I’ve heard some very disturbing news from educators that some schools don’t allow students access to collaborative online tools, such as wikis, blogs, and Google docs. That is a crying shame, really almost criminal, that students cannot experience, share, and learn with the tools that everyone else is using. How are we supposed to be empowering students with 21st century skills, when we are trying to keep them in the 20th? (or maybe 19th!) So, I’m recommending to all teachers, forward-thinking administrators, parents, and students to insist on free and open access to all technology tools at their schools.
If you are a teacher, student, parent, administrator who does NOT have access to tools freely available to all on the Internet and World Wide Web . . . COMPLAIN and STATE YOUR CASE. Google docs, for instance, not only allows free use of word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software, but also facilitates collaboration. Students don’t need to purchase additional software, since the tools are free and work on any computer. Work can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. Google docs, for instance, can provide free and open access to all, thus helping to eliminate digital inequalities. If students know HOW to use these tools, we can stop endorsing a digital underclass, the haves and have nots of software skills and knowledge.
And how about collaborative software such as wikis and blogs? These tools can be made private, if desired, to protect student identities. However, as any English teacher will tell you, publishing content to the world creates more ownership in students’ writing and possibly can help make it better, as well as more important. Audience is a critical factor in writing, and publishing to a world-wide audience is a powerful and easy way to create this audience. Besides the publishing aspect, wikis and blogs can be collaborative sites, for students and teachers to work and learn together. What’s so bad with this picture?
Finally, I’ve heard that some schools don’t allow YouTube access. What’s up with that? Yeah, I know, there is a lot of junk out there, but there is more good stuff than junk. YouTube and other video sites can provide rich instructional content, as well as places for students, again, to post their work to a public audience. Why would we want to limit our students’ creativity and outlets for publishing?
These are just a few arguments in favor of opening access to the Internet and WWW to ALL STUDENTS.
But here’s what you need to do, my CALL TO ACTION:
- Approach whoever is in charge of Internet access at your school.
- Arrange for a meeting and presentation, showing specific lesson plans and other ways you can use these tools.
- Discuss aspects of digital inequality and how students who don’t have Internet access at home are limited to what’s available at school.
- If you don’t get changes made, go higher up in your organization.
- Write letters to your local newspaper.
- Make people aware. Present at a Parent-Teacher Organization. Parents can be a powerful force for change.
- Keep pushing and don’t stop until you get free and open access for all children.
- Then, start using these tools in ways other teachers never thought of and write about it for all to read about and start their own revolution.