A slow itch

11 days before I board a plane to my new home in Bangkok, Thailand and the itch of the network is slowly starting to return.

I’ve almost felt guilty these past couple of weeks coming up with reasons not to be connected. I check e-mail and either delete things or put them in the to-do list of things to complete later. But it’s summer and that’s what summer’s about. Taking time off, re-energizing, and getting ready for another run.

I was getting worried a couple weeks ago that the ‘itch’ wouldn’t return this year. That maybe I had burned myself out and that this would be the year I wasn’t looking forward to returning to education, to intentional teaching, and everything else that goes with this profession.

Then two weeks ago my mom, who teaches an Organizational Leadership class for would be Principals at Whitworth University, invited me to come talk to her class of six about technology. Of course I jumped at the chance to talk with pre-principals about how to support technology in their schools.

I opened up a lot of tabs in my browser and had two Power Points plus my presentation wiki standing by, not knowing what they knew or what they wanted to talk about.

It didn’t take long for the conversation to get rolling and right away I had some push back about a new literacy that is forming in our schools.

The conversation had two interesting points.

First we talked about Google and about verifying information on the Internet. I asked them how they verify the information they find on the Internet. Nobody answered and one even said he never trusts anything on the Internet. So I walked them through Google. We did a search for on of the guys in class and talked about how Google ranks returns. I could tell that I was losing them so I did a quick search for Martin Luther King Jr. and we walked through the links reading the little blurbs that came up for each site. Of course the fourth link down is the famous site that is ran by a white nationalist community.

I clicked on the link and we went to the site. As soon as the site finished loading I asked the group to give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether this site was reliable (Students decide within 7 seconds).

six thumbs ups.

We then talked about how students today trust the Internet and how teachers send students home to do homework on the Interent because sites at school are blocked.

I walked them through a validity process that took us to the white nationalist community website and use Whois.net to find out that they owned the site.

Six jaws drop to the floor.

And the next thing that is said

“I’m sure that’s blocked by our school filter.”

and right there…we’ve missed the point. The point is not whether or not this site is blocked by the school filter the point is are we teaching students today to verify information for themselves on the web?

After I got them past the shock of what they were looking at and tried to answer the question “but how does that happen?” the conversation continued.

I’m not sure how, but we ended up talking about Facebook. Of course I told them all they should be on Facebook or at least have knowledge of what’s there and went into my talk on taking control of your online profile. Which as soon-to-be Principals I thought was relevent.

Right away I again had some pushback.

Student: “I understand what you’re saying but there is no way that will happen in the States.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Student: “My school will fire you if they find out you have a page like that or what’s the other one? Myspace? Yeah, if you have a site there and the school finds out you’re fired.”

Now my jaw drops and all I can think is that schools can now tell you where you can and can’t have a presence on the web?

I did do a little research into the above statement by the student. I talked to other employees of that same school district who have Facebook pages and use Facebook regularly. They said “You just have to be careful and know that you are a teacher.” What bothers me is that there are some teachers out there that think they’ll get fired for exploring a social network. 🙁

The conversation continues and as I show them some of the ways International Schools (because that’s what I know) are using Facebook to engage students in these social places, and using them to empower and teach students the more they’re looking at me like I’m crazy.

Student: “There’s no way you’d get a school to do that here. A kid posts one bad thing and you’d be sued! You forget that our job is to not get sued!”

Right….I forget as apposed to teaching kids.

It was a interesting conversation and we all ended up agreeing that schools in my hometown have taking the approach to pretend that things don’t happen in Facebook that might cause the school harm. The take from the six students was to pretend it doesn’t exisit and that way they can’t sue the school for not knowing what’s there.

WOW…if this is the American approach to these new social tools, America is farther behind then what I thought!

But now the itch is slowly coming back with 11 days of vacation left. I believing even more that Internatioinal Schools are where we’re going to see large scale shifts happen.