This appeared on twitter the other day.
Not happy with 140 characters I’ve tried to organise my thoughts and synthesise some of the conversations had over the past few months.
From the conversation had with colleagues form around the country there is, in Scotland, what appears to be an educational ‘apartheid’ when it comes to internet access: access to the internet and IT/Internet policy varies widely region to region. As a result it might be argued this puts many children at a disadvantage, particularly in the jobs market, when viewing their educational experience against those educated in a more enlightened region.
One of the problems (and a growing frustration) we seem to have is when teachers argue for more freedom of access, more autonomy, more responsibility to decide as professionals what their classes need with respect to internet access, they are met with dismissive remarks such as “…not convinced of the benefits…”. The argument for some Local Authorities (LAs) appears to centre on, but never actually stated as, a fear of litigation. More specifically “stupid, naive or criminal teachers getting the LA (and themselves) in hot water; Cyber-bullying by pupils or time/attention wasting of pupils”. To a degree I can understand their [LAs] position, but it is over hyped and misplaced in the context of the classroom.
We are told that LAs can’t take the chance that pupils might see “inappropriate” material, fair enough – who would want that? But pupils can switch on their devices at the school gate and get all the “inappropriate” material they want! It’s not for us to monitor what goes on outwith school, but they do need guidance and education on the use of the technology they have. So, the question is, who is in the best position to educate the children and, in this respect, what is the best way to achieve the common goal? A rhetorical question, the answer should be obvious!
“Asking teachers to teach in the 21st century whilst compelling them to remain in and use 20th Century techniques (and equipment) is not sustainable”, ask any employer! What appears to be the case in some LAs is that “policy makers and those ‘policing’ it have little or no understanding of 21st Century tech”, its benefits or what skills employers need and pupils require! I get the impression that some have been away from the classroom too long!
“Blocking access, filtering sites, banning devices is essentially treating the internet as a bad thing”, as one colleague put it. Parts of it undoubtedly are, but in the process of this blocking and filtering LAs run the risk of treating all [teachers] with a lack of professional respect and courtesy – it appears as if we are not trusted to manage our own or pupils’ access. Effectively we’re ‘convicted’ of the crime before committing it: the logic being (I suppose), can’t give you access ‘cause you might do something ‘wrong’. Given that parents trust us with their children for 6 hour a day, this hardly instils confidence!
There is a flip side to this coin that is yet to be grappled with: that of the teacher centred fear of either the technology and/or the internet. Too many teachers will not want open access because they fear that they will not be able to police it and they will carry the can for pupil misdemeanours. I have to say that in my experience this has not been the case, but nevertheless it remains a legitimate concern.
The solution is simple.
These concerns and frustrations can only be address with sensible policies that recognise the professionalism of the individual teacher. LAs need to give teachers the professional respect, freedom of access, autonomy, and responsibility to manage their classes’ internet needs and deal with mistakes, errors of judgement or criminal behaviour as and when it happens and not presume guilt before the fact. So, in writing this blog I appeal to all Local Authorities: give us the tools to give our pupils the very best educational experience we can.
Since publishung this blog Charlie Love has added to the debate with his own take entitled “Duty of Care: Is it an excuse?” http://charlielove.org/?p=7886