology, though I have to admit that does continue to be an important component. What they offer with technology is incredibly rich in terms of its tools available, though it pales in comparison to what is offered through how Tapped In is designed to be used. For example, Tapped In enables the communication of a variety of educators from around the world through monthly email about weekly online meetings, the availability of "rooms" to meet and discuss, the links to research about online learning, and the indispensable, reliable, and friendly help offered by the online tutors. Every time I introduce the tool to teachers, the tutors help me out. Teachers then feel quite a bit more comfortable with the environment and most of the time they pick it up quickly and begin to form their own learning communities. I'm not sure how many communities have been formed at Tapped In, but from my own teaching, I'm sure they continue to multiply.

Last fall, I think I used it to the extreme. I began to teach an online media studies course that is offered for the first time online at the University of Minnesota. It has been taught face to face for about 25 years by Richard Beach, who is a leading researcher in the field of new media studies at the University of Minnesota (and fortunately another helpful dissertation advisor). It has always been Rick's philosophy to teach teachers with tools that they can use in their own classrooms. Tapped In allows teachers to both use it as students and then turn around and use it as teachers. That alone best describes Tapped In's value to both teachers and teachers of teachers.

My dissertation is about online learning communities, so I hope to have some meaningful results over the course of the next year. Once I do, I can speak even more about how Tapped In facilitated learning and more importantly how it helped lead my media studies class into a community learners.