What’s going on? We’ve gotta fix the inequities!

I had a wonderful 2.0 day today!

  • Our English classes created wikis to collaborate on podcasting scripts which they will use to report “on the spot” regarding breaking events in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. (More on that later!).
  • The media class teacher visited to plan student interviews of faculty veterans and the research necessary to prepare a video we will webcast in honor of Veterans’ Day.
  • AP US History is also using wikis to build collaborative answers to critical study questions.
  • Another English class is using Flagrant Disregard and original photography to create movie posters to express themes in The Handmaid’s Tale.

My students are learning and they are eager to use the authentic tools now available to them. The excitement in the library today was evident and contagious. I happily ran around this lovely space consulting with students and teachers.
And yet, echoing in my ears was a comment from Angie a couple of days back regarding another of my cheerleading 2.0 posts:

With our new filters in place, we can’t get to site like Flickr or Flagrant Disregard’s Flickr Toys (see Joyce’s post) or several Web 2.0 sites. Several blogs are blocked and the like. The reason for the block, the powers that be say, is that it may not be the part that someone is getting to but several pages within the site that contain inappropriate material that student could to if they are willing to navigate through and find it. I’ve tried to convince the powers with that it is good for students. But all they see is that it can also be abused.

Those of us who can use these tools need to speak up about this inequity. Somehow we need to broadcast the importance of these projects in classrooms. We need to share our ideas–all those possibilities–with those who do not attend NECC or any of the many inspiring technology conferences.

Those who cannot use these tools may need to go over the heads of the less-forward thinking network administrators to the folks at central office who may better understand learning. We may just need to beat our heads against the wall till we figure out a way to jump over it or until we figure a way to get the wall to move. Learners are waiting.
In many districts, people who do not understand 21st century learning or curriculum are making decisions that drive, and seriously limit, our curriculum and our instructional decisions and strategies. They do not have the right to make those decisions. We must find a way to secure our networks and our children while we create engaging instruction using current and emerging communication skills.

10 thoughts on “What’s going on? We’ve gotta fix the inequities!

  1. In the district I work, students have not yet received email addresses because they can’t be trusted. In one school, teachers were having problems running wires to set up a smart board, so they brought in their own wireless access point and laptop to solve their problem. IT put a stop to that. And can someone explain to me again why teachers can’t check their personal email at school?

    Why is it that some (many?) district IT departments wield way too much power than they should ever possess? They are like little Golems (i.e., The Lord of the Rings) running around protecting their “precious” power, making decisions that will only protect their networks and assets. They don’t see students and teachers as users, but as abusers, and direct threats to the integrity of the system. In response to improprieties, they grumble and make knee-jerk decisions, locking down anything that moves (through cyberspace) – “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

    Unfortunately many administrators and school boards don’t even have the language, let alone the knowledge, to speak the techno-babble that will leverage power over these techno-outlaws. Someone should do something to put them in their right and proper places – as the shepherds and caretakers of fruitful learning communities.
    They should be doing everything to make it easier for students and teachers to learn, not harder.

  2. Last month I did an inservice for the librarians in a large public school system in my state. On one of the evaluation forms, a librarian rated me “poor” and wrote: “Why do we have a speaker like this when we can’t do any of the things she talks about?” And it’s true — administrators want their librarians to know about these things, but don’t let them use the things. I figure you can’t have it both ways.

  3. As someone who just finished his admin program, I am working through how I can balance two very divergent needs. The administrator in me is screaming out for some safety – not security, not filters, not a lack of content but just a little bit of order. I think what worries administrators most about Web 2.0 is just how incredibly dynamic it is. I try to remain a very positive person, but administration involves quite a bit of planning for the worst. Why can’t we have a blog where anyone can post things? What if someone puts up something inappropriate? Oh, says the me of a year ago, we can’t focus on the negative and restrict our adoption based on the possible actions of a single rogue poster. We can establish guidelines and have people sign off on all kinds of agreements and then move forward. Well, we did. And we got burned.

