Posts Tagged 'schoolTechLeadership'

Build as we go

In previous posts I’ve called out for examples of state-of-the-art web policy for schools, and I’ve reflected on the overall lack of response to that call.

What there is no lack of is evidence that educators around the world are creatively incorporating web technologies into their personal lives and professional practice. Just visit the K-12 Online Conference and listen to or watch a few of the sessions that have already been posted.

Clearly, the shift is happening with or without official mandate or endorsement.

A system that pro-actively anticipates the shift is preferable to one always caught reacting to it, but some reaction is certainly preferable to no reaction at all.

Regarding web policy, perhaps the answer is not “build it and they will come.” Maybe it’s more like, “build as we go.”

So, with that in mind, I thought I would share some artifacts that a school or district might use to cobble together a web policy to support teacher- and student-created web content (rather than merely circumscribe or prescribe acceptable use of content). Here are some worthwhile resources:

  • Will Richardson discusses the educational value of social networking during October 17 chat session sponsored by the National School Board Association. If you read the transcript, you will notice a question about policy from an “individual from Knoxville, TN.” That’s me! Richardson provided a link to a model blogging policy at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, but he underscored the importance of starting “conversations with all of the constituents in a school district” as the primary first step to effecting change.
  • The Arapahoe High School Blogging Policy includes rules for safe blogging, a list of traits describing successful blog authors, and a writing sample from an actual student-authored blog. I think wording like this is essential for creating a durable and viable policy: “These guidelines are not meant to be exhaustive and do not cover every contingency. If you are ever in doubt about the appropriateness of an item – ask a parent or teacher.”
  • At the Generation YES Blog Sylvia Martinez has a wonderful post in which she encourages teachers to create Technology Vision Statements.
  • Karl Fisch and Steve Dembo have opened up dialog about this issue at their blogs. The comments at the Fischbowl are particularly interesting.
  • And here are some thoughts on the subject of computers, ethics, and schools by Howard Rheingold.

I want to thank my Classroom 2.0 friend Ian Carmichael who shared this Wallace and Gromit video clip which perfectly encapsulates the struggle of Web 2.0 teachers everywhere! Enjoy!

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“Smart mobs” are great, except in school?

Cross-posted at Classroom 2.0

Today’s top story from eSchool News Online is “Smart mob” tech spurs student activism by Nora Carr. The article begins with the student protests in Jena, LA, and explores how blogs, RSS, text messaging, cell phones, and wireless technology are leveling the playing field and having a democratizing effect at all levels in educational institutions.

Carr cites the work of Howard Rheingold, who coined the term “smart mobs” in a 2001 2002 book by the same title. Rheingold envisioned both the disruptive and democratizing effects of global, pervasive, wireless computing.

I was really enjoying Carr’s balanced presentation of the issue. She even discusses how teachers in various academic areas might use recent events such as the Jena protests and the current presidential campaign to engage young people in a critique of these powerful technologies.

Then, oddly, she writes:

While most school leaders undoubtedly applaud anything that gets young people involved in civic affairs, most also would agree there’s an appropriate time and place for such actions–and that’s typically after school or on the weekends, and not on school grounds.

I am not sure how to interpret the above statement. Is it an endorsement, or is it simply a statement about the status quo? As a columnist, it’s certainly Carr’s prerogative to impose her viewpoint where appropriate, but in this case it just seems contradictory. How can she in one instance encourage teachers to capitalize on the “powerful learning opportunity” represented in cases like Jena and the democratic rebellion in Myanmar, and then suggest that the technologies that mobilize citizens for the greater good still have no place on school grounds or during school hours?

That just doesn’t compute (sorry for the stupid pun).

It would be nice to engage in a dialogue with Carr about her story. But eSchool News Online doesn’t provide any contact information for her, and the site doesn’t provide a means for users to comment on stories either. Apparently the site does host discussions on certain stories for users who register for TypeKey accounts. I registered for an account but couldn’t locate any threads or forums related to Carr’s article.

Frustrating.

So, what do you think?

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Will better school policy provide “traction”?

Daedalus and IcarusCross-posted at Classroom 2.0

It has been almost a month since I posted a call at ThinkTime for educators and educational technologists to share examples of progressive policies that embrace web-based tools for content sharing, creation, and collaboration.

Realizing ThinkTime is not as high-traffic as some other “super-hubs” in the edublogosphere, I also posted my question at Classroom 2.0.

And I’ve been tracking comments on other blogs, such as Think42.com where Steve Dembo issued a similar call, also in September.

To date, the response has been zero, zilch, nada. Why is that?

I’m so confused. There are threads all over the blogosphere about Internet filters, censorship, and CIPA. (See recent dust-ups at blogs by Wesley Fryer, Doug Johnson, and Kurt Paccio.) But where are the parallel discussions about the need for proactive, systemic policies that embrace, or at least acknowledge, the changing information landscape?

