The first week of school was an exciting one! Not only did my cohorts and I have a great time decorating our learning space, but we also had a lot of fun meeting our students for the first time, introducing them to the S.T.E.A.M. class concept and planning our first lessons for them!
While we were lesson-planning as a team, we wanted to look up a lot of ideas on the Internet. Teachers at my school are not given their own laptops, so we had to bring in our own computers and iPads. No problem. Fortunately for us, we can sign in to the guest Wi-Fi network at our school. But when we started looking up ideas for our lessons, we realized that half of the sites we needed were blocked by our district. Uh, oh.
We quickly realized that many of the resources that we use so freely and frequently may not be an option for us and our students this year. Wikipedia is even blocked. (I’m not a huge fan of that site for obvious reasons, but why is it blocked?) YouTube, Twitter, Prezi, etc…all blocked. Should this be a problem? Have we, as a society, become too dependent on certain Internet sites and web applications, or is our district too restricting?
Now, let me back up a little bit and clarify one thing. The teachers’ Internet network (only accessible on teachers’ computers in our building) has fewer restrictions on the Internet and we can access many more websites. So that leaves my cohorts and me with two options: log students in under our names to research lesson topics, or severely limit their researching options on the students’ computers in the building. Hmm….
I realize why some sites are blocked. I get it. I’ve seen the inappropriate videos on YouTube, and I’m aware that any “Joe Shmo” off the street can post his own version of how the Titanic sank on Wikipedia. But have you seen all of the amazing, educational videos on YouTube? Have you learned some great facts on Wikipedia (that you later cross-checked on another website)? I have. It isn’t fair that our students don’t have – and won’t have – access to these great learning tools.
This was the only frustrating road block that my cohorts and I faced this past week; which, if you think about it, is not a huge deal in the big picture. That being said, we want our lessons to be engaging, and we want our students to learn how to maximize their use of technological tools. It’s hard to maximize anything when it is so minimal to begin with.
Have we become too tech-dependent as a society, or do we need to find ways – as a society – to give students access to learning across the World-Wide-Web? Maybe YouTube should limit the amount of trash that is posted on its site, for example. Although I wish I had the simple solution to this problem, I don’t have the answers. (Just don’t tell my students that!)
Does your school district have a similar issue? If so, how do you work with it to maximize learning in your classroom?