I sat on a panel of three technology directors at a BATDC (Bay Area Teacher Development Collaborative) workshop today. The participants were all independent school administrators from around the Bay. The topic was relatively wide-open: opportunities and challenges in technology-based communication. Specific discussion ranged from online services to staff and parent use of email.
The group brought an expected sense of uncertainty to the meeting, as most had developed some fear of new online services used by students, such as mySpace and LiveJournal. Clearly, students are accustomed to trying new communication systems as they become available, but adults take longer to adjust.
I think we relieved many of those tensions through the course of the meeting. There is very little unique to the communication and behavior challenges that some are currently experiencing with new technologies. One of the few exceptions is the degree to which a person can print an offensive email, chat transcript, or blog page in order to present it as evidence of wrongdoing. Otherwise, all of the regular rules apply to electronic communications as do to other written or verbal forms: think before you write, hold people accountable for their actions, and expect that children will alternately succeed and fail as they explore their own identities and the world around them.
On November 8, I will co-present a related BATDC workshop on technology and ethics at The Bay School.