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The Way of the Future: Embedding Technology in 21st Century Schools

April 12, 2010

Why is it so important that we integrate technology?

“I would rather stick to the same lessons I have taught for the last 30 years, thank you.”

“ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

These are clichés that just won’t cut it…if you want to survive in the 21st century. That’s right, I said, “Survive.” Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest  can be applied to our connected world and once again, educators are responsible for ensuring that our children, our future, are equipped with the skills they need to keep our world safe, healthy, and peaceful. We will evolve, our schools will need to evolve, if we want to survive in today’s digitized world. Integrating technology isn’t just about handing out toys to students and teachers, “It’s about unleashing the powers that students bring with them into the classroom” (A Vision of 21st century teachers ).  Technology enables teachers to plan, teach, and assess in more creative, engaging, and authentic ways than ever before. Technologies enhance the learners’ multifaceted, multi-sensory, exploratory experiences and facilitates a constructivist approach to learning.

Making It Happen

There are a couple of ways that technology integration can be implemented in schools.  One is at a personal level with small pockets of digital pioneers  who are risk takers and life long learners. This is the method I feel is most effective as teachers and students see you working alongside them, in the trenches, slugging it day in and day out. I believe teachers will be more willing to follow their tribal leader  if  they respect and trust that leader, a relationship that is more likely to be accomplished through continuous collaboration.

There is also School Wide Educational Technology Integration, which usually requires a more sophisticated and structured approach. There are several models that can be used when implementing the use of a technology on a wider scale.

 http://tpack.org/

One is the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPCK (McAnnear 2008). This model provides a clear look at the need to ensure that the technology, content, and teaching practice are not separated, but rather considered simultaneously when planning the integration of a new technology.

Summerville and Reid-Griffin (2008) provide the Instructional Design Model, which focuses on learning about technology through the use of technology.

I like Walters’ 5W/5E  model for schools that are not yet progressing together, but all have a common goal: to enhance the student and teacher learning experience.  I see this model as clear cut and non-threatening. It is linear, and could easily be adapted so that it can be embedded in unit/lesson plan templates. I also think that this model has the potential to be collaboratively revised by the teachers who use it after 1or2 years of its implementation. There are many different models out there, but what  is most important is that you adapt, reflect on, and seek the input of teachers before implementing a model. Regardless of the model you choose, it is important to have a visual representation of that model for your teachers to keep technology integration focused and purposeful.

How does this affect me as a teacher-librarian?

Now, my role in the explicit instruction of digital citizenship  is more crucial than ever before. As students and teachers become more frequently exposed to life online, both formally and informally, codes of conduct are necessary to maintain order and peace in physical and virtual worlds. I also feel like it is important that I have already learned whatever technology is being implemented, so that I can differentiate instruction and offer mentorship for the different learning styles and needs of my teachers. Does this mean that the library will become obsolete? Definitely not. Students and teachers still need the face to face instruction, encouragement, and support that a teacher-librarian provides. Students still need their teacher-librarians to teach the how to locate, analyze, and evaluate information online.  The library still holds valuable print resources, computers, and a place for people to gather and community to be built.  And the library is still a great place to become enveloped in a good book The role I see myself playing in the technology integration at my school, is one of instructional leader, support person, and Professional Learning Network facilitator. A Teacher-Librarian with a flexible teaching schedule enables this vision to become a reality. One person can make a difference, but it takes a team of people, working towards a common goal, to make CHANGE. The excitement for all the possibilities that technology provides is contagious, and slowly, more and more teachers are joining my “tribe.”

These are web2.0 tools one might want to suggest to teachers looking to embed technology in their instruction.

Video and Photo Sharing Sites:

TeacherTube.com, SchoolTube.com, United Streaming, flickr, goanimate.com

Video and photos can be used to teach concepts directly, to extend or support concepts already taught, to facilitate authentic understanding, and as a platform for creating new content.

Digital Storytelling:

Movie Maker (Microsoft), Audacity, VoiceThread

These tools help students to more clearly express themselves, represent in a variety of ways, and to learn to use different media.

