Category Archives: education

The changing face of Data

Change never stops. There is always something else. Kyu Shin Do. Kaizen.

The latest thing I have a chance to work on, is to support schools as they get to grips with the changes that GDPR brings. But isn’t this another piece of red tape that will be a burden to schools? Well, yes, there are additional things schools will be obliged to do, but many things they should be doing already, if they are taking data protection and information handling seriously in the first place.

About 10 years ago I was sat on a working group for Becta, looking at Information Handling and Data Protection, and a lot of the advice was pretty full of common sense and those schools that picked it up, updated practices as further advice from the ICO was released and generally kept abreast of changes … well, for them the changes brought in by GDPR are an evolution, not a revolution … and this is important to remember.

Some improvements in processes; ensuring that you discuss with data processors about what they are doing with the data the school, as data controller, lets them process; having someone to have that oversight as Data Protection Officer; and so on … but these are all manageable with the right tools.

However, some schools are not up to speed. Some schools have only seen the scare headlines in some of the more sensationalist press (I won’t even link to them, they are that annoying and wrong). Some schools are being promised silver bullet solutions or are being told it will cost extortionate amounts of money to get the right experts in. In short, for some it is the Wild West.

It doesn’t need to be. There is good advice out there. There are people working to right the wrongs caused by these myths. The ICO has even started a series of blog posts around debunking these myths.

GDPR in Schools have already started to help schools understand their position and what they need to consider. They have developed a tool to help schools manage and record what data they handle, who and how it is processed and, possibly most importantly, why they are processing it. And this approach, to help schools fulfil a legal obligation in as simple a manner as possible, is one of the reasons why I am happy to announce I have joined GDPR in Schools as their Operations Manager.

Over the coming weeks we will discuss more around obligations, some of the legalities, some of the myths and how we need to make sure the dog is wagging the tail and not the other way around. We will continue discussions on EduGeek.net’s Data Protection & Information Handling sub-forum, join in discussions on LinkedIn and Twitter (#GDPRubbish can be an amusing yet illuminating hashtag to follow), and continue to publish advice through our blogs.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Some questions can’t even be answered by DfE or ICO yet, but we will be there, on your behalf, asking the questions and pressing for answers.

The College of Teaching – Thoughts from an Educationalist

I’ve never been one for being shy when I have had an opinion. This is a good and a bad thing. Because of my professional contacts and friendships, the areas where I have spoken out and some of the targets I have openly set people within the education sector some might be mistaken that I am a teacher.

I am not. I openly say that I am an Education Technologist. I’ve been a qualified coach (Judo, Ju-jitsu), a validated instructor and examiner for IT courses (aimed at IT Support staff and validated by the awarding body to instruct other instructors and examiners), a mentor dealing with the pastoral care of prisoners (soldiers) and a Play Leader (mainly specialising in working with children with special needs). I say this in the tone of talking about one of my favourite subjects (me!) and only so that my background and position is clear to those that may not know me that well.

This is related to the work by Claimyourcollege.org.uk, who have now published the proposal for start-up support for the College of Teaching.

The reaction from the teaching profession has been mixed.

Many are repeating the article from The Guardian, possibly as a show of support.

Andrew Old’s reaction is quite detailed and it seems a good number of folk agree about the proposal not being a good thing.

There are still those questioning political motives (3 main parties all *support* the idea), that it is just reinventing the wheel (isn’t there a National College of Teaching and Leadership?), that it has no real teeth or that it will fall short of membership targets.

For me, as an educationalist, it is a good proposal.

At the heart of it there is the recognition that the core of membership *has* to be practicing teachers, that this is recognised as a Chartered Status and that it has a collected approach to Professional Standards and Development.

The added bonus is that there is recognition that others also work in education. The idea of Chartered Teaching Assistant and Chartered Examination Officer sound good to me on paper, but I know they will be a long time in coming (if ever) and will be fought tooth and nail. As a start though, as soon as Chartered Teacher is in place I would expect professional recognition of any equivalent Chartered Status.