To extend David Warlick’s flight metaphor from the K-12 Online Preconference Keynote, is our focus on filters essentially because they equate a grounding of aircraft? Without access to web content and the web-based tools that empower sharing and creation of content, educators and students can’t take flight much less contemplate detours, lay-overs, and emergency landings.

I get the problem of filters. I really do.

I have firsthand experience with blocked web sites in the classroom context. I resented the administrative process to remove a block from an educationally valid site. But, in truth — and please don’t mistake me for an apologist here — my system was reasonably responsive. I never once lacked access to Internet content I needed for instruction (provided instruction was planned several days in advance).

Yet, that was prior to 2005 — before my interest in interactive self-publishing sites and social networks.

Now, in 2007, the best that I can gather from my teacher and librarian friends is spotty, inconsistent blockage of blogs, wikis, and networking tools persists in our county. Enough to stifle creativity and production? Maybe, but that is only part of the problem.

You see, in my community we have a layer of system-wide web publishing policy that also acts as a “blocker,” of sorts. The filter blocks access to content; current policy as stated in the procedures handbook for web pages blocks administrators, teachers, and students from creating content. I may be interpreting the procedures incorrectly, but they seem only to address teacher- and student-generated web content on officially sanctioned web pages hosted on local servers.

So, provided teachers, librarians, and administrative leaders are vigilant about requesting access to appropriate sites, it is possible to operate under the flawed filter. But who is evaluating the web publishing procedures? Who is advocating that these procedures be refined to be a more accurate reflection of the new web landscape?

There is hope. Some folks in my community are willing to consider a new approach, but they want to see models.

I am begging for some outside perspective here!

I have considered the possibility that some educational systems and institutions have acceptable use policies (AUPs) that encompass both the access and creation of web content. I actually would love for that to be the case, as I am in no way advocating adding another layer of policy upon policy.

But what I fear is more likely the case is an overall lack of intentionality or conscious policy making regarding the read/write web.

Thus, we have situations like this, described to me in an email from a librarian friend who works in a school system here in the Southeast U.S.:

We go by the official AU policy . . . . And as you noted, there is really nothing about blogs, wikis, social networks, etc. I think our district shies away from getting too detailed because they don’t want to open a can of worms. I am just speculating it, but sometimes I think they take this approach in hopes that if they don’t draw attention to it, then they don’t have to deal with it. I do know “WordPress” is the officially approved blog host by curriculum, but there is nothing in writing about this — it is just what has trickled down to us, and I truly doubt most teachers know this.

In his keynote posted on Oct. 8, Warlick describes three brand-new conditions converging on our classrooms: info-savvy students, a new information landscape, and an unpredictable future. He warns, “We’ve tried to ignore them, we’ve tried to contain them, and to even block them out. But the best thing we can do is to realize that these three converging conditions can actually become new boundaries off of which we can gain traction.”

Warlick uses the metaphor of airplanes, which travel in invisible but established flightpaths and which still need runways for take offs and landings.

I am starting to wonder how we can pilot the aircrafts without flight manifests and air traffic controllers. How long is this under-the-radar, ask-forgiveness-not-permission way of doing things going to persist?

How desirable is it, really, to Build this Plane While It’s Flying?

What do you think?

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Graphic: Photograph of Icarus and Daedalus by Charles Paul Landon, from WikiMediaCommons

Share progressive web policies!

My independent study is starting to kick into high gear. The study’s focus is on using the read/write web to support school-based induction of new and novice teachers. I am trying to understand the enabling conditions and barriers that must be considered before a professional learning community can flourish with these tools. It seems to me that one of the most important conditions to explore is the school system’s policy regarding web publishing and appropriate use.

I am looking for examples of policies that embrace (rather than forbid) use of networks, blogs, wikis, instant messaging, and other web-based tools that encourage reflection and collaboration.

If you belong to a campus or school district that has recently refined, revised, or completely overhauled policy to reflect 21st century collaborative computer technologies, please contact me.

I am especially interested in how large, diverse public school systems are adapting. How did the reform effort start? What hurdles or stumbling blocks were encountered? And what does the final policy look like?

Please share your examples of progressive web policy!

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School tech leadership idea

Scott McLeod designated July 4 as Leadership Day and challenged edubloggers to write about school technology leadership. I missed the “deadline” but am going to share an idea anyway.

I just finished my first-ever virtual learning experience, a summer course titled “Internet: Implications for Teaching and Learning.” It was fun. We posted all assignments on the Internet and participated in weekly Moodle forums on a variety of topics. We presented our final projects — ePortfolios — in our instructor’s “office” at Tapped In. (Hey, this 37-year-old tried online chat for the first time. That’s huge!)

