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Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Rant Worth Discussing

From the @theresashafer blog:

Seriously, STOP Blocking & Banning for Educators!

As Connected Educator Month draws to close, I'm appalled by the fact that many of our teachers & students are prevented from participating  due to blocking of ALL social media sites at school for both teachers & students

I am often asked the following question:

"How do we get our <Principal, Superintendent, IT Director, School Board, State Department of Ed> to stop blocking social media at the very least for teachers, if not for students?"

Here is where I would like to jump up on my soapbox and just RANT about trust, freedom of speech, access to information, fear-driven decision making, keeping everyone in from recess because one teacher misbehaved...but, I know how busy you are so let's skip the outrage and go directly to action steps:
Become knowledgeable:
The technology is there to facilitate the work not the other way around. The tech dept should not be making curricular decisions. In order for this to happen you must actually understand CIPA and Erate, so that when someone says to you, "Nope, all forums & social media must be blocked, if we don't comply with CIPA, we'll lose our E-Rate funding" you can refute the complete incorrectness of that statement!  Common Sense Media provides a great resource for you as does Dr. Mark Wagner in this slideshow.

Stop blaming the Technology
Facebook does not cause bullying. If you have a bullying problem in your school, that is a culture problem and all of the blocking in the world isn't going to make it better. Blaming the technology is an excuse for not solving the larger problem. Ignoring the prevalence of student's online lives is much more dangerous than blocking their access during the school day. We should be modeling and teaching digital responsibility in a safe environment where students can see that digital tools are not simply for entertainment but can be used professionally to expand their knowledge and create a digital footprint that will not come back to kick them later.

Accept that you are a BYOT school
Your students AND staff are using their own technology at school, whether they are texting within the  pocket of their hoody or surreptitiously in the bathroom between classes, they are bringing their own devices and they are using them. I have witnessed so many cases of teachers asking children to break the "no cell phone" policy. When a site is blocked on the school computers, teachers simply look the other way so students can access the needed information via their own cell phones.

Social Media IS a part of the "real world"
Educators are very fond of telling kids what the "real world" is likePretending that sites like Twitter & Facebook don't exist while students are at school is simply a denial that the real world exists inside your school. Students will be googled by their future (and current) employers.( Every mom I know googles potential babysitters and if they see a Facebook page that looks remotely irresponsible, that sitter will NOT be allowed in the house!) For the most part students don't have any idea that their tweets are being housed in the Library of Congress for all of eternity. We teach students about sex ed, stranger danger, drugs & alcohol, texting & driving why would we not teach them about social media, both the good and the bad?

Great things happen when students & teachers get connected

Take steps to make changes
I'd love to see examples of driving questions in the comments, examples of schools that have had success in making this change happen for their staff and students or resources that have been helpful for you as you continue to have more open access to the Internet at school!

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