Thursday, April 2, 2009

Professional Development - and Muppet Grumps 2.0

As a beginning teacher I entered each Professional Development opportunity with enthusiasm and a willingness to change and become enlightened about best practices in education. I imagined that time spent in PD was like a trip to the service station - I could recharge my batteries, get a tuneup, and if I was lucky, all the kinks would be worked out. I would return to the classroom a better, more fuel-efficient teacher. Yes, I was a PD nerd - and I openly admit that.

Imagine my shock and dismay when I realized that not everyone shared my vision! At one of our PD events a small group of teachers were chosen to lead the School Division in it's literacy initiative, a couple of teachers sat at the back and openly ignored our colleagues' presentation. One of the reluctant teachers read the paper, while another marked assignments, and occasionally they whispered loudly to one another about the hockey game. It was obvious that they thought this PD event was a waste of their time, and they made not bones about it. I could not believe they wouldn't give their colleagues the courtesy to at least pretend to listen. They reminded me of the two old grumpy Muppets who sat in the balcony interjecting their negative comments about the performance. I was really disheartened about it, and I quickly learned that teachers have to be willing to develop - they have to "buy-in" - or PD is useless.

Muppets At Work
Photo courtesy: Alex Watson

While this Professional Development event was about literacy, it could easily have been about technology. It got me wondering - what was wrong with this whole PD experience? Why were there dissidents amongst our ranks? I now believe there were two main problems:

1. This PD session was delivered as a performance to teachers who had to buy-in to the change that was expected to take place. Teachers were told what they needed, rather than asked what they felt they needed. Participation wasn't optional, and there was no customization in play. We were all treated equally - regardless of our subject areas, our teaching experience and our grade levels. As Judi Harris so eloquently put it, when it comes to educational professional development, "One size doesn't fit all."

2. PD should no longer be broadcast through a manual or a CD Rom - Professional Development - especially in technology - should match the very interactive, constructivist and social nature that parallels the very web 2.0 technologies it seeks to support.

Creating a Buzz

How would the two old Muppet grumps at the back of the room responded had this professional development occurred through a different medium than the old standard intructor-led presentation? Consider what would have happened had the "buy-in" premeditated the workshop. Imagine if the Director and School Administrators had followed Camilla Gagliolo's advice in Help Teachers Mentor One Another. Gagliolo's steps for creating a mentoring environment include:
• Identify early adopters and risk-takers who are ready to explore emergent
technology integration ideas
• Plan collaboratively with a focus on student learning
• Create a network of support by holding regular meetings and short training sessions
• Provide extra training and learning opportunities outside the regular network (e.g., attend a conference together)
• Co-teach in the classroom (e.g., provide the extra support when implementing new ideas in the classroom setting)
• Provide personal, ongoing, technical, and pedagogical support
• Observe classroom learning with constructive feedback
• Celebrate success (e.g., share at staff meetings, post on a Web site,
co-present at a local conference, co-author an article)
• Create professional development

I think if even a few of these suggestions were followed, the School Division would have experienced much more success in their PD initiative. Of all the points, I feel "celebrating success" is one of the easiest to institute, but it's also vitally important because it helps to create a buzz in the school, and the ripple effect may actually lead reluctant teachers to become curious about new methods. In One Size Doesn't Fit All, Judi Harris remarks:

"[o]ne of the most popular forms of collaborative learning ETPD [educational
technology professional development] is sharing best practices. This can be done
face-to-face or online, and in multiple formats, such as study groups,
conference SIG (special interest group) or birds-of-a-feather meetings, and
online communities of teachers."
This sharing of success at a grass roots level (such as at your staff meeting), helps to invite bigger professional development opportunities such as mentorship and collaboration; or could lead to an acknowledgment that an expert speaker is needed to facilitate a preferably hands-on workshop experience that teachers are eager to attend and learn from.

