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Conforming to nonconformity

"Nonconformists are significantly heavier users of social networking sites than other students, participating in every single type of social networking activity surveyed (28 in all) significantly more frequently than other students both at home and at school -- which likely means that they break school rules to do so. ...
These students seem to have an extraordinary set of traditional and 21st century skills, including communication, creativity, collaboration and leadership skills and technology proficiency. Yet they are significantly more likely than other students to have lower grades, which they report as 'a mix of Bs and Cs,' or lower, than other students. However, previous research with both parents and children has shown that enhanced Internet access is associated with improvements in grades and school attitudes, including a 2003 survey by Grunwald Associates LLC. In any event, these findings suggest that schools need to find ways to engage nonconformists in more creative activities for academic learning." -- From a new report by the National School Boards Association <> as reported on “Good Morning Silicon Valley” for 8/08/07. Thanks to Nancy Walton at the Minnesota Department of Education for passing this one along. 

Creating and Connecting, the report from which the above was taken, has been riding around in my computer case for a week or more. The interestinggoth4.jpg quote above got me to finally read it. I'd suggest you do the same. And share it with your administration.

One of the things about the report that caught my eyes is the disconnect between how schools (or school officials anyway) perceive the value of social networking  vs. how parents view it. While 80+% of schools prohibit chat and IM; 60+% prohibit bulletin boards, blogs and e-mail; and over 50% "specifically prohibit any use of social networking sites;" (p 4) 76% of parents "expect social networking to help their children improve their reading and writing skills or express themselves more clearly." (p. 7)

Should those of us who are excited about using social networking tools to improve education be looking for allies among our parents?

Oh, and are the adults who are social networks more nonconformist and more likely to break rules than their peers?





I'm quoted in a column, The technology kids want, versus what they need" by Tom Regan in the Christian Science Monitor. And he got the quote right!



The power of positivity!

Earlier this month, Adam Janowski, media specialist extraordinaire from Naples, Florida, wrote a guest blog entry on computer gaming in libraries. Sadly, in a follow-up comment to his defense of games, he wrote:

"Oh, how things can shift in days. Our superinendent was sacked yesterday, and today I get a message from our principal say NO to games.

"No discussion. Just an ultimatum.

"Such is life in a public school."

Happily, here is the rest of the story which is less about games and more about proactivity. - Doug 

I will start this post with an anecdotal story. For three years now, "Edison", a junior, has been the first person I have busted for playing Internet games on the computer. This year he said, "But Mr. J., this is an educational game!" It was. Very much like "Lingo" if you are a Game Channel addict. "Edison, for three years now, you have tested me, the rule is still the rule, "No Games"!
Some of you know from an earlier post that my principal had issued and edict banning computer games in the LMCon the basis that they violated "academic integrity". No discussion, that's all I had requested. After much back and forth, she told me that I could bring it up at our school Leadership Council meeting, but that still bothered me. I did it, but then tabled it. I wanted to talk about it first.
pacmanFull.pngSomeone who responded to my post on your blog, led me to a great article in support of gaming. I also contacted our District Coordinator, who told me there was no district prohibition on Internet games, and that they were, in fact, reviewing a Math gaming program to be implemented district-wide.
Today my colleague and I had an informal meeting with the principal in our office. We plied her with freshly-brewed Colombian coffee and home-made (I made them) pecan sandies. We brought up the issue of gaming. We gave her the article. We talked about the fact that we were not "normal" librarians, and that we were leaders in the field, that we had one of the few high school Reading is Fundamental (RIF) programs in the nation, that we were one of the few libraries that embraced a totally paperback fiction collection, that we had implemented an Information Commons to encourage creativity, and that we were recognized nationally for our innovations. I told her that we were tired of being the "games police" and that students would still play games, but just close windows as we came close. It was only the slower students that we caught. We told her that we were just encouraging students to become more sly, not a good thing.
Still, she was not convinced, until I pulled out my trump card! She still wanted it to go to the Leadership Council. But as she read the list of reasons that Doug Johnson posted about gaming and came to "Kids might be finding school fun and we all know life isn't about fun," she laughed out loud and said "OK, I give, it is really your room and you should set your own rules." "I just don't want them playing violent or inappropriate games. Let's try it as a pilot program for the semester."
At lunch today, I told Edison that we had persuaded the principal that games would be OK as a pilot program. We played his "Lingo-type" game together and he and I were able to advance to the next level. He said he had never been able to do that before as he "High-Fived" me! Life is good!
Adam <okadam (at)>