James Farmer has launched a site to help persuade school administrators of the importance of encouraging responsible use of blogs, instant messaging and other social software in schools. I hadn’t realized what a huge problem it is for teachers who want to try new technologies with their classes until members of my planning class explained the hoops they they had to go through merely to access their own professional blogs.
The problems these teachers face provides on reason why so many of our students come to college with plenty of experience in posting “facebook pictures of them half naked, drunk and swapping spit” and little experience sharing their more academic interests. Far too many schools make it far too difficult to integrate theses tools in meaningful ways, therefore leaving students to their own devices.
It’s important for those of us in higher ed to support our colleagues in the schools to help their administrations and tech support folks understand both the risks and the opportunities of these new tools if we want an increasing number of entering students to come to our colleges and universities with a genuine understanding of the potential of this digital culture. The problem more often than not is leadership not technology, and we need to help our school leaders have the knowledge to develop and implement realistic policies protect students from real risks without over reacting.
Come to think of it, we have a few things we could be doing at our own intstituions if we want to help provide to the world a generation of students who really do know how to use these tools for good. As the splash page on the nonscholae page reminds us:
Non scholae sed vitae discimus
We learn, not for school, but for life – Seneca, Epistulae
Some time ago, Will Richardson’s post generated a number of good comments that helped crystallize some of the cultural challenges we face in integrating these new technologies.
But we live in an era of such fear, fear of terrorists and pedophiles, fear of not passing the test, fear of not getting into the right school, fear of litigation, fear of taking anything that even resembles a risk. The transparency that the Read/Write Web offers resembles a big risk to many, but it’s a big opportunity as well. I hope our march to eliminate all risk for our students won’t also eliminate the potential that blogs and blogging can offer.
We need plenty of K-12 teachers and college faculty who really understand these tools and who are committed to helping students learn to use them safely and effectively.