Monday, January 14, 2008

Access Denied

After 20 years, I was ready to quit teaching upon returning to school this year.

Here's the story.

On a somewhat primitive level, I was fairly successful with setting up a few technology resources during the 06-07 school year. I worked up a few blogs, experimented with wikis and incorporated the Interwrite SchoolPad into classroom use. I had developed my AP Biology curriculum as a Moodle course on the server of another school district in my state. Though the "Read-Write" scales were still stacked in favor of "Read", I was making progress.

I had worked over the summer to make some additions (and deletions) to those things I had implemented. It was going to be a great year!

I had also decided to preach the gospel of technology and signed-up to be the facilitator of a Technology Learning Community at my school. It was there, in my facilitator training sessions that I began to sense trouble in paradise. Some of the things the district level people were saying had ominous tones. Changes that the district was beginning to implement.

While we were "out" (summer break), the district's IT department had decided to enforce the Technology Acceptable Use Policy.

It wasn't until we got into preschool and I began working on the computer that I realized the extent of the changes.

A new server had been put in place over the summer. Four of the seven RSS feeds to my pageflakes page were blocked. My blogs that had been established in the previous year were blocked. I received word that because the district was going provide a server to allow our school to pilot Moodle courses this year I was not allowed to access my Moodle course on the neighboring school district's server. ( We just finished 1st semester. No sign of the Moodle server for my course yet!)

What a start!

I thought, okay, maybe if I could work with the teacher's in my Technology Learning Group (TLG), we could become a united force to shine light on this otherwise dark and dismal world in which we were operating. ( You have to understand, no one blogs, wiki really is a foreign word and aggregators and RSS feeds, I don't think so) No such luck.

I prepared a Voicethread on "Asynchronous Learning Environments" to introduce my group to Skype, Twitter, Yugma, GoogleDocs, etc. I also decided to share the presentation with my district level trainers. I guess that was a mistake. I received an email to say that "these are very interesting ideas and has caused a great deal of conversation at the District level." Two days later, all of these services were blocked. VoiceThread! GoogleDocs! I was floored. All of these were in violation of the new Acceptable Use Policy.

I was ready to throw in the towel on the TLG. If the technology department didn't support technology what hope did I have. The problem: if I quit as the facilitator of the group, then the group members don't get the hardware they were promised for signing on. I decided to move ahead.

In 2005- 2006, a technology-minded AP bought an OS X server for our school. The idea was to provide streaming content, web services, etc. I put in a request to have web services enabled in order to serve up podcasts. Well, our school has had 5 tech coordinators in the last six years. So, every year the request is resubmitted and the task goes undone. This year I place the request hoping that I could introduce my teachers to blogging (OS X server has a blogging application based on Blojsom). I received a reply from the district saying that they are no longer supporting the OS X server and because it is 3 years old it will be disposed of. The twisting of the blade occurred when I read the note further. That blogging and podcasts for teachers will only be supported within Moodle and that server was on order at this time.

Anybody need a Biology teacher?












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2 comments:

Jo McLeay said...

My commiserations Jeff. Wow, what are they afraid of? It really is amazing. Is there a way you could have input to a revision of the AUP? I love your use of toondoo btw. Is that blocked as well?

Jeff said...

@jo mcleay- I here talk of a review, but I fear it will only get worse. Toondoo is not blocked so far. Maybe they haven't seen my post!