In her recent post “MySpace and Abstinence,” Stephanie Sandifer from Houston draws parallels between schools not teaching kids about safe sex in the hope it will encourage them to not engage in sex at all, and banning social networking sites like MySpace in the hope students won’t use them. Her point on rejecting fear is excellent:

I think its time for the adults to stop letting our fear win — it’s time for the adults to step-up to the plate and teach our kids how to use the Internet in safe and responsible ways because it is a part of our life and much like the sidewalk that they must walk down to get to school, the Internet will continue (and increasingly) be the path that our students will take to gather information and to communicate with friends, family, co-workers, and business associates.

This message is a “hard sell” to educators, however, with liability concerns (that Stephanie acknowledges) not the least of their concerns. Schools are technocratic, top-down, static institutions which generally do not value change, innovation, or creativity. As Marco Torres reminded me today in El Paso, most administrators are promoted based on their longevity in a district and if they haven’t rocked the boat. Risk takers, including those who embrace disruptive technologies, tend to get the cold shoulder or get rejected out of hand rather than encouraged, empowered, and championed by school boards and superintendents.

Schools need to change in basic ways, and one of those ways likely has to do with school governance. The system itself simply does not reward innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. We need more charter schools in public school districts, but if administrators are evaluated on the time-honored standards it is likely results won’t be all that different for teachers.

The current issue of Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine has a great article on Empire school in Vail, Arizona, which does not have any textbooks: all the curriculum is digital. The principal is quoted as saying the decision to NOT purchase textbooks was pivotal in helping create an engaged learning environment that is fundamentally different than that found in most traditional schools.

What model of school governance could our educational system embrace that would support dynamical, constructive change instead of boring and ineffective stasis? Marco says educators have three options: to quit, to complain, or to innovate. Sadly, too many of our teachers are opting for doors 1 and 2. How can we get not only our teachers, but our ADMINISTRATORS to opt for door number 3? It’s the door our students want our good teachers to choose.


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  • I have been using this analogy for a while, but an even better one is to talk about music downloading. When the RIAA threw a hissy fit and sued Napster out of existance that sure stopped all the music piracy, didn’t it?

  • JB

    Good point Christopher! And no it didnt stop it, it just pushed the big music companies (read SONY) into implementing more drastic measures. My preacher just said the other day that ” Sex is dirty, ugly and a sin, and should only be shared with the one you love”. We Americans are a twisted lot.

  • In secondary schools in the UK, we have been obsessed with teaching students skills that they already have by the time they reach us. I’m Vice Principal of a brand new school in Britain, with fantastic ICT resources. While we teach examination courses in ICT, focussing on spreadsheets, powerpoints, and databases, our students envelope us with a multitude of multimedia gizmos. They take over lessons; their work and their lives. They have access to e-mail in lessons and the internet.

    The first response of teachers is BAN IT ALL. And so I have a battle on my hands. I don’t want to get rid of any of it. Instead I want to change the way we teach ICT in schools. We must begin foccussing on discussing and exploring the balance between the e-world and the real world. We must develop in our students an awareness “e-etiquette” (for want of a better term) where we explore the usefulness and draw backs of digital media and e-communication.

    We’re in the middle of developing a Progect Based Learning programme for our students. The developments of good habits of learning will be central to this. We won’t ban digital media in the school or e-communication for students, but we will talk through with students misuse of such tools when it happens it will be a major assessment focus. If you’re interested in reading the about the journey we’re taking, then have a look at my blog on: http://armandod.typepad.com/

  • Billy Bones

    “We’re in the middle of developing a Progect Based Learning programme for our students.”

    My suggestion would be for the educators to get educated. G is nowhere near J on the keyboard unless Mr Di Finizio’s fingers are particularly fat.

  • My dear Billy, it may interest you to know that I am the foundinj member of the “Lets jet rid of G’s” society. I felt it was time for the world to realise that my profound disability was real and wanted to share my plijht. To my relief I disovered that I am not alone and have now founded a commune in the Nevada desert. It is a haven and sanctuary where we can free ourselves from bijoted self rijhteous bujjers such as yourself. Jod will prevail

  • Billy Bones

    I find that ‘k’ is a far less useful consonant than ‘g’ so I am opposed to any de-g-ifying of our grammar and suggest replacing lige for lige. Let’s lose the ‘k’s!

    On the other hand, we could found another commune for lexicographical wangers lige ourselves and giss goodbye to any further alphabet capers.

  • Armando Di-finizio

    jo and take a runninj gump

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