For teachers and students to make full use of social participatory web 2.0 technological resources and processes for 21st century learning and competencies, then they need unfiltered, unrestricted access to these online resources in the classroom. In some of my classroom-based research, I have heard from a majority of teachers who are extremely frustrated by the filtered / firewalled restrictions placed on the rich and plentiful resources available online. Who is restricting access to things like blogs, wikis, youtube, facebook, and many other online resources and processes that characterize the social web? Often, it is the school jurisdiction or school IT folks - people who do not have a BEd.
A plethora of resources, experts and processes are available online - in education, we need to seriously consider and debate WHY we would restrict teachers and students from access to this growing and expanding online knowledge base.
Issues to consider:
- Decisions about appropriate online content / resources / processes to be used in the classroom should be made by teachers. What are the Alberta Education, Alberta Teachers' Association, CASS, School Council Committee, etc., positions on this issue of professionalism and teacher selection of online content and technological resources?
- Often, at the district level, and even at the school level, technology personnel, who are not educated as teachers / school leaders, are making "appropriate use" and "censoring" decisions about online content / resources / processes that are available to / restricted from teachers and students in classrooms. Who should decide what knowledge, perspectives and ideas are worthwhile, necessary and appropriate for Alberta teachers and students? Are we comfortable leaving these important decisions about "appropriate" and "valuable" and "dangerous" in the sole hands of technology staff? In the sole hands of administrators?
- POLICY regarding access to online content, technological processes and resources, should be created based on consultation among all relevant stakeholders - administrators, teachers, school jurisdictions, parents, technology personnel, AND STUDENTS.
- Every school jurisdiction, or even school, should be able to determine the policies that make sense WITHIN a greater provincial context and policy structure. Provincial policy and school jurisdiction policies on access to online content and technological resources should be reevaluated at the beginning of each school year to take into account changing students, changing technologies and changed thinking about teaching and learning.
I believe there is a role to be played by research:
- Which school jurisdictions have the most restrictive policies and why? How are these policies working? How do teachers, students and parents feel about these policies?
- Which schools or school jurisdictions have the least restrictive policies and why and how are these working?
- How do school jurisdictions and administrators justify the filtering / firewall policies that are in place? Are these policies defensible? Are these decisions supported by data from different stakeholders? Information from the research literature?
- What do parents say about access to online content and technological processes? How have we collected this data? Who have we asked? Whose opinions count?
- What is the real incidence of serious problems with unfiltered, unrestricted access, as opposed to ad hoc reporting or imagined problems or fear mongering?
Feel free to comment on my comments and ideas.