Monday, April 28, 2008

23 Things...

As I work through the various "things" and read some of the comments posted by many educators, a few common themes seem to emerge:
  • Too much information
  • Not enough access
  • Safety and privacy issues
  • Not enough time

These are common problems in my district also. So here are my thoughts:

Too much information-- yep, you're right. We can't possibly keep up with the flow of information. 40 years ago we got 3 channels on our TV. Now we get 100's. Likewise, there are many more magazines and periodicals and other print media. And that's before we even begin to talk about the internet! So what do we do? We can say "OH WOE IS ME" and throw up our hands in defeat, or we can do our best to swim against the tidal wave of information, realizing that inevitably we'll have to just "go with the flow." We can't possibly keep up, nor should we ever expect to. But we can join together with other like-minded individuals to find those pearls of wisdom, those incredible websites, the engaging multimedia, and SHARE those with each other. There's a lot of great "stuff" out there! And a lot of great people! You won't know everything about everything, but if you love to learn you won't be disappointed. Overwhelmed, perhaps, but better informed than you ever thought possible.

Not enough access-- tech directors are just doing their job, protecting students from content that is less than wholesome. The good news is we live in a country with a lot of freedom to express ourselves and this venue called the internet where the whole world is literally our stage. But this blessing is also a curse. It's impossible to open up a web site with wonderful content to everyone because of the BAD content that is found there. I don't claim to be an expert on CIPA, but it's a fact of life that schools have to deal with. Read more about it here: and here:

Safety and privacy issues-- there are a lot of bad people in this world. Many of them exist in the "real" world, and now they're moving into the online world. It can be very scary for students and adults. Cyberbullying is on the rise. Identy theft is becoming easier. But ladies and gentlemen, the proverbial genie is out of the proverbial bottle. The internet is not going away. The best we can do is to educate ourselves (and our students) about how to protect ourselves and our computers while we're online. When you're in a big city, especially for the first time, you try to stay aware of your surroundings and to stay away from trouble. Likewise online. But just like the real world, there are random attacks on the internet. Bad things sometimes happen to good people, despite their attempts at protecting themselves and insulating themselves from trouble.

Not enough time-- we all only get 24 hours in a day and we have to balance our personal and professional lives according to a formula that is unique to each individual. More and more demands and expectations are placed on teachers each year. High stakes testing has caused many teachers to focus only on those areas to the exclusion of extras or options such as technology. Many teachers have graduate school to worry about. How in the world can they ever be expected to learn even more on their own time without any additional compensation, either financially, or in compensatory time? Thankfully teachers can engage in what I call professional development 2.0. They can participate in "23 things" on their own time without having to drive anyplace and without having to spend any money. They can literally engage in PD in their PJs. Hopefully they will realize the power and potential of these new technologies to transform their classrooms, but only after they have used them to improve their own teaching practice and ways of communicating with others.

Nothing earth-shattering here. These are very real concerns with no easy answers. I think in our current school climate the best we can hope for is a cadre of teachers who use Web 2.0 technologies, and somewhere down the road we can safely integrate these into the classroom.

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