Do Administrators Fear Education 2.0?

I believe that fear of the Internet by parents, administrators and school boards is blocking the opportunity for real learning to take place in schools. Most school districts have Internet use policies in place. These policies, however, are restrictive and punitive. Very few Internet policies in school districts encourage the use of the Internet as a learning tool in the classroom.

Unfortunately, this fear is exacerbated by news headlines that depict social networking web sites such as MySpace as dangerous and evil. While it is true that indiscriminate and foolish use of one’s personal information on the Internet can lead to unfortunate results, this does not mean that every web site and every learning tool that can be found there will bring negative consequences.

I have spent a year learning the technical and practical applications of blogging. I’ve given considerable thought to how blogs could be used in my classes with my students. I believe that this medium has great potential for student learning. Blogs give students ownership of their learning. If a competent and creative teacher provides learning prompts and follow-up activities for students to reflect on at home and to blog about, this teacher will have effectively bridged the gap between home and school. Learning will have entered the realm of the real world and will have transcended school walls. Teacher and student blogs literally allow learning to take place 24 hours a day.

But there are roadblocks. Recently I had students create weblogs. Students would be able to use these weblogs to examine challenges and successes of their learning. The excitement in the room was palpable as students created their blogs and published their first post. As weeks went on I was able to monitor student weblogs and was able to communicate with students in my own time about issues and problems they posted in their own time. This personal attention and feedback was clearly meaningful to students. I noticed, however, that some students did not continue posting new material and questions on their weblogs. When I asked them why, they responded to the effect that, “my mom doesn’t want me blogging”. When I asked why that was the students had no answer. When I explained that we don’t have to publish our weblogs and that we keep our personal information off our weblogs the answer was still no. No blogging.

I am convinced that fear is the only factor leading to these kind of roadblocks placed by parents. The same kind of fear exists at the administrative level in schools and school districts. Unfortunately for many, the Internet is still a place of mystery and is still considered a frill and something to use to check Email. Those of us who study and use educational technology know differently. We know that student learning opportunities abound on the Internet. We know that blogging can motivate students (and teachers!) to learn even more about the subjects they study. We also know that the future will only provide more opportunities. Web 2.0 applications provide rich examples of the potential of the Internet for learning, collaboration and mastery.

It is my hope that schools and school districts begin losing their fear of the Internet and embrace educational technology. Schools and school districts can be the leaders who educate parents about the good aspects as well as the bad aspects of online learning. It is time- in the world of education- to lose the fear of the Internet for the benefit of our increasingly wired and wireless students.

Views: 29

Comment by Nancy Bosch on December 3, 2007 at 7:51am
I agree, I started my student blog in November last year and things are going well. Parents sign permission slips and i monitor the blog closely. In the past year I too have been reading tons of blocks and exploring Web 2.0 sites. Hundreds of them were blocked by the district but allow for a CIPA representative the authority to unblock. I've had probably 500 sites unblocked with no problem. BUT I think every other teacher in this huge district gets the popup and says "OK, can't go there!!" I also think when the blocking is ridiculous teachers should go over IT Dept to superintendent or board with a well though out position paper. Keep up the fight! N.
Comment by Doug Davis on December 3, 2007 at 6:28pm
Bravo! I began my blog experience with my students two years ago and have fought tooth and nail to keep it going. During this time I've been challenged by parents, administrators, collegues, and "concerned" citizens. However, through it all, I've continued to be the pioneer of ed. tech in my building. It's lonely being a pioneer... lol! After two years of work and being awarded several large scale grants, I've finally gained some positive support for my program. I'll keep up the good fight (to borrow a phrase from Nancy) and you do the same. D2J
Comment by Nancy Bosch on December 4, 2007 at 6:19am
I don't have much longer---I retire in a year or two but I've got the best job in the world. I teach in a mandated special ed program for gifted kids. They are all academic achievers and generally score in the top 1%. They come to me one full day a week by grade level. That said, I always have an enthusiastic crowd ready to try anything I bring to the table. Right now, the nice thing is I don't have to try to convert anybody. I tried that for many years presenting for 5 times at NECC and around the state. It is hard work---now I can do what I want with kids who are enthusiastic. What fun! N.
Comment by Kelly Christopherson on December 5, 2007 at 10:50am
Interesting comments. Just for the discussion, being an administrator does nothing to increase one's ability to gain access or use technology. I've been using different Web2.0 tools for a few years. I use a wiki regularly - my students post their work on the wiki where I correct, comment and make recommendations. We use a number of different tools for video and audio. I'm constantly discussing the need for us to use things like Google docs and other collaborative tools. The staff uses a wiki for news, planning events and sharing items of interest.
Schools and districts have a mandate which they must fulfill which really pigeon-holes them into doing specific things. Yes the internet has a wealth of ideas and blogging can be very educational but so can a whole host of other things. I whole-heartedly support teachers who use technology. However, when there are tech problems, the network is down, computers arent' working and a whole host of other problems abound, people become frustrated especially with a limited amount of time available to them. I don't think it's just "people are scared.", although fear of the unknown is a problem. There is definitely room for improvement and people need to make decisions based on information but it is much more complicated than just "they're afraid." Keep up the effort. It's definitely worth it.
Comment by Randy Rivers on December 5, 2007 at 6:15pm
I'm an administrator (the enemy!) and am very supportive of web 2.0 technologies. The trick from my point of view is to use the dangers as teachable moments. The dangerous aspects of the new collaborative web apps are a tremendous opportunity to infuse character education principles into the curriculum along with the technology. We spend too much time trying to disconnect curriculum from the real world. Web 2.0 is a wonderful way to make curriculum relevant and engaging for our young people. As an administrator, I just need my teaching staff to use some good old fashioned classroom management or what I call MBWA (Management by Wandering Around) to discourage inappropriate use and to discuss the ethical issues with the students.
Comment by Nancy Bosch on December 5, 2007 at 7:02pm
Agree, I have spent an average of 3-4 hours each evening online and my classroom computers are up and running 30 hours a week. In 20 years I have never (?) seen porn "pop-up". I have never had a child approached by an online predator. I think parents/teachers actually think that happens all the time. One irony in our school is EVERYONE uses Google but do a Google image search for "hotties" and your eyeballs will be seared!! How can we ever block everything---we need to monitor computer use but not be afraid.
Comment by Brian on December 8, 2007 at 11:12am
I am a Tech Trainer, and one of my lowest moments came (as an I.T. trainer) when I started introducing blogs. My younger teachers embraced it, but my older ones and administrators went ballistic. After the fracas and dust settled, I found that it was not anger but fear of the unknown. Slowly, ever so slowly, my teachers are seeng the benefits!


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