Blogging:

Blogger, MyBlogSite, Edublogs, LearnerBlog, Worpress

These create authentic writing platforms, and platforms for communication.

Social Networking:

http://k12online.ning.com, Twitter, Diigo

Current events:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/teach/
Teacher Centre: A collection of lesson plans and activities to accompany FRONTLINE documentaries in the classroom.
http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/
http://www.educause.edu/
http://www.wired.com/

The resource I have found to be most useful when advising teachers on which web tools would enhance their students’ learning, is this one because it lists online tools and how they can be  used to address curricular content.

Where to from here?

Katie Ash provides a hopeful glimpse into our future in her article,  where she describes the plan set forward by the Obama administration. I am hopeful when I read that the plan calls for a change in the infrastructure of schools, a change in the way we view academic success, and change in assessment, as well as a focus on using technology to taylor the learning of individual students. I am hopeful that people in positions of power, policy makers, administrators, are all on the same page: It takes more than throwing computers at teachers. Technology integreation takes training, time for play and exploration, expertise, and mentorship.

Resources:

  1. Ash, Katie. (March 5, 2010) “U.S. Ed-Tech Plan Prods K-12 to Innovate.” Education Week. https://vista4.srv.ualberta.ca/webct/urw/lc654516289031.tp654516310031/RelativeResourceManager/sfsid/863392021051
  2. McAnear, Anita. (February 2008). “School-wide Technology Integration.” Learning and Leading with Technology. Pg.5.
  3. Mullen, Rebecca and Wedwick, Linda. (November/December 2008  ). “Avoiding the Digital Abyss.”  The Clearing House.  82;2 Pg.66-69.
  4. Summerville, Jennifer and Reid-Griffen, Angelia. (Sept/Oct 2008). “Technology Integration and Instructional Design.” TechTrends. Proquest Education Journals. 52;5 Pg45

5. Wang, Christine; Jaruszewicz, Candace; Rosen, Dina; Berson, Ilene; Bailey, Mark. (2008). “Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments.” Young Children. Proquest Education Journals. 63;5 Pg.48

6. http://www.techandyoungchildren.org/ 

7. http://content.yudu.com/Library/A18dcc/TwelveEssentialsforT/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yudu.com%2Fitem%2Fdetails%2F59772%2FTwelve-Essentials-for-Technology-Integration

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A Born Again Learner

April 5, 2010


“Lifelong learning is now possible in ways they never imagined,” Miguel Guhlin (Aug.19, 2009)

She sits in her seat, listening carefully to the melodious scribble of pencils sliding frantically across the papers on student desks. The odd sneeze, the odd shuffle, but nothing breaks that telling sign of good old fashioned hard work. “Ahh, it’s music to my ears,” she thinks, as the silence fills the room. A sure sign that her students are hard at work, learning…or are they?

Across the room, there’s a buzz of activity, as students think-pair-share about an experience they had similar to that of Emma, one of the characters in Margriet Ruurs’ book, Emma’s Eggs. And suddenly, the voices subside, with only one, unfamiliar, voice to be heard from across the hallway. The unfamiliarity of this voice pulls the neighboring teacher from her desk to investigate. To the surprise of the neighbor, a large screen displaying Margriet Ruurs’ face is displayed at the front of the class. Not only is she talking, but she is interacting with students who are sharing their experiences and connections, with her and the students behind her!

Later, in the teacher’s lounge, one teacher asks the other, “How on Earth did you set up a live meeting with an author?” To which the other replied, “I saw a tweet about http://www.skypeanauthor.com and it immediately caught my attention. I asked some of the members of my Ning if they had tried this out before, and a couple of them said they had. The teaching ideas and resources are endless once you’re set up with these networks.”

Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) can be anything from a weekly coffee date with like-minded individuals, to a complex and organized network of Twitter, Ning, Facebook, Diigo, and Blackboard accounts. Regardless of the medium, the key is connectivity and the exchange of ideas that occur. With today’s fast paced society, it seems to make the most sense for teachers to use Web.0 tools, as these facilitate fast, organized, global connections.

