Blocking the future

Irrelevant to Children's Futures

My latest article for the American Association of School Administrators is now online. Titled Blocking the Future, it’s only a page long but I’m really excited about it. Here’s an excerpt:

[S]chool district leaders have a critical choice to make: Will their schools pro-actively model and teach the safe and appropriate use of these digital tools or will they reactively block them out and leave students and families to fend for themselves? Unfortunately, many schools are choosing to do the latter. . . . I can think of no better way to highlight organizational unimportance than to block out the tools that are transforming the rest of society. Schools whose default stance is to prohibit rather than enable might as well plant a sign in front of their buildings that says, “Irrelevant to children’s futures.”

I’ve also made a handy SnipURL:

Hopefully this will be a useful reading for your administrators and teachers. Feel free to distribute liberally!

6 Responses to “Blocking the future”

  1. OK, Scott. You’ve crossed the line suggesting that tech directors need supervision.

    But other than that misstep, it was a good and necessary warning. In the next column, teach the admins THE HOW of setting good tech policies. Thanks.

    All the best and have a good weekend!


  2. Scott,

    Your full article mentioned a few of the many – daily – frustrations I face as a teacher/librarian.

    Recently, I had to gently correct a (young) teacher who brought her class to the library for research. She informed the students that Wikipedia was not a good information source. I remarked that for the topics they were investigating, Wikipedia was the equivalent of an encyclopedia, a good general resource, a jumping off point for more specific & focused searching.

    YouTube is sometimes blocked, sometimes not. Students do not have access to any type of email accounts at school. Teachers are unable to unblock sites themselves and must rely on the cooperation and availability of the sole IT.

    It’s difficult to interest teachers in embedded technology when tools are unreliable or totally unavailable. There are no rewards for leaders or risk-takers.

    Until we had administrators who encourage and celebrate education innovation, schools will continue to follow the path of the past.


  3. Good article, Scott. I just hope some of the administrators in our system actually read it. Interesting that the editors included a link to your email address but not to your blog. 🙂

    The internet “filtering” policies of our district have become a special frustration for me. Rather than take any responsibility at the top, our IT department has a basic black list and then leaves it up to each school to decide what else should be blocked.

    As a result, it’s far too easy for principals to have a knee jerk reaction and add something to the list immediately. We have elementary schools that block Google Images and high schools that stop Wikipedia, often because of one incident or complaint.

    It makes training in the schools very frustrating as, for example, when I was invited out to show Google Earth to a middle school social studies department and they couldn’t get to the page to download the application. A cellular modem card and USB keys got around the blocks but stuff like this shouldn’t be happening.

  4. In my first teaching job at a Catholic school I tried to show my class the Vatican’s website for a project on social justice we were doing. We were going to use the site to find the encyclicals needed to study. Guess what? The Vatican’s website was blocked by the school’s filtering software. Fun fun.

  5. Janice Robertson Reply May 3, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    The small problem I had with your article was this:
    “Unfortunately, many schools are choosing to do the latter…”
    In our case, it isn’t the schools that are doing much choosing related to technology… Most of the people in the IT (information technology department) have never been teachers and don’t have a clue as to what motivates students, how classrooms work, the need for differentiated instruction, or the challenges teachers face daily. They are just charged with creating a system that runs reliably and safely, and while I understand that need… some of their decisions effectively paralyze teachers from implementing Web 2.0 technologies. At GREAT personal expense, I do find ways to work around some of these problems, but it is never easy and often not even encouraged. I had a pretty fierce conversation with a technician who feels that there isn’t really much need for all this “multimedia stuff”, and that students should be learning to handwrite with a pen and paper rather than creating videos.
    If our TECHNICIAN feels this way, what hope is there?
    Please don’t suggest that schools who are blocking the future “choose” this course of action. Sometimes the choice is out of our hands. I really agree with Doug’s suggestion; teach Directors and Administrators the “how” of creating effective tech policies which would mean ones which work for EVERYONE.

  6. Just want you to know that I again pointed to your blog and this article. ( It’s a REAL pet peeve of mine in my area and I’m losing patience with those who stand in the way. I DO believe, however, that the wrong people are making the decisions, as you’ve said in the past and as another commenter has said.

    I was hired to do a workshop this past December and when I arrived I discovered that all wikis were blocked. “Anybody could put anything on there.” Long story short, I was able to get the filter opened up for the day, but the teachers were angry that it would be closed again when the workshop was over. The part that upset me the MOST was that the decision to block it was made by the network administrator. Not even the Tech Director – just the administrator.

    I later saw the two of them together, and after a couple “cold ones” I asked the network guy, “Do you have a degree in education?” When he said no I replied, “Then you don’t get a vote. Your job is to keep the network running smoothly and NOT to be making value judgments on ANYTHING.”

    I thought that would have ended our working relationship, but I’m going back there on Thursday to do another workshop on the same material.

    Great article! I hope LOTS of school officials read it.

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