Well, today was a bit scary for people living in Edmond, Oklahoma, where I live just north of Oklahoma City. A man off the street broke into a woman’s house, took her hostage, went to a bank and then Home Depot where the woman escaped by loudly yelling “Man with a gun!” He then proceeded to flee and take two new hostages in a nearby house at gunpoint. According to this article about the incident:

Police were actually able to get help from inside the home where the hostages were being held. The two hostages used text messaging to stay connected with police, letting them know what was happening inside the home. Chu [Glynda Chu, with the Edmond Police Department] says, “That was kind of a first for us to be able to use that tool of technology.”

All the Edmond schools (which my two oldest children attend) were locked down for part of the day while police used helicopters and other resources to track down and arrest the hostage taker. Pretty scary stuff.

I find it interesting and significant that a disruptive technology: instant messaging, played a constructive and possibly key role in the resolution of this crisis. If an incident like Columbine was to recur (sadly we have had several events like it, and others foiled like this one in Round Rock, Texas several weeks ago) student access to 21st century communication technologies would doubtless play an important role. Already we see tips from digital social networking sites like MySpace being used by law enforcement as well as school officials in some cases to identify threats and prevent things like violent attacks.

This reinforces a theme I’ve mentioned many times before: We need to help learners of all ages practice constructive, appropriate and safe uses of disruptive technologies like IM. Contrary to what some reactionary school leaders may believe, I don’t think instant messaging (IM) is evil. In fact quite the contrary: I think IM is an incredibly powerful and useful technology. Instead of expending large amounts of time and energy trying to block all student access to digital social networking (DSN) tools (including IM) on school networks, I think school leaders, administrators, and teachers could more effectively spend that time crafting creative ways to engage students in safe and constructive uses of DSN technologies.

That will be one theme among many of my three hour workshop today for educators in Tulsa Public Schools: Global Voices: Distance Learning Projects With Interactive Podcasting and VOIP Tools.

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Made with Love in Oklahoma City