Principal blogging not allowed

On Monday I got an e-mail from an elementary principal:

Scott, it looks like I won’t be able to follow through with the [Principal Blogging Project]. Our
district technology person has decided not to open up access to blog sites,
therefore I cannot access the site from school (our filter blocks
it).

In other words, the principal cannot set up a blog to communicate with his
school community because the district technology coordinator, who is in a
support position, won’t let him. Here was my reply:

This is disappointing. As Director of CASTLE, I work quite a bit with
principals, superintendents, and technology coordinators. I’m always sad to hear
when technological decisions are made that get in the way of enabling
administrators’ / teachers’ work. I think that technology should be about
enabling good educational practices, not gatekeeping or shutting them down
because of fear / safety concerns. There are many, many schools and districts
where principals, superintendents, teachers, and others are blogging to both
internal and external communities. Why can’t your district be one of those
places? How are you going to expose students, teachers, parents, and
administrators to the technological transformations that are revolutionizing
American and global societies if you shut it all down? If things change (or if
there’s any way I can help you maybe persuade someone to think differently about
this), let me know.

Here is the principal’s final e-mail to me:

I agree. I tried to work it through and was not successful. I loved the
blogging idea, it was nice and easy for me, and I knew that I would be able to
get staff on board. Unfortunately, not everyone is as forward
thinking.

This tale’s been told before. Technology coordinators who are more concerned
with disabling than enabling. Technology personnel that we would hope would be
progressive, forward thinkers regarding digital technologies but instead are
regressive gatekeepers. Teachers and administrators that try to move into the 21st century but run into the brick wall of supervisors or support personnel. Superintendents that allow such situations to occur
rather than insisting that their district figure out how to make it work (like
other districts have). Educators that fail to understand that the world around them has
changed and that their relevance to that world is diminishing daily.

This tale’s been told before, but it’s still depressing.

P.S. See
my previous post
.

13 Responses to “Principal blogging not allowed”

  1. I wonder if we are too worried about safety. Maybe my work around isn’t safe enough!

    Are employees allowed to blog about their job from home?

    Would blogging from home put his job on the line?

    Actually, home is where I find the calm and quiet to write. Just an idea.

  2. Interestingly I ran across a conversation just like this about public libraries and library administration at David Lee King’s blog, http://www.davidleeking.com/2007/04/23/how-can-we-change-the-unchangeable-or-davids-rant/

    He was writing about the frustration of public/academic librarians who want to roll out new software or web 2.0 tools but meet obstacles from library administrators or technology administrators.

    I don’t know if it helps to know that education isn’t alone in this dilemma.

    It’s topsy turvey–these are curriculum decisions and should be determined by the curriculum department.

    One thing we did in our district that I might recommend to this principal–we settled on one “blog” domain site to start with(Edublogs), and it was unfiltered just to staff. That way we could begin using it as a professional tool.

    That opened the door to more uses as people saw the value and it was a way to ease into it and give it a try.

    As one staff member in our district put it–you trust us in a room with a closed door with small children, but you don’t trust us on the internet?

    This is an issue of professional judgment. Curriculum superintendents and assistant superintendents and principals are paid the big bucks to be professional, write professionally in many venues, make the difficult decisions and to stand by them. Blogging depends on many of those skills and professional trust is an important element of allowing them.

    And this is also an area where a lack of technological knowledge hurts educators, because network staff or tech staff can say things aren’t workable and if we don’t know enough about the ins-and-outs of it, it’s hard for us to quibble. So it is important for leaders to do their homework, and ask the tough questions about what’s possible, and ask what is best for kids and our communities.

    Can’t tell I have an opinion on this, can you? ;)

  3. You said it best in your quote on this post – http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2007/03/legal_obligatio.html

    — The school district is legally obligated to protect our students from the outside. It is not legally obligated to prepare them for the outside. —

  4. Well, that’s not MY quote. In fact, that quote dismays me quite a bit… =(

  5. Is more relevant today than ever?

    As Dylan wrote so long ago:

    Come gather ’round people
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
    Around you have grown
    And accept it that soon
    You’ll be drenched to the bone.
    If your time to you
    Is worth savin’
    Then you better start swimmin’
    Or you’ll sink like a stone
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come writers and critics
    Who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide
    The chance won’t come again
    And don’t speak too soon
    For the wheel’s still in spin
    And there’s no tellin’ who
    That it’s namin’.
    For the loser now
    Will be later to win
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come senators, congressmen
    Please heed the call
    Don’t stand in the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There’s a battle outside
    And it is ragin’.
    It’ll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come mothers and fathers
    Throughout the land
    And don’t criticize
    What you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughters
    Are beyond your command
    Your old road is
    Rapidly agin’.
    Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    The line it is drawn
    The curse it is cast
    The slow one now
    Will later be fast
    As the present now
    Will later be past
    The order is
    Rapidly fadin’.
    And the first one now
    Will later be last
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    mark

  6. Scott,

    Great article about principals who blog in EdWeek! It did a good job of pointing out positives and concerns.