I believe that teachers are naturally lifelong learners, because we are passionate about learning. Learning is what we “make.”

Professional Development through PLNs could be one of the most effective ways to support teachers as they continue to learn into the 1st century.

Recipe for an Effective PLN

With contributions from Camilla Gagliolo (2008), the INGREDIENTS for an effective PLN are:
1 cup of student centered focus
1cup of collaboration among teachers
1 cup of meta-cognition and reflection
1/2 cup of constructive feedback to individuals
A large bowl of goal setting as a community

Light the fire

Sparking a passion for learning

Note: Lighting a fire under “digital immigrants” is a mission to approach cautiously. There are several factors one must consider if expecting teachers to be willing to adopt a new “culture.” These include a need for time, encouragement, immediate feedback, and a time for reflection. Without these elements and not knowing the personality types of your teachers could be a recipe for disaster.
DIRECTIONS:
5 tools to adopt when creating a PLN (Sue Waters) Posted by David Kapuler in TheUnquiet Librarian Nov.23,
2009.
• a Twitter account
• Start your own blog
• Subscribe to blogs
• Start using a social bookmarking tool (Diigo)
• Join a Ning Community
Begin as a consumer, just as Cathy Nelson did, and become a producer once you are more comfortable in a culture of learning.
Addressing different teacher personalities is key when deciding on different ways to execute educational technology professional development (ETPD). We have the Innovators, who are adventurous pioneers and prefer individualized, hands-on inquiry. The Early Adopters focus on quality and are well respected, preferring group work . There is the Early Majority, who are not necessarily leaders, as they usually wait until critical mass is reached, but who interact easily with others to provide connections and prefer collaborative problem solving. We have the Late Majority who are skeptical, cautious, and adopt new tech only because they have to. This group prefers structured and assisted workshops. Finally, one needs to consider the needs of the Laggards who resist change and are more traditional, as they are generally more comfortable with individualized plans. As with any labeling system, there are exceptions. The key to successful implementation of ETPD is knowing your learners.
COOKING TIME:
How do we support teachers’ pedagogical change? In my experience, I have found that lots of demonstrations, examples, and one on one instruction are key. Implementing one tool at a time is also necessary to make sure we’re not scaring everyone off. Lastly, I try to come up with ways that the new tech will actually SAVE teachers time, ORGANIZE their lives, and ENHANCE their students’ learning…Baby Steps.

What is it about this recipe that makes it so del.icio.us?

Tag words: *Feedback *Support *Inspiration *Quality Instruction *Collaboration *Resource development

Our Predicament

“Most teachers probably have not had sufficient time or opportunity to engage in the kinds of professional learning necessary to help them to use educational technologies in new ways to assist their students’ learning,” (Harris 2008).

The Causes?

*A society that is changing way faster than our education system is capable of and our innate desire to give our students “the best” quality education possible.

The Result?

*Teachers who are burnt out, who feel defeated, and who develop a sense of resentment toward whichever policy makers are attempting to implement these initiatives. Often, the middle men, either librarians, tech people, or mentors, get the brunt end of this resentment too. But can we really blame them?

The Solution?

Time, Empathy, Time, Encouragement, Time…you see where I’m going with this one. Regardless of how this happens, it is crucial that teachers become “master learners” and that “students are apprentices” if we are going to be successful in the 21st century (Will Richardson 2010).

The Icing on the PLN

Formally living the role of student these last couple of years, has really allowed me to become more aware of the challenges, emotional obstacles, and motivation that my students and colleagues experience when they are learning something new. I have become more able to show cognitive empathy (trying to see where my students are coming from), which forces me to challenge my assumptions about students’ and colleagues’ actions. I think that Will Richardson might say that in the future, teachers need to work WITH students on learning new tech tools (our students can show us HOW they are comfortable using these tools), then more time for reflection among colleagues as well as collaboration on further implications/integrations of those tools to enhance student learning.

Resources;
Gagliolo, Camilla (September/October 2008). “Help Teachers Mentor One Another.” Learning and Leading With   Technology. ISTE. PG.39.

