Modeling Appropriate Use of Technology - A Losing Proposition?


Given the prevalence of cloud-based computing systems, alternative Internet access technologies (e.g. Clear, MiFi on your Mobile device, etc.) to what the school district provides, some may argue that school technology directors are a rapidly dying breed. They are a dying breed because their focus is on controlling what is happening in schools when students and educators simply tap into ubiquitous technologies that bypass the fact, human beings in their desire to connect with each other transcend the blocks, speed bumps, and obstacles that have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in place.

At The Thinking Stick, Jeff shares a change in how students communicate:
Over this past school year my wife and I have slowly been watching a change in the way her Middle School students communicate with her. It has me thinking that we no longer get to decide the communication tool for a conversation.
It started back in September when my wife received an e-mail from Facebook via a student. My wife is not friends with any students on Facebook but that didn't and hasn't stopped them from sending her messages about school. The first time it happened we laughed and my wife was a bit freaked out. But over the course of the year it's been happenings more and more. Kids, who are always on Facebook, and using it like e-mail decided it was OK to contact their school counselor that way...and is it?
A counselors role is to be available to their students in time of need and crisis. Do we really care how they contact their counselor? What program or method they use?
The question that we must ask is, "Are we really fed up with the restrictions that are meant to keep children safe that we choose to detour around them, or are we fed up with trying to model the appropriate use of technology to our students?" What a poor question. Let me try again. "Have we given up modeling the appropriate use of technology in schools because technology directors are the only ones who define appropriate as restricting access to online content?"
To be honest, I'd like to think that we could all be connecting through the multitude of social networking tools provided by third party vendors. It would be nice for the mountain to come to us, rather than us having to go to the mountain.

Maybe, it's time technology directors changed with the times? Maybe...they need to become more enchanting a la Guy Kawasaki (infographic)? Though I'm not a graphic artist, here's what a tech directors a la enchantment might look like:

How to Achieve Likability:
  • Stop wearing t-shirts with a collar imprinted with school district TechDept logo and just go with the District logo.
  • Answer "Yes" when asked if they can integrate any system into the District's network
How to Achieve Trustworthiness
  • Trust others, especially teachers
  • Start with the interests of teachers and students rather than ensuring the network security and helpdesk comfort
  • Share stories of network success--users getting it done--rather than users failing badly (e.g. Facebook mishap)
How to Prepare
  • Involve stakeholders
  • Avoid making unilateral decisions that benefit only Technology
  • Keep it short, simple, and empowering
  • Open the door (to borrow Wes Fryer's insistence)
How To Launch
  • Show how this will benefit the end-user rather than ensure network integrity
  • Tell a story of how students will get things done
Well, you get the idea. Wouldn't it be neat if we all sat in a circle and read this together?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Anonymous said…
It's not the just kids and teachers who're frustrated with the "restriction" policies imposed. But when you're forced up front to deal with things like CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act) along with other State and Federal regulations (restrictions), then the restrictive measures fall into place. The problem becomes asking the question, "Are we being too restrictive?".

Naturally, students are going to be the first ones using new networking/social mediums. They've grown up with it to such an extent that they have no concept of life without it. So in effect, it's inconceivable not to get in touch with a teacher or counselor to answer questions or get help outside of the school setting.

Unfortunately, technology professionals as a whole are caught between a rock and a hard place. While we would love to give them free reign into things like google, youtube and facebook, there's other facets to consider. The first and foremost being the required protection of our children from "inappropriate" internet content.

Certainly we can allow them access to Youtube, however, a simple search will display a multitude of videos containing graphic and adult content. By the requirements of CIPA this is not allowed and can affect already tight funding based on adherence to that Federal Mandate. Unfortunately, storing that material is problematic for any engine, it's like trying to keep the water in a pool from getting out with a single gate. You can either open up the gate and give full access to the pool, or you can keep the gate closed to everything it contains.

It's for these reasons that you most frequently wind up with seemingly over restrictive policies. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls, and both are going to find out what they can about the other. But it was at levels far above the Technology Director and even the Superintendents that this policy was made. The Technology Directors are just the people at the bottom given the mandate to make our children safe when perusing the internet using school resources.

The only rational solution is to attempt to force entities beyond the school district to ensure our children are protected from inappropriate materials. Google is a wonderful example of this, having engineered into their applications the measures to achieve CIPA compliance. But until every company that hosts internet materials is made to come online in the same manner, there's no choice but to restrict access at the school or school district level.
Anonymous said…
I don't see your comments as being helpful to the situation at all. It is fairly easy to throw rocks at those that live in glass houses, try living in that glass house for a while. Technology will probably be one of the first areas to have funding cut after the debacle in Austin over the budget. Try to deal with budget restrictions while providing a safe environment for children to learn in, while someone (that doesn't even know a glass house exists)ties your hands. I am not a technology director.
@Anonymous #2 - I live in a glass house, and for too long, we have persisted in the pretense that teachers can't be trusted, superintendents are powerless (yes, I've heard two say that to me when I facilitated workshops on this subject), and tech directors who overcontrol access ARE a dying breed.

They are a dying breed because those answers and solutions that served them so well during the launch of Internet access in schools are no longer suited to the present circumstances of ubiquitous access.

It's time to stop talking about rocks and glass houses, and instead build the communities. If you aren't speaking up for that, then you aren't doing anything...whether you are a tech director or not.
Anonymous said…
When you tell me how to keep my erate and other federal funds without maintaining cipa compliance, I will happily unblock youtube and others at my district. As to trusting teachers, they are no different than any other occupation. Some are trustworthy, some are not. I am for a partnership. One that doesn't start with "why do you have to block everything" when clearly, the vast majority of the internet is not blocked. Oh, well two different points of view. Let me know how yours works out in 15 or so years and I'll let you now how mine does.

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