Last week at the Personal Democracy Forum, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a story about how as an “older person” he had trouble with the fact that during his one-hour a week staff meeting, everyone had their heads in their computers. So he decided to ban computers from the meeting, and the next week, everyone around the table was leaning forward, looking much more engaged…until he realized they were all checking their Blackberrys under the table. And then, regarding this state of affairs at one of the most successful companies in the world, he said:
â€œThis is a battle that we have lost, and I think itâ€™s fine. And I think itâ€™s a statement of how important this technology is, and I think it is a permanent change.â€
(Click here to listen to the exchange between Schmidt and Thomas Friedman…apologies for the quality.)
Schmidt’s last comment was my first thought after reading, albeit a bit late, this post on Ben Wilkoff’s blog about a very successful wiki collaboration project he was doing with his students in Colorado and a class in Connecticut that was derailed when one of the Connecticut student’s mothers threatened to call state attorney general to complain about the site because:
1-there were three personal pictures â€” all on the map of the home page
2-some kids used their real names on pages or as a username
3-in my post on icon I identified that where I live and that I teach at a â€œblue collar schoolâ€
4-I had pictures of the school and the rooms which could provide a blueprint for a killer
5-some kids put personal descriptors â€œI am five feet tall with brown hair named Samâ€
6-on my â€œlesson plan blogâ€™ One thing i wrote down last Thursday was something like â€œMyspace words of Wisdomâ€ which she interpreted as me telling the kids about how they should join.
This according to the teacher from Ct., who later in the most interesting comments thread writes:
Of course, just like everything else that gets banned, the wikis went underground. More kids created their own wikis in response to this than they did while my class wiki was active. So now instead of one wiki in with the whole team involved (not to mention me), there are now many wikis splintered across the wikiverse.
And so there it is. There is really the crux of this. We. Cannot. Win. This battle has been lost, the problem is most parents, and most educators just don’t get it yet. All this banning of cell phones and taking down wikis and filtering out blogs…all of it is our own little Iraq. It’s not working. It’s not going to work. And all these laws that non-technological legislators are proposing are just a last gasp attempt at a “surge” that is doomed to failure as well. More restrictions, more blocking, more battening down the information hatches is only going to drive it all underground and make the world of our kids less safe. And, it will deny us a chance to help our kids develop and employ the literacies they are going to need to succeed in their future.
This is not a battle worth fighting. Let’s just stop.