Muppet Grumps 2.0

Imagine a 2.0 version of The Muppet Show - the two old grumps would have their i-pods on while texting their comments to Kermit the Frog on their cell phones. They would be blogging their critical reviews of the performances on their laptops even before the fat piggy sings.

Enter from stage left a critical thinker like Judy O'Connell. In Learning Is a Multimodal Conversation she makes a very valid point, that in today's web 2.0 world - the on-line community is already engaging in professional development.

"Bloggers regularly write about Web 2.0 online applications for students,
sharing ideas, tips, and tricks for engaging our digital natives in learning. . . .
As we pour our own words, tags, sounds, images, and multimedia into the
ever-increasing global knowledge and information pool, we have to become adept
at patterns of connectivity in these learning contexts."

With this in mind, I would be very tempted to follow PD activities with an on-line access point to continue to share/think/create. Blogs, nings, podcasts, video and wikis have made it easy for teachers to participate in the "global multimodal conversation" that O'Connell calls "[l]earning."
If we ourselves are using the Web 2.0 tools to further our own education, then it is only a matter of time for reluctant teachers (or grumpy Muppets) to see how useful these tools can be in our student's learning.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How do you Eat an Elephant? Integrating Technology One Byte at a Time

When I was an Education student in 1996, I had a professor who was incredibly dynamic and had a genuine passion for teaching. At exam time our class was feeling pretty fatigued and overwhelmed by the mountain of work we felt we had to climb before the end of term. I'll always remember our professor's pep talk because it was so simple: How do you eat an elephant? (one bite at a time.)

Dining Together - Munching on Collaboration

The process of integrating technology into our libraries and classroom spaces seems daunting at first, much like climbing a mountain or eating an elephant - but if we simplify the process, start small and work our way up and out, great things can and will happen.

When David Loertscher was invited to speak to teacher librarians in Winnipeg last year his big push was to have teacher librarians collaborating more with classroom teachers. His mantra seemed to be: two heads are better than one. Loertscher suggested we revamp the way library time is scheduled - stating that teacher librarians should make extra room for those who wish to collaborate, so that higher-level activities could take place. He was quite practical in saying that not everyone wants to collaborate at first, but once they see the quality of learning that can take place, that collaborative style of teaching will become more valued and valuable. The main point I want to make is that Loertscher had the wisdom to see that a collaborative approach to integrating technologies like wikis and blogs could be done in smaller steps. Teacher librarians need not approach all staff at once, we can start small - with those classroom teachers that are most willing. Then, over time, we can invite the more reluctant teachers to join us (by then, hopefully, they will understand the benefits of collaboration by witnessing it in classrooms around them).

In Avoiding the Digital Abyss, by Rebecca Mullen and Linda Wedwick, we are also presented with a simple approach - they shared 3 practical and relatively easy ways to integrate technology into our schools:
  1. Use YouTube to share meaningful - just in time - clips with students.
  2. Create Digital Stories - I appreciated their suggestion to focus on storytelling first and technology second - warning that stories tend to become watered down if emphasis is too heavily weighted on technology.
  3. Blog - setting up a classroom blog provides an excellent place for homework reminders, book suggestions, podcasts, etc. What I like about the blog platform is the various other Web 2.0 tools that can be used within that space.

Mullen and Wedwick's approach for integrating technology into our classrooms could easily be achieved by many teachers as advanced technological skill to use these tools is not required.

Glimpsing - a Fly on the Wall

My first teaching position was at Davison Elementary School in Melville, Saskatchewan. I would like to spend a little bit of time highlighting this K-6 school because it has, in my opinion, been extremely successful in their integration of technology.

Back in 2000, the grade 4 teacher was interested in documenting her students school year by creating a video which she shared at our year-end assemblies. A couple of years later, the school was designated a Community Access Program (CAP) Site in which the school received a digital video camera and a computer to be used in the school and community (with the intention that the community could access these tools as well). Around this time, a grade 6 teacher pursued her Master's in Education and brought a knowledge and interest in new technologies back to the classroom using SMARTboards and blogs. In 2005, Davison School received the Saskatchewan Public Access Network Award for Excellence and Innovation in Technology, and they received a research grant from the Dr. Stirling McDowell Foundation. Today, if you view their website and classroom blogs (such as the Grade 1 class blog) you will see students engaging with technology as part of their daily learning.

