Monday, October 27, 2014

Technology Doesn't Belong in the Classroom?

Late last week, I had what I would consider to be an extremely enlightening yet quite frustrating experience as I took part in a professional panel for the South Suburban School Crisis Response Team as they conducted a seminar on the impact of social media during a school crisis. Admittedly, I was eager to take part and share with those in attendance, consisting mainly of student services personnel, law enforcement officers and school administrators, some of the great things that social media and technology can do for a school. I was proud to show first hand how our students responded to a situation where an app was widely used in our West Campus by a few students to bully and harass others; with technology, creating a video to spread a message:

Please understand, I am by no means an expert in this area nor do I claim to be. In fact, I am not really sure anyone is truly and "expert." Rather, some people are far more open to it and devoted to teaching the responsible use of technology in the classroom and in schools than others. This I learned first hand, and very quickly.

The panel consisted of a representative from the State's Attorney's Office, an editor from the Patch, an online news source, a school media specialist, an incredibly inspiring student, a school resource officer and the chief of police from the local town. Initially, the questions were straight forward; what apps are our students using today? How are students using them? Somehow, however, the conversation quickly went from this to a philosophical debate on the use of technology in schools. Mind you, and this is something I realized well after the event was over, the room was full of individuals and teams that have a largely negative context of technology and social media in schools. Many of these educators and officers see nothing but violence, self-harming behaviors, suicidal thoughts and sexually charged posts.

Without even understanding how the conversation took this turn, I suddenly fell in the minority with my liberal views of technology in schools. What sticks out most to me are two individuals from this conversation-the chief of police and a social worker in the audience-because they had such passionate views against technology in schools. Both went so far as to say that all technology, including cell phones, should be banned in schools from 7:00am until 3:00pm. This didn't even shock me as much as the one individual who said "there is absolutely nothing good from using technology in the classroom." Needless to say, I was speechless and realized this was not the time nor the venue to get into a philosophical argument. I tried stressing the idea that instead of using resources-referrals, time, staff-on enforcing a ban, use those resources to educate our students on using technology responsibly. "It doesn't matter" was a common response; another person went so far as to say we could teach students how to use technology responsibly without having devices allowed! I held back, but all I wanted to say was that this belief is like telling your PE class you plan on teaching them to play soccer without a soccer ball.

I was pretty frustrated by the end of this panel, so I took a step back and after a while, I had a few reflections and wanted to share:
  • It was pretty clear that student service personnel have a strong opinion on the negative effects of social media and technology, understandably because of the nature of interactions they have with students and parents. We can't lose sight of this.
  • As schools move towards 1:1, we have to keep in mind the mentality that many of our staff members will have reservations and some will be flat out resistant. It's so important to keep the “why” at the forefront of all of this; we need to continue to stress why we believe it is important (collaboration, new opportunities, furthering discussions, creating opportunities, etc). Otherwise, we run the risk of people looking at this as simply another “educational fad” instead of a great new opportunity for teaching and learning.
  • We should consider during our planning and pilot processes looking at developing a curriculum around digital citizenship, responsible usage and online communications.

While these thoughts were at the forefront of my experience, I was also able to take a step back and look at one other major component, which ultimately was the key concept behind the seminar; what is the role of social media during a school crisis?
  • Does your school have a plan regarding social media during crisis and lock-down? Will the District communicate via social media? If so, what outlets?
  • Do we have a person dedicated to tracking and following social media during a crisis?
  • Have we communicated with our local media sources regarding our procedures and contact points during lock-down or crisis? I learned first hand from the reporter at the Patch that they will run a story, so the better relationship they have with a school, the better.
  • What should your vision be in terms of students using social media during lock down/crisis? We won’t be able to keep them from texting, but do we want to look at a plan where students are made aware of reasons to stay off social media and have a plan in place with our teachers and how to react to it?
Looking back, I laugh because a few hours after this seminar, I started to write a quick note to my colleagues and before I knew it, the email was nearly two pages long. I suppose I was partially venting. But, I realize that I believe in the power of technology in schools and more importantly, I believe in the good of our students. They are pretty incredible young people, and we can't let a few bad experiences hold back the positive. It's all about how we go about it. 

1 comment:

  1. I had too much to say, so I responded here: