Ontario Meetup: Are We Asking the Right Questions?

The recent Ontario Meetup online session provided the anticipated engaging discussion of educational directions. This particular session was led by @courosa. The discussion centred around the intersecting tensions in the K-12 educational environment between building online communities, embracing the value and power of social media tools and content filtering.

@dougpete captured the key points in his recent blog post  Getting Priorities Straight.  I have had the pleasure of having many engaging discussions with Doug around this very topic. I think he hit the nail on the head with his statement “From what we can see, there’s a real tightrope to be walked to reach the other side and keep the organization’s needs and the needs of the end user in balance”.

As I listened and participated in the online session, which wandered between the benefits and challenges with each of these areas, and since reflected on the nature of the discussion, it struck me that there may be a ‘new lens’ in the midst of this discussion. I am beginning to wonder if we are focusing on the right questions. It is my observation that there is a trend developing in these discussions:

  • building learning communities is the right thing to do in an educational environment
  • building a culture of sharing is important
  • content filtering policies can get in the way of reaching these goals

What I find troubling in these discussions, is that they often narrow to a focus on YouTube and Facebook, almost implying that the only way to achieve these goals is with the specific use of these tools.  I think the ‘new lens’ or focus on this topic needs to look at this from a different point of view. I am thinking more about change at the system level to embrace this in a more holistic way. Certainly, simply unblocking a site or two does not mean an education system of several thousand staff and students is ready to change and be instantly successful.

Assuming that building learning communities and establishing this culture of sharing are important, and fundamentally the right place to ‘get to’, perhaps the questions that need addressing are:

  • How do we get more people involved?
  • How do we make them comfortable in their journey to ‘jump in’ to this new world?
  • How do we best teach, practice and embed character development and digital citizenship for both students and staff?
  • How do we keep training costs to a minimum so that this does not become a barrier?
  • How do we move this agenda forward with or without the specific use of  ‘magnet’ sites such as YouTube and/or  Facebook?
  • How do we select some free/low cost tools so that
    • cost is not a barrier
    • there is some elements of consistency as teachers change grades and/or schools
    • the integrity of the environment (the ‘network’ = internal + internet) is reliable for all to use for both learning and business functions
  • Should there be some thought put into the ‘gradual release of responsibility’ concept being applied to social media use as there is in other curriculum areas?
  • As things change, and opportunities present themselves, we are promoting and celebrating the change(s)

These are the questions whirring though my mind. I want to extend a thank you to my PLP group and the participants of the Ontario Meetup group for continuing this important dialogue and keeping the discussion going. More thinking and planning to do!

~ Mark

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