Why has this small-town school been so successful at integrating technology into their classrooms? I believe there are several contributing factors:
  1. A willingness by administration to explore new technologies without an over-protective use of filters.
  2. A foreword-thinking Principal that encouraged her staff to learn about emerging technologies.
  3. Acquiring funding by applying for technology grants and participating in research studies.
  4. Two highly motivated teachers who went on to do their Master's degrees and shared what they were learning about new technologies (such as SMARTboards) with staff. One teacher took on a mentoring role and supported her colleagues in learning and integrating these new technologies. (Incidentally, this teacher is now the Principal and recently won the Prime Ministers Award for Excellence in Teaching; the previous Principal has gone on to be a Superintendent of Schools).
  5. A willingness by staff to be mentored.
  6. A staff that frequently collaborated on school-wide initiatives such as First Steps with morning breakfast meetings. The collaborative climate was already in place as new technologies emerged.

What I hope I have shown through this glimpse at Davison Elementary School is the idea that small steps can have a tremendous impact on our integration of technology. A couple of highly motivated teachers can pave the way for others to incorporate technology into their classrooms.

Like David and Margaret Carpenter say in their article, All Aboard: "The ripple effect for introducing 21st century learning opportunities can become an unstoppable force in your school’s learning community."

A Mantra (or 2)

I have 2 mantras that move me through those times when work seems overwhelming. One, I've already shared - that is to eat the elephant one bite at a time. The other came to me as I sat in the taxi after my 5 month old son had heart surgery. We were on our way to the airport and were quite rushed for time. The taxi wouldn't start. The driver was apologizing and trying everything. Normally, getting to an airport on time would stress me out. Not anymore. I was calm. I had just handled the hardest situation of my entire life. I was peaceful, and I was certain we could handle any mountain we had to climb. My 2nd mantra is, it's not heart surgery; we'll be okay.

So, while integrating technology into an already crammed curriculum may seem like an overwhelming task, it isn't. It's just technology. It's just another tool to add to the stew. It's not heart surgery. And like eating the elephant, we don't have to wolf it down all at once. Small bites/small steps can be a highly effective way to go. With each step, our comfort level will increase. If we just realize that we're not alone in this - we can experience the strength of collaborating and facing the journey together. We can learn with/alongside/from our students. As Don Knezek (ISTE CEO, 2008) has remarked:
"Teachers must become comfortable as co-learners with their students and with colleagues around the world. Today it is less about staying ahead and more about moving ahead as members of dynamic learning communities. The digital-age teaching professional must demonstrate a vision of technology infusion and develop the technology skills of others. These are the hallmarks of the new education leader."
If we accept the challenge to collaborate in the digital-age, we'll all benefit from the ripple effects.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Privately at odds with Privacy Issues

I gave my privacy away the day I became a mother. No matter where I am in the house, one of my 3 boys finds me. I never imagined washing my hair with a 5 year old on the other side of the shower curtain telling me all the details of his Star Wars Transformer. But, it has happened, and it seems like I'm never alone. And yes, someone is always watching me or listening to what I say.
This week's topic about Privacy has made me realize that I am also being watched on-line. Everything I do on-line is being recorded somewhere. But in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?

After watching the video Does what happens in the Facebook stay in the Facebook? I was a little shocked that Facebook wants all rights to anything I post there. It doesn't seem very socially polite of them, if you catch my drift (I'm a firm believer in social netiquette). I was also extremely interested in the negative comments regarding this video. One of the cleanest comments (there were several with profanities that I came across) reads as follows:

. . . what exactly does this person put on their facebook that they don't want
other companies to see? For that matter, what does ANYONE put on their facebook
that they don't want others to see? God forbid that they give away the pictures
of her at her college reunion! The only thing anybody would want with your
information is surveys. Do you care that people you don't know know you read
Harry Potter? (Comment posted by nommayomnom 2 weeks ago)

This got me thinking:

Do I care if my information is used in surveys? No. It's a little creepy to think my information is being shared without my knowledge, but I don't post information that I want to keep private anyway, so why does it matter?