One of our assignments involved locating and participating in an online professional development activity. Many of the folks in the class shared discussion boards, forums, and networking sites specific to their content area, and most reported positive outcomes from their investigations, leading one woman to reflect, “I think it would be interesting if principals got their school on board with this global interaction perhaps designating some lesson planning time as ‘chat time’ and sharing what was learned periodically. It’s such a great tool, but one that is not used often enough if at all.”

That got me thinking.

I have experienced an awakening of sorts since starting this blog and setting up my aggregator about six months ago. There is a vast store of resources for personal and professional growth out there. Chris Lehmann has referred to them as academic networking tools, and I really like David Warlick’s recent phrase, knowing-networks. If these resources are as untapped and underutilized as some of my classmates suggested in our recent Moodle discussion, then there is a huge ed tech leadership opportunity awaiting school officials where I teach in East Tennessee.

Here in Knox County the number of unscheduled inservice hours for teachers is tripling from 6 to 18 hours, beginning this school year (2007-08). The change was adopted to give teachers more control over the kind of professional development activities they choose for themselves. What if principals would agree to let teachers log online participation hours (or perhaps assign a maximum number of hours for certain activities like discussion forums or “webinars“)? This might stimulate teachers to try some new stuff.

For instance, it took a summer course requirement for me to get off my duff and finally explore the Classroom 2.0 networking site — something I’ve been meaning to do since April when I first bookmarked it on Del.icio.us!

At my former school we surveyed our faculty once annually about their personal expertise in all sorts of areas (not just technology). We took the data and assigned every staff member to “expert teams,” and we published the list of expert teams in our faculty handbook. This is especially helpful for new and first-year teachers and interns who need advice with common, everyday challenges like printer troubleshooting or bookkeeping paperwork and so on. It would be interesting to survey the faculty to find out who is currently participating in online teacher networks. They could form an “expert group” and train the rest of the faculty!

Who out there is already modeling this practice? Is there a school or school system that recognizes and rewards teachers’ self-directed professional growth via online communities and networks? I’d like to hear about it.

School web publishing policies

As part of a recent assignment for a course I am taking this summer at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, I had to investigate an organization’s web publishing policy and report on it in an online forum (Moodle) so my classmates and I could discuss and compare our findings. It was a great exercise, and I am still pondering some of the ideas that bubbled up. In fact, I may integrate this subject into the mini-prospectus I am writing for my upcoming thesis work.

In hopes of eliciting additional insights from folks near and far, I am now posting my response to the assignment here:

To begin with, I am VERY interested in understanding how centralized systems of authority (in this case, schools) are adapting (failing to adapt?) their policies and practices to accommodate the current explosion in web publishing opportunities – wikis, blogs, social networking and file sharing sites, all things “2.0,” as well as traditional web pages.

I approached this assignment from the perspective of a classroom teacher in Knox County Schools, where I was employed as a high school language arts teacher up until 2005 when I took an extended leave. In some regards, I am inclined to think the KCS web publishing policy is restrictive; I hope to gain some clarity/perspective on this from folks who might read this blog and post a comment.

The KCS web publishing policies can be accessed in PDF in the lower-left margin on the Web Services page at the district’s web site. I sought further clarification about the policy from a KCS technology trainer. These are the steps a KCS teacher should follow to publish content on the web (parenthetical comments are my two cents thrown in):

  1. Read the School Board Policy on Web Pages and the Web Page Guidelines from the Procedures Handbook.
  2. Call the Public Affairs Office and let them know what you are doing. (This is not written into policy, but it is suggested on the Web Services home page.)
  3. Advise your building-level principal about what you are doing. Assuming your principal approves the project, you now become his or her “designated representative,” meaning you assume absolute responsibility for all files posted (unless, of course, the principal wants to review all posts prior to you uploading them to the server, which is highly unlikely).
  4. Learn to use Contribute, a sister product of Dreamweaver. (You can use any application you want to generate your HTML, but if you want KCS tech support, use Contribute. This is the preferred HTML editor for Knox schools; every school in the county has a site license. Contribute was chosen because it is inexpensive, has a number of security features, supports multiple users, and works across platforms.)
  5. If your project involves student-generated web page content, you must adhere to the board-mandated policy of prior review. To quote: “At no time will files be posted that are submitted directly by students.”
  6. If you are uploading student-generated content, you must have on file a signed KCS authorization to publish form from the student’s parent/guardian. These can be downloaded and duplicated as needed from the district web site.
  7. (And here’s where it gets sticky . . . . ) Upload all files to the school web server. Under no circumstances are files to be hosted on external servers, especially if these files contain student-generated materials. (All Knox schools have a network server with plenty of space to accommodate student and teacher web projects, but I suspect this policy has nothing to do with cost, space, or utility. I think it is a control issue.)

For more information about web site requirement and restrictions, tech support, and security procedures, read the complete Web Page Guidelines from the Knox County School Board.

So, compared to other systems around the state and nation, how does Knox County stack up?


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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn


"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:


These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy