Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fear and Ignorance about Technology Needs to Stop

In the article Collaboration….Blocked by a Firewall Near You, Heather talks about how many sites are blocked in schools and states,
“… by blocking many of the online sites for collaboration from our schools, we as educators have censored the very tools of collaboration that this generation of students speaks. By blocking blogging sites, wiki sites, YouTube, etc…we are also blocking our students from the tools of their future.”

I think many sites are blocked because school systems are scared and ignorant. I don’t mean that in a nasty way but ignorance makes people scared. In fact it is scary to think that school systems are scared because they don’t know enough. School board members are politicians and it isn’t “what you know” that is important but who you know and how will it affect the next election. Many don’t go into the position planning on being politicians but it becomes a political arena once they enter it. They are pulled in all directions from all different sides and they have to do the politically correct thing because the decisions they make can determine whether they will get reelected or not. Until school board members get informed about technology and learn to use it in order to support the schools, I feel this will be a constant battle that schools have to fight.

I really liked the list Heather comes up with about issues and how she responds to them.

"Reasons NOT to use technology (and my refutations):
1. The legal issues are scary: what if a student writes inappropriate content online? Um, have you ever seen the desktop at the back of the classroom? It covers vocab no teacher dares to mention.
2. The teacher education and support necessary to train teachers is scary. Do it anyway. Teachers need to be on the forefront of curriculum, not in its wake.
3. Adding more to a teacher’s plate is scary. Of course it is, but take something off rather than put more on. Have an administrator cover yard duty so that you can actually focus on teaching instruction and practice for your next class.
4. Kids knowing more than the teachers is scary (to some teachers). Or it can be a very powerful tool. Regardless of your philosophies, the gap ever widens as we ignore its existence.
5. Some students don’t have access to technology at home so how can we expect them to do it? Well, many homes don’t have libraries either so it’s a school’s job to step up and provide. Even though some students may not have access to a computer at home, the school needs to see its role in equalizing the differences between those who have it and those who do not.
Technology is the great information equalizer."

Here are my thoughts about her list:
1. That is true about terrible things written on desks but as a teacher, I check these desks and ask that they be cleaned or replaced so other students do not have to see this. Yes, the legal issues are scary but we need to teach our students about digital citizenship instead of ignoring the need and refusing to deal with it. If we don’t teach it, they will not get it.
2. Teachers need to take an active position in learning technology and not a passive one. I observed a teacher who told me that his students were teaching him how to use the smart board because he didn’t have a clue. I think it’s great that his students were involved but I didn’t see where he was making any effort to learn things unless his students showed him how. This is not how a teacher should model learning. It would be great if the teacher came in telling the students a new thing that he had learned on his own to share with the class. This should be an exchange of ideas and not one sided.
3. Once you get over the learning curve, technology could actually relieve some of a teacher’s work load. I have found that I don’t need to “reinvent the wheel” and many things are available to me online that I had been making from scratch. I have also found a support system which has also helped me tremendously.
4. Many of my students knew how to do things that I didn’t know how to do. This is a great way to teach collaboration and focus on a person’s strengths rather than weaknesses. A teacher cannot be effective if he/she has an inferiority complex.
5. This is the one item that I disagree with. I don’t feel it is the school’s responsibility to provide for all students but I do feel that the school should help students and parents see all possibilities. Not all students have cars so schools should teach them how to access public transportation. Not all students have computers so schools should teach students/parents how to access computers at their local libraries.

We really need to look at the big picture when we block sites from our schools. Are we doing more harm than good? Are we holding back our students and causing them to fall behind students from other schools where these sites are not blocked? Are we letting our fear override our good judgement? Is our fear stopping us from being successful in the classroom? I hope not but if it is, we need to take action now.
Photo credit: ignorance by mcbeth


Grace Kat said...

Great post loonyhiker. Online networks are not going away. Our students will be using them in their future. Digital citizenship must be taught in school to students as they will be googled by their future employers.

If the Web sites are blocked educators cannot model appropriate use. By blocking, we are doing our students a disservice.

Clix said...

First of all, the original author greatly overstates the importance of social networking sites - they are not THE tools of the future, but only SOME OF those tools.

I get sooo tired of the apparent ignorance of technovangelists. So rarely do I see it acknowledged that the resources we spend to integrate technology are resources that must be sacrificed from other areas.

I think this may be a blogpost. ;)

The Science Goddess said...

I have expressed a lot of these same frustrations. I cannot believe the excuses given by "them" for why social networking tools are blocked.

I would hope that legislators would somehow become involved and asked the CIPA folks to clearly state that social networking is okay.

M-Dawg said...

I'm one of the few teachers in my building that uses technology - not only for myself but also with my students. My students like the use of technology and are impressed that I use it since most folks in my building don't use it. I went out and bought my own LCD projector and computer for my classroom. I also use a blog to post homework and assignments.

Most of my colleagues in my building refuses to learn technology (scary concept in 2008). Using technology IMPROVES my teaching and makes my life much more efficient and easier using it. And, I think it is good for the kids to see their teachers using it. We provide being a role model in the classroom.

It will be interesting when we come back into the building in Sept. and the entire building will have technology in it (we've been surviving a two year construction/renovation project). Our first day back will be teaching everyone on how to use all this new technology.

loonyhiker said...

grace kat: You are so right that we need to help students see in the future and how what they do will affect their employment.

loonyhiker said...

Clix: You had a great post on your blog about this. I'm putting the link to your post here: so others may read it.

loonyhiker said...

the science goddess: I think it would be great to get legislators involved. In fact, my next door neighbor is a state senator and I've been dragging him into web 2.0 stuff kicking and screaming. But he is actually enjoying it.

loonyhiker said...

m-dawg: I hope the administration encourages the use of technology with the "new" building otherwise it will all be a waste of money. Keep us updated on the reactions and progress.