Do I care if people know what I read? No. If I post a book on Shelfari that I've read, I'm aware that it's out there for people to see. If I did care, I wouldn't mention it.

Would I care if they gave my photos of my children away? This is where I do care. I believe it's common courtesy to be asked before photos are used elsewhere. I would probably get a little upset if I saw pictures of my children published without my consent. I have to weigh the possibilities of this happening with the joy of sharing with friends and family.

Should I share this knowledge about privacy with staff and students? Probably. I think that it is good to help others be aware of what rights they are giving up while using social networking sites like Facebook, but I think we have to realize that a lot of them simply don't care.

So, why is it a non-issue for some, while others feel so strongly against the lack of privacy that they refuse to use Facebook and such? I realized earlier today while muddling through this issue that there is a lack of urgency for many youth regarding on-line privacy. Look at their privacy role models - Paris Hilton is the one star who comes to mind with regards to their privacy being violated on-line. And look what happened to her - fame. Ms. Hilton has not been jumping on the privacy bandwagon as a result of this experience. As far as I can tell, she hasn't been asked to do school visits to spread the word about protecting your privacy on-line.

Deeper Reasons for Protecting our Privacy Rights

I think we can all agree that there are more serious issues on-line than simple marketing surveys.

In the video clip, Facebook Killed the Private Life, Clay Shirky (author of Here Comes Everybody) asks us to comtemplate: "what are we going to say as a society about looking into other people's lives?" Is it right for employers and schools to search out information about you on Facebook and Myspace?

The most relevant piece of information about privacy that stood out for me from this interview was Shirky's comment about the effects of technology on ones private life:

"What the technology makes possible is colliding with our social sense of this
kind of semi public, semi-private sphere - that's what is being contested,that's
what being fought over. The most serious negative consequence of this is: if we
don't carve out some space for documented personal action that's okay, then we
will really have robbed young people of something they won't even know they're
missing because they never leave the web of surrveillance. "
When it comes right down to the bottom line - there is no bottom line. We have never experienced such a blurring of private and public life before - so we don't know all the answers.
For me, I've been witnessing 2 types of response:

1. Engage in a knee-jerk reaction saying to avoid Facebook and Myspace - such as the recent warning from B.C. College of Teachers (see, Warning for teachers: Facebook can kill career).

2. A proceed with caution approach- and with an awareness that whatever you post can be viewed by anyone, and possibly misunderstood or misinterpreted.

As an educator, I definitely think we should be engaging in these conversations with our staff and students. I also believe this is just the beginning. As a parent I will continue to educate my own children as they grow up with this "web of surveillance" (Shirky) using Doug Johnson's sage advice as presented in Lighting Lamps:

  • Write assuming your boss is reading
  • Gripe Globally; praise locally
  • Write for edited publications.
  • Write out of goodness.

I appreciate Johnson's straight-forward manner, and his words are quite wise. These guiding principals to on-line writing could easily be shared with staff, students, and probably pre-service teachers as well.

If we traverse the web of surveillance with knowledge and awareness, and follow guiding principles like Johnson's, I believe many of us can enjoy the benefits of on-line writing and sharing, while at the same time model the public/private balancing act for our students and children.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book Blog Tour - how Exciting!

I was so excited to read about a Book Blog Tour on a colleague's blog, that I just had to advertise it here. Carol from Edmonton was in the first half of this on-line class with me - but when that class ended - her blog, Teching Around with Web 2.0 kept going! She's hosting the Book Blog Tour for:

Engaging the Eye Generation: Visual Literacy Strategies for the K-5 Classroom by Johanna Riddle

Carol (the other Carol) invites you to "post questions about 21st century literacies and technology integration to the comment section prior to March 6th and [she] will post her responses."

