Being a part of the first ISTE Leadership Bootcamp was exciting. The opportunity to connect with and listen to so many visionary leaders in technology was exciting and provided the opportunity to expose myself to forward thinking in educational technology. Attending the Leadership Bootcamp affirmed my beliefs that educational technology must be progressive, question existing school policy, and expose students to the world in which they live at school.
We must begin to prepare our students for success in a knowledge based, technology driven, globally competitive world by providing time, practice and instruction in that world so they can experience that world in a safe, responsible and challenging way. No longer are schools confined by location or time as the opportunities for informal education increase. By communicating, collaborating and creating the future with our students we can begin to transform our schools into high performance environments where students are expected to be and are high achievers. However, in order to provide these experiences and environments to our students we must spend time in them and experience them ourselves. We must also reevaluate our school policies related to technology so they reflect the attitude of continuous learning.
Social online networking need not be solely for students. Lucy Gray discussed the positive opportunities that social networking has for teachers and how the sharing of such resources can strongly enhance an educators professional development. The development of a personal learning network for educators is a powerful tool and a first step in understanding the worlds our students encounter on a daily basis when they are not in school. The use of Twitter and other types of social networking connect teachers from all areas of the world and unite them in a common discussion rich in the sharing of resources. Student book reviews are no longer stagnant when students from other parts of the world comment on posts via blogs or twitter. Historical character studies become real when students reenact their lives via profile creations on Twitter. Finding opportunities to bring these tools into the classroom to enhance learning can provide engaging and authentic experiences for our students.
We have an obligation to our students to introduce them to a 21st Century global world through tools and applications that connect one another. This idea is often regarded as a fearful one by school districts because it opens the doors of our schools to the outside world. Often our school policies around the use of technology perpetrate this fear. Acceptable Use Policies are developed to provide a safety net surrounding this fear. Perhaps the most forward idea I heard at the Leadership Bootcamp came from Scott McLeod when he proposed doing away with Acceptable Use Policies and, instead, using the school discipline code to deal with problematic issues arising from the use of technology. After all, these types of disturbance are disciplinary in nature and should be treated as such. He suggested many school districts treated issues arising from the use of technology with a prohibition-type approach instead a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) approach. The prohibition approach denies the activity. For example, a ban on social networking by a school. The DUI approach puts mechanisms in place that deal with the small percentage of the population that have trouble following the law or rule. Prohibition failed in the 20th century and has no place in 21st Century schools.
Chris Lehman challenged us with a thought - "What if high school were not preparation for real life, what if high school was real life?" Ideas must live in practice. We must build systems and structures that reflect this vision if education is to succeed.