This post is going to swirl around several loosely linked topics and may lack coherence and substance.
On Monday, I held an after school PD session (for want of a better title) for any interested teachers on using online video in the classroom. I had five keen participants who are all IWB users and were wanting some ideas about where to look, how to access and conquer other technical hurdles. There are plenty of educational sites offering streaming video but our Educonnect internet system doesn't handle that well at all. There's issues with opening ports and all that and it's beyond my meager expertise to cope with. I had some grand plans for this workshop - looking at using video sharing sites, how to save and access the video clips, how to find useful content for the classroom - but I felt a bit out of my depth knowing where to start because I'm a real amateur in this area as well. My ideas were fuelled by my concept of using interactive whiteboards as a platform for studying multiliteracies but my workarounds were still ideas in my head as opposed to tried and tested strategies.
Anyway, I started by showing the group YouTube which I had to unblock using my administrator override pasword. YouTube has gathered quite a bit of negative press in the Aussie media of late - see Alec Couros' post and Bill Kerr's reflections on a recent Adelaide teenage murder. I could have spent time there debating the rights or wrongs of this stance by our imposed filter system, but the teachers were more along the lines of "If this is blocked, why are you showing us this?"
On another note, this week my next door teacher reported to me that as of this week, Wikipedia is blocked by the DECS filter. I wonder who gets to make these decisons - I did notice that it's listed under the Hosted Web Page category. How do we teach critical literacy skills when a huge repository of information like this is blocked from our students? I don't want to turn to Conservapedia as an alternative. Who's going to turn up to see Jimmy Wales in April? It's not as if we can even use his service! Maybe I'm jumping the gun because occasionally some sites are blocked and then revert back to their previous unblocked status after a few days. This happened to del.icio.us earlier this year - so fingers crossed, someone just pushed a wrong button and wikipedia will be back on deck and available as just one of many resources students can access to broaden their knowledge.
There was a great video Turning Muslim in Australia!?! that I shared as an example of quality content that is worth previewing and then incorporating when "frontloading" students on a particular topic. I then showed the group how to sidestep the filter by embedding YouTube videos in a blog. This is where my group asked me to slow down and show them step by step how to do that. And the wheels started to get wobbly. I'm under pressure... if I can't do these things easily and have trouble and I'm the so-called computing technology expert then the line of logic, it will be too much trouble and effort for the average teacher. I started by demonstrating the embedding in a WordPress blog. But where was the YouTube link button? Perhaps if I just embedded it using the HTML - but I was missing something there as well. Eventually, I ended creating an edublog instead that would embed and the teachers looked fairly satisfied that it would work and yes, not too hard for them to accomplish as well.
The whole thing still had me thinking how much easier it would be if YouTube wasn't blocked. It seems to be such a reactionary thing to do and smacks of litigation than education. It's not as if filters can"protect" our students out of hours. Which brings me to my next part - the issue of cybersafety. We had a Child Protection Training session on Tuesday after school - part one of a three part PD program. The issues relating to online behavious of students and cyberbullying certainly came up and the first "scenario" our MYLU team looked at involved the meeting of people online then in "real" life. (As if online is unreal, maybe surreal.) I was glad to hear our presenter talk about education, not scaremongering, as solutions but she did highlight that increasingly parents are turning to schools for counsel in this area and wanting us to intervene with our students' online activities away from school. Well, they can't be happening at school because the vast majority of the social networking tools of choice are blocked by our ever vigilant filter system.
Yahoo images is blocked now as well. It slipped through the radar when Yahoo released its newly designed interface but I guess someone spotted the danger and acted accordingly. No Google images, no Flickr, now no Yahoo images...
I've been bookmarking a few sites in preparation for a cybersafety evening for parents a little later in the term. I'm certainly determined not to use any scare tactics and want the parents to have their awareness raised and be prepared to talk things through with their kids. I worry that the negative aspects are overplayed (certainly by the print and television media) and the positive learning aspects are seen as not worth the risk, real, imagined or otherwise. A balanced perspective is what I want to present - some of my colleagues are also too eager to jump on "the internet is evil" bandwagon and the "today's youth have no shame" bandwagon as well. I circulated this article to some of my colleagues who found it to be quite enlightening - it has been featured on a few blogs already. I think I found it via Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. There's probably some quotable sections in there for my evening.
That's it - I'm done.