Guhlin, Miguel (August 19, 2009). “Light the Flame – PLNs in Schools.” Around the Corner – Mguhlin.org. http://www.mguhlin.org/2009/08/light-flame-plns-in-schools.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+mguhlin+%28Around+the+Corner+-+MGuhlin.net%29

Harris, Judi (February 2008). “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Customizing Educational Technology Professional Development Part One.” Learning and Leading with Technology. ISTE.Pg18-23.

Harris, Judi (March/April 2008). “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Customizing Educational Technology Professional Development Part Two.” Learning and Leading with Technology. ISTE.Pg22-25.

Harris, Judi (March/April 2008). “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Customizing Educational Technology Professional Development Part Three.” Learning and Leading with Technology. ISTE.Pg.

Kapuler, David (November 23, 2009). “Special Guest Post –Personal Learning Networks.” The Unquiet Librarian, Buffy Hamilton. http://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/special-guest-post-personal-learning-networks-by-david-kapuler/

Ketterer, Kimberly (june/July 2008). “ A Professional Development Menu.” Learning and Leading with Technology. ISTE. Pg.11

Richardson, Will (Feb. 24, 2010). “Teachers as Master Learners.” Weblogg-ed. http://weblogg-ed.com/2010/teachers-as-master-learners/ accessed April 1, 2010.

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The Private Lives of the Not So Rich and Famous

March 29, 2010

Can we ever erase our digital footprint?

An issue that has come to the forefront regarding students and privacy is the reality that our digital footprint is permanent and can follow us for years. Why is this an issue? Apparently employers are researching prospective employees via Facebook and MySpace. Our youth are not getting the same opportunity we did, to experience life, live from their mistakes, and build a new future. Instead, students need to turn to sites like http://digitaltattoo.ubc.ca/work/ to learn how to protect their reputation in the workplace. As Dana Boyd mentions, students care about their privacy, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult to be private online.

Hartley (2008) attributes the rise of privacy issues to the, “Level of openness that has been put out there by the media and the popular culture.” I had never made the connection before between the relentless reality tv shows and young people’s comfort with disclosing personal information online. This theory, however, is contradicted in the following video, which shows what many teens are doing now to protect their privacy online.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tqWbcFi-d0]

Teens are aware of privacy issues and many are proactively taking steps to keep their private information safe. For example, teens post false information on their social networking sites, to, “Throw off the scent” for anyone who might be pursuing them.

Unfortunately, there are still students who are careless with their personal information online. As educators of 21st century learners, I feel it is our responsibility to help students become aware of privacy and online safety issues, as well as to guide students to build positive online presence. This cannot be achieved by limiting student access to the internet, or infringing on their rights to freedoms of speech. The following are some things we can do with our children to resolve, or at least bring awareness to, these issues.

• Have your students google their name. Then have them type their email address into http://www.pippl.com. This lets students know what information about them is available to the public.
• Flood the internet with content that reflects on you in a positive light (Wesley Fryer).
• “Talk to students about social register,” Ruth (March 19, 2010). Teens need to be reminded that although their online conversations are not intended for other adults, their words are usually accessible by the public.
This blogger gives the following tips to protect your privacy

In education, privacy is a touchy issue. There are so many shades of grey to consider. “It is important to remember that rights of privacy also have to co-exist with our rights of freedom of expression. Balancing these rights of expression is getting really tricky now that every individual can be their own publisher on the internet, and when cellphones have cameras and send pictures around the world at the drop of a click,”(COCA 2010).  
Taking on this enormous task of teaching students about digital citizenship, requires the support of the entire learning community. An Acceptable Use Policy in user friendly language (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/brochures/elsec.html) that is developed by all involved parties with online safety and privacy in mind, is one way to support this movement to develop digital citizens. The new challenge for 21st century educators will be to teach students how to exercise their rights to freedom of expression in a way that is socially acceptable. Sounds like mission impossible. Sign me up!

