The tools and materials schools choose convey values, like the artifacts of any culture. When these choices become traditions that no longer reflect the changing face of technology and those who use it, schools may alienate new teachers and students, and waste money.
Sometimes values cannot help but conflict. No student, and not many teachers, appreciates internet filtering when a search engine lists what looks like a perfect page that eludes access, but few parents would accept students having unblocked access to pornography.
Sometimes relationships with software vendors or school support services may lead to bad choices, made without an appropriate pre-purchase evaluation, or outside expert advice. However, few outside experts come without their own technology values. As educational technology experts, we consult with school districts on technology plans, but with two biases:
This said, every situation is different, and there are many stages along the continuum to empowerment.
Because teachers rarely visit the classrooms of any but their closest colleagues, an online environment for sharing ideas, making project plans, showcasing student work and evaluating what works can bridge communication and diffusion between "pioneers" and "settlers" of the digital world. As more teachers derive a sense of community from their online interactions, man of the constraints of the school schedule and physical spaces on individual, team and school management articulated in "Prisoners of Time" fall away.
The planning, management and support of a school Intranet to support teaching, learning, and administration is therefore a core infrastructure need for 21st century schools.
The Empowered Teacher offers a model of hosted and supported Intranet services to schools we work with. By adopting an intranet (servers controlled by the school), communications and resources can be made public or private on a case-by-case basis, responsive to changing situations. In contract, by promoting the use of cloud computing tools and outside services (like GoogleDocs or WikiSpaces), schools cede control.
In place of commercial software (with notable exceptions like Inspiration, Filemaker Pro, and Adobe products), we value:
This combination of culture (open source), technology (web 2.0) and platform (Drupal) make for a highly functional work environment that can flexibly adapt to the needs and goals of your school. Learn more about the relationship between Technology and Collaboration.