I thought this idea of a book tour on a blog was too good not to share - and also a marvelous truth that even when the class stops, the learning keeps on going.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Teaching - a Slippery Slope to Criminal Activity - Intellectual Property and Copyright

When I first became an elementary teacher I wondered how I was ever going to have enough "stuff" to fill a year of teaching. I felt I had to have thousands of engaging lessons and resources to compliment and guide my students through the curriculum. I had no idea how I was going to build up my resources at hand, but I learned quickly. . . I begged, I borrowed, I stole (just like the teacher before me).

What I discovered is that teachers are like magpies - we steal whatever shiny object we can get our greedy little beaks on - but our thieving ways are totally justified because we're motivated by the needs of our sweet, innocent students. That is our trump card - our students needs.

Do you think I'm exaggerating? I should add that in my 2nd year of teaching I attended a workshop called "All the Good Things I Know I Stole" - by a highly respected educator in the International Reading Association. She modeled stealing intellectual property very well!

Teaching Magpies like Me

Last year I attended a presentation about Copyright in Winnipeg. The speaker provided wonderfully frightening anecdotes about teachers being charged hundreds of dollars for showing movies they didn't have the rights to show. He told us that copying an illustration/character from a book and using it in a bulletin board display was indeed breaking the law. Posting the jackets from picture books around the library, also illegal. Altering a story from it's original format, against the law as well. I'm not entirely sure if the speaker discussed alternatives because I was too busy going through the list of numerous offences I had participated in during that week alone.

Something I learned from this experience is that teaching awareness of copyright is not enough to effectively persuade teachers/students to respect intellectual property. Awareness without providing alternatives is disempowering, and creates a culture of fear. What I needed - and probably what a lot of educators need - is an empowering method of unlearning how we've previously used (stolen) intellectual property so that we can navigate our way legally through the waters of intellectual property.

Luckily, this notion of providing alternatives to stealing is also noted in Mike Ribble's document Passport for Digital Citizenship. Ribble recommends a four-stage cycle of technology integration which "helps the user begin to internalize those issues. It is a cycle because there is no real end to learning. We are constantly learning, relearning, and unlearning information about technology" (p.16). The four stages include: awareness, guided practice, modeling and demonstration, and feedback and analysis.

I believe working through such a learning model with our students will make them more confident with their digital endeavors and make our job as copyright leaders more rewarding. We will be moving away from the thou shalt not.... stance on copyright to the here's what we can do instead stance - that alone is a more powerful and more fulfilling place to locate ourselves.

Free Culturalists & Creative Commons

Doug Johnson discusses intellectual property much more eloquently than I ever could in Changing how we teach copyright Pt 3. In his post, he mentions a growing movement of individuals called "free culturalists" who

"argue that everyone in a society benefits when creative work is placed in the
public domain where everyone is allowed to use and build upon it, that current
copyright laws give the owner too much control and for too long a time."

I feel this all-is-fair-because-it's-out-there approach is somewhat unfair and disrespectful to creators (ironic considering I confessed my thieving ways here). Artists should still have rights over their work, while at the same time, they shouldn't be afraid to display their work for fear that it will be stolen. Like Ms. Janesko in Do Students Respect Intellectual Property, who required her students to gain written permission to use copyrighted materials, I feel it is important to teach students that we have an ethical responsibility to acquire permission to use intellectual property. It may seem like a hassle, or a waste of time to require students to do this, but if we truly value intellectual property, then it is simply something that must be done.

That is why I feel Creative Commons came along just in the nick of time. Creative Commons Licences make it so much easier for students to use images ethically. The following video not only explains very well why Creative Commons was developed, but also illustrates, through it's images, the breadth and depth of the creative artistry we have access to through the Creative Commons:

In this video - two statements stood out for me:

  1. "Creative Commons is designed to save the world from failed sharing. For people who actually want to share. . . "
  2. "We have all these new technologies that allow people to express themselves, take control of their own creative impulses but the law is getting in the way."

