Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Training Wheels

I'm in a session with the great thinker, Joe Carusa and he's making me think. There are efforts to keep the 21st Century out of the classroom. They are nervous about the social networking of sites like My Space and the educational value of things like blogs because students got a hold of them first and ran off with them before they learned the ethical use of such tools. Now there are policies in place that keep teachers from using such tools in the classroom - each and every brand of the tool. Thankfully there are teachers that joined the educational revolution and use these tools outside of the classroom, mention them briefly in the classroom and the then from HOME students access the tools and use them effectively. There are teachers who found the safe tools to use and found a way around the system in order to start teaching the educational and ethical value of Web 2.0 tools.
But there are still teachers and educational leaders in place in many schools who simply fear the Internet. I remember years ago when there was only ONE computer in the entire school with Internet. In my old school, this was in the closet of the Media Center. Then we got a lab full of Internet capable computers. Finally we got the computer in our classroom with Internet. Boy, did my teaching change. However, there are still teachers out there that are afraid of using this tool.
One of the tools that I recently mentioned was netTrekker. This is a wonderful tool for so many reasons, but especially for those leaders who are a bit nervous about students being on the Internet on school grounds. No, it's not a Web 2.0 tool, but before we can get the students and teachers using Web 2.0 tools, we have to get them to use the Internet properly.
Before Joe's session I talked to someone who wanted to see my reaction by saying, "netTrekker is the Internet on training wheels." I gave him my reaction. I agreed, yes netTrekker has found the sites that are aligned to standards and meet the educational need of students without having to go through millions of sites on the Internet. If you do a search on Google for flowers you're going to get results like parts of a flower, people named flowers, types of flowers, where to buy flowers, unsavory things to do with flowers, and so forth. With netTrekker, you do a search on flowers and you're going to find educational sites about flowers. You still have to decide which of the sites suit your need - parts of flowers or kinds of flowers. You can still find famous people that might have dealings with flowers. Plus, netTrekker saves you time - which is something educators always complain they have so little of. Internet on training wheels? I guess, if training the ethical and proper use of the Internet, reinforcing the safety that is oh so needed on the Internet (from those inappropriate sites) and giving teachers the TIME to focus on those standards they are so stressed to teach.
States want to support educational needs? Provide tools such as netTrekker that promote 21st Century Skills, Internet safety and those standards those tests stress us to teach - a tool like netTrekker. It's a start. Find a site with blogging, wiki, YouTube and flickr type capability for education and boy are we going to really be joining the race.
Sorry, I got carried away. I wanted to look at Century 21 skills and our efforts of using them in the classroom.

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