Florence of the North?
I'm currently taking some time out in a beautifully spring-filled Florence, Italy. Along with my 7am shot of espresso, I'm getting that early 15 minutes of solitude in the morning getting my injection of RSS watchlists and email. I found something today that draws a rapport between some Scottish Local Authorities and this amazing city I'm in.
Update: AB sees the real argument being about mobile internet and (the lack of potential in) filtering.
Now, Florence's success was arguably built on the slightly overbearing and corrupt shoulders of Niccolò Machiavelli whose leadership style was more about "political expediency" than any democracy or providing a voice to the various poets, architects and artists that inhabited the city. It worked, of course: commerce always makes more money than art, doesn't it (as many school systems still attempt to exemplify in 2008)? Eventually, though, the Renaissance won out, the artists had their day, and Florence became better known in the long-run for its incredibly invigorating creative scene than for its cotton traders, most of whom were wiped out by the Black Death.
Unfortunately, it seems that a little expediency goes a long way in cleaning up the web in Highland Local Authority, and others too many to mention, who continue to use the blanket coverage of Websense to outlaw any form of 'unauthorised' self-expression on the web. Not only are their teachers now not capable of blogging their own views, professional practice or students' work, but they're also unable to find out what's going on in the minds of those who are trying to help teachers get to grips with the new curriculum, new national intranet and new technologies. Nearly the entire learning and technology team at Learning and Teaching Scotland now have their own blogs, where we think out ideas we're having and guage the reaction before setting out on a project.
I know that AB and I are both deemed unacceptable (I'd love to know Websense's reasoning: dating, entertainment, pornography...?), but my guess is that many more in the Scottish innovation scene are blocked from use by Highland educators.
As AB says, this isn't a snipe at Highland in particular, more at Websense. However, councils employing filtering systems that work on blacklisting genres still need to work harder at whitelisting specific sites within that genre that people should have access to. It's a huge task, but one could start using the lists on ScotEduBlogs to find interesting material teachers and students need access to. Or one could whitelist all blogs, teach people how to use the net responsibly and sanction those who don't in the way one's acceptable use policy states.
Choices, choices everywhere, yet, it would seem, not one that can yet be used effectively. If we want prosperity in our schools we need to have teachers that can think and share views with one another, within Scotland through Glow, for sure, but arguably more importantly throughout the world. Reflective teachers are generally better teachers, and allowing effective flow of ideas and practice is the key to achieving this.