Why is this a passion for me? Simply put, it will help break down the two-tier mentality in many schools. There are many other organisations that have Royal Charters, and for IT Professionals working in education the most common one would be BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT Professionals. The days of getting chartered status and it being a lifelong right are gone with BCS. You have it for 3 years and have to be accredited again and again. Fail to adhere to the professional standards of BCS can see the status removed (and membership revoked) or simply the status is not renewed.

At this point I have to say the same should apply to Chartered Teacher status. Reapply after 3 years and prove you are worth it.

Some people will not like this idea as it attacks the comfort position that some teachers can get into, and the lack of unequivocally support from NASUWT makes me believe that this could be a problem down the line. But if people think about it for a minute … this helps to weed out those who have retired (more on this later), those who have left the classroom to become consultants, those working for commercial companies in sales/training/etc … and even SLT who have no timetable any more.

This is not too dissimilar to arguments against open membership to be honest, and a few folk have pointed out the gaps. There are those working with ITTs who deserve the same professional recognition, after all … they will be installing the standards in new teachers … and I think the proposal covers that well enough now.

What about those who are outside the classroom but have years of good practice and knowledge to bring? Looking at other bodies, that is why you have Fellows. Often a more academic slant, this can allow noted members to stay in a recognised position within the membership without stepping on purist toes, as well as giving those with Chartered status something to aim for.

The other side of the proposal is that it gets rid of the idea of needing a Master’s degree, of teachers with an already busy workload being forced into the typing hell of poorly thought out Action Research and standardises the CPD needed for recognised status in a world where political targets shift things about.

My recommendation for the varied folk who read my blog, follow me on Twitter or occasionally listen to my rants is to work with the current proposal, accept that this is a long term investment (so some existing teachers might never see the full benefit but those new or in the middle phase of their career should) and be proactive in your involvement.

Those who follow me who won’t get Chartered Status do not panic. If you feel that there is never going to be a chance of being recognised within the membership of the College, then aim for chartered status elsewhere. IT Professionals should now be pressing BCS to recognise the specialisms required to work in the education sector, and get BCS to press for equal recognition of Chartered Status between bodies.

Other than teachers then next Chartered Status I can see coming from the College of Teaching will be for School Business Manager. This is already a well recognised role, releasing senior and middle leaders from a lot of administration so they can focus on teaching and learning. It covers a wide range of specialisms and has significant levels of accountability. To do the job properly you *have* to understand schools though.

So, there you have my thoughts.

The proposals are workable, need to be viewed in the long term, have to have some measure of accountability for Chartered Status and has to include recognition for equivalent statuses (in my opinion).

The Times They Are a-Changin’

avatar_fullTomorrow (well, in the morning actually) will see my last day at work at Northants County Council. It has been an interesting few years, with a number of interesting project and a chance to work with old friends and make plenty of new ones.

There has been good and bad along the way, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have had there, but with the direction things are taking it is only right that I move on (to bigger and better) and enjoy the future with my wife and our daughter as we move down south.

I only got involved with the LA because the school I was working at as Director of IT was a pretty vocal school. We had moved over the RBC for our internet connection as a political move to be closer to the inner workings of the LA to allow us to continue to bid for new buildings. We still ran most of our own services, we decided that the Standard Network Build was not a limiting bar but a platform to go well past (which we did on pretty much all occasions) and that we were happy to listen to the LA and RBC, but they had to listen to us too … and they did. Eventually we were told to put up or shut up … get involved with the changes or get what we were given. A working party for the procurement of the new RBC contract followed by similar for a Learning Platform, then a secondment for a day a week to help roll things out, then some extra days, then a year … and then a permanent post.

I was allowed a fair bit of freedom to continue to get involved in other groups and work with different communities so I got the best of all worlds.

We pump-primed many projects into schools and educational settings. The new RBC framework was designed to give flexibility and choice, and we helped schools by working with them on a decision-support toolkit … and whilst many moved away from the RBC they did so more informed … and they will make better decisions for it … and for some that will mean moving back to the RBC now they have realised what they had to start with and now they feel there is no political pressure about doing what the LA says. Some won’t but that is fine by me as long as they do what is in the best interests of their learners and other learners in the county.

