I’ve never sought to define this space as a “mommy blog,” though I’m a mother or as an “education blog,” though I’m an educator. Overall I hope that Suburbia reflects my real life, which is a wonderful mix of roles from wife, to mother, to school administrator and community volunteer. And, while I find myself talking about work in general from time to time and school issues on occasion, it’s not often I devote a post to a specific education issue.
But now I feel led to do so and would love some input on the topic from parents and other educators who might happen to wander by here. The topic, perhaps ironically or maybe appropriately, is the use of Web 2.0 tools here at All-American Public Schools. Because right now, we don’t. Use them that is. All wikis, blogs, and other social networking applications like Facebook and Twitter are blocked by our Internet filter. Teachers also can’t use YouTube or many image sites.
Our technology department has legitimate concerns about protecting students from inappropriate material to be found online as well as potential exposure to stalkers or others who might wish to harm them. There’s federal law to back them up as well as e-rate funding to be protected.
On the other side, teachers learn about these tools from our local technology consortium, from journal articles on best practices, and from their own personal experiences. Many can’t wait to be able to integrate these new tools into their instructional practice.
As a district-level administrator, I’m trying to balance both perspectives. My personal experiences, both with a listserve and with this blog, tell me that social networking tools are powerful in their ability to build community as well as in the fact that they hone writing and communication skills. My participation in these forums opened up points of view and experiences I couldn’t have had if I’d stayed closed in only my “real” life world.
I know students need to see a reason for their learning and that authentic products help create that motivation. Creating a podcast or interacting with other students to build a wiki to demonstrate learning makes a lot of sense as a way to develop those “21st Century” skills we like to talk about in education.
I also know that parents need to be assured of their students’ online safety while they entrust them to our care during the school day and that students need to be taught the appropriate way to put these tools to work for them in an academic setting. Meaningful participation in an online class discussion takes different skills than posting a status update on Facebook.
My question here, is what do you expect schools to do to teach your children to navigate the ever-expanding world of the Internet, in whichever “version” they may encounter it? How should schools balance the need for learning with the need for protection? It’s a question that never seemed to come up when the cutting edge tools were overhead projectors and reel-to-reel movies!