Academic Aesthetic 163: Communication

Categories Education, Netcast, Technology

The following was written back in June, but I’ve been sitting on it until now because I wanted to be able to take a step back and look at my writing first before posting.

One would think that sleeping until noon would be one of life’s simple pleasures afforded to teachers during the summer months. While I’ve nothing against prolonged inspection of the backs of my eyelids, I’m still dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 AM at least three days a week to help my wife get ready for dialysis.

Flickr PhotoI won’t go into any great detail on her medical condition here (that’s a subject for a different podcast), but it does leave me with several hours of alone time while she goes through the procedure. On days when I drive her to the dialysis center, gas prices are high enough for it to not make sense for me to drive home and back – making my period of solitude also one where I lack any ability to contact the internet. (UPDATE: I’ve since purchased a BlackBerry Curve, so now my addiction to the internet has reached the next level.)

Now granted, I’ve been incredibly lax in posting things on this site. I could go through lots of excuses, but the one I think I’ll stick with is that it’s a lot harder for me to do one of these entries when I’m not online, even though I feel most inspired when I can’t get online.

Usually when I’m writing out my scripts I’ll have three or four tabs open for reference purposes. Either I’m responding to someone else’s blog post, or linking to another site that further explains a concept, or even looking for just the right picture to insert into the entry. I can’t do any of these things without the internet at my fingertips.

But here I am in my car, in just such a situation. I can do whatever I want, so long as I only use the software and files in my little magic box. Cloud computing? Ha! That’s no good to me here.

Flickr PhotoThis very much reminds me of a job interview I went to a few weeks ago. The position was for teaching technology to students and teachers in a Pre-K through 5th grade school, something that on the surface is really right up my alley. Still, I went in with more questions for them than they had for me.

And everything I encountered made it look like a dream job come true. The school was fairly new, so there weren’t any old computers on the verge of breaking down. The computer lab, the ceiling mounted LCD projectors in every class, the three (THREE!) mobile labs that teachers actively fought over, the school-wide wi-fi, everything about it looked awesome.

Everything, until near the end of my visit when I started asking about wikis, blogs, and podcasts.

Oh, they don’t do those.

In fact, anything that remotely resembles a blog or wiki is actively blocked. The school administration was very forward thinking, but the district had adopted a “walled garden” approach that would have prevented me from visiting even my own website from school.

Flickr PhotoContrast this with my current employer, which isn’t throwing as much cash into tech programs but is actively encouraging teachers to use resources available to them on the internet – including workshops on blogging, podcasting, and wikiing.

“Wikiing?” Is that a word? Nevermind.

Long story short(er), I’m not pursuing the job. I only went to the interview because it sprung up at the last moment, and I felt I needed to dust the cobwebs off of the old portfolio. With the way technology is advancing, and the skills that I see successful people using right now, I feel I could do more to prepare kids for the real world with a lab of salvaged computers running linux and my current employer’s filtering policy than all the high tech gadgetry in the world but no way to use it properly.

Because while the tech is cool, it’s really not about the tech. It’s about communication. It’s about collaboration.

And it’s about teaching students how to use these things responsibly, because locking kids in their rooms for fear that they’ll go to the mall and something scary will happen will not prepare them for when they finally move out and go there themselves. Instead, we should take them there, hold their hands at first, and show them how to react in that environment.

Anything else is a disservice to the generation that will be running our nursing homes when we retire.

Aaron Smith is a Media Arts & Technology Teacher who spends most of his time on computers. In his free time he plays video games, edits videos, and misses his wife dearly.