Saturday, February 16, 2013

Can Public Schools Be Saved From Obsolescence?

from NYT

This Sunday's NYT's magazine cover story, Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence? has me thinking a lot about the parallels between the GOP and many school leaders. Neither group understands the power of a Web 2.0 world. For both groups, "the yawning digital divide" between them and their counterparts (Democrats and more Web 2.0 ed leaders) is huge.

One telling moment in the article highlights the failure of GOPs to undersand the social power of the  Net.
Under the stewardship of Zac Moffatt, whose firm, Targeted Victory, commandeered the 2012 digital operations of the Romney campaign, American Crossroads and the Republican National Committee, Team Romney managed to connect with 12 million Facebook friends, triple that of Obama’s operation in 2008; but Obama in 2012 accrued 33 million friends and deployed them as online ambassadors who in turn contacted their Facebook friends, thereby demonstrably increasing the campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts in a way that dwarfed the Republicans’. (added emphasis)
It is this failure to recognize that it isn't that you have friends on Facebook, but rather how those friends connect with others that tells the better tale of social media and its use. I think of this when I work with clients who explain that their district technology leaders have a locked down approach to the use of the Internet at school.  These leaders, much like the GOP, proudly tout wireless environments, but then explain that they do not allow hand held devices,  students or teachers bringing in and using their own devices, student or teacher using Google apps (such as Google drive/Docs, hangouts), Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Wikis, or student blogs that are posted on the Internet--to name but a few.  They think they are with it because they use email.  Inevitably we get to the safety discussion and I wonder at how misdirected this approach (not the sentiment) is.

As a mom, I want to protect my son too. That means having the harder discussions with him about his responsibility while on the Internet and about his growing  capacity to hack alongside his responsibility to respect other people's property (intellectual, virtual, and real).  Barring him from the Internet given the way we live would be akin to barring dogs from barking, leaves from falling.  It just isn't going to happen and frankly I am glad to say that.  Our responsibility as parents and as district leaders is not to withhold the world we live in from our children, but rather to continue to help young people navigate and negotiate a changing world in responsible and responsive ways.

And yet, many schools still value an insular world and their leaders seems to think this makes them responsible. It makes them safe and their children less so. Sneering at those who use Twitter in the classroom, making snarky comments about staff or students who advocate the use of Skype or Google hangouts, or bragging that you prohibit google docs for teachers and students does not make you appear as educator of the year.

An insular world is not possible and education leaders who propose such nonsense are as obsolescent as the GOP strategists who engineered Romney's stunning loss.  Suffering such foolishness harms our children, limits our teachers, and reduces the critical and creative potential of all.

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