ConvincingIT to allow the use of blogs/wikis/open source

Hi,

Our IT department is strongly against the use of blogs/wiki/open source material in the schools.  I'm creating a list of reasons and explanations of why they should be allowed.  Their biggest argument back to us is, "we can't because they have viruses" or "it's against standard school policy"

Our school is so behind in  tech literacy and I need help showing the IT department that they thoughts and opinions aren't accurate.

Any help or suggestions would be great!!

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Hi Mandie,

I am having a very similar problem with the schools that I work for. They are not very fond of blogs/wikis and I have teachers that are interested in using them as part of their classes. They prefer to use their own resources than to expose kids because of safety issues.
Do you know of Edmodo.com or Schoology.com? They are both free and private. They might be a good way around the safety problem.
Maybe you have to teach the IT department about technology literacy first and have them understand that kids are using these outside the school either way!
Good suggestion on bringing in technology literacy. Thank you.
That a tough one -- it's just so ridiculous. I'm sure there's a deeper reason -- perhaps it would be more work on their end if they open this can of worms. The argument that blogs, wikis and open-source programs cause viruses is a fairly weak one.

Generally, you would have to download something from the Internet in order to get a virus, and most schools don't allow students to do this. Using blogs and wikis don't require teachers or students to download any software -- they're both entirely web-based tools. Also, if you're using well-known, trusted Web sites, like classblogmeister.com or edublogs.org, there really is very little danger.

I'd say you have to start by changing the "school policy" they refer to. There's a lot of research out there about how important it is for students to use Web 2.0 tools. These tools help teach 21st century skills, which our students will need to be successful in any career they choose. Also, they're shown to engage students and help them grasp other core-curriculum concepts better. I always had problems getting my 4th-grade ELL students to write because I was the only one who read their stories. As soon as I started them on blogs, writing became one of their favorite subjects -- they had a global audience to address -- and their scores jumped 15% that year.

This blog post references quite a few research studies that show that "On average, students in online learning
conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

You might also want to look into some of David Warlick's writings. And check out the facts in the most recent "Did You Know" video -- both are referenced on a blog I recently wrote.

Lastly, you might consider looking at the Saugus USD Web site. Their tech director, Jim Klein, uses only open-source technology. (If you e-mail him, he might be able to point you toward some better resources.) Because open source programs, like those available on Ubuntu operating systems, are free, the district has been able to go 1:1, and they've seen a 20% jump in writing scores.
Thanks Katy. This does help.
One step at a time.

First, be ready to show what's out there that's worth having. Gather bunches of good samples of educational wikis and blogs that include student content, just to show how rich the content can be "out there" in the big bad web.

Next step: publish a wiki and/or blog on your own outside the school network, using edubloggers or pbwiki or some other platforms, and make sure the blog or wiki has clearly defined security parameters (moderated comments, password-required login or whatever level of security you think would be most impressive)... then publish a few posts/pages that are classroom-relevant, obviously content-related, and ask a volunteer student or two to respond in the comments (from home). Then, showcase that blog as an example to show how the security is set. Ask a school and Tech administrator to view it (preferably while you're there with them), and respectfully tell him/her that you aren't asking anything more than just to demonstrate at this point and then to hear their concerns. I think first above all, you have to show them the benefits before they'll ever let go of the drawbacks. And honestly, I think you need to understand their concerns. It's only fair. You're coming at it from an instructional viewpoint; their job is safety, and it's a huge concern to them.

Maybe by taking baby steps you can get the district to progress little by little into more web2.0 territory. Glogster and Voicethread -- among other web 2.0 sites -- take pains to make educational versions of their sites safe for teachers and students. Demonstrate those applications! Aim first just to convince the district to allow access to teacher-generated blogs, not student blogs, where teachers post content and students can read and comment. Next step, ask if the dist. will unblock specific wikis (not just wikis in general, at first) that students can READ... then later, maybe they can write to them, as well. Eventually, maybe students can post blogs or at least comment on blogs. A little at a time, very controlled so that everyone feels nice and safe.

The sandbox/training wheels/wading pool metaphors come to mind.

I know it's frustrating, but it may be the only way to edge them into deeper waters.

Also, here's the draft of the new national tech plan for education. Worthwhile to share this with admins:

Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology
DRAFT - National Educational Technology Plan 2010 - March 5, 2010, Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education
Sharon, thank you so much for the ideas. I have my own wiki from my previous school but the idea of bringing in other samples is great. And you're right, I need to be patient and take baby steps.
A lot of stuff from the internet contain viruses. But we cant stop using the internet for such reasons. It is the duty of the IT department to ensure the system is scanned for viruses and that they keep the antivirus updated. The sites which they dont want learners to view can be restricted so that learners do not have access to such.

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