Home > Uncategorized > How Technology Should Support Education?

How Technology Should Support Education?

Guest Blogger: @jasontbedell Jason Bedell is a valuable part of my PLN and his blog series on Diffusion of Innovations has sparked a guest series topic that I wanted on my blog: “What is the role of the technology department at K12 schools?” Here is his insightful post:

Howard Chan asked me to write about the role of the technology department in education. I have written implicitly about this on many occasions both on this blog and on Twitter. In fact, Howard, Keith Bockwoldt, and I started the #EduIt discussion on Twitter several months ago specifically to discuss ways to bridge the gap between education and traditional IT departments. We have since been joined by many qualified technology directors and teachers.

We believe this to be a great necessity in education. As technology becomes ever more vital to all aspects of education, such as infrastructure, administration, and teaching, the technology department is becoming much more necessary and more powerful. Policies made by the technology department effect every student and teacher in the school. The role of the technology department, as well as its limitations, need to be clearly delineated.

It is my vision that the technology department needs to enable students to learn and teachers to teach better than they already do. The issue is that many technology departments overstep these bounds and do not really understand education. Many technology directions come from a traditional IT background, complete with the assumptions and presuppositions of a corporate environment. Chief among these concerns is the need to control. We need to control employees so that they stay on task. My own technology director explicitly told me that YouTube and Facebook would always be blocked because of the amount of bad content on those networks.

Technology departments cannot just block useful websites because students may find some bad content. Blocking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, etc… does not protect students. It does not help students. It cripples them. The technology department needs to educate students on how to use these services wisely for self-directed learning and on how to react if they do come across inappropriate content. When students leave school, they will be tempted at home and at work. They will find inappropriate content. If the schools do not teach them how to handle these situations, then we have done our children a disservice.

We are further hurting our children when we allow the technology departments to limit our teachers. It is a sad state when I have to counsel my teachers on how to get around our Internet filter because they found excellent content online to use with students, and then find out that they cannot access it from school. By outlawing Twitter, my technology department is cutting off teachers from an amazing amount of professional development. If our teachers cannot improve as they should because of the technology department, then the technology is hurting our children.

Hadley Ferguson wrote an outstanding post recently entitled, “First Do No Harm.” We all, including technology departments, would be well served by adhering to this motto. Teachers and students do not need to be protected. To really thrive and prepare our students, we need freedom. The technology department should be supporting us in our goals and enabling them through infrastructure, training, teaching, professional development, and policies crafted involving all stakeholders. Our instructional and educational goals should not be determined or limited by what our technology departments deem appropriate.

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  1. May 17, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Your post raises many good points. In a previous district where I worked there was too much control. You needed to be an administrator to add a printer. There were home folder and email quotas. If you had a USB thumbdrive and the computer did not have the needed driver, you were out of luck until a tech could install it. Changing the wallpaper or homepage would be a big deal. And not to mention locking down of a right-click. Afterall, changing a Windows 2000 theme to evergreen would really hurt the computer.

    Seeing all those limits in place led me to where I am today. While we do still employ filtering for some of the sites you mention, part of that is due to being a K-8 district with a T-1 in each building. A few people on youtube will make it so a Google Earth lesson can’t happen. When I think about how IT (or ET if you subscribe to the Enterprise Technology view) interacts with our instructional staff, I see flexibility and empowerment. If I can find a way to let my users fix their problems they save time, and I save time. That is a win-win. Too often a user folder limit turned into a hurdle preventing technology growth.

    While age-appropriateness does have an impact on some aspects of filtering (I equate this a bit to reasonable person test; A second grader might not know something is bad, but an eight grader would) realizing teachers are professionals and students understand there will be consequences for their action is important; you can build on trust and accountability.

    I read a lot of emails from educational IT professionals who always pose the “what if …” case. What if a student goes to an inappropriate website. What if the students threatens another student on a school computer with a personal email. What if …. What would be the worst that would happen in these cases? A teachable moment, at the worst. Some mistakes would be a whole lot better to make at 11 than at 21, 31, or 41.

    The biggest thing I see from the Instruction & Tech working together is trust; knowing that each is doing what is in the interest of education. Ask yourself the question “Is this helping students learn”. If you don’t know, start talking with your teachers to get an understanding of what they are doing. If you say yes, then it shouldn’t be blocked. There are some things that will always be in the “no” category. Another great thing to realize is that even if a students makes a giant mistake in school with regards to technology, it will still be one of the safest environments to make a mistake. Much safter than at home where no one may know what they do, during high school, at college, or later on in life.

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