On one of the listservs I am on I received this the other day:
“I am on a mission to find out which, if any, school districts allow student access to any or all of the following during school hours: 1. Facebook or any other social networking site 2. Twitter 3. YouTube Also, do you provide student email accounts either on your domain or through a service like Gaggle. Thanks for your input!”
More and more schools are exploring the possibility of using these types of media tools for educational purposes. I was however amazed and somewhat saddened to see the responses from directors of technology that came back with what struck me as almost emphatic NO’s for the response. I could almost hear “We are not allowing that on MY network.”
A clean working network is a great thing don’t get me wrong, but what will it take for some folks to see the benefit of the tools that are out there and available being used for instructional purposes? I also know that nothing beats great teaching. However, are we using our great teachers to connect with our students where they are and in a way that they communicate or are we merely breaking their spirits to conform to our standards? I also know that we need to leverage what we do with what is sustainable. What if one of these free tools that we sink time and energy into goes away? We have to make sure that we do not lose more time with that happening. I also know that we don't need to use "tools" just so we are able to say we are using tools.
I would imagine that if we were to ask those same directors of technology if sites like Delicious and Diigo were open or whether Wikispaces, Wetpaint or PBworks were available for collaboration the answer would probably be a NO as well. I thought the whole idea with education was just that education. How do we show proper use of tools and ethical use of sites and the Internet as well as collaborative ways for students to work with others and learn from others if we don’t allow them to experience things through the virtual worlds that exists via the Internet? Our faculty members also need to have the opportunities to learn in educational settings because I can imagine that most have a social networking site and before long we will hear, if we haven’t already, about someone getting in trouble for what they have posted because they don’t use them properly. Is it the students we are afraid of or the adults?
At our place we have opened up Facebook, Twitter and are exploring the best options for YouTube. We also have access to Discovery Streaming, Diigo, Delicious, Wetpaint, Wikispaces, TeacherTube, and we are even allowing our students to bring their own connectivity as we have gone wireless on our campus. Do I expect there to be some difficulties, sure I do. But I work at a school where we educate and the way we educate is not just what is contained in the curriculum. We educate the whole person in as many ways as possible. What I also expect more of are the chances for our students, as well as our teachers to do their best to shift the way they are taught as well as the way we teach and sometimes there needs to be a little push. My hope with a more open network is for the students to help with that push and then we get the benefit of teaching the ethical use as well as proper modeling of what is truly available out there to help our students prepare for their future.
I feel that if we truly believe in what we are doing we have to make strides in the direction of being more open with our students, with our parents and with our networks. Sometimes it is hard to let go, yes it can be a scary world out there, yes I want to protect my students and I do everything possible to make that happen, and yes we do teach online safety across the board, but I also want to share what is available, open the eyes of my students and teachers to all the possibilities and hopefully help to make them successful for their future.