Friday, July 30, 2010
Ronald Reagan may have said this great line first, but in the interest of heightening awareness of the power of digital teaching and learning in the 21st century, it's worth restating here. So, with respect to the late President Reagan, allow me to borrow and rephrase.
Mr. Education Administrator: Tear down that wall. The firewall, that is.
Okay, it may not be realistic for school districts to completely tear down the firewalls that guard students from unsafe or unsightly Internet content. Maybe, a more efficient charge might be to build a better wall -- one that empowers both teachers and students.
With the technology available today, even a novice educator has to believe there are security programs available to school districts that can filter out the really bad content, without waylaying the truly educational material.
Yet, year after year, the firewalls seem to become even more vigilant.
In a time when social media provides remarkable power for educators, ubiquitous social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Ning are routinely dismissed by district firewalls. Social bookmarking and sharing sites like Diigo, Flickr and Delicious are sent packing as haphazardly as adult web sites are. (Ironically, it's usually the adult content that sneaks its way past, while many sites ending in .edu are locked up like the worst criminals.)
Meanwhile, students suffer, as learning opportunities are lost.
The biggest problem is that school district administrators do not trust their own teachers to educate students on proper use of the Internet and Web 2.0 applications. So, instead of putting the decisions of what Web 2.0 applications are useful in the hands of the digital classroom teacher, principals and superintendents leave the education decisions to the network firewall. And firewalls, in case you are unaware, are not very discerning tools. They'd just as soon block anything that begins in www.
If 21st century education is to move forward as it should, this Big Brother effect has to be eliminated in all school districts. The district higher-ups have to make it happen.
So, Mr. Administrator, please, for the sake of progressive education in a digital world, tear down that wall.