no holds barred: curriculum vs. discipline

At the end of last school year, we made a very serious push into making better use of social media school-wide, with an online class in social media USING social media as a highlight. The class didn't take off as planned, but has given plenty to think about as we move forward, as a class, department, and a school. At the very least, non-covert use of tools like Twitter and Facebook in the classroom was a refreshing change. 

Fast forward a bit to two weeks ago, when we had an incident (not our first) of bullying on Facebook and our deans asked (ok, a little stronger than asked) that we block Facebook, especially since we were already telling parents involved that we dealt with the issue, in part, by blocking the site at school. Of course, we're not and can't block it on phones, 3G-enabled computers, and home computers. Which is where this probably happened.

It's funny how it's often the personal use of technology that drives someone's investment in it, but that's exactly how our director of curriculum came to find out that we suddenly started blocking Facebook. She had just gotten back from a conference where she (thankfully) was told all about the wonderful things you can do online and was horrified that we would block anything that could be used as an educational resource. We're in pretty solid agreement that we can't even begin to figure out what not to restrict until we at least experiment with it first and see what its uses are. 

So now we have discipline vs. curriculum about to engage in debate on what the relative merits are of allowing increased use of social media tools in our school. Younger teachers don't know limits, older teachers don't know how to monitor classrooms… stuff that doesn't come up in anything but a technology discussion. At least we're about to have the discussion, I guess, but it's clear that we have a lot of teaching to do across our divisions, departments, and any other way you could look across a school. 

Time to get to work, or more accurately keep at it. I'm confident that solid curriculum and good pedagogy will win out in the end. We'll deal with discipline issues as they come up, but it seems as simple as teaching and modeling the right behavior so that everyone, parents included, are all on the same page and have the same expectations.

5 thoughts on “no holds barred: curriculum vs. discipline

  1. arvind s grover

    Wow, this is a tough position to be in. Blocking/filtering sites is one of those positions that people often jump to without thinking about more than the instance that caused them to want to block in the first place.Libraries have book challenge policies, should tech departments have the same thing? Fill out a form, allow a committee of adults to discuss the merits of the argument, the potential chilling effects, etc? It seems like a more protective route. It also slows things down, which is often helpful when making decisions in the heat of the moment.My school went through a few days of discussions at the leadership level where we decided we needed an official school Facebook channel and therefore needed to have Facebook open in school to not be contradictory. We want to find positive ways to use the social media tools out there. We also want to help faculty/students learn how to turn off/on the tools as necessary.Good luck with this, Basil. Keep us posted on how it goes.

  2. Basil Kolani

    Thanks, arvind. Your idea of a challenge policy is a great one. It would lead to exactly the kind of discussion that I’m looking to facilitate — I guess I’m, in a sense, filling out my own challenge form. So much of what gets blocked (and unblocked) is knee-jerk that I know I would benefit from a slower pace to the proceedings in either direction. The funny thing is that the reason I moved to unblock Facebook in particular at the end of last year was that our student groups were actually using it in productive ways. Rather than be a roadblock, I thought it would be a good thing to give them (access to) a platform and also take the opportunity to not be hypocritical.

  3. arvind s grover

    It seems to be that you’re filling out an “unblock” form, and I’m recommending more of a process where people have to petition to block. That’s how libraries work, right? First the librarians make the call on what to include, along with teachers. Then, if students, parents, community members want to challenge, they can.The American Library association has excellent resources on book challenge procedures.

  4. doctorklein

    It’s great to hear that your school is now discussing opening up some of the blocked/filtered sites that can do more good, then harm. I’m sure your school administrators will make the right decisions with the help of your guidance and expertise. It wasn’t until very recently when I witnessed first hand how the proper implementation of the right technology could help address & prevent the issues that you just experienced.On Monday I attended the launch of Intel’s new Classmate PC, a rugged netbook designed for students. The netbooks were pretty cool and to be honest I wanted one. What really amazed me was the use of a SMART board & some software in order to control and monitor the lesson and student netbooks. My company was hired to setup WiFi in order to network the teacher and student netbooks together.The teacher then demoed three lessons using her laptop connected to the SMART board and remotely controlling her fifteen, 5th grade nyc student’s netbooks simultaneously. The program she used allowed her to block internet, remote control the netbooks all at once, control individual netbooks, and had a dashboard view of each desktop. The teacher did give the students 90% control over the lessons to either read the pages at their own pace, answer questions or conduct experiments. I was blown away. I was actually jealous of seeing what resources and technology could be at our students finger tips. Yes this was a controlled environment, but the potential is there. With the use of right technology, and a well thought out curriculum for this digital age, students will be able be protected and monitored while still benefiting from an open education. Good luck with your efforts Basil, I’m sure you will get those sites opened again. I’m really enjoying your tweets and insight into tech-edu. This is a link to those netbooks that were used, very awesome:

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