Back in the Classroom

After working for five years as a district-level technology facilitator, I am now returning to the classroom. It's my goal to make my 5th grade class a model for how technology can be powerfully integrated into instruction and learning. Join my students and me on the journey! It's sure to be bumpy, but exciting...

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Location: Schaumburg, Illinois, United States

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Do Technology Advocates Promote Blocking?

School starts next week and I find my Furl account is still blocked at school. I haven't been using it very long, and only have 70 sites Furled, but I like the service! I love how easily web site can be Furled using my Furl Firefox tool bar. I've been talking with the head of our instructional technology department as well as our network administrator. The problem has more to do with the time to review the site than a belief that it's dangerous for children.

This issue of blocked technology is echoed all across the web, and we technology users/advocates are constantly bemoaning limited access to sites, tools and applications. Lately, I've found myself wondering if we in the Educational Technology field have played a role in placing limits upon ourselves. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but I believe there's some truth to the thought.

As a Technology Facilitator, I worked with teachers in several buildings. My role was to increase teacher and student use of the wealth of hardware and software available in Schaumburg District 54. I ensured the building principals were aware of the projects teachers and students were working on in class. What I didn't do well was explain the rationale for the projects. As I worked with staff to create projects, I always began with the content to be taught, and then developed projects that stretched the teacher's and the student's technology skills. State and NETS standards were always a consideration in designing a project as well as the selection of the most appropriate tool to complete a task.

As technology users and advocates, we naturally take these factors into account when we decide to devote precious class time to technology-based projects. What I don't believe we do well is to make certain that the "technology muggles" around us understand WHY we are doing what we do. To us it is obvious; to others it may look like fluff in an era of high-stakes testing. By assuming that everyone is as versed in 21st Century Literacy Skills and how our projects connect to them, perhaps we are inadvertently promoting fear or disdain for the very tools we find so exciting. When we in the educational technology community get together (in a room or cyberspace), we all speak passionately and eloquently to each other as to why technology is so important in teaching and learning. Are we as passionate with those who don't share our geekiness? I for one, have not been nearly as passionate when speaking with administrators who have other matters on their minds.

So, what does this mean Back in the Classroom? One of the many goals I have for myself this year is to do a better job of being a WHY technology advocate. I've already had several discussions with my principal as to why I feel it's important for kids to post content to the Internet. She's already had some negative encounters with MySpace postings, so ! I have been quite passionate when explaining that it is our responsibility as educators to do just that – educate. Our students need to understand the responsible use of Web 2.0 tools, and the potential dangers and consequences for their misuse! The best way to teach, as we all know is to do! We have our work cut out for us, but I believe the impact of kids sharing thoughts, ideas and learning with the world community is worth the effort!

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