Hey! Over Here … in the Real World!

C’mon people. I’m in South Los Angeles here. Our school’s Internet moves at just less than a creep. I can’t get a working ethernet cord, log on to social networking sites, youtube, etc. You’ve heard me whine about it before. Obviously most of my students aren’t accessing the Internet at home. Our isle of misfit computers at school is their only (semi-)reliable resource for developing media literacy skills. I don’t say this to bash the equipment at our school, but to criticize the disparity between my students’ opportunities to engage online and students in more affluent neighborhoods.

I continue to hear about amazing things happening in Second Life, about online study groups, and vodcasted lectures. But we’re still stuck in our first, perpetually offline life, like it’s still 1999 and Napster is alive and destroying our dial up connections.

At a recent school focus group meeting, several teachers discussed frustration with technology access on campus. The skills students need to succeed in college and beyond are expanding. Sooner or later someone is going to expect my students to be able to quickly and effortlessly post to a blog, add to a wiki, or collaborate via some sort of social networking protocol. And once again, my school will have failed to prepare them for such a task.

And About those Cameras
Somewhat related to this, I recently wrote about a video experiment I am conducting in my first period class. [If you’re too lazy to read the link, I’m having students in my first period class videotape the lesson everyday. Of course, I say it much more elegantly at the link, so just go over there ya putz!] What I’d like to add is that, by handing the cameras to the students, power and agency is shifted within the classroom. Suddenly, I’m not the one scoping out misbehavior; we are complicit in maintaining order within the classroom. As a result, the camera empowers instead of demeans – unlike the recently installed security cameras that students frequently bemoan.

On Friday, Professor Greg Niemeyer spoke with my students. Part of his talk described the differences between surveillance, co-veillance, and sousveillance. I have a feeling that this is something we will be revisiting on Monday.

3 thoughts on “Hey! Over Here … in the Real World!

  1. Pingback: CCK08: useless computer rooms « Insegnare Apprendere Mutare

  2. Kisu Kuroneko

    Hi Antero,

    I’ve quite enjoyed strolling through your blog. You’re doing a lot of interesting things that I couldn’t get out of my Gr 7/8 students and it’s adding fuel to my I-think-I-should-switch-to-High-School fire.

    A few different websites have used a great quote from this post: “Sooner or later someone is going to expect my students to be able to quickly and effortlessly post to a blog, add to a wiki, or collaborate via some sort of social networking protocol. And once again, my school will have failed to prepare them for such a task.”

    i.e., Playing it too safe online will make you sorry (http://www.edutopia.org/web-2.0-tools-filtering-firewalls) and
    Teaching around the firewall (http://nylady.edublogs.org/2008/11/18/teaching-around-the-firewall/)

    After reading this post, I’m confused. Is the issue the technology gap between the haves and the have-nots (i.e. misfit computers moving slower than a creep), or is the issue the district’s firewall?

    If the social networking sites (i.e. facebook / twitter) are blocked, could you not run your own self-hosted wiki or blog? Or is the goal to use facebook / twitter as the medium itself?

    Thanks for your two cents. Cheers, Kisu.

  3. antero Post author

    Hi Kisu,
    I’ll email you directly, but thought my response may be of benefit to other readers as well.

    There are two issues in regards to the technology gap:
    1. We are certainly prone to overwhelming problems of “misfit computers,” missing mice, keyboards with absentee keys, computers with usb ports that are not functioning rogue computers, etc. Our tech staff is stretched thin and while most classrooms have two or three computers in them, it’s a rarity to see all of them up and running. Similarly, the internet at our school (and I think district wide) runs slower than the days of dial-up.
    2. At the same time, our school has both a school and district firewall that blocks social networking, flickr, youtube, gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc.
    I have been working on having my students (and my colleagues) learn to use wikis as, yes, they are unblocked at school. However, I think it’s important to tap into the expertise students are already bringing on to campus. Students (at least the ones with internet access at home) are experts at MySpace and text messaging. I’d like for students to recognize these skills as “valid” within a school setting. Instead, our school continue to push a strongly anti-technology policy on campus: phones, PSPs, iPods are contraband and are not to be seen during school hours. I’m in a small minority in voicing a different approach to this “distraction in the classroom.” Things like twitter and social networking sites help illustrate the value of youth culture in school settings.

    Thanks for the comment, it is very much appreciated!

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