Providing space for artists who want their work to be used is a brilliant idea. I am astounded by the quality of works - one might have assumed that it was a dumping ground for poorly constructed art, since many were providing free access - but there is actually everything from the amazing to the absurd. The very nature of Creative Commons is exciting - I would enthusiastically share this video with staff and higher grade students when discussing copyrights. As I said before, it is not enough for us as Teacher Librarians to say what we can't do -we need to provide an alternative for staff and students that fills their need - and Creative Commons came along at the right time to fill that need.

A Note from the Magpie Gallery

While Situating myself with the other magpies, I've come to realize that what I've actually been doing is modeling bad behaviour. If I expect my students to act responsibly, then I too must act responsibly, and stop stealing. A few years ago, I wasn't ready to make this shift in my thinking - because it seemed too difficult to follow the good life. I turned a blind eye to copyright because I was worried about where I was going to get all my teacher stuff. After I attended the workshop about copyright, I started asking permission from the photographers on Flickr to use their images for my bulletin board displays. I was really excited by their openness to share, and their interest in my use of their photos. It was a positive experience for me.

Now, with the creation of places like Creative Commons, and the feeling that the world is shrinking, and that permission is often just an e-mail away - I have hope of finding it easier to walk the straight and narrow copyright road with a clean conscience.

    Saturday, February 7, 2009

    A Web 2.0 Tool for Families

    The boys and I created a smilebox postcard for Valentine's Day. I thought I would share it here as many of you have young children, and those who work in Elementary Grades might like to create a scrapbook for your classes. You can post photos, add text - and your friends/family can comment back to you via the Smilebox page. Lots of fun and easy to set up in the home environment. I wonder if it is as easy at school, or if filters block this too? Anyway, I thought I would post it for you.

    Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

    Click to play Love you Blogoshere!
    Create your own postcard - Powered by Smilebox
    Make a Smilebox postcard

    Saturday, January 31, 2009

    Random Thoughts from the Dark Side - Filtering Digital Education

    For a while I was on the fence again. I couldn't decide which side of the filters debate I stood on. Are filters really bad, evil, horrible things that spell out "censorship" if played backwards? Or, are they a common-sense safety issue, much like asking your child to put their helmet on before they go for a bike ride? After much thought I've decided I'm against the over-use of filters. I feel that a little filtering should be in place, especially for very young learners, but that no filter is ever going to replace sound teaching. And any filter that stands in the way of teaching and learning, is a dangerous thing.

    The Dark Side of Filtering - Enter Darth Filterer

    I have moments of concern about the false sense of security that filters create. I am suspicious of the fear-mongering that educators are forced to endure when it comes to their
    student's safety. And, I shake my head at the notion of protecting adolescents from themselves (as if MySpace and Facebook were some sort of Lord of the Flies scenario waiting to happen.)
    If I were artistic, I might ink out a little cartoon of a line-up of kids leaving a school, covered from head to toe in bubble wrap. Their eyes have blinders on, and their ears are stuffed with cotton. The heading might read, "Since the filters couldn't go with them...."

    In this weeks readings, one statement stood out above the rest (most likely because I had never heard anyone approach filtering in this way before). Stephen Abram's suggests, in his article,
    Justifying the Social Tools: Improving the Conversation (2007), that we should really question what is being blocked and why:

    "Those folks who choose to block social networking sites for good reasons should be required to make those reasons explicit and to prove how their approach encourages good learning results and doesn't over-reach. I've seen too many
    instant messaging sites banned for vague or unsupportable reasons such as viruses or stalkers."
    I agree that it is important to question what learning opportunities are being compromised by the sites that are blocked. But, I wonder who will argue against excuses such as virus prevention and threat of stalkers? It is like a trump card held by the powers that be, and it seems the only counter-argument strong enough to challenge over-zealous blocking is to argue that filtering itself is unsafe.