We worked to roll-out a county-wide learning platform … and many schools have come to realise that a blog is a blog, a wiki is a wiki, a discussion is a discussion and a document repository is just that. It is how you join it together, support the use in the classroom and collaborate within the school and between schools that makes the difference. Working with people that can do this makes all the difference.

That is why I still look on with wonder at the work for Tom Rees and Peter Ford … their able recruits … because the work of NorthantsBLT is integral to this ethos and has improved so much of what goes on in our schools. The Mobile Tech Toolkit was an interesting way of getting schools sharing ideas and resources.

However, working with the technical folk across the county has been my biggest pleasure. I am a geek at heart … even if I have gone to the dark side and become manglement … and then onto project management. Seeing schools getting staff trained in FITS, helping schools appoint new Network Managers, seeing the profile of support staff in schools grow  so that they are recognised as valuable contributors to the school … that has been a pleasure. Working with them on Security Analysis of their systems, seeing the local NetworkNorthants community be taken over by the schools themselves … wonderful.

Being able to ring a few up and point out that they have made stupid change requests is also fun, and I promise not to mention anyone by name when doing any after-dinner speaking later on in life. Most of you know who you are and have also laughed when I have told you the silly things I used to do when working in a school too. Thank you for your patience when dealing with someone who *isn’t* a hands-on techie anymore.

I leave a team at the LA which is slowly going. LAs restructure all the time and they have to do so to reflect the needs of customers, the direction for central Govt and the available funds, no matter where they come from. I am sad to see such a thriving hive of ideas and expertise diminish … and have enjoyed working with pretty much everyone at the LA.

Good luck to those still in LAs, who work closely with LAs and those who still rely on the essential services many LAs can (and do) give.

I will be working for LearningPossibilities as of 1st April (no … don’t laugh), primarily on the Hwb project in Wales. It is another exciting project and the work I have done on it so far fills me with hope that people still see the benefit of collaboration, planning, thinking of others and actually considering tech as a tool to plan for, make use of and not as a magic bullet, getting all starry-eyed about the shiny!!!

My blogging has been slow recently anyway and that is unlikely to change in the future. I will still talk about things that fill me with passion, and hopefully people will still read with equal interest.

Naace Impact Awards pt 2

It was quite a lovely shock to find that I won an award today.

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Last year Naace took the brave step of introducing an award aimed at technical staff in schools. At the time, when speaking with some peers from the technical community, some expressed concern about how a “bunch of teachers and LA folk could every work out how hard technicians and NMs work” and considering how difficult that can be within schools I can understand that a minority had some scepticism about it.

The award is an Impact Award, designed to see what impact you make on learning, and it is up to you to sell yourself against the criteria of “how do you make a difference in schools and with learners”… and that can be a daunting task. You are asked to measure what a difference keeping servers running makes, asked about why it is important to communicate about the services you help the school provide and how it can be used to support / deliver the curriculum, asked about the lengths you have gone to when making sure that the child with a visual impairment is not simply “catered for” but truly feels included due to assistive technology you provide, asked about how you work with teachers and SLT to generate ideas about emerging technologies or simply better use of existing tools, asked about business tools, asked about extra-curricular groups ranging from coding clubs through to bee-keeping … I can go on but you get the idea.

This year I was lucky to be nominated by a friend (a teachmeet legend) and since I am not in a school anymore I fell back to thinking about what I really do.

I work with and support communities of people. All those things above? That is what they do … day in, day out … and I am lucky enough to help some of them flesh out those ideas, give encouragement so they will go to meetings with SLT about their ideas, work with them to help come up with standards in schools … but most of all I am a part of these communities. I am mere mortal without them.

Most of those short listed are regulars and contributors to these communities, whether via twitter or mainly via EduGeek.net. On the whole we should say that these communities have won the award for me (not false modesty but a true statement) …

So I dedicated my award to the communities … #ukedchat, TeachMeet, NetworkNorthants, NorthantsBLT … but most of all to EduGeek.net.

