Saturday, October 6, 2007

Stifling our learners' voices

Many IT departments in the USA are currently tightening control over learners' abilities to access specific internet sites. The tightening noose frustrates many of us who are trying to integrate these sites into our classrooms.
The all powerful IT departments are no longer keeping us connected but censoring where we go. This can have the good intention of keeping kids safe but ...
This current censorship seems very much like we are on the receiving end of IT departments' fears. When people are afraid they historically tighten control. Wars begin this way. Sometimes our fears are well-founded, like when a child reaches out for a hot stove-we all tighten control to prevent injury.
It does seems IT departments today are tightening control. Could they be afraid of losing control? It is too late for that, they just haven't realised that yet.
Let's think about this. Learners' today have expensive phones and/or iPods with them 24/7. They can connect to the internet instantly outside of the school's control. They can listen to podcasts of whatever they downloaded outside of the school's control.
Tightening control is not going to work. The IT departments have already lost control. So where do we go from here?
School's need to be teaching effective digital citizenship. We need to desperately teach current learner's how to safely navigate, how to ethically communicate, how to globally connect. Major corporations like Xerox, IBM, & 3M require employees to be digitally literate. We need to facilitate this or our graduates will be handicapped.
Kelly Christopherson writes on this topic. I recommend you both read him and blog your own thoughts. Enter the conversation, be counted, impact collective knowledge.
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Damian Bariexca said...

You said, "School's need to be teaching effective digital citizenship. We need to desperately teach current learner's how to safely navigate, how to ethically communicate, how to globally connect."

I agree, but think that many teachers have to be taught this before they can teach the kids. I spend so much time in the "echo chamber" that I sometimes forget that there are teachers out there for whom this is all alien. I know I sound like a broken record when I say, "meaningful PD, meaningful PD, meaningful PD", but it's the truth. There's so much tied into that, though - cost, facilities, teacher buy-in, etc.

The sad truth is that many teachers are not "highly qualified" to teach effective digital citizenship. Could they be? Of course. Will they? Do they see the value in it? Or is it just easier to block sites en masse?

As a somewhat-related aside, I never realized the politics behind school Internet presence until I offered to put up a wiki for my school's Special Services dept. as a project for my psych degree's internship. It's got to go all the way to the superintendent, and even then it's not a done deal. Lotsa red tape involved, and I teach in a very tech-friendly district! If there are such restrictions on staff-generated content and format, I can see why there would be reluctance to open up the floodgates for students. From my interpretation, it all seems to go back to legal liability.

Kelly Christopherson said...

I believe we are at a point that our IT departments need to ensure information is safe and that the network is functioning at 100%. The tools teachers want to use are available and easily accessed. There is no need to keep the walls up. It's time to teach the students how to live and function in a wired world. Great post Durff!