    How do you balance this? How do you find a way to allow Web 2.0 while avoiding the pitfalls of the dynamic web? The answer in many districts is that you can’t – and therefore “everything” gets shut down. There are ways, but it involves the adoption of a new approach to Web 2.0. Library 2.0 talks about “radical trust” wherein libraries have to throw open their web sites/tools/etc. and trust the community. Sure, they say, things might happen but the good will outweigh the bad. I agree…but not in schools. In schools, we are held to a higher standard. We cannot just protect students to a level of reasonableness, but rather at the much higher level of “in loco parentis.” We are, in the legal vision of many states, acting as the surrogate parents. And that means radical trust goes right out the window.

    Not to despair, however, because there is still a possibility. We can have our cake and eat it too if we use another technology that comes with many Web 2.0 tools. Even if we can’t have radical trust, maybe we can use “moderated trust” as a way to satisfy the librarian need for open access and the administrative need for safety. We are using this as a way to continue to allow students to post to a book review “blog” where nothing goes live without review and approval.

    I will be exploring this further over the weekend as I prepare a quick article. I would love to hear feedback – I am a bit worried that this may not be the most popular point to be making (and I still can’t totally believe that I am making it!)

  4. I also operate under the idea of “moderated trust.” Chris, I absolutely understand your struggle. In schools we are all struggling with safety and ethics and security and . . .

    What is hard to accept is an absolute “no.” “No” without discussion. “No” with no consideration for learning goals or reality. We need to invent solutions. I hate to hear from folks whose creative, pedagogical ideas are snuffed by people who don’t even understand their goals.

    Banning this stuff is as effective as a finger in a dike holding the water back. There is no such thing as guaranteed safety. The kids are laughing at us through their proxy servers. I want to share the potential for these new tools beyond the purely social. My learners are SO ready to create and communicate.

  5. I probably don’t adequately understand the problem, but we are using all kinds of web 2.0 with teacher oversight and eventual veto power. Is it any more likely to cause a problem than a class discussion? Basically we’re creating forums for conversations. Everyone needs the password to contribute, and the teacher can always delete inappropriate messages. I *think* we can even set it up so the teacher has the capability of reading first and then approving, although I don’t think we’ve activated that function. What are the admins so afraid of? I do believe that admins are uneducated about the educational possibilities, and if it looks like social networking the answer is NO. Thanks, MySpace.

  6. thank you for this post. I have always taken your experience, Joyce, as the unique and rare one – where you are in a great position, doing great work, with great collaborators around you. On the whole, I get along very very well with the computer people, but they don’t work with students. If an administrator comes to them and says one student has been emailing porm to himself using his email account, they lock down all email and don’t provide an alternative (true story), forgetting (or never realizing) that students very smartly use their email accounts to transport documents and ppts back and forth. When confronted with this extreme problem, they hand us a bunch of floppy disks. Lots of kids don’t even have floppy drives at home, never mind the ppt issue.

    Let me repeat – I get along with these people. We talk – I try to talk about taking a little more control of our filter and paying attention to student and teacher needs – they talk about bandwidth.

    ok, enough out of me, i guess i needed the space for a mini-rant. my original point was that Joyce’s experience does not seem very common at all to me (though I utilize what she is doing all the time as example in conversation with computer people and administrators – “see? it can be done w/o the world falling apart”), the problem of banging one’s bloody scarred head against the filter seems to be the norm – anyone have a bigger picture on that?

  7. Scrappy (and anyone else who is listening)–I appreciate your comments but I want to make clear how it really looks from my vantage point.

    You are right. I am now in a great position and I have resources and supportive colleagues, but please recognize that, in each of my professional positions, I had to build that. Wherever I initially landed, no one really knew what a librarian did or could do. I had to fight for budget. I had to earn the respect of my administrators and my colleagues. This does not happen in a matter of weeks or months; it takes years. After trying really hard and not being able to move any mountains, I had to leave some places where I was not granted academic freedom or the tools I needed to work with learners.

    I just want us to look for solutions, ways to get to “yes.” People are always saying, “but in my district . . ” “but what about…” Your suggestion of finding alternate technologies is one that WILL work for many school settings.

    We are at the vanguard of change, ideally we always will be. Change is not easy, but I want to see the change originating from us, the information and communication technology scouts in our buildings.

    As Tim Gunn of Project Runway often says, let’s “make it work!”

  8. I absolutely recognize the work that you have done to create the situation you are in – I should have emphasized that more clearly – it doesn’t often happen that librarians end up in positions where they are magically valued and supported, we have to create that. That is why I use your work as an example in talking with computer people and administrators about what is possible –

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