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Blocking the Future?

May 5, 2008

My favorite writer on the topic of education and technology is Scott McLeod. Mr. McLeod writes a blog and runs CASTLE, a technology center for school leaders at Iowa State University. He recently wrote an article for The School Administrator, the newsletter for the American Association of School Administrators, titled “Blocking the Future”.

The article discusses how many districts are blocking websites and digital technologies. He doesn’t spend much time on the why we are doing it, but more on the impact blocking can have on the students. He states, “It is clear by now our world is becoming even more technological, not less. Technology tools such as digital software, online systems, global networks, and personal computers are literally reshaping global civilization.”

I agree with him to a large degree, however, the push to quickly accept and use new technologies is problematic. First, Saline Area Schools cannot typically afford to be the first to adopt new technology. We are getting better at finding free programs and with many of the Web 2.0 tools that are out there – these costs are then minimal. For example, we are starting to use Moodle as a tool for our staff and it is free. Secondly, there is a operational piece, as many parents know, access to the internet is a blessing and curse. As we work with young students we find the amount of inappropriate content is staggering. Attempting to filter access to restrict the ability to locate the objectionable material is a never ending battle. Take YouTube for example – we restrict access to it due to some of the content. However, some staff want to use clips from presidential debates and I can see the benefit to our students. Additionally, several other Washtenaw County school districts allow unfiltered access to YouTube.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. We will continue to be open to exploring new technologies and guarded about their implementation.

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