Next year I will be nominating someone from EduGeek.net … and this is not a challenge for folk to up their game, or any other manglement jargon, it is just to say that you all should keep doing what you at doing, hold your heads up high and be proud of the difference you make. It is recognised and I am thankful to Naace to recognising this.

Thank you all.

You say Computing, I say ICT…

It was interesting to see some of the education twitterverse today. From elation and smugness with the reversal and changes to proposals around GCSEs, to frustration and annoyance about the opening of the consultation on the draft National Curriculum … and then you hit the screams of joy or unbelief after ICT is slapped for a rename to Computing.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. The delivery of ICT goes from the wonderfully creative and engaging to the inane box ticking … and there can be a place for box ticking actually, but not how some folk do it within education.

Poor teaching is poor teaching. The idea that an important element of working with computers, including deep changes to knowledge and skills, was needed to be put back in had very few people disagreeing.

There has been some frustration about how some of this has been managed though, and how the interests of some groups seem to have pushed others out … a little bit of politics and a bit of Politics really. The agendas of some groups have ended up with a consultation that has, at times, excluded others … and if we consider that Naace (The ICT Subject association) members that have been leading the way on this … then it should not surprise anyone when Naace members get annoyed. I know I am. I am also a member of the BCS and yet they have done little for recognising the career and progression of my profession, those working in IT in education. It is a shame when the agendas of some stamp all over others … and the really sad thing is that most of the folk involved in those groups are not doing it intentionally … they are fighting for the same goals, but things get twisted around, certain businesses have their say and you just get that sinking feeling that we will be having similar conversations in 5, 10 and 15 years.

I put out a series of tweets earlier to express my initial feelings and to try to pass a message to others.

The name change from ICT is part curriculum need, part branding / marketing / spin and part politics (at both Gov’t and interest group level)

Considering the amount of cross-over with some of the interest groups I have a feeling a number of friendships are getting strained

For those doing great things under the umbrella of ICT, keep going. The snobbery against it will disappear over time … and we will all win

If you do poor things under the umbrella of ICT then this is a wake up call … and we hope things improve

But a Plato those enthusing about Computing … please don’t deride those doing great things as ICT, or allow others to do so!

Politics is a fickle thing … you never know when those in power will turn against you.

I hope this sums everything up for you …

Play nicely, play fairly, share and don’t let others tell your friends that they are not good teachers / educators / techies when you know they are!

Naace ICT Impact Awards

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It felt very strange on Thursday whilst down at BETT … I was nervous, excited, pensive and lots of other things which generally mean I was not too sure how to feel.

I had been put forward for an award and was waiting to hear about being shortlisted.

Naace has no doubt about the impact that ICT can have on learning and teaching when used well by skilled and creative professionals. ICT makes a real difference to learner’s achievement and engagement; it offers access to resources that would otherwise be beyond the reach of any school or college, it allows communication and collaboration beyond the physical and temporal limits of the classroom; it allows learners to think more clearly and see the world from another perspective. Naace has a long standing history of supporting those working in education to use ICT to achieve the greatest possible impact, and now seeks to provide some formal recognition of outstanding work in this area. (taken from [url=http://www.naace.co.uk/events/conference2013/naaceimpactawards2013]Naace: Naace Impact Awards 2013[/url])

I was put forward for the following award

Technical Support Service Impact – Sponsored by Meru NetworksExcellent customer service and technical competence are assumed by this award, but to win it, it will be essential to demonstrate the key differences that the service has made to the learning opportunities and outcomes of young people.

And have been shortlisted against the following.

