Friday, January 11, 2013

NOBODY Can Afford This

I recently spent about 45 minutes talking with a teacher in a PA district who has almost completely lost her love for teaching. Why? The filtering rules in the district are slowly ruining her.

It's not a rich district, but it's far above the average. It's in the town of a highly respected college, so the children of many faculty members attend. It's also a bedroom community for folks who don't want to live in the nearby cities. They don't want for technology, at least in terms of the numbers of devices available. But, unless their use is judged by the use of Microsoft Word, then it's a total failure.

Google Docs is BLOCKED. No one will say exactly why, it just is. The district didn't join the state-wide WAN, so they don't have access to Discovery Streaming or the Safari Montage system on the WAN. All wikis are blocked. All blogs are blocked. Even a silly site like Voki is blocked. Youtube is blocked for all. Twitter is blocked. Diigo and Delicious are blocked. They have a moodle server, but student accounts are so poorly managed that few teachers bother to try to use it. It's far more trouble than it's worth. Work tickets take weeks to resolve, even though there are fewer than 2700 students in the entire district.

The (new) tech director was never an educator (as if that needed to be said) and has made life impossible for the staff who want to become more relevant with their teaching styles. Most now just ignore the technology. 

They do well on the PSSA's and always make AYP. A very high percentage will attend and graduate from a four year college. It would be easy, then, to push the status quo.

But, I would argue that they cannot afford this person who has made these filtering decisions. They are graduating over 200 students a year and sending them off to try to compete in this world without ever having experienced collaborating in a Google Doc, or building a wiki with another class. They've never been able to experience twitter as a learning tool. They've never been able to write for an audience of more than one, their teacher.

The students cannot afford to be cheated out of world class education as they are now. They will be attending college with students who CAN use those tools and who know when to use them. They will be competing with other students who know how to follow twitter hashtags to find meaningful information that is current up to the second. They will be a step behind everyone else and through no fault of their own. Some students will be starting off college with a portfolio of relevant bookmarks that they've saved in Diigo or Delicious. Not these students. Others will know how to set up a twitter hashtag for a class so that they can all study and share together. Not these students. And we could go on and on.

The parents cannot afford to have the education of their children stifled so severely, either. They have paid their fair share of taxes and will be paying a lot of money to put their children through college, yet their children will be starting off at this disadvantage. I HAVE to believe that if they knew how restricted their students were that they would be appalled. Certainly they SHOULD be appalled. They cannot afford to have their tax dollars spend in a manner so contrary to the needs of their children.

This NATION cannot afford that person, either. We need creative thinkers who CAN collaborate, and who CAN use today's tools to learn and share and build. We're not going to solve the problems of this country by blocking out the world from our schools.

NOBODY can afford that person. Somebody in that district MUST stand up and say, "This is NOT the vision for education that we want for our children. Either open this up and provide the PD that we need to fulfill our vision, or we will find someone else who WILL!"

And that shouldn't wait another day. There's too much at stake. Would YOU want YOUR children to spend another day in a school like that?