Resources:

1. Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs. (2010). “A Summary of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.” http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/oca-bc.nsf/eng/ca01460.html

2. Hartley, Matt. (2008).“Social Networking Comes with a Price.” The Globe and Mail: Technology. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/article709699.ece

3. Litwin, Rory. (2006). “The Central Problem of Library 2.0: Privacy.” Library Juice. Blog. http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=68 accessed March 21, 2010.

4. Odell, Jolie (2009).”8 Things Every Geek Needs to do Before 2010” Read Write Web. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/8_things_every_geek_needs_to_do_before_2010.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+readwriteweb+%28ReadWriteWeb%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

5. U.S. Department of Safety. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/brochures/elsec.html

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The glass: Does Copyright Fill Your Glass or Empty it?

March 7, 2010

As communication technologies advance, so do our desires to communicate, collaborate, and achieve more. And how can we achieve more, if we’re not working together? After all, 2 heads (or thousands) are better than one.

Some may view Copyright law as prohibitive; a barrier to creative expression, collaboration, and problem solving. These same people may also feel that the “fair use” (in the U.S.) or “fair dealings” (in Canada) doctrine is so vague that its existence serves only to make things more complicated. On the other hand, there are others who view Copyright as necessary legal protection for content creators, otherwise content creators would be out of a job. When considering my own view on this topic, I prefer to borrow from all arguments, in order to make sense of intellectual property, Copyright, Fair Use, and the role these play not only in my teaching, but also in my personal use of information.

The Glass is half empty
Copyright Laws could possibly become a barrier to creative expression in situations where an internet user in one country wishes to use work that was published in another country. While reading Rebecca Butler’s (2007) article, “Borrowing Media From Around the World: School Libraries and Copyright Law,” I learned that what applies in the U.S.  does not always applyto Copyright issues in South Korea and that I must consider both sets of laws. What a tangled web this has woven. I was quite intimidated by Butler’s (2007) closing statement: “And if in doubt, consult your school library media specialist. She or he should be able to help.” Yikes! Gone are the days when I confidently advised staff and students on Copyright laws. Now, I direct them to the links on our library website, so that we can attempt to interpret these laws together. Once again, I am not the expert information gatherer, but rather a co-researcher.

The process I have described above when dealing with Copyright questions, is one that requires time and patience. How do I teach my students about these laws in a way that does not confuse them or discourage them from creative participation online? Or more importantly, how do I convince students and teachers that these laws are worth taking the time and effort to learn and abide by, when we rarely see, in person, cases of individuals suffering the consequences of copyright infringement?

The Glass is Half Full
Creative Commons  argues that Copyright is necessary to ensure that quality information continues to be produced, as people whose income depends on the distribution and sale of their work stay in business. For this reason, Creative Commons has come up with a creative solution in order to facilitate compliance with Copyright Law AND enable the creative use of copyrighted work at the same time. Creative Commons licensing  enables content creators to communicate their permission for certain uses, including the remixing and mashing of work.
Creative Commons also works internationally to provide ways for people all over the world the ability to communicate their permissions for their work. This involves consultation with lawyers and judges in different countries to ensure that country specific copyright laws are adhered to.

The Glass is Neither Empty Nor Full: It is Just a Glass

The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom  defines intellectual freedom as, “the right of any person to hold any belief on any subject and to express that idea in ways that he or she believes is appropriate (OIF 2005)’” (Lamb 2007). One might argue that Copyright laws infringe on the rights of the user, while protecting the rights of the creator. However, we now have Creative Commons, which serves to connect people and their work, while Copyright laws serve to protect people’s tangible work. Ultimately, these two doctrines work together to allow people to have control over their work. Without this sense of protection and ability to control, I doubt that creators would be so willing to share or put their work “out there.” On the other hand, inconsistency among Copyright enforcement laws from one country to the next is creating its own digital divide regarding access to information (deBeer and Clemmers 2009). 