  • Tony Sheppard, Edugeek For tirelessly supporting colleagues around the country, providing guidance on suitable technology and facilitating the sharing of information and expertise
  • Joskos Solutions Limited For providing a consistently reliable ICT support service, with the flexibility to incorporate special projects and events, and enabling teachers to use ICT in their lessons with complete confidence
  • Phil Jones, Pool Academy For his enthusiasm and commitment to making ICT as accessible and enjoyable as possible, removing barriers to learning
  • Simon Sloan, Bedford Drive Primary School For his hands-on approach to supporting staff and students with their use of ICT in the curriculum and for introducing a range of opportunities to further the students’ experiences of ICT
  • Sahib Chana, Platinum IT For leading a range of technical changes and providing bespoke solutions across the curriculum that have accelerated and broadened the Academy’s use of ICT

I am amazed that a) I was initially nominated by someone who I respect for the amount of work he has done to enthuse his school, his fellow teachers, the education community and folk in general … and b) that folk are seeing the benefits you get from keeping technical folk involved, the impact that we can have on learning and also that we are thoroughly nice and helpful. As far as I am concerned, this shortlisting could have gone to numerous members of EduGeek (and it deserves too) and I am pretty sure that most of the above are members / lurkers anyway.

Good luck to all involved (and in the other categories as well) and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the NAACE conference.

The Importance of School Domains

With the every changing world of technology and education we all understand that nothing stands still. With more and more schools becoming Academies, buying a variety of services from a plethora of providers and having direct control of the funds to buy these, schools are generally more discerning about their presence on the World Wide Web.

This change of stance can result in websites which engage with parents and learners, improved communication systems and better marketing with the local community.

One of the frequent changes you see is around the choice of domain name a school will use. Traditionally, schools would use a domain based on their name, the geographical Local Authority they are in (but not always part of) and a tail of .sch.uk to identify them as a UK School, eg blogs-pri.dookland.sch.uk.  This domain is allocated to them by Nominet, is linked to the DfE number of the school and belongs to the school.

Sometimes you will hear that the domain belongs to the Council / LA and this is not altogether true. The domain belongs to the school, but might be controlled by the LA as part of delivery of services (eg over an RBC) or has previously been managed by the LA on behalf of the school, via the LA tech support team. Schools can ask for the domain to be transferred to a Registrar of their choice and can have someone manage the associated DNS.

Some schools chose not to use their .sch.uk domain. This could be because of the above myth meant they registered a new domain when leaving an LA service, they might not like the long URL or email addresses it can give, it can be down to a marketing / PR choice or it might simply be personal preference of a member of Senior Leadership / technical staff.

There are a few important things to remember about your choice of domain though. Firstly, the ends of domains, that is to say the generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) such as .com, .net, or country specific / country-code TLDs (ccTLD) such as .co.uk and .org.uk, have a specific purpose and identify the type of business or organisation you are. These domains are register for a period of time and have to be re-registered on a regular basis. They are open to dispute by other groups of the same name and you can even find conflicting domains ([schoolname].com and [schoolname].org) being used by different schools, or even by commercial or charitable organisations with a better claim to the domain than the school.

Some companies and organisations will try to capture all related domains so that this problem is dealt with, but schools often forget that they have the .sch.uk domain which they have left fallen by the wayside.

Your .sch.uk does not lapse, it is free, it can only be controlled by your school, it cannot be grabbed by a former student with an axe to grind and it doesn’t have to be your principle domain.

At the moment I recommend schools, which are choosing a different domain as their principle domain, to keep hold of their .sch.uk domain. If you are swapping email services then this extra domain can usually sit in the background so emails to the old addresses still reach their original recipients. Websites can have a CNAME record to redirect your .sch.uk domain to your preferred domain.

Generally, there is no excuse for not keeping the old domain other than wanting to have a ‘clean break’, or you make use of services which do not allow for other options. If this is the case then you need to consider the impact of lost emails, irregular communications which might get missed, etc.

A few hours of work now can save you days of trouble later on. Go on, be proud to let people know you are still a school … that is what .sch.uk is there for after all.

Internet Safety Talking Point 2

This is my latest blog post based on Scott McLeod’s 26 Internet Safety Talking Points.

