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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Opinion, Conflicted

Okay...I watched Mr. Brian Crosby's method of inclusion in a thoroughly moving video of his 4th graders. I read the dozens of replies. I sent the link to my entire school, and watched the video with one of my AP's. I received several positive comments about the content of the video. We even entered a situation today with a student who will be homebound for several weeks, and a teacher asked if it was something we could do. Could do? Absolutely! Except Skype is blocked at school. Sure we could request it to be unblocked, downloaded, and purchase the webcam, but by the time everything was ready our student will probably be back in school.

Enough of that...The reason I am conflicted is this is a perfect example of integrating technology, yet I'm doubting if any of the students, or Mr. Crosby for that matter, consider it tech integration. I think the genius of this "best practice" that March and Warlick spoke of last summer during and after NECC is that Skype is so simple that this is not an incident of integration, but an occasion of quality education.

I would wager two nickels Mr. Crosby's thought was more like "How can I truly make Celeste feel she is a part of our classroom?" In other words, I'm guessing the student's need came first rather than the method, technology, or attention he might receive. Knowing about Skype allowed for "just in time" implementation. He is not teaching technology, or teaching how to use technology. Sure, he may have needed a few minutes to demonstrate the software, but Skype is a phone with video...it's not difficult, even (especially) for 4th graders.

Mr. Crosby is a good teacher, not because he is using technology. He is a good teacher because he understands his students' needs (and not jsut the needs of Celeste). One of my favorite thoughts was from the young lady who wondered if Celeste would like her (how universal is that sentiment?). It's not about the technology. It is the deliverance of the promise of Web 2.0 / School 2.0. It's connecting people with people. Way to go Mr. Crosby! Special thanks to your students too...for allowing us to observe what education can become.

You can read about the whole "Messy Thing" at Mr. Crosby's blog.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Understand, Powerful - But How Many

Alan Levine, over at CogDogBlog led me to the video, Digital Ethnography, by Professor Wesch @ Kansas State University. This is now a new feed for me.

The interactivity of people and Web 2.0 technology is not about the technology, it is about connecting people to people. The evolution of the Internet is rather simple yet profound.

Over-simplified time-line of the Internet in Education
  • It used to be a place for people to find information.
  • It became a place where teachers could post class information, store files, and communicate within the context of the class. [Teacher as knowledge supplier]
  • It is becoming a place where teachers AND students can create, share, and build content beyond the context of the classroom. [Mostly to include family members of those in the classroom.]
  • Some have ventured out to include their community in the activities of the school/classroom. [Restrictions of system policies make this difficult in some areas.]
  • Some have collaborated with distant schools to create content and build relationships. [Again, restrictions of Web 2.0 tools and system policies deter advancement for too many educators.]
  • What it will become is dependent on the values of the creators, sharers, and builders -- students included.
The final bullet is my concern in education. Many people still believe the Internet is a place to find information. Too many educators believe this. We are behind the curve, as I hear some teachers just beginning to ask about html and creating web pages. This includes our higher education institutions.

Being behind the curve, I believe, is why school policies reflect the fear leaders have toward any web-based application that allows people to connect with others. These leaders then project their lack of knowledge about the tools into incomplete policies. They are not using the web to connect with others...they are consumers of information, not yet contributors of content. Those who seek to contribute are seen as radicals in a world few understand. Those who dare to risk creation, contribution, and relationship development are viewed, not as pioneers but as intruders of the sacred past of outdated educational methods that simply are not reaching the modern student...who creates, shares, and builds without the guidance of people who can help them weigh the value of the content. Students have to sneak around the adult community to build their own content on MySpace, Facebook, etc. Worse, adults are now wanting to spy on the children, with the intent of censuring them instead of helping them become responsible, accountable contributors of content that others may be able to use.

The problem I fear is that without someone to teach the children RESPONSIBLE creation, sharing and building, they must fend for themselves to figure out a world their adult leaders fear, merely because they do not seek to understand. What becomes of the interactive web-world when today's students become adults who do not possess the understanding of accountability? Then we will see serious issues of privacy, copyright, and ethics violations. The time of fearing what might happen needs to fade. Principles of education on Web 2.0 ideas need to become a part of school policy, curriculum, and practice. It will engage the student, attract the community, and impact the world.

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