I ‘ve added a blog to the site. I need to have some space to post my thoughts about this issue because a lot has happened since I set this site up less than 2 weeks ago that needs to be addressed.
The past week has been terribly difficult for me as I truly underestimated the ferocity of attack that has been hurled at me and (worse) at my employer. I have spent countless hours responding, defending, reading, thinking, etc.
I have truly seen the best and the worst of the internet this past week. Thank you to those who have responded to me with emails and tweets of support from parents and educators (and who have publicly fought back on Twitter and on this blog) encouraging me and supporting me. You are the best of the internet.
Onto the other side.
Who I am
First, there have been many accusations that I am an “industry insider” and thinly veiled attempts to insinuate that this site has been set up with a corporate agenda. This is patently untrue. I work in the public sector, and have for close to 20 years. I updated the About Me page to reflect more details about who I am and why I have set up this site, but I will reiterate it here because the point seems to be lost on people – I am a parent with 2 kids in the public school system in Victoria who believes they are not getting the education they will need to live in their world. That is why I have set up this site. That is my agenda.
I understand why people want to know who I am, where I work and so on to find out who I “really” am, so I attached my name to this site. I am not anonymous. I have nothing to hide. I only want what I think is best for my children. Perhaps that was naive. Perhaps, I should have made my site anonymous and not allowed comments and open discussion. It would have saved me a helluva lot of trouble and I would have slept better this week. But I did not. I put my name on this site. Openess and transparency are important values for me.
Who I think should be deciding this issue and why
Second, I cannot keep up with the barrage of information people are throwing at me. It is becoming quite clear to me that obfuscation through volume is a tactic being used by those who believe WiFi is not safe. Throw a thousand studies in someone’s face and tell them it’s “irrefutable evidence” is a sure recipe to information overload. Throw a thousand studies in someone who is untrained to decipher scientific research hides “the truth” even more. Which is why I am advocating that the people who should be making decision about health issues are our public health officials. They are trained to understand, to decipher, to sift. They are the critical thinkers in our society best equipped with the knowledge to decide health issues. Not me, certainly not the activists on the other side of the issue, and not our public school board. Our public school board needs to be basing educational policy decisions on public policy, not the strong, very vocal (and seemingly boundless energy) of a small number of people.
What this website is really about (aka my agenda)
Finally, this is not about devices in schools, or selling iPads. What this site is about is enabling a fundamentally different model of teaching and learning – a model that is built on the principle that ubiquitous, instant, anytime anywhere internet access is a given in our society, and will be for our kids forever. Our children need to be able to know how to deal with that, live with it, understand how to use it.
This fight is, fundamentally, about a different vision of the education system that I think is at risk. It is based on the premise that the internet is here and always will be. How do our kids learn to selectively shut it off? How do we teach kids to deal with mountains of information? How does teaching fundamentally change when teachers are not the source of information (no, they do not go away, as some have suggested I am advocating – teachers are needed more than ever in this classroom. But their role is changing.) These are critical issues in education. THESE are the issues I want our policy makers working on. This is where their expertise and time is needed. Not fighting WiFi battles.
To do this, the internet has to become part of our kids lives, in deep and meaningful ways. They need to be able to access whenever and however they need to because that is how they will use it in life. They need to learn how to control it, use it. And they cannot do that by limiting where they access the internet from because in my kids life, there will be no limits to when or how they access the internet. Everyday our classrooms are looking less and less like the rest of the world they live in. Do we want an education system that prepares them to live in THEIR world, or a world that faded from existence?
My corporate agenda
There are some educators (in positions of power and influence in the education system) who have stated that my position is one that supports the increased corporatization of education. That educational technology is being pushed by corporate agendas.
On their point about the increased corporatization of education, I agree with them. Fully agree. There are strong and powerful corporate agendas pushing ed-tech solutionism in education. Education has become ripe for the picking in Silicon Valley. Those of us who work in education and education related fields are seeing the educational technology sector become increasingly corporate. I fear the same thing as they do, which is why I have spent my career in education promoting and fighting for open scholarship, open educational resources, and free access to educational resources.
This is a struggle we all must fight. But supporting policies that restrict access to the internet is not the way to fight this battle.
To parents like me. It is easy to fall into the fear. We are all parents. We want our kids to be safe. Me, too. Fear is all around us. The world wants us to live in fear. Fear our neighbour is going to assault us, fear that stranger in the park is going to take my kid, fear that my car seat is not safe enough. Fear my kid is going to get picked on at school. Fear. Fear. When you are a parent, it surrounds us constantly (mostly driven by intense marketing hype that we fail as parents). It is easy for the other side to make their argument because it plays into our most basic fear – the safety of our children. What if….what if….
If you are an educator reading this, you might recognize some of what I am saying. Perhaps you agree, perhaps you don’t. I know there are many that do. If you do, please help with this fight. Defend the internet. Tell parents how you are using it in your class. Tell them how you are seeing others use it. Show them examples from your peers who are using the web in ways that enable 21st Century pedagogy.