In blog after blog, post after post, tweet after retweet, I read over and over that Web 2.o is great, but teachers don't have access. That I really could use Youtube in my class,that I found great stuff.... but it's blocked by my district. Site after site on the internet, in school after school, is banned or blocked. Teachers complain, as we are wont to do, but with some effort we can all actually do something about this. We need to
1) Teach appropriate use in every class with each of our students and
2) Let parents know that we are using tech appropriately in every student's class.
1) Why are internet sites blocked and banned? These sites are banned and blocked because parents demand it, and school board policy, in a typical knee jerk response, makes it policy. Internet blocking policy is now an issue that mostly rests between between School Administration and Tech Administration, and teachers are simply not in this loop. But if we get in the loop, then this small block/ban circle widens to encompass us all in a comprehensive policy for using the web.
How many of us actually take the time to form an appropriate use policy? How many of us spend a few days discussing what is appropriate use with our students? Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we just want to complain about this and remain powerless, or if we want to empower ourselves and our students with well thought out policies? This is not rocket science or brain surgery... but it is time consuming. I personally take the time, often over a few days, with each class to discuss this issue. We talk about how streaming video & song downloads at school eat up internet capacity, what sites are appropriate and what sites are certainly not for use at school. Teachers, ask yourselves are you doing this, and if not why? Take action, teach appropriate use to your students, and involve them in that discussion.
2) Communication to parents about the policies for appropriate use of the internet developed in classrooms is the only way to avoid ban/block policies by school boards. Most parents and school boards want what is best for all kids, which is a safe and a sane environment when the web is used. It's usually the parents who worry about the evils of internet use, and rightfully so. Yet how often are parents made aware that teachers have an appropriate use policy for technology? Not often, and that's because there rarely is one. These policies must be formed, discussed with students and then shared with parents. We need to let parents know we are on their side. We need to constantly restate that message to parents. We need to let them be able to watch a web cam in a classroom like William Chamberlain's which will lessen their fears and invite them to watch us teach and demonstrate appropriate use.
I keep being told by fellow teachers who twitter and blog that I am preaching to the choir, and perhaps so with blogs like this one. But I believe it is now time for action, not words. Now is the time for teachers to go out and talk to the parents, to communicate that we do teach appropriate use, that we do dialogue with students about those policies, that there are classrooms and libraries that are open to parent scrutiny and that students do lose privileges when these policies are violated. If we teach appropriate use to our students and communicate this with parents then the internet will open to us all like a rose. It's time for the choir to start singing.