Does risk to students trump learning? Perceived risk, slight risk, possible risk - is risk something to be avoided in the classroom at all when it comes to using internet based technologies? This summary paragraph from Al Upton's Update No.3 is really making me think:
A number of analogies were presented … many stating any risk to students negates learning entering the debate. I raised the “To avoid students drowning, we teach them to swim” analogy - authentic learning.
One response ‘If something bad can happen to even one child it shouldn’t be done’ – paraphrased
I know that this idea of any risk being unacceptable can be turned onto other examples of school today and found to be blatantly untrue. How about playground equipment? I've been at schools where an ambulance has been called twice in a week for suspected broken arms and other injuries caused by slips or falls from the equipment. Why hasn't all play equipment been banned and closed down? If one child could slip and possibly fall with injurious consequences, then there is risk. But the benefits of the playground far outweigh the negatives - the learning, the gaining of skills, the creation of games and the friendship of playing with your mates. And we are careful with the playground environment - no sharp edges, designs that cater for a variety of skill levels, soft fall on the ground, rules for safe play, teacher supervision - so that the risks are managed and lead to beneficial learning of physical skills.
Why would we treat the risks regarding, say, the use of blogs in the classroom any differently? Why do risks associated with technology seem to be so threatening that shutting down and banning is seen as the appropriate way to deal with it? And are those responsible for recommending or enforcing these methods really in touch with real or perceived risks?
I have this sneaking feeling that a risk free classroom might also be a learning-lite classroom.