Today, I presented a talk on social networks to a group of principals and other school leaders taking a course on technology at Lewis and Clark College. I organized my preparation around the facets of social network sites that I thought principals would find most relevant: impact on teaching and learning, teacher professional development, and internet safety. The group had lots of questions that demonstrated a strong grasp of the challenges facing schools and how social network sites might fit into that.
It’s important to fully appreciate the challenge facing anyone who wants to change a school, never mind fully integrate technology. Wanting to fundamentally change the model for schooling is a prerequisite to mastering an entirely set of new technology competencies. As long as one is not willing to reduce the amount of content coverage, as long as technology activities are relegated to the category of optional enrichment, as long as a teacher has to run the classroom, then the effort is not worth it.
The class students are learning about online professional development practices first-hand, each maintaining a blog for the class. In addition, I directed them to Classroom 2.0, the Global Education Collaborative, and the Synapse as a starting point. I hope they’ll keep blogging after the class has finished, so I may follow their work. I demonstrated how to begin to build a personal learning network and related anecdotes of the value of our peers’ online posts to building one’s own knowledge.
To learn what students are doing online, I directed the principals to the MacArthur Foundation series of reports on kids’ online lives, stressing the importance of consuming many reports to gain a multifaceted perspective. Talking to teachers and students about what they do online and what value it has for them is also essential for school administrators.