Over the next few weeks I am looking at each point to tease apart the ideals behind them, to try to see both sides of the discussion and to share examples about who others have work on the issues. A lot of this will be from a UK-centric position but hopefully it will provide some insight into the similarities and differences with our friends in other countries.

Today’s point is about Decision Making

The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around. Corollary: your technology coordinator works for you, not vice versa.

To use technology you should have a reason, understand what you want it to do and also understand how you can measure whether it is achieving it or not.

Oh dear … this sound like we are going to talk about planning again.

In the past a number of choices about technology have been a little chicken and egg with what has been used. There have been pilot projects or innovative schools who have gone out and done something interesting with new or emerging technology. The technology has inspired them to try something new and when it has worked you then find research to look into it on a wider scale. This is where folk like Becta came in … as well as groups such as the Association of Learning Technology, NAACE, Besa and so on. They took the research to the next level, either as partnerships with schools, those doing the research, with suppliers or as the controller of funds (or any combination) … resulting in ring-fenced funds to allow schools and LAs to implement a given technology.

So the idea that the technology should be based on your choice has not always been the way it should have been, but it was usually instigated based on good practice and research. How will it was implemented is then debatable and how much that removed control and decision making from individual schools is another point some will raise.

But where does the technology coordinator (NM, ICT Coordinator, LA Technology Manager) sit in this? To some extent they might have chosen the specific technology based on available funds, with a certain set of features, but the pedagogy behind it all should be pretty agnostic and be able to use whatever is provided. An IWB is an IWB … and whilst specific software might have benefits over other solutions the idea of it being used by learners is common … it is just the method which might change. The arguing point against this is around wireless tablets connected to projectors (removing the requirement for the learner to come to the front of the class … an important feature in some schools with learners who do not engage when in front of their peers) or the ‘add-on’ tools such as voting systems (actually a separate technology in their own right but can work well with IWBs).

The other arguing point around this is about policies and strategies. I hate to say it but there is a little thing called the law. In fact it is the Law. It deserves the capitalisation. And this varies across the world. There are many things which educationally would seem to be perfect decisions but are then put on hold or stopped because the NM / Tech coord / etc says no. This is not done lightly, nor is it done without consideration for what benefits will be lost and it is usually done with some attempt at compromise. Areas where there will be clashes ranging from safeguarding, copyright and intellectual property, data protection and information management, funding and classroom management. A good NM will educate you about these (if you are not up to speed) and will work with you to get the most out of tech … but they are frequently the gatekeeper as to what tech you can use because they have the knowledge about the bits which will cause problems. In the same way you have people to tell you not to try blowing up the science lab (in spite of how much fun it was when we were at school to see people do experiments that blackened the ceiling), or have people who tell you not to use certain classrooms due to them falling down … you have people who will say not to use certain technologies in certain ways. I’ll discuss the legal side of this in a later post … but just try to believe that a good NM is talking these into account and advising Senior Leaders, classroom teachers, office staff, parents, learners, local community and the random people who ring up the school because of things you post on the internet.

Yes, the Technology Coordinator works for you, but part of that job is choosing or helping to choose appropriate technology and keeping you safe. Don’t give them a job and then tell them they can’t do it!

On the other side, your NM should not keep things as a dark art and be the only person making choices. Any choices made should be clearly explained and, as per the last blog post, show where they are held accountable. Likewise the choice of technology should not force you down a particular educational route, but it can be an inspiration for doing something different. Be aware of the differences and look at the early adopters to see what they did and what worked / failed.

Internet Safety Talking Point 1

In my last blog post I republished Scott McLeod’s 26 Internet Safety Talking Points.

Over the next few weeks I am looking at each point to tease apart the ideals behind them, to try to see both sides of the discussion and to share examples about who others have work on the issues. A lot of this will be from a UK-centric position but hopefully it will provide some insight into the similarities and differences with our friends in other countries.

Today’s point is about responsibility and accountability.

Even though they may use fancy terms and know more than you do about their domain, you never would allow your business manager or special education coordinator to operate without oversight. So stop doing so with your technology coordinator.

