Children are being denied

March 23, 2005 § Leave a comment

Look, I know all about the folks who have been fired for blogging about work. I’m simply trying to start a conversation here, so those of you who work with me, don’t think I’m bashing you personally, because I’m not. I think it’s good to have an open discussion about what goes on in the education system, and have that open discussion include folks from outside of our own little world.I was told when I first started this job that it was good to have people come in from outside the district to bring in new ideas. I often times have a sense of people not wanting to make changes or try new things around here because they’re so ingrained in what ‘the district’ does on a regular basis. I’m here to shake things up a bit, and ask the hard questions.

The question I have today is, why are kids being denied opportunities to use electronic resources by the district? What good does it do to have a blocking policy that is so aggressive that teachers don’t have to do any teaching about what’s appropriate and what’s not? Is it because the district thinks that their teachers are incompetent (overall) when it comes to learning new things? What these questions all boil down to for me is, why is everyone around here so afraid of letting kids have email?

In my quest for a kid-based blogging tool that isn’t blocked, I came across MiddleWeb, a collection of blogs from educators during the 2002-2003 school year. The one that caught my eye right away was Heather Migdon’s, a first year teacher whose bouts of self-discovery of what it really means to be a teacher were very insightful, and made me remember why I got into this field in the first place.

One post that was particularly interesting to me was about talking online with her students. These next few lines cried out to me as the reasons we needed to allow kids to communicate in their own ways…ways they are familiar with. I think that email and blogs would provide students a way of communicating and receiving feedback that is both interesting and beneficial to them.

I read and replied to the e-mails, amazed at my students’ honesty and trust. My kids were telling me things they don’t say in class or write in journals. I could sense how much my kids wanted a reply—along with personal attention from their teacher.I know intuitively, without having read it in any educational journal, that carrying on conversations via e-mail with my students is infinitely valuable. The benefits reach beyond the obvious writing practice the children are getting. Many of my students do not regularly communicate with caring adults other than parents—and some do not even have that.

Imagine a student being able to communicate with any adult–scientists, celebrities, leaders, authors–instantly, and receiving feedback right away. This is what email and blogging can provide for them. No more waiting weeks for a letter to arrive (although there still is that possibility that people will take weeks to write or may never write), and being able to engage in an active, almost real-time discussion. Don’t the benefits of that outweight what some kids might do wrong with the tool? Have we become so afraid that a few might abuse a tool that we’ll refuse to let the majority have it who won’t abuse it? Are the problems that hard to deal with, or do we just not want to deal with them? I’m going to keep pushing until I get some straight answers.

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