This post is a response to Scott McLeod's call for Leadership Day 2009 blog posts regarding school leaders and technology. I would like to preface this post with the fact that my personal experience with school leaders has been mostly positive (though given my short time working in education I may be a bit naive...or optimistic, depending on how your look at it). However, I know of many educators who have not been as lucky, like a friend of mine – a music teacher - whose district blocks NPR’s website. Yeah. This post is for school leaders like hers.
Distinguish between Format and Content
Many schools have technology policies dictating which technologies can (school-issued computers) or cannot (cell-phones) be used. But such policies are often based on assumption, ignorance, and fallacy. Some DVDs are pornographic, therefore should schools ban all DVDs from school? No, of course not; everyday teachers use educational DVDs for effective class instruction. So why do some schools ban all video-sharing websites, because some of the videos the internet are inappropriate? It is the same difference. Such association between format and content is illogical, and sadly too common among school leaders.
Stop banning technology based solely on how it might be used…
In a few short years, I have gone from viewing technology in education from the student perspective to viewing it from both the instructor and support staff perspectives. I know both how to do devious things things with technology and how to prevent/fix said mischief. I've used technology to both improve my education and to assist me in educating others. But, no matter which perspective I'm viewing, I've found that technology itself is neither good nor bad; technology is just a tool for both good and bad. Banning technologies outright makes as much sense as abstinence-only sex education – ask Bristol Palin how that worked out for her.
…instead, regulate (or better yet, TEACH) how it should be used.
A command prompt with a few lines of code causes many teachers to react with suspicion or outright discipline. Although a lot of harm could be done by a student who knows how to program, the student could also be the next Bill Gates if guided and encouraged. A younger me, for example, used free time to learn how to gain admin access to school and library computers to…do things…that definitely violated rules…maybe even laws; but, positive influences in my life both encouraged my technological curiosity and guided it toward gainful applications. I could be sitting in prison for cyber crimes, but am instead making a living with my skills; the tool never changed, only how I used it.