This raises an important point. With great power comes great responsibility, and there is a group in schools who have a lot of power. Whatever you might think of your Network Manager or Technician, of your LA Support Manager or even the Academy Technical Director (I will generically use the term NM to cover these and similar positions), how they have gained power / ownership / responsibility / control will be so varied it would take several posts to pinpoint which applies to your case. We would also end up talking about stereotypes and pigeon-holing people.

In reality it is rarely for it to be one reason as to why a single person might be making major decisions which affect a wide range of people, and it would be wrong to always assume malice, arrogance, superiority complexes on their part. It would also be wrong to assume the ignorance of senior managers in schools, apathy of staff, poor funding and poor communication. However, I am sure all of the above would sound familiar to many.

Instead, let us look at the idea of responsibility and accountability.

Yes, the NM is likely to be the expert in the field as to what technology can work, how it can work, how to support it and so on, but the requirements which set out what technology is needed should not be set out by a single person, but by a group of stakeholders working out what is best for the school (or schools if part of a larger group). This involves planning, communication, compromises, compliance (with laws, local and school policies, etc) and it will require targets / outcomes. This is where the oversight and accountability comes in … and it doesn’t just apply to the NM. It is needed … and should be in place.

And this is where we hit a number of problems.

Firstly you might be in a school where there is no communication, planning, team-working, etc and so someone has to effectively be a visionary, trying to guess what is needed or to lead on the choice of technology, almost in a single-minded way as nothing would happen without this. This can effectively place all the power and control with a single person with no oversight. This is not specifically their fault, and Scott’s point, in my eyes, appear to be a shout out to Senior Leaders in schools to wake up, stop relying on a single person and to make it more of a team effort … not a call to snatch back power from someone else.

Within the UK there is a standard for IT Support (based on industry standards) called FITS. This clearly sets out how the NM, Senior Leaders and other stakeholders can establish the targets, hold people accountable for delivering on projects / work and set out the standards by which systems will work, how changes will be decided and managed, how choices of technology can be made and how this can be measured against the desired impact.

To Block or Not to Block, that isn’t the question!

With kind permission I am reposting Scott McLeod‘s ‘Dangerously Irrelevant’ Blog Post about 26 Internet Safety Talking Points.

I hope to then follow this up by looking at each point (one a day perhaps) to strip it down and look at both sides of the point.

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For Leadership Day 2012, I thought I would gather in one place many of the talking points that I use with principals and superintendents about Internet safety…

 

