Friday, March 16, 2012


Over the past week, I have had the privilege to join meetings of independent and public K-12 and high ed  IT types gathered to discuss new initiatives. All discussed similar topics involving 1:1 initiatives, learning management systems and faculty development.  Who better to vent, joke and problem solve with than those who share your context and experience? In a Jesuit vision, gathering to reflect is a great thing.

                                      (These are real teachers reflecting ... their site was not blocked)

What disturbs me enough to blog is the continued mentality of "block-down" in schools.  IT departments are still obsessed with blocking student access to web and now apparently even hardware in 1:1 plans.  At both meetings, I heard of iPads with cameras intentionally deactivated; YouTube and other video blocked and apps removed from devices; dashboards used to filter every search engine, tool and resource a student can use. I actually heard, "We don't let them do what they want to do."


We wonder what happened to student curiosity and sense of inquiry... Well, we blocked it. By the time student reach 4th grade they have been blocked so many times they simply stop trying. We ask ourselves why students aren't inquisitive.  They were, about 3000 blocked web pages ago.

We wonder why students only do what we explicitly tell them, step by step. I'll tell you why...We gave them a device meant to open the world and we blocked video, browsing and communication tools. We gave them cook book activities with all the ingredients mapped out (we called it a digital curriculum) and required them to go step by step to create the uniform product for a grade. Of course they want step by step directions...we've trained them well.

But what if... Taking into consideration the context of student lives, we give them the freedom to experience knowledge on their own terms? What if we allow them to access tools freely, evaluate the tool best suited to meet their learning need and let them use the tool? What if we allow them to take photos of pollution in a stream? What if we allow them to type their paper in Word, Pages, Google Docs, Open Office, Notetaker HD?  What if we let them watch a YouTube video on the water cycle on their phone during lunch? What if we let use a pencil, pen, stylus to take notes?

If you are considering handing out devices for learning... I beg you...let students use them for learning. They learn in a myriad of ways. Do not block-down and crush that sense of inquiry. Allow students the freedom to access, evaluate and use the tool most appropriate for them. The idea of access, evaluate, use is the heart of BYOT. And once I made that leap, I can't imagine a learning environment that operates any other way.

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