Only Thing To Fear…

At last week’s Educause Learning Initiative conference, they held an interesting session on Fear 2.0. Some videos and notes from this session can be found here.

Fear poster

It reminded me of a blog post from last November that is still relevant, in which Terry Dolson notes:

“The day after I read this {article on wired world in Parade magazine}, I went to a class at Godwin High School,where kids have had laptops in a one to one initiative since they were in middle school. I wanted to show them things about digital storytelling, but all the sites I wanted to show were blocked! Every time I get involved at our schools I get mad. I get aggravated that many teachers don’t utilize the computers we fought so hard to keep available to our students and then I find out just how tightly their hands are tied. This is ridiculous! Our kids should be out front, creating multimedia projects among other cool kinds of projects where they can be creative and self motivated and really engaged… Let’s face it–those kids should have been teaching ME about digital storytelling. Instead, they had never heard of it.

My message to Henrico County Schools is: come on now! Even Parade Magazine is dropping the “fear factor” ! When will we untie the hands of our teachers and students to use these fabulous tools as more than a word processor??”

It is interesting that what came to mind was FDR’s famous quote from his first inaugural address:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

I am running into this same issue in Hanover county that she faced in Henrico. I want my graduate students, all K-12 teachers, to experience and explore educational uses of, but of course, this social bookmarking site is currently being blocked by the school system. My students are investigating whether they can get this site unblocked, but my “fear” is that it will be May and the semester over before the bureaucracy reacts!

This fear factor has many of the characteristics that Roosevelt named in the very tough economic times he faced. The fear of sexual predators, inappropriate websites, and teacher accountability over what students do online carries this same nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror…and it is paralyzing the ability of teachers and students to enjoy a creative, rich, fulfilling online world. I definitely do not have the answers, but I would be interested in your thoughts on ways to move forward (as opposed to sticking our collective faces in the sand).

I guess I fall back on my innate optimism and the fact that my students generally have always exceeded my expectations – and my expectations have always been pretty high!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *