Why backward social-network-banning education authorities are wrong
Where many education authorities continue to routinely block, filter and ban social networks not just for youngsters but for teaching and management staff, new research from Gartner (via Euan Semple) reveals yet more logic behind opening up networks and encouraging teachers, learners and managers to network online as well as at their twice-a-year in-service get-togethers:
"While a job may be regarded as an economic transaction, the human brain thinks of the workplace as a social system," she said. Social networking can make employees "feel valued, a part of a community, and earn the respect of peers."
Read more here. I therefore continue to be disheartened by the backward policies of regions such as Argyll and Bute, who admit that "social networking sites are blocked in all schools as policy... Staff are not able to maintain or access personal sites such as their own blogs or Twitter pages through the council's network." They want teachers to share practice through "all available means", but one can only assume they mean the telephone, one-to-one email or pigeon carrier. A shame really, since when I was a student at school there in the late eighties we were using Macs for desktop publishing and the authority area was a world leader in video conferencing for isolated community learning aeons before the rest of the world got the Skype collaboration bug. But, as they say, you're only as good as your last gig...
Three years ago the national education agency in Scotland and Don Ledingham, the then education chief in East Lothian, took the lead and paid me public cash to help amplify the groundbreaking, award-winning work with colleagues in East Lothian, who continue to reap the educational and managerial benefits of a more-or-less open network and promotion of sharing practice through blogging and Twitter amongst many platforms.
It is therefore becoming increasingly embarrassing to me that, three years on, most education authorities in Scotland continue to be ignorant of the possibilities, fearful of the occasional [human] mistake (and at a loss, it would seem, about what to do when someone does make such a human error).
Adding to the embarrassment is the apparent own-goal scored by me and my colleagues whose learnings are often adopted more enthusiastically in countries elsewhere around the globe while those leading education on our own doorstep put caution ahead of innovation. Our £35m national intranet has just added functionality of blogs and wikis, three years after I recommended they be the keystone 'learning diaries' of a personal profile. This is good, but it is slow.
What do I reckon could be done (only my tuppence worth, I add...) In a recent interview for Merlin John's new Innovators series I outline how I believe things could change:
- design new and use existing tools and learning spaces that entice and delight young people, rather than tools contrived "for schools" which we have to mandate them to use - if the kid had a choice, would they use that or the competition?;
- plan less up front, 'for the sake of planning', creating time and room for movement as innovations come up;
- stand still and do nothing: carve out time to look at what is working in the world around you and steal, steal, steal (and give credit where it's due);
- if there's a bandwagon, jump on it and see if it goes anyhere (a Coulterism, but not that kind of Coulterism);
- don't do pilots, just do the real deal from the start (you can still start small and fail quietly, but the word 'pilot' tends to preempt an assumption of failure).