Yesterday I enjoyed joining the #elemchat moderator team for a second week in a row. The topic was Best Uses of Web 2.0 Tools. A transcript of the chat can be found here (when available). Many great uses were shared!
A topic that comes up time and time again while discussing Web 2.0 Tools is the topic of whether students are able to have access to such tools in schools or are they blocked by district filters? While I certainly understand the need for districts to be cautious and I do not have enough background knowledge myself to make an accurate decision for a district, I’d like to share a few thoughts.
I recently ran across the following diagram. This same quadrant design has been used in a variety of ways. The original intent of this particular quadrant was speaking to parent-involvement.
As I study the design, the same can hold true for many other decisions that need to be made. One size does not fit all. Each district/school/educator is unique. Our students, and their futures, should be at the heart of all we do. Sometimes entire schools may fall into a category. But chances are schools are made up of individuals in all categories. As we work to build collective efficacy in our schools, we need to remember that each group has a different set of needs. As school leaders we need to work with each group with care.
So how does this apply to the area of using Web 2.0 tools in school and whether districts block their use through their filters?
Disconnected and Interested: In this case, many Web 2.0 tools may be blocked in a district. Students may not have email accounts that are necessary to use many of the tools. Yet teachers/administrators have the interest to enhance the 21st century learning skills of their students. Decision makers, teachers, students and parents are going to need opportunities to explore the possibilities so they can become comfortable with breaking down the “filters” that block access to valuable tools. Some may need to see first hand the importance of integrating Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. The tools may need to be used outside the school setting to determine the utility of them. Being open-minded to discussions whether in person or through social media will help districts continue to make decisions that are best for their students.
Disconnected and Disinterested – This group doesn’t see the need to be connected to a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools and therefore do not have the desire to look into the possibilities. This group, no matter the circumstance will no doubt resist change until they see the benefits for their students. Many face-to-face learning opportunities are key. Participants will not want to feel threatened into making the change. Building on the ideas and strengths of this group will help move the cause forward. To this group the word change may have negative connotations. They may feel that if they are being asked to change, it is because they are doing something wrong. It needs to be clear that this is not the case. The change is because our students are growing up in a very fast-paced changing environment. The internet has only been around to the public for about 17 years. Look how far we’ve come!
Connected and Disinterested: This group has numerous opportunities of connection to Web 2.0 tools. They are not block in the district, yet they do not have the interest to access them. This could because of lack of knowledge or unwillingness to integrate new technologies into their curricular areas. The fact that the school is connected (unblocked by filters) shows that the leadership in the school sees the importance. It is going to be very important for school leaders to model the way. Administrators and teacher leaders will have a key role to play. Getting into classrooms to model the use of integrating Web 2.0 tools would be ideal. Change agents must remember that small baby steps are the key to lasting change. If they expect too much, too soon – the integration will not occur. Ongoing support is a must!
Connected and Interested: There is no stopping this group! You will meet many of these individuals on Twitter and other social media platforms. They are blogging about their experiences. They may represent a whole school/district or they may feel they are alone in their journey. Many tend to seek out other like-minded educators to share their passions. To move this group full-scale/school-wide, again administrators are key. What is expected, should be inspected. I don’t mean this in a negative “I gotcha mode.” I mean administrators should always be on the look out for the positives. They should continually engage in reflective dialogue with teachers. They should be posed and ready to be the lead learner. They don’t need to have all the answers or expertise. They just need to be willing to try. Their job is to continually plant seeds. Finding time and resources for teachers to join in this movement is also necessary.
Movements do not take many people. They take a few that are willing to stay the course. The key is to understand that One Size Does Not Fit All.
Which group do you or your school fall into? How are you overcoming the barriers? Let’s share ideas!