I live in a rural community that is still leery of strange new things, where the first instinct to anything new and strange is to shoot it. This mentality has carried through to the school system as well when it comes to new technology, but rather than shoot it (because we obviously cannot) the answer is to block access to it. A more recent development around new technology in schools has been web 2.0 tools. The students find it first and many times are masters of the tools and the teachers are totally unaware of it, so this becomes a distraction in the classroom. The administrators get complaints from teacher and are asked to find a way to stop the disruption.
The case in point; just last week I get a complaint that Facebook and YouTube are causing distractions in one classroom and asked me to block access. When I did block access, I got another complaint from a teacher in the same school saying the students do not have access to these sites that he uses in his classroom. When I ask principal how to proceed, the answer is “just block it we do not want content from these sites incorporated into the classes.” You would think that there is an age difference between the classroom teacher and the principal that would explain the different viewpoints, and there is. Even though there is an age difference, it is the younger principal who wants the content blocked. Of course for everyone out there this might seem like a backward thing to do at first glance, since we are talking about the rural school system which is on the poor side. But the reality is that most students are not meeting the basics in reading and writing, leave alone creating YouTube videos. The fact is that the web 2.0 tools are very distracting when the teacher does not have control of the classroom. The point of the lesson is lost and the students are just concentrating on playing around with the tools. My observation has been that most of the teachers are using the tools as a means of keeping the students in the classroom and out of trouble; or to be able to go to regional conferences and say yes I use Facebook and YouTube in my classroom, but if you ask them what difference it has made in improving the student performance there would be no concrete answer. One example of incorporating technology into the curriculum from the past has been the use of palm pilots for English classes. I asked what the students were learning from the palm pilots and the answer was that they can “beam stuff” to each other. Only the adults in the room were impressed with the beaming, it was old new to the students. How useful would this skill be to an employer?
To use these tools so that they are of benefit to the students, the teachers need to have a paradigm shift in what is expected of the students and how they are evaluated.
Using web 2.0 tools in the classroom to enhance instruction seems like a good idea, if the teacher has a good grasp how the tools can be used to enhance the basics like reading, writing, and math skills and has control of the classroom. We seem to do things out of fear of being left behind even though it might not make any real sense. Of course this comes with a hefty bill to boot.