What’s education got to do with it?

Let me get this straight. I spent three days learning about wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, and various websites that I found totally intriguing and NEW. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been blown away by a new idea. Now I’ll admit, I usually don’t have time for those who will tell me why something won’t work. And there are plenty of people happy to see every change and new idea from that perspective. I’ve learned to at least listen to them, because they often help me to avoid some problems. But I’m not listening now. That’s right, I’m looking this whole fear issue, call it cautiousness if you like, and staring it down. Because that’s what it is when schools filter everything and avoid, it’s fear of the unknown, it’s ignorance, and it’s cowardice.

This technology was all new to me less than a week ago. Granted, it takes more to trouble me than some, but I’m a parent and a principal and I can’t think of a better way for our students to learn about the new opportunities on the web than from us. I’m honestly wondering why we’re not teaching kids in our computer apps classes exactly what I just learned from Will. Look, I’ve got a 14 year old son and a 19 year old daughter and I’m pretty sure they’re going to find out about the big bad blogging world one way or the other. I’d just rather it be openly and honestly from me with thoughtful discussion about what to do when confronted with what (if I’ve done a decent job at all) they’ll know they shouldn’t be looking at in the first place.

I hope we raise smart, curious kids who want to know what’s available, and who read and compose thoughtful blogs, sharing meaningful ideas with peers. I also hope this helps every high school student who feels like no one understands him (!) connect with someone out there who does, who shares her passion for horses or guitar or whatever, and can engage him in a thoughtful discussion. How many times does a student have a passion, an interest, a hobby that he learns to abandon in high school because his peers deem it uncool? Blogging provides a place to meet others with the same interests.

Will Richardson said –“The biggest shift is not the technology, not the practice, not even the implementation. It’s the cultural, social shift that moves us from the idea that we must prevent our kids from seeing and engaging with this “stuff” to the idea that says, look…it’s a different world…they’re going to find sex and porn and bad stuff and bad people no matter how hard we try to keep them from it, but when we weigh that fact against the incredible learning potential that the Web provides, we’re going to choose to educate rather try to block and filter it all.”

If schools say no way to all of this, if we block it, who are we kidding? It’s still there, kids are still curious (thank goodness) and we’re left out of the equation. Bring it on blogging world. If I have anything to say about it, G-Town will be open to it, will talk about it, will teach it. And our students will be better prepared for the workforce and better able to compete against all of the students coming out of the dark districts that forbid it. Education has everything to do with it. Keep teaching the teachers Will, it’s the only way we’re going to get there. Thank you for teaching me.

  1. Kimberly,
    Just a couple thoughts. My children are 4 and 6 years old. I am a technology integrator for 22 school districts and am very forward thinking in the use of technology to engage students in classrooms that are all too often disconnecting students to learning

    I’m not sure I would send my children to a school that did not have some kind of filtering system. I love your points about a child’s natural curiosity. I also agree with the point about blocking and filtering can be the “new book burning.” I am also not in favor of sheltering students up to a certain age. I am in favor of respecting them by trusting them. I’m just not in favor of more distractions at school.

    It has been deemed by the courts that schools do not have the same rights to free speech as the out of school community. For example, students cannot create a branch of the Ku Klux Klan as a school club and demonstrate in a school hallway. Schools also have dress codes in their codes of conduct. Some things are blocked and for good reason. In Tinker v. DesMoines the Supreme Court said that schools could limit speech that was deemed hurtful and/or causes a distraction. It also gave the power to local school boards to make decisions on what is distracting. While I would argue that students can be taught how hurtful speech is wrong and they can learn the difference between what is hateful and not hateful.

    I would say that students would have a harder time with not being distracted by the Internet. I want my children to love learning and not be distracted by showing fellow students a pornographic website, or a site that explains how to create a bomb or drug for a cheap high. We don’t let students sit in class without shirts on because it may be distracting to the educational process. We should not let every Internet site go unfiltered for the same reason.

    After writing all this, and not to soften my position, but I am now wondering if respecting and in turn trusting students does not outweigh distractions to learning caused by unlimited Internet capabilities.

    I guess I’m looking for a balance between no filtering, which Will and others think is OK, and filtering everything.

    Rick Weinberg

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  3. When my kids hit high school (many years from now!), I can only hope that they’ll find educators as willing to embrace opportunity and pursue possibility as enthusiastically as you clearly do. This was a pleasure to read.

  4. If we hope to inspire quality in our schools, we have to do more than meet students half way. We need to be courageous enough to reach out and build a strong involvement with them so they have some chance to develop into responsible citizens. If we don’t take those steps, who will? The risk in not doing so is too great. Becoming involved with students is essential if we hope to have them learn a better way and ultimatley put learning into their quality world.
    Inspiring Quality in Your School — p. 205
    I think this was written in 1951, so to all of you who think the world is out of control, “it wasn’t like that when we were……” think again. Embrace the future. Kim, you are on the right track – good luck.

  5. Carol!
    I was in your session and it is something I debated with my colleagues – although in reverse!! Many on my team were excited about creating wikis and blogs (and I have to admit that I have since created one myself around Writing Frameworks – but I kept asking for what purpose? If, as Kim states in her latest post, it is to engage our learners and we know how and why we want to do so – GREAT! If we are only doing it to capture their attention in the technology and don’t really know why we are having them blog or create a wiki – how is it any different than what we have tried (and failed at) in the past?

  6. It seems as though our workshops were YEARS apart! Even though I felt that the in class teaching strategies I was taught were extremely beneficial, most importantly, is the connection teachers (human beings) make with our kids! That respect, that trust is sometimes the one thing that is needed for kids to perform. Constant reassuring them that they are indeed good people is so important. I was learning how to engage students in the classroom, disecting learning styles and how kids learn and how to approach all of my students. The blog is interesting, and I am someone who doesn’t face change easily but I am willing and able to change and I love learning new things. Perhaps a question to you then is how will the faculty be introduced to this? How will people be brought on board? What are the ways that this process can be used effectively in the classroom?Is it possible that both workshops were TRULY effective? One was futuristic, the now, cutting edge, while the other could be seen as “old fashioned”. Was what I learned a waste???? I struggle with the idea of ALWAYS stimulating the student. We need to concentrate on getting kids in school and being successful academically. We need to celebrate academics!

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  8. Nicely put. You’re a forceful writer. And this post reminds me of something attributed to the composer John Cage: “I can’t understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I’m frightened of old ones.”

  9. Thank you to everyone for the encouragement and thoughtful response. And a pingback from Australia! I think I’ll need a follow up session on the ins and outs, or it better be in Will’s book. Already thinking about my next post, but want to spend time reading the blogs of everyone who’s taken the time to comment first. If only I didn’t have to work all day, how do I carve out an hour a day for blogging when I barely cook a meal now?

  10. It sounds as though we have many educators in this area (WNY) who are willing to make a commitment to educating our school board reps, parents, students and fellow colleagues. It may be a long and muddy road, but I’m ready to put on my mud boots and slicker and get to my destination. With the support and posting of comments by those on this blog (great site Kim) I feel more and more prepared. I look forward to continued conversations as I get out my compass and road map.

  11. Right on, Woman!! This is GREAT stuff! I want to assure Will, that you DO have the ability (and moxy) to make a difference. I anxiously await the reverberations from your end of the county! I’m right here to back you up or be a sounding board – call anytime!!

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  13. Kim,

    Outstanding remarks. I have the experience of my computers being blocked time and time again where I taught Computer Apps. (I begin working as a Media Specialists this year). When I started teaching Comp. App., we had no filtering software. We had few problems with students accessing inappropriate content. We now, 5 years later, take the philosophy in our district of “block it all, and ask to have it opened if it is educational.” It’s sad. Rather than educate, we restrict. I have said often, “Today’s book burning is called site blocking.”

    I wish you success in your fight. Administrators must take the stand you seem prepared to take by making your voice public in your blog. If you succeed, you may be getting requests for many of us to come work for you!


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  15. Kim, if you keep writing like that, you are going to have A LOT of readers very quickly. That’s powerful stuff, and I while I’m trying not to, I can’t help but wonder if you are prepared for the conversations that might ensue on your blog. I hope you are, because personally, I already love the voice and perspective you’re bringing to this. But as you can tell by the comments to that post on my site, these are difficult questions that engender passionate responses on both sides. Hold on tight… And, just fyi, you now have at least one subscriber to your feed.

  16. Great blog! Good for you trying something new. I, too, just started an education blog earlier this summer. I want to learn more though because I am new to this. I take encouragement from you!

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