Saturday, April 12, 2008

Can I Get a Dr. Here?

Ok, it's time for some no BS talk. I'll begin by making it clear
that the opinion about the state or educational technology and
Internet safety education are my opinions and not necessarily those
of WiredSafety.

Thirty-eight years ago I was a new teacher sitting in classroom with fifteen other new teachers. The then Superintendent of Rockaway Schools, Bob Linette, was conducting the class and asked us one by one what we thought of the American educational system. One by one each person sung the praises of our system. I was the last to reply and when he asked me, I said it stunk. The silence and looks on the faces of the other fourteen people said volumes.

Without pausing, he asked me to explain. I asked him and the group what part of their day was the math part, what part was the science part, what part was the social studies part? I said we were supposed to be teaching kids about life and how to success. I failed to see how this achieved that goal. I felt that school should be more like life, that kids should be solving real world problem and doing real world work. When I was done, he just said, "You're absolutely right."

Those three words set the course of my career and from that day on, I never looked back. Ever since then I've been trying to get schools to change the way they deliver instruction. It's thirty-eight years later and things have changed very little. Yes, technology is now in the picture, but technology implementation without changing how we deliver instruction is not going to work. In many ways technology has worsened the situation. There was already disconnect between curriculum and the skills that the 20th and 21st century required. With kids knowing more about technology than the teachers, the gap became a chasm.

As a result, the state of educational technology infusion in this country is a shambles. I'm not talking about the cables, routers, and computers. They are nothing to brag about, but compared to the hardware, the effective implementation of technology is in such a state that if it was in an episode of M.A.S.H., it would be on a gurney, with Hawkey and BJ doing everything they can do to keep it alive as it was heading for the operating room.

Lack of visionary leadership, lack of technical support, lack of professional development, budget constraints, NCLB, pressure to perform on high stakes tests that measure all the wrong things, and other mandates that hamstring teachers, make them little more than paper shufflers and test tutors. Yes, there are pockets of excellence. There are exemplary schools and programs, and there success stories, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

I've spent the last ten years of my life trying to make a difference in this arena. Now I've retired from that life and have perhaps jumped from the frying pan into the fire. I'm attempting to develop Internet safety instruction that schools can use.

If you believe what I say about the state of educational technology in this country, then it isn't a stretch to realize that the state of Internet safety education is in worse shape. If teachers don't have the time or expertise to implement effective use of technology in the core curriculum, expecting them to implement Internet Safety instruction is total folly. It's like strapping a couch to the back of a sprinter and asking him to run a marathon.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm an optimistic masochist or because I graduated from Rube Goldberg High School and McGuyver High School, but I liked the challenge. Two years ago I started a program that I felt dealt with both problems at the same time. I coined the phrase
and began my program of CyberSafety through Information Literacy. It was a series of lessons that could serve both as professional development for teachers and Internet safety instruction for students. The lessons are aligned to the National EducationTechnology Standards and other core curriculum standards. Instead of being add-on curriculum, it could be integrated into the existing curriculum in a number of ways.

Inexperienced teachers could run the Flash based lessons and let me provide the instruction. Because the software allows teachers to control all phases of the presentation, including sound and sequence, as inexperienced teacher became more comfortable with the material,
they could make it their own by substituting their narrative for my audio tack and by selecting what to present and when to present it.

Now I think it's time to take the next logical step. We at WiredSafety have found that two of the most effective tools for getting teens to listen to our message is to have it delivered by other teens and to have the message wrapped around real stories about real people and real events. Our Teenangels have stories of their own that they relate. You can find out more about them by visiting Teenangels.org.

We at WiredSafety have stories activities and suggestions that we relate to parents, teachers, and teens in our presentations. Some of those stories are already contained in my CyberSafety through Information Literacy lessons. Over the coming weeks and months, I'm going to begin extracting those stories, add new ones, offer short suggested actions and activities, and create a library of 5-10 minute learning objects that teachers and parents can use whenever they have
time or whenever they see a teachable moment.

I'll blog about them here and post them on the WiredSafety site. As they begin appearing, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Maybe together we can help Hawkeye and BJ get a patient off the critical list.

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