Why do school district administrators, as a general rule, assume that all instant messaging websites are evil and inappropriate?

Skype banned at school!

I’ve made a case for instant messaging in the classroom before— But I am wondering today what the most effective ways to help administrators understand the potential value of IM and desktop videoconferencing is and can be? I’m thinking helping them EXPERIENCE the value of a desktop videoconference in a workshop would be one step in the right direction. But what else can be done?

One of my workshop participants commented today on how her daughter, at college, has wireless access all over campus– so she can IM all day from anywhere. What a stark contrast that higher education computing environment is to most of our K-12 schools in the United States today. I am all for blocking “inappropriate” web content on school and home networks, but the definition of “inappropriate” is what I think needs reconsideration in many school districts today.

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6 Responses to Educational assumptions about instant messaging

  1. Raj Boora says:

    I think it’s a reaction that it’s easier to blanket everything than try to understand any particular thing. IT people are notorious for “lockdown” – if nothing can happen, then nothing can go wrong right? And because of the high cost of IT (it was commented at a meeting this morning that the reason that there is an IT staff in the building is to force the admin to spend money on things they don’t really understand), many admin are likely to listen to the IT staff over the instructional staff because of how they control the “black magic”.

    Many of the teachers that I talk to outside of the second language environment see IM as passing notes. I’ve even had a prof want to disable the IM in Elluminate because he thought it would be disruptive. This suggests to me that it’s more a “culture” item for the naysayers in the classroom.

  2. Steve Van Dy k says:

    It is unfortunate that many blanket fixes are forced upon students. I recently heard a story of students using the chat feature in Moodle to chat amongst each other during a study period in which they were supposed to be working. I went back later that day to read the log of the chats between students and the story I heard left out one incredible detail. The students were chatting between each other about how to complete the assignment.

    I find it absolutley wonderful that students are taking the initiative to communicate with their peers so they can DO their homework. Would Administrators understand what’s happening if they were shown records of the student’s chat log?

  3. Artie Chambers says:

    As an IT staff I’d like to open the IM gates. I’d like to open our computers so that teachers and staff can install software and configure computers.

    With privileges come responsibility (so we teach our teens.) Then why is it that teachers constantly point to the IT staff and the substandard protection measures when their computer is virus infected, spyware infected, or otherwise messed up? They want the privileges but NOT the responsibility.

    I think throwing administrators and IT staff under the bus is just another way that teachers are ducking responsibility.

    We can’t hold teachers accountable for using computers. We can’t hold teachers accountable for test scores. We can’t hold teachers accountable for maintaining a safe, secure computer… but heaven forbid if measures are implemented to keep teachers from crippling their computers.

    How many teachers are ready to defend their computer from IM worms like those announced today? http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/09/23/1234251

    I say that we should stop pointing to the bad decisions of administrators. I think that our collective outrage should be aimed at those creating IM worms, swiss cheese operating systems, viruses and more.

    Remember, the IT staff and administration are on same team as the teachers. Target the source of the problem and not the decision makers who are between a rock and the proverbial hard place.


  4. Diane says:

    Kids have to go home to have conversations about their learning with other kids because we stop them from doing that both electronically and instructionally. Isn’t that funny?

    Artie definitely has a point. Our IT people spend a great deal of time trying to protect our network from all those who would try to destroy it or create havoc with it. And our students try to find ways around all of our safeguards. Maybe when that changes, then other things on school networks will change.

  5. Phil Wilson says:

    Maybe you should actually go and ask your IT people if Skype’s been eating all of their bandwidth recently.

  6. Wesley Fryer says:

    Well, as far as our corporate bandwidth, Skype is banned so the answer to if it has been “eating bandwidth” would be “no.” I think schools need to be using tools to analyze packet traffic so they know what applications are using the most bandwidth. At least in most Oklahoma schools I’ve worked with so far, many don’t know what types of packets are traversing their network.

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