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EdTech Update





The factory of the future


Protecting racism in the classroom

As stories of post-election violence and hate speech circulate online, some people have begun wearing safety pins to identify themselves as allies in the fight against intolerance, and to show solidarity with women, LGBT people, immigrants, and people of color feeling frightened by Trump’s presidency and the vitriol that some of his supporters display. NY Mag, Nov 11, 2016.

... make no mistake, that’s what the safety pins are for. Making White people feel better. They’ll do little or nothing to reassure the marginalized populations they are allegedly there to reassure; marginalized people know full well the long history of white people calling themselves allies while doing nothing to help, or even inflicting harm on, non-white Americans. Huffington Post, Nov 14, 2016

My daughter shared this announcement from my grandsons' school district in Prairie Village, Kansas:

District and NEA Shawnee Mission Share a Message

Recently a movement to wear safety pins has gained popularity across the nation and in our community. Individuals began wearing safety pins within our school communities resulting in concerns and complaints regarding political connotations associated with the wearing of safety pins. The Shawnee Mission School District is committed to creating and maintaining safe schools that foster a culture of respect for all. Key to this goal is ensuring that our classrooms and school learning environments remain free from disruption. To assist in clarifying district policies and procedures, a joint statement from the school district and NEA-SM was shared with all staff on Monday.

The statement is written as follows:
"Recent events require us to remind our employees of their rights and responsibilities.  As a staff member, you do not give up your first amendment right to free-speech on matters of public concern. However, your communication inside the classroom on school time is considered speech on behalf of the school district and there is a limitation on that speech.

The wearing of a safety pin as a political statement is the latest example of such political speech.  Although wearing the safety pin as political speech is not the problem, any disruption the political statement causes in the classroom or school is a distraction in the education process.  We ask staff members to refrain from wearing safety pins or other symbols of divisive and partisan political speech while on duty--unless such activity is specifically in conjunction with District curriculum.

Further, the use of district owned devices and accounts is strictly forbidden for anything other than District business.  If you have questions regarding appropriate use, please see BOE policies IIBF and GAT.

NEA-SM and the Board of Education are committed to the safety of every student.  Thank you in advance for your careful review of this statement and for working with all students of the Shawnee Mission community.”

The Shawnee Mission School District has been and will continue to be a district that focuses on taking care of students and making sure that all students feel safe and supported regardless of issues or concerns occurring outside of our schools.

I later discussed the message with a couple people whose judgements and values I respect - and who, despite being proud to be called politically liberal, did not agree on whether the safety pin was a good, bad, or merely ineffective symbol to display. I personally do my best not to bring politics to my work place and try to be analytic rather than partisan in my blogging, Tweeting, and other communications and haven't worn a political symbol since the 1960s.

Yet the message from the Shawnee Mission Schools, in essence banning a communication out of fear that racists may be offended bothers me a great deal. What message does this send to my grandsons? That every POV has equal value, including those that discriminate against those have been historically oppressed? That White Supremistists are a legitimate political voice in the US that should get equal time with mainstream Democrats and Republicans?

Maybe I am living in a bubble, but I thought we were a better country than this.

Were I working the the Shawnee Mission District I might wear the safety pin just to show my rejection of cowardly policies.

PS: My daughter just sent me this: The ACLU's letter to to district:




The tree octopus has moved to Facebook - and grown fangs

The Information Jungle

Research for most of us who finished our formal education prior to 1995 operated in an Information Desert. Those five or ten sources required for a research paper were tough to find in our school and public libraries. The final product of our information quest was usually a written compilation of information, often verging on plagiarism to fulfill an assignment that neither requested nor encouraged the creation of new knowledge or innovative solutions to real problems.

Today’s student who has access to online sources of information operates in an Information Jungle. A quick search using an Internet search engine can yield thousands of possible sources of information. Savvy teachers today are asking students not just find and organize information, but to do so to answer genuine questions, offer original solutions to problems, and communicate their findings using a variety of media.

While technology can be enriching, the Information Jungle and projects that call for the demonstration of higher level thinking skills contain perils as well. The role of the teacher and library media specialist has rapidly changed from one of a desert guide (helping learners locate scarce resources) to one of jungle guide (helping learners evaluate and select resources of value). This change has been so rapid that many educators have not had time to learn the skills necessary for their new roles. But for those who do, the rewards for doing information problem solving in the Information Jungle can be tremendous. Survival Skills for the Information Jungle: Information Problem-Solving Activities Are More Important Than Ever Creative Classroom August 2001

One of the more interesting (and entertaining) activities that librarians conducted with students a few years ago (and perhaps still do), is exploring the need to critically evaluate the reliability of online information by looking at "spoof" websites. Some of these which were purposely created to alert novice Internet users to the perils of online information include:

Good discussion starters for those moving from an information environment of carefully vetted resources (libraries and print publication with journalistic integrity) to, well, the Internet.

It seems our lessons did not take. To our detriment and possibly to the deteriment of our nation. While the ability to spot "fake" news on the Internet has always seemed to be a rather academic skill, it has almost overnight become a critical skill needed by every citizen.

No longer friendly, humorous sites created to simply raise awareness in the naive information searcher, today's fake news and information is malicious, attempting to sway public opinion and to influence elections and public policy.

"Media literacy" can no longer be that subject taught when there is time. Or only by the librarian (if the school has one.) ISTE NETS for Students (2016) plainly state under the Knowledge Constructor section:

3b Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

Should we consider the ability evaluate information a skill that should fall under "Digital Citizenship" as well?


Well-worth reading: