Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook Police?

During a conference recently, I moderated a panel titled, The Supreme Court Is In Session: Ask the Experts. When we reached the portion of the program during which attendees were encouraged to ask questions or make statements about the current state of affairs with incorporating technologies into the classroom instruction, one gentleman in the crowd made the following statement:

I was told by my administrator that if I have a Facebook account, I will be fired immediately!!

Now, I've heard some crazy things coming from the mouths of administrators, but this one "took the cake." When the person revealed this truth, one word sprang to my mind: "insecurity."

Often, we talk about keeping our networks secure. That is a good thing. We even talk about keeping our fellow employees secure. That's a good thing--in concept, anyway. When we mention keeping students secure, though, that often brings on some new meanings. And, often, it involves some person "in charge," who has control over the environment in which the young person finds himself/herself.

Yes, we've heard the cavalcade of "excuses" why Facebook shouldn't be allowed in schools. However, in the same breath, we will create social networking situations that can be equally harmful, yet they have been accepted for many years and are not deemed as dangerous. For example, let's ask ourselves, "For how many years have schools had recess?" And, during recess times, don't we actually encourage students to interact with each other? We even create games and other situations during recess that force students to "network." What excuses do we cling to that lull us into believing these situations are not as dangerous as interactions on Facebook? Do we think that, since we're monitoring students' activities on the playground, nothing will happen? Oh, yeah. Right! Like we teachers on duty can keep our eyes on everything that's happening. Who are we fooling?

It's funny. One of the main advantages of Facebook for me is the resurrection of connections from former students and colleagues. Although many years have passed since we were together, we're renewing our bonds. And, the bonds we're renewing now are, in some cases, much stronger than they were "back in the day." Is there value in building connections among people? Is there value in our teaching students how to handle personal interactions? Is there value in "digging deeper" to learn more about the people we call "friends"? Is there value in focusing upon the true meaning of friendship?

Why, then, would a school administrator issue such an ultimatum to a teacher?

Many of you who read this blog are in-the-trenches practitioners. So, I await with great eagerness your responses. Please join the dialogue about this issue. And, for some great reading on this topic, visit Will Richardson's blog...or David Warlick's 2 cents worth blog.

Oh, and if I don't hear from you via this blog, perhaps I'll run into you on Facebook!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Taking personal responsibility

This past week, I have attended the 26th annual conference of the Mississippi Educational Computing Association in Jackson, MS. Our keynote speaker this year was none other than the awesome Will Richardson.

One set of comments that Will made in his keynote are of particular interest to me. And, I believe they apply directly to all of us who are involved in planning for the effective use of technologies in the workplace and the lives of those who inhabit.

The concept involved personal responsibility.

After delivering a very compelling keynote address, Will summarized his points with a challenge to all Mississippi educators that we each take the personal responsibility to learn about blogs by blogging. We should invest significant personal assets into the writing and thinking we offer to the entries we make online. He encouraged us to "sweat" with our brains, to stretch hard and make profound, positive differences where we are.

Far too often, I fear that we are prone to just trot along and do our thing, expecting others to carry the heavy load. Or, we like to complain because things are not the way we think they should be. So, we fuss.

Rather than fuss, we should put on the mantle of intellectual actuity and really press for the higher ground. By doing so, we present an encouraging model for those around us.

So, I ask myself today: "Am I lazy or do I have the intellectual energy to give back to my world more than I have gotten?"

What about you? Really!!

What do you say?