May 02, 2008

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.

This post has an update, which would be more apt to read, and certainly needs read after the following text.

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.

Comments

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I work for a law firm, and last week they installed Websense to replace the previous filter.
Here, we're actually treated as responsible adults, and only gambling and games are blocked by the filter.
As a law firm, we work on the 'time is money' principle (quite literally), yet the firm trusts its staff to be able to balance their time efficiently, and sees the value of blogs and other social media for networking and current awareness. It seems backwards that a company like the Council, where time isn't cvalued and charged in the same way and is therefore less 'expensive' to spend, would restrict such useful resources for staff!

I spoke about possible ways forward a couple of podcasts ago. I think that pressure is and should continue to come from teachers; it is the constructivist mechanism for creating and communicating the 'OK list' of sites that needs to be discussed.

I feel that activity around [email protected] could be effective. This could involve a list being built and edited on the wiki, and paper-based or Twitter suggestions on the evening.

I agree with you, dear Ewan McIntosh, for a 100% ... ! Does my opinion on the case of filtering and blocking sites and blogs in school has something to do with my 'hunger' for freedom, respect for the learner's autonomy and creativity - as I am a child of the May-revolution '68?

I started blogging and wikiing as an absolute beginner in 2007, an experiment on my own with the help of my two school classes (16 - 18 years) AND with the help of edubloggers all over the world. With your help too! I appreciate your view and professionality very very much. They mean very much to me in stimulating, motivating and inspiring my work as a teacher. In the debate, here in Flanders, about knowledge basics and (language) skills I wanted to show the learning capacities, creativity and e-skills, the language competence of the young people in my classes. They are not 'stupid' and 'uninspired' as many people shouted it out.

And for myself, I wanted to reflect on my didactics and on innovation in education in the 21st century. (Oh, my English is not what it should be ...)

Thank you very much!

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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