Legal obligations re: technology

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[cross-posted at The Gate]

Someone recently sent me the following quote from a school administrator

(regarding legal concerns related to technology initiatives):

The school district is legally obligated to protect our students

from the outside. It is not legally obligated to prepare them

for the outside.

Ouch.

On its face, this statement gives precedence to legal concerns over whatever

moral, professional, and/or ethical responsibilities schools have to prepare

students for their future. This statement elevates CYA thinking over social

justice concerns about technology

access/usage and workforce

preparation for disadvantaged students. This statement is reactive, not

proactive, at a time when we desperately need forward-thinking school leaders.

Since when did schools not have a legal and societal mandate to provide an

adequate education for students? As

Kagan notes, every state’s constitution requires the state to provide its

children with an ‘adequate’ education. Every community expects its local schools

to prepare kids to be competent, functional adults in American society. How well

do you think the ‘we don’t have a legal obligation to prepare your children

for the world’ argument is going to play with parents and politicians?

We can reasonably disagree about the qualitative definition of what

constitutes an ‘adequate education’ (e.g., we’ve seen this play out in both the

school

funding and special

education arenas). But as people become increasingly aware that the Internet

and digital technologies are necessary requirements for most adults’ productive

lives and careers, this administrator’s statement that technology doesn’t fall

under schools’ legally-required mandate to provide an adequate education for

students is going to become increasingly unpalatable.

8 comments on this post.
  1. Alice Mercer:

    Hmm, more and more courts seem to be willing to step in a say what an “adequate” education is not (to the pain of many a state’s budget), so I would not want to be an administrator with that attitude.

    I think that many of us have learned about computers outside the classroom, so I wonder if people think, “Well, I learned it without using it at school, why can’t these kids?” In other words, schools don’t have to be responsible for this. But that leads to technology “tracking” where those that have tech resources at home get a leg up over those (usually poorer) who don’t. I wouldn’t want to be on his side of that argument either.

  2. YT:

    The sad part is computer class goes out the window first, and most teachers don’t want the time, hassle, or worries that goes with bringing in laptops or going to the lab. Seems like schools are wasting money just buying them if they are not using them!

    This is a very necessary skill that we need to start training them with in elem. school. Their lives will revolve around a computer at work, whether it be a computerized cash register, the stock market, engineering, or hopefully even teaching my grandchildren!

  3. Scott Meech:

    The statement is not completely accurate. I believe Virginia just recently mandated Internet Safety as curriculum to be taught in all of their schools. Isn’t that requiring schools to prepare them for the outside?

    More and more states will be jumping on the bandwagon as time moves on…

  4. Roger Whaley:

    I would say that depends on how internet safety is taught in Virgina. Since the “bad people” out there do create new scams all the time, I hope they are taking the time to teach higher level thinking skills and the application of those skills as “safe computing.”

    Otherwise, a crook could just go re-write that letter from the former Nigerian official….

  5. Al:

    In response to YT, perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing that computer class disappears, as you said, “out the window” first. It would be more effective to use tech tools integrated into the general curriculum than teaching computer skills as its own entity. Using technology, Internet research, and web-collaboration in conjunction with the core curriculum can be much more engaging and meaningful.

    As for the Nigerian official’s letter Roger…it still works fine. Ha Ha…Just ask the former County Treasurer of Alcona County, Michigan who got taken for a ride for 1.25 million of the county’s budget just recently. Joe Bessimer was right. There IS one born every minute! Sorry, that was off topic, but I couldn’t resist.

  6. Kelly Christopherson:

    It seems that this is an ever-revolving debate. Kind of like the chicken and egg thing. Students need to learn with technology not about it. They need to have access to information not be given it. Right now we have an over emphasis on skills and memorization when the society which students will enter is looking for the dynamic and creative. Schools continue to lack vision, not because we can’t but because we won’t. It’s too much work, it’s too hard, it will change,… All around us, the world is in a constant state of change yet in schools we resist any change and governments perpetuate this because they really don’t what to do so they to continue to do the same thing. I’m beginning to think that change will happen in schools because the students will demand it to happen. An elementary revolution! The principal quoted really needs to leave the office more – buy a nano, get a blog and a Palm. Start talking with kids – I’m amazed how much they know and don’t know. Too many people are frightened by the unknown – so get in there and know.

  7. Laura B. Fogle:

    I think Kelly Christopherson is on to a key point. People are frightened. The media is full of scary stories about YouTube videos posted to humiliate, over sexualize MySpace pages and predators skulking about looking for victims. So naturally community members who have not investigated these technologies for themselves think, “Protect our kids from that.” It is our responsibility as educational technology leaders to get the story out about the great things that can be done with Web 2.0. Educate the community about options like Class Blogmeister and Imbee that offer some protection. When parents see the amazing work that their kids can do with these tool, they will be clamoring for more technology integration along with their students.

    http://tech4teaching.blogspot.com/2007/03/mega-fun.html

  8. The moral obligation to prepare students for the outside! | Cool Cat Teacher Blog:

    […] This quote from Scott over at Dangerously Irrelevant. […]

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