  1. Even though they may use fancy terms and know more than you do about their domain, you never would allow your business manager or special education coordinator to operate without oversight. So stop doing so with your technology coordinator.
  2. The technology function of your school organization exists to serve the educational function, not the other way around. Corollary: your technology coordinator works for you, not vice versa.
  3. Mobile phones, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs, Wikispaces, Google, and whatever other technologies you’re blocking are not inherently evil. Stop demonizing them and focus on people’s behavior, not the tools, particularly when it comes to making policy.
  4. You don’t need special policies for specific tools. Just check that the policies you have are inclusive of electronic communication channels and then enforce the policies you already have on bullying, cheating, sexual harassment, inappropriate communication, illicit behavior, etc.
  5. Why are you penalizing the 95% for the 5%? You don’t do this in other areas of discipline at school. Even though you know some students will use their voices or bodies inappropriately in school, you don’t ban everyone from speaking or moving. You know some students may show up drunk to the prom, yet you don’t cancel the prom because of a few rule breakers. Instead, you assume that most students will act appropriately most of the time and then you enforce reasonable expectations and policies for the occasional few that don’t. To use a historical analogy, it’s the difference between DUI-style policies and flat-out Prohibition (which, if you recall, failed miserably). Just as you don’t put entire schools on lockdown every time there’s a fight in the cafeteria, you need to stop penalizing entire student bodies because of statistically-infrequent, worst-case scenarios.
  6. You never can promise 100% safety. For instance, you never would promise a parent that her child would never, ever be in a fight at school. So quit trying to guarantee 100% safety when it comes to technology. Provide reasonable supervision, implement reasonable procedures and policies, and move on.
  7. The ‘online predators will prey on your schoolchildren’ argument is a false bogeyman, a scare tactic that is fed to us by the media, politicians, law enforcement, and computer security vendors. The number of reported incidents in the news of this occurring is zero.
  8. Federal laws do not require your draconian filtering. You can’t point the finger somewhere else. You have to own it yourself.
  9. Students and teachers rise to the level of the expectations that you have for them. If you expect the worst, that’s what you’ll get.
  10. Schools that ‘loosen up’ with students and teachers find that they have no more problems than they did before. And, often, they have fewer problems because folks aren’t trying to get around the restrictions.
  11. There’s a difference between a teachable moment and a punishable moment. Lean toward the former as much as possible.
  12. If your community is pressuring you to be more restrictive, that’s when it’s time to educate, not capitulate. Overzealous blocking and filtering has real and significant negative impacts on information access, student learning, pedagogy, ability to address required curricular standards, and educators’ willingness to integrate technology. It also makes it awfully tough to prepare students for a digital era.
  13. ‘Walled garden’ online environments prevent the occurrence of serendipitous learning connections with the outside world.
  14. If you’re prohibiting teachers from being ‘friends’ with students online, are you also prohibiting them from being ‘friends’ with students in neighborhoods, at church, in volunteer organizations, at the mall, and in other non-school settings?
  15. Schools with mindsets of enabling powerful student learning usually block much less than those that don’t. Their first reaction is ‘how can we make this work?’ rather than ‘we need to keep this out.’
  16. As the lead learner, it’s your responsibility to actively monitor what’s being filtered and blocked and to always reconsider that in light of learning and teaching needs.
  17. If you trust your teachers with the children, you should trust them with the Internet. Addendum: Mistrust of teachers drives away good educators.
  18. If you make it too hard to get permission to unblock something, you might as well not have the option in the first place.
  19. Unless you like losing lawsuits, remember that students and staff have speech and privacy rights, particularly off-campus. Remember that any dumb decision you make is Internet fodder and has a good chance of going viral online. Do you really want to be the next stupid administrator story on The Huffington Post?
  20. When you violate the Constitution and punish kids just because you don’t like what they legally said or did and think you can get away with it, you not only run the risk of incurring financial liability for your school system in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars but also abuse your position of trust and send messages to students about the corruption of power and disregard for the rule of law.
  21. Never make a policy you can’t enforce.
  22. Don’t abdicate your teaching responsibility. Students do not magically gain the ability at the end of the school day or after graduation to navigate complex, challenging, unfiltered digital information spaces. If you don’t teach them how to navigate the unfiltered Internet appropriately and safely while you have them, who’s going to?
  23. Acceptable use and other policies send messages to students, staff, and parents. Is the predominant message that you want to send really that ‘the technologies that are transforming everything around us should first and foremost be feared?’
  24. Imagine a scale with two balancing pans. On one side are all of the anxieties, fears, barriers, challenges, and perceived problems that your staff, parents, and community members put forth. If you want effective technology integration and implementation to occur in your school system, it is your job as the leader to tip the scale the other way. Addendum: It is difficult to understand the learning power of digital technologies – and easy to dismiss their pedagogical usefulness – if you are not familiar enough with them to understand their positive affordances.
  25. In a hyperconnected, technology-suffused, digital, global world, you do your children a disservice – and highlight your irrelevance – by blocking out our present and their future.
  26. Educating is always, always more powerful than blocking.

BONUS 1. Elsewhere in your state – perhaps even near you – are school districts that have figured this out. They operate under the same laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that you do. If they can be less restrictive, why can’t you?

A huge thanks to everyone who has influenced my thinking and my writing in this area, including folks like Doug JohnsonSylvia Martinezdanah boydWill Richardson, and Tina Barseghian. I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a few talking points that I’ll just add later. Which one is your favorite (or least favorite)? What would you add to or change on this list?

For other Leadership Day 2012 posts, see the complete list of submissions and/or#leadershipday12.