A lot of posts among some of my online “acquaintances,” not to mention some issues at my own campus, have gotten me thinking about the disconnect between “the possible” and what’s permitted in schools.
What particularly set me off today was a twitter post from a respected colleague who was gradually having all web 2.0 tools cordoned off from her students, so that many of the projects she was trying to do or was already involved with were rapidly becoming denied to her students. (And I could relate because although the situation is much, much better in our district, I still have been waiting for almost five weeks for approval to get Skype installed on a few teacher stations so I can use it for professional development and for virtual author visits.)
I find it upsetting because there are teachers out there who are committed and excited about education, and who really want to bridge the gap between the world many of their students live in (wired, connected, “on all the time”) and the world of education(me being one of those teachers). These teachers are pushing the envelope, eagerly trying new things, and trying to use the best tools they can find to connect their students with a world beyond the classroom walls.
Yet too many of these teachers are met with roadblocks, and an ever mounting frustration at being unable to convince administrators or their IT department, or their district leaders..or someone in their district, that what they are doing can be done in a safe manner and is valuable, very valuable for their students.
So my fear is, naturally, that we are going to lose some of the best teachers we have in the country. Because you can only stand expending half your energies “convincing” people for so long. And no one finds it rewarding to have their genuine love and enthusiasm for teaching reined in and constantly met with roadblocks.
As schools, we have to support those who want to innovate and who want to provide this leadership. We ask kids to trust us, and parents to trust us, and yet sometimes we aren’t endowed in our own districts with that sense of goodwill and trust. We are professionals. We are brought into a district to do our very best for our students. We ask for the tools we need, that in our professional judgment are the very best for the job. We should ask for no less.
So we know what the problem is. My question is, what can we do to better support innovation with technology in our schools? How can we facilitate the efforts of the best? How can we not only support innovation but “grow it?”
Scott McLeod posted this question from a reader recently:
“What resources (contacts, advisors, print, online, etc.) do you recommend to our school leaders – and lawyers – so they can make informed decisions about student access to social networking tools?”
While he received some answers about some good social networking tools, I wish he’d gotten more answers about policies, statistics, and helpful information for sharing with districts about social networking, like the new NSBA statement on social networking that Will Richardson, David Warlick and many others have blogged about.
I have a few ideas–things that have been successful in our district, like opening up a dialogue and having a committee to discuss filtering and its ramifications. (Our tech director assembled a team of many interested parties to enable this discussion). It’s also helpful to have the opportunity to demonstrate what the tools can do for students. It’s also helpful to have good policies and statistics handy.
The fear factor is one of the primary problems, and the best way to counteract fear is with facts and examples. (For example, Will points out that “fear” is one of the main concerns, yet the statistics don’t bear out that fear.)
So blogosphere, here’s your chance–what are some other helpful statistics, ideas, policies, and approaches for helping teachers who are facing this sort of frustration? What tools can we give them?