How does this affect creative participation at my school?
Hosting sites in Korea are required by law to have a “notice-and-takedown system” where copyright holders are able to inform hosting sites of infringement (deBeer and Clemmer 2009). Showing my students how to access this system enables them to feel empowered in as they realize their copyrights as well their influence as digital citizens. On April 22, 2009, a bill was proposed and passed by Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, that intermediaries were responsible for taking a proactive and preventative approach by terminating the accounts of repeated copyright infringers. My aim would be to teach my patrons about the potential consequences of copyright infringement in Korea, including restricted access to valuable sources of information. Most importantly, in my opinion, is to teach students the value of mutual respect, both offline and online. Emphasizing the WHY of copyright laws and the fair use doctrine might attach more meaning to the time and effort it takes to abide by these “rules.” Learning to respect the content creator involves getting to know him/her through his/her profile and other works. Giving students as much experience as possible in exercising their own rights by licensing their work through creative commons fosters a “treat others the way you want to be treated,” attitude.

Regardless of whether one views Copyright as a hindrance or a necessary support, Morris and Janesko’s (2008) words really struck a chord with me, as they insist that people learn from modeling first. Since learning about and teaching copyright laws, fair use, and creative commons, I now make a point of respecting these laws (and pointing out how I am doing so) whenever I deliver a lesson or materials.

Resources
Butler, Rebecca P. (Sept.Oct.2005). “Intellectual Property Defined.” Knowledge Quest. Proquest Education Journals. 34;1, pg.41.

Butler, Rebecca P. (July 2007). “Borrowing Media From Around the World: School Libraries and Copyright Law.” School Libraries Worldwide. 13;2, pg.73-81.

de Beer, J., & Clemmer, C. (2009). GLOBAL TRENDS IN ONLINE COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT: A NON-NEUTRAL ROLE FOR NETWORK INTERMEDIARIES?. Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 49(4), 375-409. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Accessed March 1, 2010.

Choi, E. (2009). With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Korea’s Role in the War Against Online Piracy. San Diego International Law Journal, 10(2), 555-590. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Accessed March 1, 2010.

Janesko, Jennifer and Morris, Tammy. (May 2008). Learning and Leading with Technology. “Do Students Respect Intellectual Property?”

Lamb, Annette. (Nov/Dec 2007 ) Intellectual Freedom for Youth: Social Technology and Social Youths. Knowledge Quest, 36;2

Ribble, Mike (Dec. 2008/Jan.2009 ). “Passport Toward Digital Citizenship: Journey Toward Appropriate Technology Use at Home and at School.” Learning and Leading With Technology.ISTE. pg.14-17.

“A Shared Culture.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DKm96Ftfko

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The Digital Divide

February 21, 2010
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What can be done to narrow the “Digital Divide?”

February 20, 2010
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Filter or Freedom

February 16, 2010

 Cutting through the red tape of Internet content filtering legislation madness

Uploaded on February 7, 2010
by navarzo3

Today, Mr.Fischer has a great lesson planned for his 10th  grade students. He has created a video about the scientific method, and uploaded it on to YouTube so that his students could also refer to it from home. After activating his students’ prior knowledge about how science works, Mr.Fischer fires up the LCD projector in order to show his video. Much to his dismay, he is unable to show the video, as he has just learned that that the school filter does not allow him to access YouTube. Once his frustration becomes apparent, one of his 10th graders approaches Mr. Fischer and offers to override the filter so that the YouTube video can in fact be shown. Which of the following would be Mr.Fischer’s best choice?

  1. tell the student to override the filter because the students have the right to have access to such a great resource
  2. tell the student to sit down, then proceed to talk about what the video was going to show, and never create a video for students again.
  3. March over to the technology coordinator or administrator and demand that YouTube be unblocked because he and his students have a right to access that information?

This is a circumstance not uncommon in today’s classrooms and libraries, and this has become a touchy subject. As educators, how do we respect the intellectual freedoms which our children and teachers have rights to, while ensuring their protection from online dangers? Why is it so difficult to uphold these rights? Is there a solution to this battle of protection vs. freedom? And, in the future, is it  possible that we will accomplish both protection AND freedom?

