It is interesting how we continuously have the opportunity to provoke thoughts and learning from each other. Recently I wrote a post on Cyberbullying which led to a comment from Tom Whitby where he stated: “Now that I wrote this I have a need to expand it on my own blog.” Tom then wrote his post which has now sparked thoughts for me (is there a 6 degrees of blog separation from Kevin Bacon game?) In Tom’s post, he talks about what we need to do as administrators in ensuring the safety of students while not having “knee jerk reactions” that lead us to removing things such as mobile devices and an open Internet. I agree wholeheartedly with Tom’s posts and thought how they relate to my situation.
At our school, we are lucky to have an IT team that works with educators to ensure that we have open access to the Internet (other than the obvious R-Rated sites) and we are able to use anything from Facebook, YouTube, to Twitter. If there is an educational use for the site that can be applied, it can or probably is already open. With the sites that I just chose to list, they may not be geared for educational use, but they definitely have applications in education. There are also some portions of the site that definitely have no place in the classroom. To blanket block these sites is pretending that they don’t exist.
Hearing comments on Twitter on how people are frustrated that they do not have opportunities to use these sites really is frustrating for me as an educator. I feel for the students in those schools that are missing out on some amazing stories, connections, and friendships from all around the world. I could not imagine that this video shared by Dean Shareski (take the time to watch it if you have not) would be blocked in schools. What would bother me more though is that if videos like this were NOT shared in a school that had open access because educators do not “feel” that these global connections are important. Of course, not every educator is going to stumble across posts like this and I miss a ton of good information on the Twitter stream everyday, but I know that I take the time to look through this information.
Everyday at our school for a few months, I remember walking past students having lunch watching a mother eagle in real time take care of her chicks (the video is no longer available) and thinking about how amazing it is that this was brought to life for our students and how this was not possible when I was a kid. I also wondered if this was blocked somewhere else. There were many ways that I saw my staff doing these types of things this year.
One of my goals, as the principal of a public school that has open access is share as much as I can about the amazing opportunities our students have this year and what ways we have been proactive in ensuring that they are safe in the process. We need to share what we are doing to help some other schools/divisions see what they are possibly missing by blocking these sites in the classroom. As I have opened myself up more to connecting and reading about a lot of global issues in education, as well as the world, I feel that it is my responsibility to be an advocate not only for the students in my school, but students all over the world. I am happy to see that more teachers in our school (Shawn Ram and Barb Kari) have started blogging about their own experience and get to share their thoughts and knowledge with the world. It is amazing how we will now get to connect and collaborate with one another.
Recently, on a Skype call with John Carver at Van Meter schools in Iowa (something that is probably blocked in many schools), he shared his belief that we are now at a “printing press” stage in history. The changes in our world are going to be monumental and hopefully we are doing our part to prepare our students to be ready for the world that they will face as adults. I am going to do my best to share as much as I can about our school this year and the amazing things that I know our school community will do.
I am going to do my best to give our staff the tools and opportunities to help prepare our students for the future. I also am going to do my best to share their journey. I hope you do too.