How Technology Should Support Education

This post is written for a guest blog post for series on Socratech Seminars.

Howard Chan asked me to write about the role of the technology department in education. I have written implicitly about this on many occasions both on this blog and on Twitter. In fact, Howard, Keith Bockwoldt, and I started the #EduIt discussion on Twitter several months ago specifically to discuss ways to bridge the gap between education and traditional IT departments. We have since been joined by many qualified technology directors and teachers.

We believe this to be a great necessity in education. As technology becomes ever more vital to all aspects of education, such as infrastructure, administration, and teaching, the technology department is becoming much more necessary and more powerful. Policies made by the technology department effect every student and teacher in the school. The role of the technology department, as well as its limitations, need to be clearly delineated.

It is my vision that the technology department needs to enable students to learn and teachers to teach better than they already do. The issue is that many technology departments overstep these bounds and do not really understand education. Many technology directions come from a traditional IT background, complete with the assumptions and presuppositions of a corporate environment. Chief among these concerns is the need to control. We need to control employees so that they stay on task. My own technology director (His email is david.holman@cmcss.net. Feel free to email him and let him know what you think of his policies.) explicitly told me that YouTube and Facebook would always be blocked because of the amount of bad content on those networks.

Technology departments cannot just block useful websites because students may find some bad content. Blocking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, etc… does not protect students. It does not help students. It cripples them. The technology department needs to educate students on how to use these services wisely for self-directed learning and on how to react if they do come across inappropriate content. When students leave school, they will be tempted at home and at work. They will find inappropriate content. If the schools do not teach them how to handle these situations, then we have done our children a disservice.

We are further hurting our children when we allow the technology departments to limit our teachers. It is a sad state when I have to counsel my teachers on how to get around our Internet filter because they found excellent content online to use with students, and then find out that they cannot access it from school. By outlawing Twitter, my technology department is cutting off teachers from an amazing amount of professional development. If our teachers cannot improve as they should because of the technology department, then the technology is hurting our children.

Hadley Ferguson wrote an outstanding post recently entitled, “First Do No Harm.” We all, including technology departments, would be well served by adhering to this motto. Teachers and students do not need to be protected. To really thrive and prepare our students, we need freedom. The technology department should be supporting us in our goals and enabling them through infrastructure, training, teaching, professional development, and policies crafted involving all stakeholders. Our instructional and educational goals should not be determined or limited by what our technology departments deem appropriate.

  • http://www.emergingedtech.com Kelly Walsh

    I agree. This is a constant challenge (keeping access to social networking tools open and embracing education, and educational uses, to help manage it), and it won’t go away. I try to bring focus to the many engaging things that can be done with these tools in the instructional environment. Keep up the good work Jason!
    .-= Kelly Walsh´s last blog ..5 Reasons Why I Think Camtasia Rocks =-.

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Thanks Kelly. I really do think the potential benefits outweigh any potential risk. We can, though, try to help minimize the risk by teaching students how to use the tools safely.
    .-= Jason Bedell´s last blog ..It’s Never Too Late to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks! =-.

  • GVSUNiki

    As both a student and a teacher I think I can see the two sides of this coin with equal ease. I have to agree with Mr. Ferguson that schools do owe it to their students to allow access to sites such as FB and Twitter b/c they can be of value educationally. I think it can be easily compared to something along the lines of sex education, though. Teachers cannot be present at every moment of every day, just as parents cannot be present at every moment. We need parent support to teach our students what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

  • http://www.d214.org Keith Bockwoldt

    Jason – I just came across this article. Your points are well put and glad you posted on the topic. Too many school districts want to block Facebook and YouTube along with other Web 2.0 technologies. It is our responsibility as educators to teach students the ethical and proper use of these tools. Districts are required by law to teach Internet Safety. This includes proper use and cyberbullying. We have had many conversations in our district about classroom management and having these tools available for staff and students. Currently, we do block FB and conversations are taking place to open it up. In a recent teacher survey about technology, it appears teachers are divided on the issue. Some teachers see the advantages of FB as a teaching tool, where others don’t want to open it up because they consider it a distraction for students.

    Let’s face the facts. Parents are not home all the time with the need for 2 parent incomes as the norm. Not all parents are teaching their child about the proper use of FB. If kids are not accessing FB at school, they are certainly accessing it at home. Or, what we found out, they are accessing it on their cell phones at school. Students will access FB whenever/wherever they can to stay connected. This should be a consideration during discussions on the topic. Teachers can us FB as a “teachable moment” when students access it during class. The problem comes when teachers don’t want to deal with it when they have many other competing priorities. It is easier for them to just say we don’t even want access to it.

    All you see in the news is the negative press about FB when an unfortunate event takes place. Using FB as teaching tool can have many benefits far beyond the education environment.

  • Damian Bailey

    Jason – I do see your points here. However, coming from a public school district, how do you mesh these views with the requirements of CIPA?

    Thanks!

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Damian,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve only worked in public schools and I think you are overestimating the requirements of CIPA?

    I think this post could be of use to you. It’s about the simplest possible acceptable use policy by CIPA standards.
    http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/04/worlds-simplest-online-safety-policy.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheInnovativeEducator+(The+Innovative+Educator)

    Basically, CIPA is in place to protect students, not to inhibit them. A lot of times, CIPA is brought into conversations out of ignorance or out of convenience as it gives people a way out of doing things when others do not fact check them against the actual CIPA regulations. CIPA really only requires that we have a system to monitor students, to block illegal and pornographic websites, and make sure that they are not doing anything that would be harmful to themselves and others. While there is some interpretation in that last requirement, I like to err on the side of empowering rather than limiting.