Buzz Words Defined

Intellectual freedom is my ability to access the  information that will help me to solve an information problem or that will help me to have a clearer understanding of what is happening/has happened in our world. This would mean that as a professional, I would have the freedom to create authentic learning experiences for my students. If it is my role now to prepare students for living and learning in the 21st century, is it not my right to be able to access the information and tools necessary to accomplish this? For this to happen in this day and age, I would need access to web2.0 tools like photo and video sharing sites, wikis, and blogs. These tools are available to me at home, but is it fair to assume that all students have the same access at home? If not, is it our responsibility as educators to ensure their personal intellectual freedom rights are fulfilled at school?

As I thought about how I can uphold intellectual freedoms, I also wondered, “in what ways am I NOT upholding these rights?” A censor is, “An official who examines [work] for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds,” according to www.dictionary.com. To “deem” something implies passing judgment. My thoughts have always been that I would never censor, but if a situation arose, I would simply act as a discerning professional, weighing the child’s rights with my responsibilities in loco parentis.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of discerning is, “Showing good or outstanding judgment and understanding.”  Based on this definition, I came to the realization that to discern involves judgment, which is defined as forming an opinion. This complicates things further. Is there really a difference between being a discerning professional and being a censor? Technically, no. Any time you are asked to make a judgment or form an opinion, I believe that you bring your past experiences, values, and beliefs to the table. However, there are certain strategies that could be implemented to eliminate subjectivity as much as possible. 

What’s the problem? What’s the cause?

Mary Anne Bell (2008) states in her article, “I’m Mad and I’m Not Gonna Take it Anymore,” that, “laziness combined with paranoia” are what motivates parents to pressure and policy makers to filter and block internet sites. Perhaps, we educators should focus on the root of the paranoia. This root is, most likely, a result of misinformation, and therefore, fear. Perhaps a school with intellectual freedom is one where parent education is just as important as student education. Clarifying the details and intent of the Children’s Internet Protection Act  (CIPA), passed in 2000, would be one way to dispel paranoia (Bell, 2008).

However, my observations have been that much of this paranoia comes not only from parents, but also from teachers. Teachers who feel that their professionalism and decision making are not supported. If you work in a place that is “unsafe”, one becomes more tentative to use technology with the possibility of exposing their students to something that is indecent.

The problem becomes, how do we protect students from, “Internet sewage,” as Davis (2008) describes it, while enabling access to all needed information? And how do we accomplish this while respecting teachers as professionals and ensuring their professional intellectual freedoms…and their jobs?

Possible Solutions?

Perhaps “Over sanitizing the internet,” (Davis, 2008)  is not the most effective solution to ensure that students’ and teachers’ intellectual freedoms are respected. Let us consider for a moment that our teachers are responsible professionals, capable of evaluating web sources and that our students are young people who also have the ability and will inevitably choose to evaluate and, “Discern accurate, appropriate sources of information.” If this is this is the case, then the solution that makes the most sense, is to remove filters altogether. But is this a reality? Given the pressures that parents place on schools to “protect” their children, isn’t it natural that teachers would also want to protect their jobs, and avoid complaints?

If the paranoia and panic we see among many parents regarding the internet, is a result of misinformation, perhaps Don Hall’s (2008) suggestion is the best solution. He says in his article, “Web 2.0: a Virtual Wild, Wild West,” that one of the most important things we need to do is empower parents by providing them with a strong parent education program on internet safety. Being armed with the skills necessary to protect your child and knowing that your child’s teacher also possesses these skills enables a sense of trust.

However, when all is said and done, I tend to agree that, “The best strategy for protecting students online is educating them about Internet citizenship and safety. Young people need to learn about safeguarding their personal information, handling cyber-bullying, reporting and ignoring advances from strangers, avoiding online scams, and being courteous in online communication. They must understand the dangers and consequences of making details of their private lives available to the public. This education needs to happen at home as well as in homerooms, health classes, school assemblies, technology classes and guidance counseling”   (Reich, 2009).

