I read a story today that all but requires me to follow up with the ideas discussed in my recent post, “Technology Guidelines.”
I’ve been simultaneously encouraged and challenged by the comments to the post, and I’m heartened to see many affirm my position on the issues. There remains, however, one nagging thought that I can’t seem to convince of its irrationality. It’s an issue of liability.
In the first point on the post, I make mention of the implications of hosting student content on a server that a district doesn’t control. This would include services such as WordPress hosted, Wikispaces, VoiceThread, etc. I would say this would also include students using their own cell phones in class for learning. The overwhelming response to this issue was that the experiences such services afford students far outweigh any potential consequences of the environments being abused. In fact, many people poignantly pointed out that the transparent nature of learning as well as the obvious lack of IT support in most districts necessitate the decision for districts to seek outside resources for their students.
I found myself in complete agreement until I came across this article today. I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to read it in its entirety.
I know many will respond that we can’t let such things cause us to fear making progress and moving forward with engaging students in a digital world. However, I can’t help but wonder if those people would advocate for the same if they were in Ting-Yi’s position. This is the very reason why this issue is much more complicated for me at the present.
Given the litigious nature of our society, and the fact that so many of you would be the ones lawyers would come to directly should something happen to the students in your district while they were online in the very environments which you established, I wonder if we shouldn’t give pause to consider the issue a bit further. I want to offer my students the best learning experience possible. In fact, I argued almost to the point of absurdity with the person whom which I first engaged this discussion. I’ve now been given reason to pause and renumerate my position.
We know, as is evidenced in the article, that far too often blame is defrayed from the student and placed on the one who set up the system. As wrong as that is, precedence proves it to be true time and again. The last thing I want to do is let fear of misappropriated blame stop me from seeking dynamic learning opportunities for students, but I do think I need to fully consider every angle should something like this happen in the district where I am responsible.
I’m not saying I’m shuttering the windows and locking all the doors I can find. What I am saying is I need to consider how we all respond to such issues when they arise. What do we say to those who ask or to the angry parent who accuses us of willingly setting up an environment in which students can be harmed? How would you honestly respond if someone purported you were to blame for students finding serious trouble within the spaces you setup outside the district? I find it a very critical point in time for us all to work together and create a coherent, cogent response to the question.
Thanks to Chris Owens for the Flickr image.