Monday, April 14, 2014

Open, safe learning--

It started with this--
during the week for "digital citizenship" in the Coaching Digital Learning MOOC in which I've been a learner.

That brief interaction prompted a flood of memories
From some 15 years ago when I, a resource teacher in the Instructional Technology Office, often felt as if I was repeatedly running into a brick wall as I traversed so many schools of a large urban district.

One significant cause of my frustration-- our ability to access this--
Especially this audio file--
If I thought, had any idea, that I'd ever be a slave again, I'd take a gun an' jus' end it all right away. Because you're nothing but a dog. You're not a thing but a dog.

There are no words to describe the power of that audio file when students approach the topic of slavery in their learning. Those words, that voice-- so compelling-- in every classroom total silence. And the discussions that followed were far richer and deeper.

And the district filter blocked that website (highlight mine)
The  ~ they told me meant a personal file and they all were blocked. I would make my case to the IT department; they would unblock it. The following week, at another school the next week, we couldn't access it.

Math teachers, eager to engage their students, planned lessons on percentages, probability based on baseball/basketball/football statistics-- only to find those websites blocked as well. And some years later, wanting to help students understand how to evaluate information resources, (purposefully not linked here; search for it at WHOis to learn why) was blocked as were others that provide extremely valuable learning moments. They are anecdotes enough for content for a year's worth of posts.

What's important---

I knew from my years in the classroom  (before the district wide network and a filter; with students using my personal ISP account) that opportunities for student learning grew exponentially when they had access to the Web. My students and I created our own AUP (we were on the Web prior to a district created one), had significant meaningful discussions on expectations of Web use for learning, and incredible travels in learning with our mutual understandings. And a teachable moment when someone pushed the boundaries-- once.

I've long been an advocate for open learning, for scaffolding safe learning, for maintaining high expectations, and for providing the opportunities for students to make good choices. Without those choices, without that guided practice so to speak in a safe environment-- more possibilities arise for poor decision making when youngsters surf the Web at home, in their or a friends' bedroom, on their smartphones or phones of others.

I stand by that quote I tweeted from ISTE-- even for little ones--
And as Amy Musone, an accomplished 3rd grade teacher said to me:
"Little kids are capable of making good choices...right?"
Yes, absolutely--
with support, with just in time and continuous guidance, and with opportunities to make them and learn in a safe space from any missteps--

Believing in the capacity of children and open learning and the possibilities--