In her post today “PD Cafeteria Style: Picking and Choosing What I Learn (and whom I learn it from),” Nebraska Change Agent Beth Still asks:
If it is possible to gain good and useful information in an informal way then why do schools try so hard to discourage teachers from participation in a PLN? [Professional Learning Network] Some schools go so far as to tell teachers that they cannot even use Facebook on their own time.
(The above link is my own addition, it was not in Beth’s original post.)
What do you think are the best explanations for this sort of behavior and policies by schools and school officials? I perceive that lawsuit fear and a lack of vision for 21st century learning requirements can explain a great deal. Particularly with larger school districts, but sometimes with smaller ones as well, a fear of lawsuits seems to pervade many discussions relating to technology and social networking. When you consult some school lawyers for their opinions on issues relating to technology, often you will receive very conservative advice. “Block it all.” “Institute a policy which bans all cell phones from student use, in as many contexts as possible.” “If you don’t have a policy which bans the device or the technology, then you can’t enforce disciplinary action for misuse as easily.” These are all things I’ve heard school lawyers give as advice to educators regarding interactive, social digital technologies.
I think a lack of vision explains a great deal as well. I continue to be taken aback by the WIDE gulf which separates the “digitally connected” from “the disconnected” in our schools and communities.
It is not an exaggeration to say that those who are digitally connected today are literally living in a different world compared to those who are disconnected. In this context, “using email” does NOT qualify one to claim “connected” status. Just as my trip to Shanghai a year ago in September introduced me to a country and culture completely different from any other I’d previously experienced, the digitally connected world is in many ways just as foreign and formidable to many adults today who may regard themselves as digital conscientious objectors.
David Jakes as well as Gary Stager are two educators I’ve heard challenge the idea that there are “new literacies” for the 21st century. I agree with the contention that critical thinking and higher order thinking are not “new” ideas or skills. I think it’s hard to disagree that the information landscape has changed and continues to change in fundamental ways, however. In a different landscape, I don’t think it’s a stretch to conclude that new navigational strategies and skills are needed to effectively get around and communicate. We need to help our educational leaders understand both the nature of the changing information landscape, as well as the ways educators as well as students need to be supported in practicing old as well as new literacy skills in this dynamic context.
Besides lawsuit fears and a lack of vision, what else do you think might explain school officials’ policies which ban the use of social networking technologies that support professional learning, both at school and at home?
Remember to follow Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also "like" Wesley's Facebook pages for "Speed of Creativity Learning" and his eBook, "Playing with Media." Don't miss Wesley's latest technology integration project, "Mapping Media to the Common Core / Curriculum."
On this day..
- Time to SPEAK OUT: Dec 10th OKCPS School Board Meeting - 2012
- Podcast364: The ELL Bill of Rights - An Interview with Ruslana Westerlund @EllBillofRights - 2010
- Jailbreak Apps Coming to Windows Phone 7 - 2010
- Sting on Risk and Challenge - 2010
- Share the K12Online09 Printable Flyer at your school - 2009
- Welcome to Web 2.0 at SITE 2006 - 2005
- Dropload - 2005
- Faculty professional development models - 2005
- Cheating Guide and WikiBooks - 2005