Mr. / Madam (BOE) President, Tear Down this (fire) Wall!!

I just had one of the coolest experiences in my educational career.  Seriously.

We’ve heard all of this edu-jargon being s tossed around pertaining to ’21st century’ and how we’re all / need to start using it.  I just participated in a homework debate by students in New Jersey and Pennsylvania via google hangout.  I was a judge with other educators and administrators from NJ, PA, and even Iowa.

Students presented their arguments for and against homework.   Each side had a few minutes to makes points and respond.  The format was fantastic.

There was one sad glitch. One school teacher had to use her own hotspot instead of school wifi because the school blocked streaming. There was a little bit of cutting out, but that didn’t anger me.  The fact that her school, layered in scads of red tape, has things like google hangout blocked angers me.  Should I be not be angry and just assume that schools all over are like this?  I can’t help but not be.

This profession is like no other; you are dealing with educating young minds and preparing them for the real world. If you are not on your A-game every day, and if you aren’t making a steady effort to have every tool available to your teachers, then it’s time to find another job or retire.

Before some central office or IT folks get defensive – I do understand that there are legal / policy and infrastructural hurdles in some places. In others though, it’s just blatant opinion by someone who is nowhere near a classroom.

In 2007, I inquired to a mid-level academic manager about unblocking YouTube for some brief history video clips.  His response, “What?! There’s nothing but bad things on there. I would never allow it.”  Sigh. As a K-12 Social Studies Supervisor, I am proud that my District has  opened up streaming video for educational purposes   Yes, kids are still going be kids and find things that aren’t academic.  Let’s be real for a second — if they aren’t looking it up on the school computer, they are looking it up on their phones instead. It comes down to trusting your teachers to be good teachers and effective classroom management.

The Common Core Standards require that more collaborative, technology based activities like today’s on-line debate start happening frequently.  I hope the powers-that-be in some districts understand this. If not, who are you hurting in the end?

I look forward to seeing what we as educators can do in the future.  Today was just scratching the surface.  I hope my excitement is contagious and you will implement something like this soon in your school or district.

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