Steve Cohen sent me a link to this story at North Jersey.com that captures the incredibly messy stage we’re in regarding schools and blogs and students and Web publishing. Pretty much seems like schools are in reaction mode instead of proaction mode, and to me it’s only going to get worse until schools start understanding the shifts that are occurring. This is a very different landscape, one where, to some extent, I think resistance is futile. The old paradigms of trying to manage or control the information flow pretty much goes out the window when everyone has a platform.
What can schools in general do? Well, here are some pretty straightforward ideas, I think.
1. Schools need to start blogging and inviting the community into conversations about what’s going on. We need to tell parents and students and community members that we will entertain and respond to any comment or idea they contribute provided they do so in a way that respects the civil exchange of ideas and the people involved. We do not need to stand for insults, but we do need to provide a space to discuss ideas because if we don’t, someone else will. And we need to offer the space because we are the educators and this is all about education.
2. We need to in-service teachers, hold courses and community nights for parents, and teach every student the acceptable uses of these new technologies, and we need to model their appropriate use. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but half the problem is that kids are making the rules up as they go along. I love this quote from the story:
As students flock to such sites, teachers worry that without the guidance they would get at a traditional school paper, kids will learn all the bad habits of editorializing and sloppy reporting.
What guidance have students every really gotten in this regard unless they took a journalism class or worked on the school paper? How about this: a course in citizen journalism and Web literacy should be MANDATORY for every student (and teacher, and parent and administrator.)
3. Stop blocking, start teaching. I’ve been exchanging comments about this on Aaron Campbell’s site and he says:
And I agree with you that we should embrace our confrontation with nudity, sex, drugs, violence, and spam in an institutional context as a positive thing, an opportunity to teach and learn and grow. The more we avoid dealing with these issues, the more we give up sharing our experience and wisdom (?) with young people about them. These are part of their world, so they should likewise be issues in the classroom.
That’s not to say that we don’t continue to filter out the worst of it, and that we take every measure to protect our kids from the ne’er do wells of the world. But instead of denying access to a ton of good content that’s coming out of blogs and wikis and other sources, let’s teach kids how to deal with this new world. We do our students a disservice if we don’t teach them that spamming and file sharing is unethical and illegal, that pornography (and half of the magazine covers at the local convenience store) demeans and degrades and objectifies women in ways that should not and cannot be tolerated. That everyone has an agenda, and they need to be able to see beyond the message to the overall subtext. Why aren’t we talking about this in our schools? Better yet, why aren’t we joining with parents to do this? And what happens when we don’t have these conversations and our kids graduate? Who talks to them about it then?
More questions than answers, I know, but we need to start addressing them before not after the ugliness starts.
John Pederson says
Ok, now for the frustrating part. How does this conversation “scale”? Over the next few days, this post will get a bunch of attention in the edublogosphere. A few of us will post links to our blogs, deconstruct and reconstruct the meaning, thank Will and others for their insights. Dembo will mention it on a podcast. It will grab attention for a week or two, then fizzle out.
We need ideas for the ongoing care, nurturing, and growing of this message. A place to aggregate our thoughts, concerns, actions, success stories, etc. I’m thinking some kind of collaborative wiki, but I hesitate saying “that’s the answer” without some feedback from others that know more about this stuff than I.
Karl Fisch says
Do you have any specific ideas of how to do this:
< 1. Schools need to start blogging and inviting the community into conversations about what’s going on. We need to tell parents and students and community members that we will entertain and respond to any comment or idea they contribute provided they do so in a way that respects the civil exchange of ideas and the people involved. We do not need to stand for insults, but we do need to provide a space to discuss ideas because if we don’t, someone else will. And we need to offer the space because we are the educators and this is all about education. >
I’ve been wanting to explore this for a while now, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to reasonably do it. There are the technical issues – my district is not likely to support any kind of software so I have to use something web-based. And there are the obvious management issues – how do you moderate something like this; who moderates it; and where do we find the time to moderate it.
While I think this kind of interaction and feedback with our community could be invaluable, I also think it could be a huge can of worms.
Will R. says
I think most districts would see this as opening up a huge can of worms, and that’s the primary problem, no doubt. If we can get to the point that we really believe this is important to do, we’ll find a way to do it. Sounds like I’m skirting the issue, I know, but it’s true. There is no one size fits all solution for this. At our school we have a public information officer who would certainly be a big part of monitoring the flow, and our school leaders would have to commit to putting time into it. We could host it. At other schools, it might be a Blogger blog, or another off site blog that allows more review if that’s what’s required. The super in Pinellas County, FL got the paper to host it. I’m sure there are other ways. But the bottom line is that we have to make the decision to move in this direction first and then figure out the details second. Thanks for the post, Karl.
Marilyn Kircus says
I spend a lot of time trying to learn new techniques and figure out how to implement them. I also try to help teachers catch up in technology. My concern is that teachers as we know then are about to disappear. Kids are learning less and less at school while knowing the worst side of technology from learning it from their friends.
A few hours ago, I clicked on the blogging site B Blogger
to look at the site my daughter maintains about my grandson.
This site lets you easily upload pictures as part of a post. In fact you can use another piece of software called “Hello” to do all the blogging including uploading the pictures (AND WITH NO SIZE CHANGES-just pick the published size). Everything is free and looks fabulous with just using templates made and shared by people who can design web pages. You can build your own page if you so desire.
As I looked at the pictues, I decided to click on the button for the site, found out how to use everything (well mostly) and started a school blogg that I just invited the teachers to join. I’ll add a link to this page if that is all right with you because most of my teachers have never heard of Bloggs. I’m hopping I can get them involved in a low-key, non-threatening way. I’m hoping they will enjoy looking at it, commenting, then starting to use it to do collaborative stuff and learn to be more of a community.
Then later, we might be ready to accept a Blog that is open to students, parents and people interested in knowing where we are going, what our needs are, and buy into being part of the process instead of an outside group.
This represents about 15 minutes of my time, including downloading 2-3 programs.