    And you’re mentioned :) as is Leader Talk!

    http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/05/02/35blogs.h26.html?

    I do wish they had clarified in the section on negative comment sections of some principals’ blogs. They didn’t really make it clear that the principal could moderate the comments prior to posting, which would probably make some principals more comfortable with the idea.

    Anyway, kudos to you!

  7. Perhaps I am missing something… The response to this particular story really isn’t about blogging and its related safety issues. I read it totally different!

    What kind of district has a technology person with that kind of decision making power? Principals should have the ultimate say in what goes on in their school?

    I am dumbfounded that we have tech people making these kinds of decisions for the head of schools! I can’t imagine being an administrator in a school district like this… wow…

  8. I agree with Scott completely. The conversation should NEVER stop with the tech director. He or she is not certified nor qualified (two different things) to make that call. You simply say, “Thanks. I’ll get back to you.” Then you go to the Curriculum Director or Assistant Superintendent and explain the project and why it’s a good thing. Convince THAT person that you should be allowed to participate and have him/her contact the tech person to say, “Open that up for him.”

    And, if THAT person says, “Well, that’s up to the tech director, then you ask the very important question, “Who is making the curriculum calls here? YOU, the trained person in curriculum and training, or HIM, a network and wires person?”

    And if that doesn’t get you what you want you go to the top. But, you DO NOT let the conversation stop with the tech person. That should NEVER be his/her call.

    But, don’t get me started. ;-)

  9. I’m working with a school whose tech coordinator refuses to allow more than one computer per classroom to be on the school’s network at once. 10 years ago network ports were expensive (4 cables now run to each room), but the school’s T1 connection can support many more computers than the school has available. The school even has a computer lab that is used for teaching a course about designing web pages. Of course, the computers in that class cannot be connected to the network. The school’s administrators out of ignorance or complacence have not acted to get these computers on the network.

    So you want to blog?

  10. Perhaps this is simply a case of miscommunication?

    Q: Is the Principal asking for a SPECIFIC service or SITE and the principal doesn’t realize the possible consequences? Opening certain domains not only opens up that principal’s blog space, but also access to porn. In other words:

    Principal: “Hey Mr. Tech Director, will you please open up http://www.abcblogs.com?

    Tech Director: “No, we will not open that up.”

    (Both leave ticked-off and the P thinks the TD has ‘control issues’ and the TD thinks the P is a jerk for not realizing what is self-evident to the TD)

    - End of Story -

    A: All it *might* take to alleviate this miscommunication is:

    Principal: “Hey Mr. Tech Director, will you please open up http://www.abcblogs.com?

    TD: “No, we will not open that up. However, what are you trying to ACCOMPLISH? Might you find an external blog service that is educationally connected and has safe content?”

    P: “I see, well, let me look around.”

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this type of miscommunication when it comes to tech — NOT because we want to block everything under the sun, but because there is a lack of knowledge, understanding, or simple laziness on one of the party’s ends. Now, it could be that the TD just doesn’t want to worry about it so he says “NO!” It could also be that the TD tried to explain it to the P and the principal doesn’t want to take the time to understand what might be at stake by opening up http://www.abcblogs.com.

    For this very reason, it is important for someone in our shoes to sometimes be able to mitigate these instances and help to bring both sides to the table. We need to be able to help the principal understand what the Tech Director is up against, and to sometimes remind the Tech Director that ‘we are here for the kids.’

    Just food for thought…

  11. Dave, you almost got it right (at least for my district – where I am the Technology Coordinator).

    Principal: “Hey Mr. Tech Director, will you please open up http://www.abcblogs.com?

    TD: We can’t open that site up entirely because of CIPA but we can try to open up just the part you need, or maybe I can find you a different solution to your problem.”

    P: Ok, thanks.

    The next day:

    TD: I found a way to solve your problem, in fact, I found two. Let me know when you would like to go over your options.

    P: Thanks, how about now?

    TD: No problem. Here they are…

    While I do have the power of controlling what web sites are accessible (someone has to be responsible for CIPA compliance) – I believe in doing what is best for teaching and learning. If a school district does not have someone with a curriculum background running the Technology department – they have made a grave mistake (in most cases).

    Teachers and students should be content filtered differently. Teachers are adults and under federal law they have the right to bypass the filter for “bonafide research”. If your schools content filter is not able to be bypassed by teachers (at least for SOME categories – I’m not sure the Malware, Spyware, Virus, and Pornography categories should be bypassable) then you’ve got the wrong product or wrong network administrator. Just be sure that you watch the bypass logs to make sure you don’t have someone being unprofessional when they think no one is looking (it’s sad, but not every educator remembers what they are their for).

    Dave, you got it right when you said “we are here for the kids”. We are educators….our business is educating – not being the cog in the wheel of progress.

    Jay, run – and don’t look back. If what you are saying is true, then you are dealing with people that do not understand how to do their jobs. Maybe a case of the ‘Peter Principle”?

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