Posts Tagged ‘United States’

I could not agree more…

March 17, 2011 1 comment

Heather Wolpert-Gawron posted a piece which was featured on Edutopia today.  As I read through each of the issues and corresponding responses, I found myself nodding in agreement and quietly saying “yes.”  Yes, to everything she wrote.

Yes, legal concerns can be overcome through proper modeling.  Yes, teacher training is possible and who better to teach teachers than other teachers?  Freeing up teachers from mundane an outdated tasks to allow them the time to impart 21st century skills on today’s students makes perfect sense.

I may be wrong about this, but whenever I poll teachers and students about technology available at home, the response is that nearly all (if not all) students have computers and broadband access to the Internet.  Those that do not are directed to the local public library.

Of course implementing technology can be expensive, but as stated, “”we cannot afford to fall any more behind in our comfort and use of technology.”

It is time for parents, community members, teachers and administrators to ban together in recognizing the importance of effective use of technology to the future of our students.

We speak about the achievement gap between the different cultures in our schools. Meanwhile, however, many of the stakeholders in education have created a vast trench that lies between those who accept the inevitability of technology and those who still refute its place in our classrooms.

Policymakers demand our schools must reflect the 21st century, yet continue to deny schools the funding to do just that. Additionally, our districts block many of the online sites for collaboration from our schools.

It is fear that guides many of the decisions about educational technology: fear that we will be left globally behind by countries more committed to technology integration and also fear that our students will somehow be scarred its use.

Frankly, there are many reasons to avoid providing technology as a more common and frequent tool in education. However, as stated in “Strictly Ballroom,” one of my favorite movies, “a life lived in fear is a life half lived.” Fear cannot shut us down from our mission: to educate students for their future.

For the Naysayers

Here are some typical arguments against technology in schools — and better ones for using it:

1. The legal issues are daunting: what if a student writes inappropriate content online? Answer: Our job is to teach them how to use the tools of the real world. After all, using a circular saw is dangerous too, but only through shop class have many students learned to build a birdhouse safely. So is it with technology. Parents and teachers must be a part of monitoring and modeling. It may be scary, but without teaching students about appropriate use, they will surely encounter exactly that which we are most scared of.

2. How ever will we train all those teachers? Answer: It’s simple. Have teachers train teachers. Give teachers who know how the paid release time to be trainers during their contracted hours of those who don’t know how. There are willing teachers on every site, at every district, teachers willing to take on hybrid roles in education that allow them one foot in the classroom and one foot working to improve the pedagogy and practice of those who need to learn. For those who train, they will, as a result, avoid burnout by being permitted ways to utilize their other skills, all the while helping other teachers improve their own 21st century knowledge.

3. Where does the time come from? How can we add more to a teacher’s plate? Answer: How ’bout this? Don’t. Instead, take something off teachers’ plates rather than put more on. We have to prioritize, and including technology is too important. We can’t continue to have teachers waste their time on the curricular needs of yesteryear. We need to redefine how a teacher spends their time during the day and redefine the curriculum of tomorrow.

4. Some students don’t have access to technology at home so how can we expect them to use it for assignments? Answer: To this I say, many homes don’t have libraries either, but we still teach how to read. The fact is that it’s a school’s job to step up to provide and instruct. Even though some students may not have access to a computer at home, the school needs to see its role in equalizing the differences between those who have and those who don’t. It’s also society’s role to find a way to provide for those homes in a more equitable way or our country’s children will be left behind. Some districts are already working in conjunction with phone providers and computer companies to help bridge this gap. Those districts should not be few and far between, but should be commonplace.

5. It’s expensive. Answer: Nevertheless, “we cannot afford to fall any more behind in our comfort and use of technology.” Policymakers need to start backing up their demands with funds. Parents need to be a part of monitoring their student’s use at home. Teachers must continue to develop the skills that make them the technology guides in the classroom. For as the gap gets ever wider, the money it will take to fill the divide will increase. We are already in the red. Our reluctance to think and plan ahead has already created a debt of technological knowledge.

