The disruptive "anytime, anyplace, and that means right now darn it" nature of the tools never ceases to amaze me. So I am in NYC with Will Richardson presenting and a Skype window comes up where someone just added me to their "friends" in Skype. The audience giggles and Will walks behind me and whispers, "Close Skype." I notice it is Al Upton as I am shutting down and smile. I then describe to the audience the battle that this Aussie, who I know through the blogosphere, is going through. You can read more about what happened here.
Short story Al's blog has been disabled in compliance with DECS wishes (Department of Education and Children’s Services - South Australia) It seems that this blog in particular is being investigated regarding risk and management issues.
So this morning I Skype Al to apologize for yesterday and let him know I wasn't being rude but that I had been in the middle of a presentation and the following takes place in Skype:
[7:53:48 AM] Al Upton says: want to be added in?
[7:53:59 AM] Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says: added in to?
[7:54:08 AM] Al Upton says: skype conference
[7:54:15 AM] Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says: is there one right now?
[7:54:26 AM] Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says: yes, I would love to..
[7:54:39 AM] Al Upton says: yep ... I'll ring stay as long as you like
[7:54:56 AM] Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says: k I will just listen
[7:55:01 AM] Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says: getting headset
Anytime, Anyplace, Right Now
Then I am dropped into a voice conversation with several well known Aussies from the blogosphere. Alexander Hayes, Sue Waters, Graham Wegner, and Al Upton. I listen for a moment and then decide to jump in. They are discussing Al and his student's plight and how incredible the response of the network has been (blogging community) in support of what he is going through. (Last check there were 164 comments to his post announcing the closure.) I was invited to attend a meeting on May 2 (Aussie time) that was being held to talk about the advantages of blogging with students. I not only agreed to attend but offered to create a room in Elluminate for many (up to 100) of us in the blogosphere to attend as well. It felt good to have something to offer Al as he walks out this ground breaking case that will have a ripple effect on us all.
My take on what Al is going through is that it could be any of us and what he says and does from this point forward will be very important to watch. We all need to know how to advocate for our students- and how to explain how principled changes in education need to occur if we are going to remian relevant in our student's lives.
Think this is isolated to Australia? While I was in Buffalo, NY a week or so ago I caught a news cast of a Canadian who faces being fired from his teaching position for allowing a chemistry study group to be constructed in Facebook that related to students helping each other study for his course. UPDATE: yikes-- it was a student who faces expulsion-- not a teacher losing his job. The Canadian news station I was watching in Buffalo interviewed the teacher(professor) who was put on suspension. Guess the heat got switched to the student.
How would you respond if faced with a similar challenge. Can you articulate what you believe well enough to defend why you are using these tools? Do you know the foundational research that undergirds why students using social networking tools is important to their future and success? Have you done any action research in your own classrooms that point to similar findings? Do you know where to begin to set up a simple comparison project that would yield those results? Do you know how to talk to policy makers in short 2 minute elevator speech formats that preach like poetry in terms of the least amount of words to convey the biggest message? Do you know how to approach the media effectively so that what gets written from your interview is similar to what you thought you said? Basically, are you a teacher leader?
These are the roles of a 21st Century educator: Teacher as leader, Teacher as writer, Teachers as 21st Century literacy activist.
Action Research- Documenting your Legacy
Here is one idea for garnering the kind of data you need to help defend your position should you ever be put in a position similar to Al. You and a couple teachers get together and decide to teach a lesson that covers the standards you typically teach in class. For example, let's say several of you teach the US Civil War in your school. Together you decide on the objectives and assessments. You develop a common assessment (teacher made) that you work on together that measures if the objectives in your Civil War lesson are met. A couple of you deliver the content of your lesson using blogs and other 21st Century tools. Others deliver their content traditionally. Both groups give the common assessment at the end of the lesson. Compare the data.
Here is an example...
Bertelsmann Foundation Report: The Impact of Media and Technology in Schools
Content Area: Civil War
One Group taught using Sage on the Stage methodology
One Group taught using innovative applications of technology and project-based instructional models
End of the Study, both groups given identical teacher-constructed tests of their knowledge of the Civil War.
Question: Which group did better?
Answer: No significant test differences were found
However 1 year later...
Students in the traditional group could recall almost nothing about the historical content
Students in the traditional group defined history as: “the record of the facts of the past”
Students in the digital group “displayed elaborate concepts and ideas that they had extended to other areas of history”
Students in the digital group defined history as:
“a process of interpreting the past from different perspectives"
If you are interested in Teacher leadership and how to become an advocate for the profession I would love to talk. Here is a great document you need to read. It is a bit dated in computer years (2001) but pretty state of the art in terms of teacher leadership research.
Also, the Teacher Leaders Network is another resource I would check out. I helped to develop this vibrant community of practice and it continues to inform and rock my world in ways I never thought possible.