Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reflection on Shawn Nutting's Presentation: Creating a Paradigm Shift

Last week I taught a course at the University of Southern Maine for teachers looking to learn new ways to integrate technology into their classrooms. It was a great experience to work with some tremendously dynamic teachers from a variety of districts. Watching Shawn Nutting's K12 Online Conference presentation, "Creating a Paradigm Shift in Technology," made me think of some of the conversations that took place last week in this class.

One such discussion involved blocking sites at school. I've always viewed my job as one that is designed to remove barriers from teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. I have found that the barriers keep teachers from using technology. After you hit your head against the wall so many times, it starts to hurt. Why do network administrators spend so much time making it difficult for teachers to use the technology available to them?

My feeling is that schools are hiring more and more "geeks" that do not have a background in the classroom because of need. Networks, servers and everything we deal with in technology have become so much more complex in schools since I started with technology more than a dozen years ago. This has created a need for people with a greater set of tools than most educators can bring to the table. These new employees come from a background of security and lockdowns that do not necessarily go hand in hand with most schools educational missions. We need to keep the decisions that affect content and our educational missions in the hands of educators - not network admins.

I'm glad to say that we block a minimal amount of Internet content in my district. The only glaring content we block that I would like to change is streaming media. Unfortunately, our bandwidth can not support the number of videos, music and more that would be accessed in our one-to-one environment. We've been looking at improving our bandwidth to accommodate these needs. It is my hope that we'll only be blocking material that we are obligated to block due to CIPA in the next couple of years.

The other piece from Shawn Nutting's presentation that I would like to applaud is how his district is leveraging teacher leaders and students to improve the use of technology in his schools. We have a number of teachers who are doing great things in their classrooms. I do my best to highlight their work and have them be seen as leaders. Many teachers will work with these savvy users to include some of their ideas in their own classrooms. We have not used students in the past with repair issues. However, we do utilize their skills each summer when we offer our summer technology course. The students do a great job helping out the teachers who take this course and provide some great feedback during our discussions about technology use and our students' futures.

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1 comment:

VWnutt said...

Thank you for the positive comment. The IT job for a school system is not always the most positive experience. Teachers are not the most forgiving individuals when things break, and all users forget how much things work.
We have really seen a tremendous rise in our technology integration this past year. I firmly believe it has a great deal to do with how much Internet freedom we allow. When you restrict access you are forcing people into your "box"and dictating how they should practice technology infusion. The real irony is 21st Century skills are all about creativity and collaboration. When you block you dictate how to be creative an collaborative.
Now some folks in my district would still laugh at my previous comment. We do force certain practices. We have done this very deliberately. I am very aware that one misstep by a user, and our community reaction might be to limit and block everything. Schools as you well know are a difficult political environment where you have to play the game. As or teachers have grown we have relaxed our restrictions. We are all growing and learning together, teachers, parents, and community. I am very happy to say that in a few more years we will be able to put very little restriction on anything technology related. Our students are seeing tremendous benefit. Thanks to an open network, our school system is a collaborative environment, where everyone is involved in lesson design. Our students work with teachers and elementary teachers work with high school teachers. Four years ago when I took over, everything was blocked and the English teachers across the hall barely spoke to each other.The Internet and techie tools are the way to go.