Friday, May 30, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 150

You can't promote by blocking access to digital tools.

Yesterday I sat in on some student reflections of a program that my agency has developed and facilitates called OC 21 (here's the web link:  It's truly a great program that operates utilizing a blended learning format, and provides high school students in our region with the opportunity to take elective courses that their districts could not (or would not) offer on their own.  While like a virtual high school in some ways, what sets this program apart is that the teachers of these courses are teachers within our region's districts, and they teach roughly four classes in their own high schools, and a fifth through OC 21.

This type of virtual and face-to-face collaboration speaks to how education operates in our region, and I'm immensely thankful to be a part of an agency that promotes this kind of thinking and work.

Of course, not everything is rainbows and unicorns.  As I was sitting in on a reflection session, enormously pleased with the depth and critical nature of the information students were sharing, I was floored by this comment:

"I really loved the opportunity to take an OC 21 course, but I was so frustrated with the fact that if I was trying to do work during a study hall or in lunch in my school, I couldn't access sites like YouTube because my district blocks them in our school buildings."

Now really, I shouldn't have been that surprised.  Learners have been struggling with access issues since the Internet blew up.  However, just like with the "rules" against cell phone use in schools, I can't seem to come to grips with how this benefits anybody.

I understand the rationale behind filtering sites.  We don't necessarily want learners to be exposed to certain things, and we certainly don't want them to find themselves in any sort of trouble.  That being said, there is a difference to what secondary students should be "allowed" to see, and what primary students should be shielded from.

And, when you boil it down, it is all about trust.  Most high school students are familiar enough with the web to not end up at a pornographic or extremely violent site purely by accident.  If we expect students to use digital tools for school purposes, then we first have to trust them to do so.

Many bemoan students' digital literacy skills.  Yet, if we continue on our current path, and block access to digital tools, how can we ever hope that schools will be a site where the skills of being a digitally literate citizen can be taught?

That answer is simple enough: We can't.

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