To protect educators and schools in the event that a child does decide to access information that is either illegal or inappropriate according to the school’s moral fibre, schools develop an acceptable use policy (AUP), like the one Doug Belshaw created. The AUP is intended to guide student decision making and ensure that subjectivity plays as small a role as possible when it comes to making information accessible and discerning whether information has been used in an inappropriate way. The AUP would need to be quite specific in order to communicate what exactly the decision makers consider to be inappropriate. Despite the best intentions of AUPs, the Media Awareness Network  “A downside of [these] is that because they emphasize surveillance and control rather than supervision and guidance, they imply an absence of trust in students. But when AUPs are properly designed and implemented, they respect the rights of both child and school – and are certainly less restrictive than filtering software.”

Implications For My Teaching

I have been thinking about how I try to balance my responsibility as a librarian to respect the rights of children with my responsibility as a prudent parent in the absence of parents. As a teacher-librarian, I feel that part of my job is to empower children to choose books that are “just right” (that’s the catch phrase we use in my elementary school). “Just right” is based on individual reading level, interest, need… regardless of the subject. So, the kids are making their own choices about the books that they read. As a parent, I do offer suggestions based on what I think the children will enjoy. While I have never forbidden a child from checking out a book, although this request has been made by parents, am I still censoring by bringing only specific books to that child’s attention? On that note, I now have so much more to consider when it comes time for annual order. Do I have a right to eliminate certain books if we are lacking this information in the library, but I don’t see it as a need of the community I serve? If we don’t physically have information in the library, I need to make sure that I am able to help my students access that information as the need arises. This will most likely be accomplished through the use of online resources…  assuming these resources aren’t blocked by our filter.

I feel like one of our biggest roadblocks to respecting the information rights of children is trust. We struggle to trust children with the responsibility of using information the way it is intended -to clarify, explain, make connections, and entertain. We think that they will abuse information, believe everything they hear, and heaven forbid…make mistakes. Most likely, they will do these things. But, parents’ fear of this reality coupled with teachers’ fear of being persecuted for not protecting students from all that is evil in the world, keeps children from developing the skills they need to coexist in a digital future.  Perhaps it is taking a leap of faith to empower children with the ability to critically evaluate websites and books and then let them loose, filter free. This is definitely a change that would require all adults to be onboard, willing to trust each other and work together to talk to and guide our children as they learn from their mistakes, reap the benefits of their experiences, and access information to make sense of our world.

Resources

Abram, Stephen. (January/February 2007).  “Justifying the Social Tools: Improving the Conversation.” Multimedia and Internet@ Schools. Proquest Education Journals. 14;1. Pg.21.

Bell, Mary Ann. (September/October 2008). “I’m Mad and I’m Not Gonna Take it Anymore.” Multimedia and Technology @ Schools. pg.37-39. https://vista4.srv.ualberta.ca/webct/RelativeResourceManager/Template/Topic%203%20Articles/I’m%20Mad%20and%20I’m%20Not%20Gonna%20Take%20It%20Anymore!.pdf 

Davis, Vicki. (Monday, September 21, 2009). “Time to Add a Social Element to our Filtration Systems?”  The Cool Cat Teacher blog. http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2009/09/time-to-add-social-element-to-our.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+CoolCatTeacherBlog+(Cool+Cat+Teacher+Blog)

Davis, Vicki. (Saturday, March 29, 2008). “Conent Filtration: A Little Dirt for Your Health.”  The Cool Cat Teacher blog. http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2008/03/content-filtration-little-dirt-for-your.html

Hall, Don. (May, 2008). “Web 2.0: The Virtual Wild Wild West.” Learning and Leading with Technology. pg.26 https://vista4.srv.ualberta.ca/webct/RelativeResourceManager/Template/Topic%203%20Articles/Web%202.0%20A%20Virtual%20Wild%20Wild%20West.pdf

Johnson, Doug. (June 2008). “Change From the Radical Center of Education.” Teacher Librarian. Proquest Education Journals. 35;5. pg.14

Reich, Justin. (July 2009). “In Schools, aa Firewall That Works Too Well.” Washington Post.com  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/10/AR2009071003459.html