    Mary Ann Bell argues this exact point in I'm Mad and I'm Not Gonna Take it Anymore (2008). Bell says, "[n]ot allowing access can be dangerous, as it keeps us from teaching kids to be safe and smart online when they are on their own" (p.3). Also, educators seldom state that the real dangers on the Net happen to kids outside of school. Filtering in school, then, seems more about educators wearing the blinders instead of the students. If the issues don't come up in the classroom, then maybe they don't exist - or, if they don't come up, then we won't have to deal with them. To me this approach screams of negligence at the highest level.

    Students worlds are different then when we were in school, but the big scary issues have always been there (sexual predators, bullies, etc.). We can't hide our heads in the sand when it comes to these issues, and blocking them out is like closing the door to the skeletons in our societal closet and denying they exist. To me, it is imperative that we are open and honest with students, that we discuss safe on-line behaviour frequently. That we invite students into the discussions about their own on-line safety, instead of having the fight for them with regards to safe or unsafe filtering.

    The Annoying Side of Filtering - My Light Saber Won't Work!

    The school division I worked for last year had very strict filtering levels in place. I felt like I was constantly running up against roadblocks in my teaching. I was told that if I wanted a site unblocked, I had to apply for a tech request to lift the block. This seems easy enough to do, but when you are juggling all that has to be juggled in the ordinary day to day of teaching in a school library, that extra step becomes a nuisance. Needing to send a tech request in for a 3 minute video to be unblocked seemed ludicrous and a waste of everyone's time.

    I found it very frustrating to work in this overly-filtered environment where many Web 2.0 tools could not be used or viewed. I resented the fact that the "higher ups" didn't have enough faith in my own professional judgment to either:

    1. Unblock sites myself that I needed for educational purposes.
    2. Have someone at my school remove the block.
    3. Be trusted to direct students to safe, educational, curriculum-related sites.

    Further Random Thoughts

    • Internet filters, are like coffee filters. You want the grit taken out, but the flavour to remain.
    • Filters "protect" our children only so far. Parents need to be taught practical tips for raising Internet safe kids. I think teacher librarians can play a vital role in educating parents about the risks of on-line interactions (it takes a global village...)
    • Acceptable Use Policies are like field trip forms saying you give permission for your child to be taken out into the world for educational purposes - but a signed piece of paper doesn't ensure that your child won't sprain an ankle in the real world, or come across questionable content in the virtual one.
    • Acceptable Use Policies need to be written in an accessible manner. I wonder what would happen if students were asked to write them? We need to make sure that teachers, parents, and children understand what they are signing, so it doesn't just become another piece of paper.
    • There are a lot of gatekeepers doing what's supposedly best for kids. . . .but I have to question: is someone getting rich off of this? Have we been manipulated to believe our kids are in danger on the Net? Have school boards been manipulated by filter software companies to believe filters will protect them from irate parents ready to sue them for exposing their child to the evils of the net? Where are these irate parents?
    • Why bother to invest in new technology if all we're really comfortable with is word processing? Why not bring back the typewriter?
    • The safety issue shouldn't be about exposure - but lack of experience in dealing with exposure.

    Final Thoughts, and One Anecdote - Trust in the Force

    I truly believe students can rise to the occassion of social responsibility as they grow and learn with Web 2.0 technologies. Reactionary blocking based on fear of the darker side of the web must be questioned. I recently observed a Facebook group directing hatred towards a student by other students. It would do little good for educators to swoop in and block access to such a site (after all, educators can't block home computers, and it is unlikely that the group was started within the school walls). What actually happened was that another student from the same town (now away at university) stepped in and said the site was very uncool and wrong. I don't know if the students who started the site were humbled or not, but hopefully they will think twice before doing it again. I think in such a situation we can not act alone as educators - this is a community issue (on-line and off). Parents, teachers, and students themselves need to find their way in this new world. We need moral codes of conduct that transcend the walls of the school, and filters simply can't do that.