My newest article is out. This one is about some general guidelines and principles for school districts to consider as they formulate their social media policies. A segment is below. You can read the full article online or in AASA’s School Administrator magazine.
Consider your tone. Districts everywhere are doing everything they can to put digital tools into the hands of students and staff because of the powerful learning opportunities that they enable. And then they usually create policy documents that hector and admonish youth and educators about all of the things they shouldn’t do. Tone is important. You don’t want to undermine your own efforts.
Consider what policies of empowerment and encouragement might look like versus districts’ typical lists of No’s and Can’ts and Don’ts, particularly if you want to encourage innovative, technology-using educators to work for you instead of someone else.
Don’t be agoraphobic. Humans are inherently social and we make meaning together. Connection to each other and the outside world often is educationally desirable. The learning power that can occur in environments that are “locked down” less tightly is vastly greater than those that filter or block outside experts, communities of interest, or other classrooms.
Katrina Schwartz said
Many students at [Los Angeles Unified School District’s Roosevelt High School] felt the news media had mischaracterized their school and its students as criminals for figuring out how to get around the iPad’s security features, often to access educational information.
“We were really caught up in how they kept calling Roosevelt ‘hackers,’” said Daniela Carrasco, a former student.
[Mariela] Bravo doesn’t understand why the district would give students iPads with so many limitations. Her peers were looking up homework help on YouTube – and yes, checking Facebook, too – but that’s part of life.
“They have to trust us more,” Bravo said. “We could surprise them and they could see that we are good kids.”
Students were frustrated that the district couldn’t see that negotiating distractions on the Internet is part of life now. “We should have been trusted with those websites,” Carrasco said. “Instead of blocking them, there should have been emphasis on how to use those websites for good.”
More nuanced responses from the students than the district…
Image credit: criminals crew_07, Phiesta’s way
I wrote an article for the National Association of Independent Schools on the challenges of digital leadership. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite!
Schools often purchase software, computer devices, and technology-based learning systems because they are effective marketing tools for recruitment, or because they want to keep pace with the digital investments of rival institutions, or simply because they fear appearing outdated. None of these have to do with learning, of course, and inevitably are insufficient to smooth over the challenges that arise as digital tools enter classroom spaces.
Too often, when navigating faculty or parental resistance, school leaders and technology staff make reassurances that things will not have to change much in the classroom or that slow baby steps are OK. Unfortunately, this results in a different problem, which is that schools have now invested significant money, time, and energy into digital technologies but are using them sparingly and seeing little impact. In such schools, replicative uses of technology are quite common, but transformative uses that leverage the unique affordances of technology are quite rare.
As school leaders, in order to achieve the types of successes that we hope for with technology, we will have to overbalance for our staff and parents the side of the scale that contains fears and concerns with countervailing, emotionally resonant stories, images, visions, and examples of empowered students and teachers doing amazing things. That’s fairly hard to do if we’re technology-hesitant or unknowledgeable about the educative value of technology ourselves, which is why so many successful digital leaders preach over and over again the necessity of personal engagement and modeling.
When we take away technology access because of student behavior concerns, we send the message that digital devices and the Internet are optional, ‘nice to have’ components of schooling rather than core elements of modern-day learning and teaching.
When we ban teachers from using social media – but not other forms of interaction – to communicate with students in or out of school, we send the message that we are unable to distinguish between behaviors and the mediums in which they occur.
When we decline to devote adequate time or support for technology-related professional learning and implementation, we send the message that low-level or nonexistent usage is just fine.
When we require educators to go hat in hand to IT personnel to get an educational resource unblocked, we send the message that we distrust them so they must be monitored.
When we wag our fingers at students about inappropriate digital behaviors without concurrently and equally highlighting the benefits of being connected and online, we send the message that we are afraid of or don’t understand the technologies that are transforming everything around us.
When we make blanket technology policies that punish the vast majority for the actions of a few, we send the messages of inconsistency and unfairness.
When we ignore the power of online and social media tools for communication with parents and other stakeholders, we send the message of outdatedness.
When we fail to implement hiring, induction, observation, coaching, and evaluation structures that emphasize meaningful technology integration, we send the message that it really isn’t that important to what we do in our classrooms.
When we treat students as passive recipients of teacher-directed integration rather than tapping into their technology-related interests, knowledge, and skills, we send the message that they don’t have anything to contribute to their own learning experiences. And that control is more important than empowerment.
When we continue to place students in primarily analog learning spaces and ignore that essentially all knowledge work these days is done digitally, we send the message of irrelevance to our students, parents, and communities.
Are these the messages that we intend to send with our technology decision-making (or lack thereof)? Often not, but what counts is the perceptions of the recipients of our decisions.
What technology messages is your school system sending? (and what would you add to this list?)
Image credit: Important message, Patrick Denker