Friday, November 28, 2008

Access Denied!


I recently gave a presentation at the annual NYSCATE conference. The topic was Personal Learning Networks. My discussion was more about what my PLN has done for me and my teaching and learning than about how to create and use a PLN. You can see my presentation at the NYSCATE Wiki. I used google docs for the slide show. I also tried to backchannel, but the wireless connection was not very good.

My partner could not make it this time. Rob Hansen tried to connect from home via Skype, but again the Internet connection did not work well enough for us to use it. I was disappointed about the lack of a good Internet connection. There were two activities that we could not demonstrate because of it.

During the conversation I realized a couple of things. One was that there are an awful lot of people who are seeing actual web 2.0 activities for the first time. The second thing I observed was that most people there were frustrated with their abilities to use these tools online because they are being blocked at school.

I see this as one of the major roadblocks if not the major roadblock that we face. Why? This is something that we can control. I do believe in some level of filtering, but not excessively. Especially when educational tools are blocked.

I attend several tech meetings during the school year with techies from all levels. So far the reasons that I am hearing for the excessive blocking are."That's my job", and "We need to protect the kids!". Once you get into a discussion with them you can tell that the real reason for this behavior is to protect their job. Why do we let this false sense of security trump our kids education?

There are some people who take this as a challenge. I believe there is more energy spent trying to stay ahead of the kids than there would be educating them. I think it is hypocritical of us as educators to out right ban the use of technology when we can educate the kids to use it appropriately. We believe kids can be taught higher order thinking, math, science, etc., but we can't teach them how to use the Internet appropriately?

Fear should not rule here. I think if you create a culture of trust you can get so much more from your students. Once students are taught how the technology should be used in schools they will for the most part behave accordingly. Yes, you can point to a few every now and then that will cross that line but then deal with it. Way to often we make blanket policies to deal with individual problems.

I believe you should trust, but verify. This actually takes less time than waiting and watching for violators. Some techies are proud to say that they beat the kids at their game. I wonder why you need to play the game at all!

1 comment:

John-Henry Lane said...

Great post! I saw your presentation at the NYSCATE Conference and was thoroughly impressed. I had been in another session, but was very disappointed and walked out and ended up in yours, for which I'm thankful for now. This post only solidifies what I walked away from your session thinking.

I work on the Model Schools Team at a RIC in Central New York so we deal with these 'access' issues all the time throughout 52 districts. I try to promote that sense of trust, but it's usually looked down upon. Building a sense of trust, ownership and responsibility is critical to schools/teachers/administrators embracing these new tools. I'll be sure to check back regularly and may even ask some questions through email. Thank you for a great example to show others. Keep up the good work ~