Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our Misplaced Fears about Technology

School teachers and administrators have a moral and ethical obligation to help students learn how to be conscientious 21st century citizens. When it comes to technology, though, we are failing in our obligation. Twice in this brand new school year I've heard well-meaning, but badly misplaced, messages from adults about the perils of technology. It seems that technology is the scapegoat for any less-than-desirable behavior among adults and children. Borne out of fear and ignorance, our biased view of technology reveals our technological illiteracy and ultimately perpetuates negative stereotypes and misconceptions.
Image courtesy of morgueFile

Technology itself is neither bad nor evil. The Facebooks, Twitters, and other social media environments of the digital universe all have the potential for both harm and good. In my opinion, the good far outweighs the bad. These technologies allow us to make global connections with a diverse range of peoples, cultures, and organizations, greatly enhancing our ability to share, learn, and grow. Our hyperconnectivity stimulates our social evolution and brings us closer together.

Sadly, school systems still seem ill-equipped to address the challenges and potentials of technology. It is easier to ban, censor, and filter than commit ourselves to promoting and encouraging positive digital citizenship. Is it any wonder that we find kids turned off by school when we ask them to turn off the very devices and networks that are most important in their lives? We can, and should, do better…

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) publishes some of the most comprehensive and forward-thinking guidelines for technology. ISTE's family of National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)—for students, teachers, and administrators—provides guidance about 21st century digital skills and best practices. I believe they should be required study for all educators and administrators.

While children certainly must be protected from harm and exploitation, they also must be empowered to make responsible decisions about technology. Because technology has forever changed the landscape of our children's lives, it is incumbent upon adult educators to stop hiding and start embracing the power and potential of technology. On the arc of digital history, censoring and prohibiting technology in schools places us on the wrong pathway.

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