Monday, April 27, 2015

FoF (Fear of Facebook)

At NETA I met many great teachers all interested in finding new ways to integrate technology into their instruction. It was great seeing so many familiar faces, especially since five years ago during my first visit I did not know many of the participants.

One of the teachers who stopped by our poster on thursday afternoon confided: "I know I need to use some of this for my students. I have a facebook page but I never post. People get fired over facebook posts." This comment is not new, I actually hear it quite often from teachers who seem paralyzed by the fear of technology. I actually have even discussed it before on this blog. Thei frustration seems to grow as they seem to be afraid but also pushed to integrate technology. They feel between a rock and a hard place- and thus frustrated.

This time I just got curious about the phenomena and whether there really was an epidemic of social media firings. I used Google to try and ferret out exactly how many teachers have been reported being fired because of social media activity in the last year. For all the media and teacher hype I found very few actual cases of full time teachers fired.

1. In Smithville Ohio a teacher got fired over a post on Dairy farming. He was let go by the local school board but reinstitated (with back pay) after a short court battle. More here and here
2. Texas teacher from Duncanville resigned over an inflamatory tweet here. It was quite extreme and she resigned.
3. Ashley Payne resigned over facebook pics. See here. The main point was that she has resigned and was not fired (unlike most of the headlines)

There were a few cases of substitute teacher "firing" mostly over posting of student photos.

So is there room to worry?
I would argue that anyone needs to be careful about social media and be a good citizen (not just digital).
1. Given 3.4 million K12 public school teachers around the country and with most on Facebook the incidence of firing seems to be extremely small.
2. Teachers should not resign without legal council
3. Read your district guidelines especially about posting photos of students

Consult this page from the NEA

Remember that as a prospective teacher you need to excerice more caution.

Do not let this stop you from participating in thoughtful technology integration your students will be missing out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fear Factor (iPad edition)

I see this in many districts I work with. As new devices are brought in, someone has the "talk". Do not break them, if you take them home and they break you will owe us. Do not use it for anything personal. They talk about insurance, cost and consequences. They want everyone to take the devices seriously

Every meeting with a new batch of teachers I have a few admitting that the combination of their fears and the threat of insurance has caused them to leave the device in the box, or attached to the charger on their desk.

I am here to say that that talk is destructive and counterproductive. Especially early in new adoption of devices. So e of the educators who are introduced to devices are scared before we say anything. Driving the point home with any kind of threat (percieved or real) drives the teachers on the fence about integration to avoid the new devices. And devices not used are not any better than broken ones.

I understand the concern about costly devices. Three years ago when we got 30 iPads and I gave them to students I was worried. Lost some sleep, but I decided that I will take personal responsibility and try not to scare them off. It paid off big time, with one exception everybody used their device. I am pretty sure that had I started the iPad discussion with a stern warning half of my students would have left them at home (they actually told me that). Recently I worked with teachers on iPad integration and once again half of them did not get them out of the box. Why I asked? Because we do not have insurance yet! Turns out that insurance was to take it out of the building but too late, the fear factor already worked its magic.

So if you can influence this- with students and teachers: make rules but do not scare, do not strike fear, we need these devices in our students lives and ours it is their future and thus our present.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why am I doing this? (four reasons I work with schools)

This week I met with a colleague from our school district. We had a lovely working lunch/coffee sharing ideas and current projects. I described our main Tech EDGE activities:
    Laurie Friedrich and I have been working with Rousseau elementary at their invitation for over two years. During the time we developed a professional development model that seems to work well and is responsive to staff needs and time frames.
    The UNL elementary education program has developed a class that focuses on tech integration while pre service teachers are in practicum. The instructors are available to teachers as are our preservice teacher. This makes trying new integration ideas a lot easier. It also allows us to reach another six! schools.
    We offer a graduate class in tech integration to practicing teachers who have presevice teachers in their classroom. This class is offered at a great reduction in tuition to teachers and content parallels the one we have for preservice teachers.
   We offer online resources through youtube, iTunesU and beyond.

My colleague looked at me and asked: "Why are you doing this?" This is not the first time I have been asked that, and probably not the last. It always makes me stop and ask myself if in all the activity I have (35 presentations, 74 videos, 60 blog posts, 4 articles all last year) am I doing the right thing? These are my reasons:

1. I work for landgrant institution. Working with our community is a big part of our mission. This is even more true of our college aiming to improve lives and communities across the State. Working with schools let's us have a measurable impact on the future.

2. It allows me to make sure that the teachers leaving our program are truly ready to teach in the 21st century. The teacher we train will potentially teach into the fifth decade of the 21st century. We are responsible for making sure they have a solid foundation for their future growth.

3. I can generate research on tech integration working WITH teachers to figure out what works. This is a new and exciting field and there is much we do not yet know. It is the kind of design work that calls for trrue partnership between practitioners and university faculty generating ideas and measuring impact.

4. It is fun. There is no way around the fact that I love working with teachers, seeing impact, solving problems and coming up with innovative ideas for instruction.