Taking Action

We can’t allow fear to dictate our progress, nor can we allow those who won’t move forward to dictate whether we do move forward. We cannot allow policymakers to insist on adoption and not provide for it, or worse yet, tentatively provide it and not find bravery and support by those within education’s walls.

Teachers need to be on the forefront of curriculum, not in its wake. We need to be leading the charge towards preparing our students for their future, not hindering our march towards tomorrow.

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Principals Voice Enthusiasm for Social Networking, Though Concerns Remain

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment
This is icon for social networking website. Th...

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The Journal recently included an article on the increased enthusiasm for social networking by principals.  While many principals are growing increasingly interested in the potential for true educational use for social networking applications, many principals still have valid concerns over the use of such applications in schools.

Research has shown that most school principals in the United States use Web 2.0 technologies and belong to at least one social network. And according to a new report released this week, most also indicated they think social networking has value for education–for staff and, potentially, for students alike. So why did most also say their schools ban the use of social networking on campus?

The reasons are many and varied, according to the new report. But not surprisingly (based on past research), privacy and appropriate use of the tools were among the concerns voiced.

The report, “School Principals and Social Networking in Education: Practices, Policies, and Realities in 2010,” is the conclusion of a two-phase research effort begun last year. The first phase involved a nationwide survey of more than 1,200 education professionals, including principals, teachers, and librarians. It was designed to gauge attitudes toward and usage of online collaborative tools, including social networks and other collaborative technologies (often classified as Web 2.0).

Among the findings: 54 percent of principals belong to at least one social networking site, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. And while that figure, with a reported margin of error of ±2.71 percent, lagged behind both teachers (62 percent of whom reported belonging to social networks) and librarians (70 percent of whom reported belonging to social networks), principals were ahead of teachers in their use of other Web 2.0 tools for professional purposes. According to the report, a majority (56 percent) indicated using Webinars professionally (versus 15 percent of teachers); 31 percent used YouTube, again for professional purposes (versus 17 percent of teachers); and 28 percent indicated using podcasts in their work (versus 13 percent of teachers).

Through open questioning, respondents in the first phase were able to express some of their vision and concerns about social networking. For more in depth responses and elaborations on those sentiments, researchers in the second phase of the effort held discussions with a dozen principals hand-picked for their involvement in social networking (and therefore, it should be noted, not a representative sample of the overall population). They discussed professional experiences with social networking, impressions of the capabilities of teachers and students, school policies, barriers to adoption, and other issues.

Phase 2 responses followed themes similar to those expressed by the larger sample size in phase 1. Most said social networking has value for education professionals, and many said there could be benefits for students as well. Among the information provided by the discussion sample (which, again, was not representative of the total population, but meant to elaborate on attitudes expressed by principals who self-identified social networking users in the phase 1 quantitative study):

  • Half of the principals involved in the discussion said social networking was used to some extent in their schools, which ranged from school-sponsored collaboration sites built on Moodle to cloud services like Google Apps for Education;
  • Concerns included the potential misuse of the services, a perceived need for monitoring, the idea that the services would become dumping grounds for negative comments (by parents and others), general security fears, ethics and professional codes of conduct, and a dearth of information about what works in terms of social networking in education;
  • Social networking per se is mostly blocked for students, even among the smaller sample, but most principals reported that they use some Web 2.0 technologies (such as online chat) with their students; and
  • Some said their district policies were inadequate and needed revision, including preventing social contact between teachers and students and dealing with bullying, among other policies cited.

Participants in the phase 2 qualitative research were also asked about their personal use of social networks; their colleagues’, teachers’, students’, and librarians’ expertise in the use of social media; and their views on the future of social networking and its potential impact on education. Detailed responses can be found in the complete report, which is available publicly.

The report’s authors concluded with several recommendations, including the need for teachers and principals to acquire more hands-on experience with education social networks; to develop models of practice; and to create better policies with regard to social networking and other collaborative technologies.

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